Hockey Martlets clip Hawks, bronzed in Edmonton
Ann-Sophie Bettez of Sept-Iles, Que., scored three points and Charline Labonté of Boisbriand, Que., made 23 saves to post her 81st career shutout, in the final university game for both, as No.2 McGill grounded the top-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks to a halt with a 4-0 victory in the CIS women's hockey bronze medal contest at Clare Drake Arena, Sunday.
McGill player of the game Michelle Daigneault , a sophomore rearguard who hails all the way from Hay River, NWT, netted the game-winner in the 5:44 of the opening period. She also set up Leslie Oles of Beaconsfield, Que., for the insurance marker at 15:09 of the middle stanza. Bettez, who assisted on the game-winner, made it 3-0 at 1:02 of the final period and then set up Mélodie Daoust, the CIS rookie of the year from Valleyfield, Que., who tallied with just under eight minutes remaining.
The Martlets, who improved to 8-5 lifetime against Laurier, collected a medal for the seventh straight year at the CIS tourney. They now have a lifetime haul of three gold, three silver and five bronze medals in their 13 appearances. But it was not the colour that the three-time national champs had planned on.
"It was a bittersweet victory," admitted McGill bench boss and CIS coach of the year Peter Smith, who guided the team to a 31-10-1 record overall, including a 28-4 mark against Canadian university opponents. "We gave up only one goal in three games and we end up with a bronze medal. It's hard to believe.
"Our team came here with different aspirations. You never know what to expect in this type of game (after failing to reach the gold medal final) but I'll give our girls a lot of credit. There was no whining or complaining about anything. They came out and went hard. Our objective was to play three strong games and I thought we did a pretty good job from that standpoint. It's a bit disappointing in that the bronze medal game wasn't quite where we wanted to be. But I will say that we've got seven kids on this team with their first CIS medal, so that's a good start for their university careers."
Hawks puckstopper Erika Thunder made 22 saves, finishing the tournament with 52 saves, one shutout, and one win for the Golden Hawks who came in as the top-seeded team.
"We had a really good regular season," said Laurier head coach Rick Osborne. "We went undefeated in regulation, we regained the OUA title, but coming here for the championship, we were cautiously optimistic. We knew we had some warts, and when you get to this championship, because the other teams are so good, they tend to find your warts pretty quick and expose you over them."
The Martlets are expecting to lose five players to graduation, including five-time all-Canadians Charline Labonté (G) and Ann-Sophie Bettez (F), plus four-time all-Canadian defencemen Cathy Chartrand of Lac Nominingue, Que., in addition to fifth-year forwards Jordanna Peroff of Keswick, Ont., and Lainie Smith of Aurora, Ont.
"It's really special to win this last game, win a medal and go out feeling good with this group of players," said Chartrand, the team captain who will graduate as the team's all-time top scoring blueliner with an equally impressive 80-178-258 record in 180 games overall. "This isn't the medal we wanted, but we showed real character today because we wanted this win pretty bad. Playing university hockey is about more than hockey; these girls, your teammates, become your family, so this final win was really special."
"We're going to have some real holes to fill before next season," noted Smith. "But fortunately, when you have players like this group of graduating players, you tend to attract some really good talent, too. So yeah, it will be tough to play without them, but at the same time, it provides an opportunity for some players to step into new roles next season and really shine."
Labonté finishes with an astonishing 160-17-3 overall record with 81 shutouts in 180 career starts, a 0.98 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. She owns virtually every McGill goaltending except most saves in a game, season and career, which are still held by Kim St. Pierre, who played in an era where facing 50 shots a game was a common occurrence for McGill.
"It was kind of fitting that Charlie (Labonté), with all that she has accomplished, went out with a shutout in her final game as a Martlet," said Smith. "And as far as Cathy is concerned, attending McGill was probably the furthest thing from all of our minds at one point in time. But she worked hard as a student, conducted herself with such class and has been a tremendous captain, not to mention a great defenceman."
Bettez will graduate as the team's all-time leader in goals, assists and points with a 148-175-323 record in 196 games overall. "Ann-So has really worked hard on her game and not only developed into the CIS player of the year but also became such a very unselfish player," noted Smith.
"Jordanna was another one who came in with lots to learn," said Smith of Peroff who finishes with a 57-82-139 record in 194 contests. "She comes away with three CIS gold medals, a silver and a bronze and was the CIS tourney MVP last year.
"And Lainie (12-15-27 in 156 games) is a real character kid and a great teammate who also leaves with five CIS medals. We are losing a lot of character and leadership with that group. We're gonna miss 'em all."