Martlets take national championship, Redmen win Queen’s Cup, but have eyes on bigger prize
By Jim Hynes
With one national championship and another Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title captured, the weekend of March 12-13 was certainly one to remember for McGill hockey fans. And there’s still more to come.
The McGill Martlets are once again the queens of Canadian college hockey, and their Redmen counterparts, fresh off a victory in the centennial edition of the Queen’s Cup, emblematic of the OUA men’s university hockey supremacy, hope to join them atop the CIS hockey heap as they prepare to take part in the Cavendish Cup national championship in Fredericton, a six-team tourney set for today (March 24) through Sunday in Fredericton, N.B.
In women’s action, Tournament MVP Jordanna Peroff, a senior from Keswick, Ont., scored once and added an assist as the Martlets skated to a 5-2 win over the St. Francis Xavier X-Women to capture the McGill’s third CIS hockey championship. The gold medal game victory capped an unblemished season for the Martlets, who racked up a stellar 33-0 record against Canadian university opponents.
“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Martlets this year,” said Drew Love, Executive Director of Athletics and Recreation at McGill. “Championships are hard to come by and this team earned their third gold medal in four years with hard work, great coaching, teamwork and talent. Not only are they National Champions but also wonderful ambassadors for McGill University and for women’s hockey. These student athletes combine a tough training schedule with a demanding academic load all year long.”
The Martlets headed into the championships as the No. 1 seed for the fifth straight year. But no cracks developed from the pressure of once again being the tournament favourites. Rather, the team held a decided edge in each of its three games, including a 4-2 defeat of sixth-ranked Alberta Pandas in the round robin game, and a 3-1 win over fourth-ranked Queen’s in the semi-finals. The victory over Alberta avenged the Martlets’ 2-0 loss to the Panda’s in last year’s gold medal game, the only blemish on the team’s 119-1-0 record against CIS opponents going back to December 2007.
In the past, the Martlets have tried to keep the talk about championships and winning streaks to a minimum, but Martlets head coach Peter Smith says that this year’s goal was out in the open as of Day One.
“It’s probably the first time that, at our very first meeting of the year, we said that our goal was to win a national championship,” Smith said. “We’ve talked about performance goals and expectations before but we don’t usually put it right out there, and it was the only time we talked about it all year. For all of us involved it was very satisfying. Because any time you have a goal in mind and you achieve it, it’s extremely rewarding. Whether that goal is a CIS national championship or an Olympic Gold Medal.”
Smith should know. He stepped back behind the Martlets bench this year after taking last year off to serve as an assistant coach with Canada’s gold medal-winning Olympic women’s team.
“The key on any team is getting good people,” Smith said. “The student-athletes that we’ve got are character people. They work hard and exhibit great leadership skills in the classroom and on the ice. Winning a national championship is not an ordinary occurrence, you have to do extraordinary things and I thought our team this year did. We are really blessed with a group of hard working individuals and I thought they did a great job.”
OUA champs now preparing for nationals
In the successful battle to retain the Queen’s Cup, Andrew Wright scored once and added a pair of assists, as No.2-ranked McGill posted a one-sided 6-2 win over the Western Ontario Mustangs at London, Ont.’s Thompson Arena. The victory marked the third league title in five years for the Redmen and their 16th Queen’s Cup title since the trophy was first presented, also to McGill, in 1903. The Cup, which was initially donated by Queen’s University, is the world’s second-oldest hockey trophy still up for grabs – behind only the Stanley Cup.
The Redmen will be seeded second when the championships kick off today. They face the fifth-seeded St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the Atlantic University Sports finalists. Game time is 1 p.m.
The Redmen were also ranked No.2 going in last year’s nationals, but started the tournament with a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Manitoba Bisons. They then dropped their second game to the eventual champion St. Mary’s Huskies by a score of 4-2 after taking an early 2-0 lead. A lack of discipline contributed to both losses, with McGill racking up 22 penalty minutes in the St. Mary’s game alone. The Redmen, the most penalized team in the league last season, have worked hard on staying out of the box this season, placing in the bottom half of that category.
You can keep tabs on the Redmen in their quest for the national title at http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice/, and watch the games live at www.ssncanada.ca. Rogers Sportsnet will broadcast Saturday’s final round robin games as well as the championship game at 8 p.m. Sunday.
-With files from Earl Zukerman, McGill Athletics & Recreation