Sports

McGill runs the table against CIS opponents in epic year

Max Sawicki

The McGill Martlets are National Champions once again. The team capped a perfect 33-0 season against CIS opponents with a commanding 5-2 victory over the St. Francis Xavier X-Women on Sunday night at the Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex. The championship marked the third time in four years that McGill has been crowned CIS champs.

“It was pretty special. We worked hard all year long. We came up a little short last year and to come back and win it this year showed a lot of character by everyone involved,” said McGill Head Coach Peter Smith.

Jordanna Peroff, who had a goal and an assist in the championship game, was named Tournament MVP after she led the tournament with five points. Two teammates, defender Cathy Chartrand and forward Leslie Oles, joined her on the tournament all-star team.

“Those three players were terrific but I also think that they were part of the big picture,” said Smith. “I thought all of our players were great for the whole tournament. I think that’s the beauty—the strength of our team is really our team. We had different players who stepped up at different points over the course of the whole season and I think the National Championship was just another example of that—we had players step up at the opportune times.”

McGill travelled to Waterloo, Ontario as the number one seed. The six-team tournament was split into two groups, with the winner of each group playing for the title. The Martlets were grouped with the defending champion University of Alberta Pandas, and Queen’s University Golden Gaels who were on a 12 game winning streak. The Martlets won both games to advance to the championship against the X-Women.

GAME ONE:

MCGILL vs. ALBERTA

The Martlets opened the tournament against the defending champs Alberta Pandas who defeated McGill in last year’s championship game. The Martlets got revenge on the Pandas as four different players scored in a 4-2 win.

Despite McGill’s history with Alberta, Coach Smith stressed that the team prepared as for any other game.

“We didn’t spend a whole lot of energy thinking about Alberta and about playing them last year,” he said. “They were an opponent and we played them and we played them hard. It didn’t matter who we were playing, we were going to play them hard.”

The Martlets started the first period slow but eventually found their stride. McGill dominated by outshooting Alberta 10-5 in the first period, and the Pandas were often forced to ice the puck to relieve the Martlets’ pressure. With less than two minutes left in the period, McGill went on the power play as the Pandas were called for a roughing penalty. A minute into the power play Caroline Hill put the puck in the back of the net with assists from Ann-Sophie Bettez and Chartrand to score the first goal of the game and give the Martlets a 1-0 lead.

McGill carried their momentum into the second period. Just three minutes in, Oles scored the second goal of the game on another power play to double the lead. However, five minutes later Alberta scored their own  power play goal as Karla Bourque scored to make it a one goal game.

The Martlets kept their composure as Chelsey Saunders, who was named player of the game, answered with a goal of her own 18:53 into the period. That would turn out to be the winning goal as Alberta was only able to score once more on a five on three advantage before McGill’s Kim Ton-That scored on an empty net in the last minute to ice the game.

—Rebecca Babcock

GAME TWO:

MCGILL vs. QUEEN’S

The clock struck midnight on this year’s CIS Cinderella as the big bad Martlets ground the Gaels’ glass slipper into a fine powder in a 3-1 win.

McGill pressured Queen’s relentlessly and the Gaels were unable to maintain discipline in the face of the onslaught. McGill earned seven  power plays compared to Queen’s three.

The tone for the game was set early, as the Gaels got themselves into trouble by taking a hooking call less than a minute in.  McGill’s Katia Clement-Heydra capitalized on the ensuing  power play, driving the net hard and corralling a rebound for a tap-in goal.

The Gaels weren’t ready to say good night just yet and rallied to tie midway through the first.

“We were … apprehensive in the game against Queen’s because I think the players were very anxious on getting into the gold medal game,” said Smith. “That’s where they wanted to be all year long.”

The Martlets regained their composure and controlled long stretches of play, outshooting Queens 35-18 over the course of the game.

Peroff scored McGill’s second  power play goal of the night 5:30 into the second period, on a pass from behind the net that caromed in off the skate of a Queen’s defender, re-establishing the Martlets one-goal lead. Alyssa Cecere provided the final margin by scoring the Martlets’ third goal. Cecere scored off a three-on-two rush with a beautiful feed from Saunders.

—Sam Hunter

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

MCGILL vs. ST. FRANCIS XAVIER

The championship game was a battle between unbeaten teams, as the Martlets entered the championship game with a perfect 32-0 record against the X-Women who held a 29-0 record of their own. Despite the similar records, it was McGill who came in looking calmer and more confident than their Maritime opponents, and eventually cruised to a dominant 5-2 victory.

“I don’t think we were nervous at all,” said Smith. “Not that we took [the X-Women] lightly by any means but it’s just that we were able to play the game that we wanted to play.”

The Martlets controlled the tempo of the game with their speed and accurate passing. In the first period, McGill star goalie Charline Labonte kept the game scoreless as she shut the door on each and every X-Women chance, including a beautiful save on a breakaway. The Martlets were able to take the lead 16:26 into the first after Martlets leading scorer Bettez scored her first goal of the tournament on the  power play.

McGill was able to extend their lead in the second with a beautiful goal. Oles streaked into the X-Women’s end and found Peroff in the slot with a beautiful pass. Peroff made no mistake as she rocketed a slapshot into the top right corner for her second goal of the tournament.

Just 38 seconds later, Hill buried a loose puck in front past X-Women goalie Kristy Garrow to give McGill a commanding 3-0 lead halfway through the game. McGill extended their lead in the third period as Jasmine Sheehan scored just two minutes into the period to ultimately put the game out of reach.

The X-Women were able to halve the four-goal deficit with two goals in four minutes but couldn’t complete the comeback. Alessandra Lind-Kenny scored the fifth Martlet goal to secure the National Championship for McGill.  

The Martlets have become a Canadian hockey powerhouse. They racked up an incredible 33-0 record against CIS opponents this season and have now won three of the last four National Championships. While they will lose many key contributors to graduation this year, they remain poised to threaten for a fourth CIS Championship next season.

—Walker Kitchens

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