Hockey Redmen and Martlets take respective playoff openers

The McGill Marlets handily defeat the Montreal Carabins 4-1 in the first game of the Quebec University Women's Hockey League championship series while the Redmen drew first blood in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Eastern Conference finals with a 5-3 victory over Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
The Martlet’s Lainie Smith battles a UdeM player in action earlier this season. McGill won the opening game of the series last night by a score of 4-1. / Photo: Adam Scotti

By Earl Zuckerman

Caroline Hill scored twice and added a couple of helpers as McGill skated to a convincing 4-1 victory over the Montreal Carabins to win the opener of the Quebec University Women’s Hockey League (QUHL) championship series at McConnell Arena, Thursday night.

It marked the 104th consecutive victory for the Martlets against QUHL opponents, including which a 13-0 lifetime against the Carabins.

“I definitely don’t think we’ll ever score a lot of goals against this team as generally they have a great forecheck, with good defence and goaltending,” said Hill, a fifth-year education senior, who opened the scoring on the power-play at 16:39 of the first period and made it 3-0 at 5:12 of the final stanza.”So honestly, when we’re lucky enough to get a few pucks by (their goalie), then we have to focus on defence and protect our net as well.”

Hill also set up goals by Ann-Sophie Bettez of Sept-Iles, Que., midway through the second and an empty-netter by team captain Cathy Chartrand of Lac Nominingue, Que.

“Carly was real sharp out there,” said McGill bench boss Peter Smith, who was named conference coach of the year earlier in the week. “She has a knack for making everyone around her better. Her speed creates openings for the other players on the ice and she has such good puck sense, that she always seems to find the open person.”

The Martlets had a 33-24 advantage in shots on net, including an 11-3 edge in the first period. McGill owned the puck for much of the first two periods and there was one exceptionally long shift where the Martlets went through four line changes while keeping the Carabins pinned in their own zone for about five minutes.

“Historically, we haven’t been a quick-starting team but I thought we started exceptionally well tonight,” said Smith. “We had a number of good scoring chances in the first period and the front half of the second but the puck just didn’t go in. It is such a game of momentum and we really had it go our way tonight, especially over the first two periods.”

Josianne Legault spoiled netminder Charline Labonté’s bid for a shutout on a power-play marker with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. Freshman Rachel Ouellette took the loss for Montreal.

McGill can wrap up the best-of-three final series and win the league’s Ed Enos trophy at CEPSUM Arena Friday in a 7 p.m. start. Game 3, if necessary, is back at McConnell Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Redmen draw first blood against Pats, improve to 20-0 on home ice

By Earl Zuckerman

Five different players scored as No.2-ranked McGill drew first blood in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Eastern Conference men’s hockey opener at McConnell Arena, Wednesday. The Redmen came away with a 5-3 victory over eighth-ranked Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) to take a 1-0 series lead.

It was McGill’s ninth straight playoff win over the Patriotes since losing in 2005 and improved their overall home record to an unblemished 20-0 on the season, a school record for wins at home.

“I’m real happy with our effort tonight,” said first-year head coach Kelly Nobes, whose troops improved to 34-3-3 overall, matching the single-season school record for most wins, established last year. “We played a full 60 minutes, skated well and our discipline was good. The biggest thing has been our depth. We’re getting a different guy to be a momentum changer every night. Our plan was to skate well, show willpower and play with discipline. I thought we accomplished that tonight.”

After a scoreless first period, the Redmen jumped into a 2-0 lead on power-play goals by Francis Verreault-Paul and Simon Marcotte-Légaré both of whom tallied their fourth of the post-season. Francis Charland replied late in the period for the Pats, on the powerplay, to make it 2-1 after two. But McGill, which led the nation in scoring, struck twice in 21 seconds before the final period was five minutes old. Andrew Wright potted his fifth of the playoffs with the man-advantage at 3:45 and Maxime Langelier-Parent netted what proved to be the game-winner on a nifty wrap-a-round from behind the net at 4:06.

“We had a game plan, especially with their goalie who kicks out a lot of rebounds, to get pucks on net,” said Wright, who finished with two points on the night and leads the OUA playoff scoring race with a 5-7-12 record in five games. “We had 15 shots in the first period and couldn’t bury the puck but just stuck to our guns and it paid off.”

The Pats rallied to make it 4-3 in the final seven minutes on goals by Pierre-Alexandre Joncas and Etienne Bellavance-Martin but OUA East player of the year Alex Picard-Hooper iced the contest with an empty-netter at 19:43.

McGill, which went 3-for-5 on the powerplay and snuffed out 4-of-5 shorthanded situations, had a decided 42-18 edge in shots on net. Goaltender Hubert Morin, a sophomore improved his playoff record to 5-0 on the season and 12-3 lifetime. Jean-Christophe Blanchard was credited with 37 saves in a losing cause and dropped to 4-3 in post-season play.

After losing the first 11 playoff series with UQTR dating back to 1978, the Redmen will attempt to go for their fifth straight series sweep over the Pats at Le Colisée in Trois- Rivières, Friday (7:30 p.m.).  A win would clinch a berth in the league’s centennial edition of the Queen’s Cup championship but more importantly, would qualify the Redmen for a berth at the CIS national championships in Fredericton, March 22-27. Game 3 of this series, if necessary, is slated for Sunday at McConnell Arena, with a 7 p.m. puck drop. All remaining playoff games would be on the road.