The McGill Martlets defeated the Université de Montréal (UdeM) Carabins in double overtime to claim their fourth Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship since 1998. The last time the Martlets played the Carabins, McGill was met with disappointment. Not only were they defeated 6-2 on home ice, but the game sealed the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) conference championship for UdeM. It is safe to say that The Martlets and The Carabins have a long-standing rivalry.
UdeM was responsible for breaking the Martlets’ regular season win streak at 43, but they were also responsible for eliminating McGill from national championship contention in 2012-13. After their most recent loss, a new narrative emerged: doubt was cast on the Marlets’ ability to defeat UdeM.
This narrative, however, is completely false. Out of the nine times the two teams met this season, the Marlets walked away with five victories. Of the four they lost, Martlets head coach Peter Smith states that he thought his team outplayed the Carabins in all but two contests. People tend to put a lot of weight on playoff losses. They feel that everything that happened in the regular season is negated, and that the post-season is the true test of a team’s skill. Losing in the finals played into this theory of thought. Despite losing in the RSEQ finals, McGill was still granted a berth in the CIS national tournament. After working their way through the tournament McGill found itself in the finals against a familiar foe.
“It’s what this group and this program is all about, moving forward.”
Head Coach of the Martlets
Confidence is a crucial element whenever entering a game where a championship is on the line. The Martlets faced the prospect of playing in the finals against a team that had just beaten them in the conference finals. This would cause most teams’ nerves to surface.
The Martlets did not see it as such. Heading into double overtime, Smith told his players to stick with the game plan, and that it would only be a matter of time before they broke through with a goal.
This CIS championship puts an exclamation point on an already fantastic season. The Martlets went 18-2-0 in the RSEQ conference. This stellar record can be largely attributed to McGill’s offensive power and excellent goaltending. The Martlets averaged an impressive 3.7 goals per game and 34.6 shots per game. Forwards Katia Clement-Heydra and Gabrielle Davidson ended their season ranking one and two in the RSEQ scoring race. Both players also cracked the top five in the CIS point leaders rankings. Among the RSEQ goaltending leaders, McGill’s Andrea Weckman was also ranked first overall, boasting a .922 save percentage. The one disappointment in McGill’s season was the inability to secure a conference championship. Smith stated that, “Clearly we would have liked to win our conference, but we had bigger things in mind [as well] and moved forward […] It’s what this group and this program is all about, moving forward.” The Martlets have faced challenges, but they were able to battle though this adversity. This national title is proof that they were one of the most dominant teams in Canadian women’s hockey this year.
The main problem with the Martlets season is that it has come to an end. The unfortunate nature of university sports means that the most seasoned players are often lost to graduation. Next season, the Martlets are losing Weckman, captain Darragh Hamilton, defenseman Michelle Daigneault, and forward Chelsey Saunders. Moving into next season, the loss of these players may seem like a major blow to the team. Weckman has been outstanding between the pipes, a stabilizing presence for the team. Yet as Smith points out, “I never looked at it as having one goalie and two backups; we have three goalies all capable of playing.” Alternate goaltenders Brittany Smrke and Taylor Hough have also posted impressive numbers this season and should be able to step up and fill the void left by Weckman.
Martlets captian Darragh Hamilton proved herself as a tough, hard- working leader,with confidence that inspired her team. Though the Martlets are losing their captain, by no means are they losing their leadership. McGill will still have three out of four assistant captains returning. This is also helped by the fact that the Martlets look to every player for leadership, even if they don’t have an A or a C on their jersey.
Despite these losses, McGill still looks to be one of the dominant teams in the RSEQ division next year. They are retaining a large portion of their team and this foundation is invaluable going into next season. Within this group, the Martlets also hold on to Gabrielle Davidson, Leslie Oles, and recently-named CIS player of the year Clement- Heydra. This trio has combined for 101 goals and 103 assists this season. On defense the Martlets will keep most of their roster with the exception of Daigneault, meaning that they will still have depth on the blue line. A combination of returning veterans like Kelsie Moffatt and Adrienne Crampton, paired with rookie Emily Davis, should keep McGill anchored on defense. As for goaltending, McGill will now look to Hough and Smrke; luckily, Hough has experience playing in this conference. She has played seven games this year and captured the fourth spot on the RSEQ goaltender leader board. The Martlets are, and will remain, a strong team. They are driven, talented, and committed. The Martlets look to repeat this success next season, and with their current line-up, they have the tools to do it.