It’s tough to write a story about the unthinkable, but that’s exactly what happened this past Saturday afternoon: the Martlets lost a Quebec conference game to the Montreal Carabins, 3-2.
The loss capped the Martlets’ RSEQ win streak at 107 games. It was their first defeat since falling to Ottawa on Feb. 10, 2007, nearly four years ago. Their last home loss came in November 2004.
McGill Head Coach Peter Smith wasn’t overly discouraged by the loss, or by the end of the presidential term-length winning streak.
“I think it was a good boot in the behind for our team,” Smith said. “We’ve played some games that we probably should have lost before and we’ve ended up pulling them out of the fire. This one we didn’t end up pulling out of the fire and I think there’s a real lesson there.”
The Martlets put the wrong foot forward even before the opening puck drop, receiving a delay-of-game penalty for failing to appear on ice the requisite five minutes before the contest started. The Carabins’ Jessica Gagné scored two seconds after that penalty expired, putting McGill in a rare early hole.
Leslie Oles and Melodie Daoust responded, notching goals at 10:10 and 17:15 of the first to put McGill up by one.
The second frame was a zero-zero wash on the score sheet, but represented the beginning of a parade to the penalty box for the Martlets—they took four minors in the period to Montreal’s three.
In the third, after an early equalizer by Montreal’s Maude Gelinas, the Martlets once again struggled to stay out of the box, receiving three more penalties—including a double minor—to Montreal’s one.
UdeM’s Ariane Barker finally broke the tie with 1:11 remaining in the game, giving Montreal the win and inflicting only the second career regular season loss on McGill goaltender Charline Labonté, dropping her regular season winning percentage from 99 to 97 per cent.
“I didn’t think that we were particularly sharp,” Smith said of his team’s play. “I didn’t think we played with the sense of urgency that’s required—that our team generally plays with.”
When asked how he felt about the end of the team’s winning streak, Smith was obtuse. “What?” he said.
When pressed, he elaborated, “Two words: what streak?”
It seems as though his players also have short memories, since they travelled to Carleton the next day and whitewashed the Ravens in the Ice House for a 3-0 win.
“I thought in the game yesterday we got buy-in from everybody,” Smith said. “They stuck with the plan from start to finish.”
Smith and the Martlets view the season as a work in progress, not a blank sheet that’s been marred by the loss.
“I think every experience we have is valuable, we have a young team and with every experience we get out on the ice, with every practice we have, I think that we get better and better,” Smith said. “This experience is not unlike any of the other ones, it’s going to make us better down the road.”