McGill sweeps Carabins to capture 15th Quebec women’s hockey championship

Hockey Martlets advance to the U SPORTS Final Eight national championship in Charlottetown, PEI, March 12-15
The McGill Martlets: 2020 RSEQ women’s hockey championsJames Hajjar, courtesy, U. de Montreal

Senior rearguard Emilia Cotter scored the insurance goal and added an assist as fifth-ranked McGill skated to a convincing 4-1 victory over the No.9 Montreal Carabins to capture the Ed Enos Trophy as champions of the RSEQ women’s hockey league, Saturday, before a crowd of about 400 at CEPSUM Arena.

It was the first Quebec league title in three years and the 15th overall for the Martlets, who swept the best-of-three series, including a 4-2 result in the opener on Thursday at McConnell Arena. Both Quebec finalists, however, advance to the U SPORTS Final Eight national championship in Charlottetown, March 12-15.

McGill, which is riding a six-game win streak, improved to 6-1 on the season against the Carabins and now owns a 54-29 overall record in 83-lifetime meetings since Montreal joined the Quebec conference in 2009.  The bitter rivals, who are based on opposite slopes of Mt. Royal, could cross paths again this season as they will both travel to the nationals, hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island, where McGill, as Quebec champs, will benefit from preferential seeding.

Martlet hockey program “is a process”

“We played a well-structured game,” said head coach Peter Smith, who now owns a 534-229-33 record in 796 games overall during his 20 seasons behind the McGill bench. “I didn’t think we played at our pace in the first period but then we talked about it and made a couple of adjustments. In the second and third we played a very disciplined game at a good pace.

“The Martlets hockey program is a process from start to finish and you can’t evaluate our team (after a slow start) from September to October. You need to evaluate us for the progress we make over the course of the year,” said Smith. “We have such a hard-working group and now that we’ve gotten to this time of year, our hard work is paying off. I’m happy for the players, they’ve played well, worked hard and won the RSEQ championship. We haven’t won in a couple of years and it was terrific.”

Kellyane Lecours, of Victoriaville, Que., opened the scoring at 7:57 of the second period, registering her first of the post-season after a crisp pass from linemate Marika Labrecque, who collected a pair of helpers in the contest.

Stephanie Desjardins, a 5-foot-4 forward from Grand Falls, N.B., potted what proved to be the game-winner at 12:50 of the middle period, assisted by defenceman Cassidy Bell. It was the second marker of the post-season for Desjardins, an industrial relations junior, who improved her career record to 25-23-48 in 103 games overall.

However, Carabins forward Eloise Dube responded just 33 seconds, reducing the deficit to 2-1.

Cotter leads the way

Cotter, the veteran team captain from Toronto, restored a two-goal cushion at 17:49 of the middle period to put her team up 3-1 going into the final stretch. She received a cross-ice pass from Labrecque – who was stationed in the faceoff circle – and rifled a shot from the blue line that found the back of the net.

“Cotter is an amazing leader, she brings so much energy, into the room, on the bench, and on the ice. She’s just the Energizer Bunny out there and has had a great season,” noted Smith of his two-year captain, who was announced on Thursday as the conference nominee for the national Marion Hillard Award, which recognizes leadership. “She’s done so well, is an inspiration to her teammates and I’m going be sad to see her go, along with our four other graduating players.”

All-conference centre Jade Downie-Landry, a senior from St. Jean, Que., put the game out of reach,  scoring her sixth goal in four post-season contests, at 10:00 of the final stanza. On the play, she was sprung free on a breakaway after a long pass from defenceman Kess Notargiacomo. It was the second career point – the first in playoffs – for Notargiacomo, a sophomore from Pte. Claire, Que.

Martlets netminder Tricia Deguire kicked aside 31 of 32 shots faced, as her undefeated playoff record improved to 4-0 with a stingy 1.00 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage. The senior from Sherbrooke, Que., will take a 76-48-1 career record into nationals with 26 shutouts in 129 career games overall.

Off to the nationals

McGill, which led the Quebec conference in both special teams this season, was 0-for-1 on the power play and successfully snuffed out all three shorthanded situations. In four post-season contests, they operated at 27.3 per cent with the extra attacker (6/22) and 87.5 per cent PK efficiency (14/16).

The Martlets, who finished second at nationals last year after a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to Guelph in the gold medal game, are scheduled to fly out to the Maritimes on Monday evening, March 9, while the Carabins will depart on Tuesday morning. It will be the final appearance in a McGill uniform for five graduating seniors: Emilia Cotter, Zoe Todd, Shana Walker, Olivia Ramos and Nicole Howlett.

McGILL MURMURS: the hockey Martets are the fifth different McGill varsity program to win their league championship this season, joining both swim squads, the artistic (synchro) swim team and the cross-country running Martlets.