Amid a tumultuous season of COVID-19 stops and starts, the McGill women’s hockey team has proven their resilience, boasting a stellar RSEQ season record of 12–3 and briefly reaching the top of the Canadian rankings. In a best-of-three matchup against the fourth-place Ottawa Gee-Gees over the weekend, the top-ranked Martlets dominated in game one, took a loss in game two, but ultimately edged out their opponents 1-0 in the tiebreaker game, earning them a spot in both the RSEQ and national championships.
On March 3, Ottawa arrived at McConnell Arena to kick off the best-of-three playoff series. Until well into the second period, the two competitors matched each other’s intensity—Ottawa goaltender Aurelie Dubuc had her work cut out for her as McGill managed 37 shots on goal to the Gee-Gees’ 15 overall. While chances accumulated, though, so did unnecessary penalties and feckless turnovers. Both teams fought tooth and nail for possession, but the first period ended with nothing to show for either side.
Martlets netminder Tricia Deguire had her hands full, too, saving a string of four shots early in the second period to keep the game scoreless. This was until Alice Fillion of Ottawa snuck a lightning-fast backhand five-hole past Deguire at 13:51. Bolstered by a power play in the dying minutes of the second period, the Martlets tried to even the tally, but couldn’t execute an offensive plan.
But the final period saw the Martlets rejuvenated, making smarter and more threatening plays.
“In the dressing room, we really tried to rally together as a team and remind ourselves why we’re here and what we’re doing this for,” said alternate captain Laura Jardin. “I think that was a great way to build our energy going into the third period.”
When third-year forward Makenzie McCallum scored on a power play, the team was finally off to the races. The next goal was a beauty of a slapshot from leading scorer and captain Jade Downie-Landry on a one-player advantage, and she sank to her knees as her teammates rushed over to embrace her. The score was 2-1, but the Martlets weren’t done yet.
Three more pucks made it past the Gee-Gees, whose defeat was beginning to show well before the final buzzer sounded. Among the scorers were defenceman Elizabeth Mura, capitalizing on yet another power play, and forward Quynn Campbell.
“I think it’s a really big team win,” forward Katie Rankin said of the game. “Obviously we had a little adversity to overcome there going into the third period, being down 1-0, but it’s such a sweet feeling and it’s even sweeter that it’s a playoff win.”
Ahead of game two in Ottawa on March 5, Jardin was hopeful that they could continue their winning strategy with aggressive play right from the get-go.
“Getting that quick start is what we need, and we can’t just wait until the second or third period to get going because other teams might capitalize on that,” Jardin said.
But the away game proved to be more challenging than they thought. Due to COVID-19 protocols, both teams donned medical masks for the entirety of the game’s play. The game was scoreless until the last two minutes, when the Gee-Gees slipped one past Deguire off of a turnover, forcing a rubber match the next day, back on McGill ice.
On March 6, the trend of the low-scoring matches continued, but this time, McGill prevailed thanks to McCallum’s lonely, winning goal early in the second period. The Martlets will battle it out against Concordia next weekend in another best-of-three series to crown the victors of the RSEQ season and will have the chance to compete for the national title in Charlottetown on March 24-27.
Stat Corner: Captain Jade Downie-Landry leads the Martlets with 39 points amassed over 25 games.
Moment of the Game: To break the 1-1 tie in the final frame of game one, a quick pass from Labrecque to Downie-Landry set up a perfect slapshot from the point, beating out Ottawa’s goalie to put the Martlets in the lead.
Quotable: “We’ve been building on this ever since three years ago, when we first [had] Nationals cancelled because of [COVID-19], so playing tonight was a huge win. We’re playing for all those players who didn’t get the chance last year and the year before, and I think it really showed on the ice, what we’re capable of doing.” — Fourth-year forward Laura Jardin