Tuesday, 1 April 2014

McGill and Montreal renew rivalries in confrontation for Canadian national hockey title

The premier rivalry in Canadian women’s hockey played itself out on the ice at Grant Harvey Centre in St. Thomas University as the McGill Martlets faced off against the Montreal Carabins in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Championship. With a rivalry as intense as Duke vs. North Carolina in basketball or Miami vs. Florida State in football, these two hockey powerhouses provided another epic confrontation.

With McGill legends Charline Labonte and Melodie Daoust (both competed with Canada in a gold medal effort at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games) participating in the ceremonial face-off, it provided the fans at St. Thomas with a rare chance to see two of the finest in the game today. Complemented by Tessa Bonhomme providing on-air commentary (the match was broadcast on SportsNet 360), there was definitely a major league feeling to the contest.

Gabrielle Davidson, who led her conference with 28 goals scored, would open the scoring for McGill at the 5:55 mark of the opening frame. Winning was of great importance to McGill as the Carabins spoiled their undefeated regular season during the 2013 playoffs. The momentum would propel the Carabins to their first national title, defeating Calgary in the 2013 national title game.

Carabins forward Ariane Barker would attempt to restore some confidence for the black and blue by slipping the puck past Taylor Hough to even the score. With neither team showing any signs of panic, the period would expire with each club having logged one goal.

The defensive stalemate would continue in the second stanza as both sides played with grit. McGill would manage to break the deadlock by capitalizing on a power play at 14:55. Davidson would help the Martlets recapture the lead as the Martlet faithful in attendance roared with support.

Heading into the third period, McGill tried to hold on to their 2-1 lead. After a tough ten minutes which saw both sides play a grueling, physical style of hockey, the power play would factor into the game once again. Michelle Daigneault, a senior from Hay River, Northwest Territories, would provide McGill with a 3-1 lead as the Carabins’ title hopes were slowly slipping away.

Just 43 seconds after Daigneault’s marker, the Carabins struck back. Janique Duval helped reduce McGill’s lead as the tide was beginning to turn into Montreal’s favor.
As Carabins goaltender Elodie Rousseau-Sirois was nullifying various offensive attacks by McGill, Barker helped her cause as she managed to slip the puck past Hough with 3:13 remaining. With a 3-3 tie, neither team could score in the dying minutes of the third, forcing overtime.

Strong defense told the story as the first overtime frame resulted in the continuation of the 3-3 tie. Once again, the power play would serve to provide the needed advantage. With Sophie Brault called for holding with 20 seconds remaining in the first overtime, it would have an effect on the outcome.

Brittney Fouracres, a defender from Calgary, would manage to beat Rousseau-Sirois with a snapshot just 37 seconds into the second overtime frame. Scoring McGill’s third power-play goal of the game, succeeding with the player advantage throughout the game was the key factor in the victory.

During the regular season, Montreal’s power play was a league-best 29% but was unable to score on seven power play opportunities in the title game. Despite winning 49 faceoffs, Montreal was outshot by a 33-24 margin. With McGill’s backstop, Hough, working to shut down the Carabins’ potent power-play attack, it gave McGill its fourth national title. Another hero for McGill was Leslie Oles, who contributed three assists in the contest, including the helper on the game-winning tally.


Of note, two McGill players (Brittney Fouracres and Gabrielle Davidson) and two Montreal players (Elodie Rousseau-Sirois and Ariane Barker) were named to the All-Tournament Team. Davidson would earn Championship MVP honors. Having also helped Canada claim the gold medal at the 2013 Winter Universiade in Italy, the season would prove to be a coming-out party for Davidson, who has emerged as one of the top snipers in CIS hockey. With three years of CIS eligibility remaining, it is likely that another national title will follow in the future.  

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