Mixed results: Martlets take silver, Redmen hoist Queen’s Cup

Four years ago, the McGill men’s hockey team travelled to the western shores of Lake Superior and came home empty-handed. On Saturday night, the Redmen reversed history, capturing the OUA Queen’s Cup with a 3-1 victory over the Lakehead Thunderwolves. The win marked McGill’s second Queen’s Cup in the last three years, and the team’s 15th since winning the inaugural competition in 1903.

Playing before a sold-out Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ontario., the Redmen opened the scoring early in the first period with a goal from Andrew Wright, assisted by sophomore linemates Francis Verreault-Paul and Alexandre Picard-Hooper. On the power-play, the Thunderwolves answered back, tying the game just two minutes later. Before the period was out, Wright scored what would turn out to be the game-winning goal, picking up a Verreault-Paul shot off the wing and slipping it into the back of the net.

In the second period, McGill’s penalty kill was the difference, absorbing the pressure of Lakehead’s OUA-leading power-play. Redmen goaltender Hubert Morin was outstanding, robbing Thunderwolves forward Matt Dias on three separate occasions to keep the lead intact. Third-year left-winger Evan Vossen scored his fifth goal of the playoffs towards the end of the frame, giving McGill some added insurance.

The Redmen and Thunderwolves could meet again in two weeks, as the best of the CIS will gather in Thunder Bay for the CIS National Championships. With a victory last week over the Western Ontario Mustangs, fellow OUA East affiliate Trois-Rivières secured the final National Championships’ slot. The Redmen have never won the University Cup, but could enter this year’s tournament as the top seed. The tournament runs from March 25 to March 28.

Meanwhile, the women’s hockey team found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the first time in 86 games, as McGill’s hopes of a third consecutive CIS championship were dashed by the third-ranked Alberta Pandas, who claimed gold with a 2-0 victory over the Martlets on Sunday.

For the fifth consecutive year, McGill captured the Quebec crown, sweeping the Montreal Carabins in their best-of-three series. The Martlets faced Montreal yet again in their first game at Nationals, and this time, the outcome was decidedly closer.

“They definitely stepped up their game,” said forward Victoria Wells. “We traded some good chances with them and they were a good test to warm us up for the tournament.”

Unfortunately, the Martlets couldn’t get warm enough. After winning 2-1 against the Carabins in overtime, McGill moved on to dismantle the St. Mary’s Huskies 7-2 to progress to the gold medal match. McGill played a solid game against Alberta, but couldn’t clear the puck out of the defensive zone. A rebound goal by Pandas forward Melody Howard at the six-minute mark of the first frame held up as the winning tally. McGill Head Coach Amey Doyle, while disappointed with the loss, gave Alberta full credit for the win.

“It was definitely a bit disappointing when you don’t come back with what you had hoped to achieve,” she said. “They had a really quick start, were really pumped, and were in our face the whole game. They didn’t allow us to set up in the offensive zone and they really limited our speed.”

While in the short term the Martlets must cope with disappointment and the loss of seniors Vanessa Davidson, Amy Soberano, and Rebecca Martindale to graduation, the team has plenty to be optimistic about. Quebec player-of-the-year Cathy Chartrand is ready to reprise her role on the team, as is Olympic gold medalist Charline Labonté, who took the year off to train with Team Canada. Expect the Martlets to remain a powerhouse team, and contend for the CIS championship again next season.

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