Honest cop approach helps Serpico take aim, solve drama with winner over Gee-Gees
MONTREAL -- It wasn't quite the suspense felt in the movie "Serpico", the 1973 crime drama starring Al Pacino. But it was still a good ending with Alexandria Serpico, the clean-cut kid from Calgary breaking a 1-1 tie with some good old-fashioned work for the game-winner at 2:39 of the third period as No.1-ranked McGill closed out the regular season with a 3-1 come-from-behind triumph over Ottawa at McConnell Arena, Friday.
The Martlets extended their win streak to 43 consecutive victories in regular-season play versus the Gee-Gees -- since losing 2-1 in the nation's capital on Feb. 7, 2007 -- and improved the Martlets head-to-head record to 83-12-7 in 102 lifetime meetings against Ottawa.
For the sixth time in the past seven outings, McGill surrendered the first goal. But on a positive note, they have stormed back to win five of them in come-from-behind fashion. The Gee-Gees opened the scoring on a power-play goal by Carol-Ann Upshall at the 2:46 mark and took that tentative lead into the intermission.
The Martlets turned it up a notch in the middle stanza, outshooting Ottawa by a stunning 18-0 margin but had to settle for a 1-1 score after a defenceman Brittney Fouracres -- just back from a tour of duty for Canada at the World University Games in Spain -- unleashed a knuckleball shot from the point that fluttered past goalie Maude Levesque-Ryan for a power-play goal at 6:36.
McGill shifted into overdrive in the final period, outshooting the Gee-Gees 18-3. Serpico, a freshman, solved the problem at hand, converting passes from Gabrielle Davidson and Leslie Oles for the go-ahead goal early in the frame.
Things got dicey in the dying minutes when McGill defenceman Emily Davies was called for an interference infraction and Ottawa pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage. But Olympian Melodie Daoust came to the rescue with a shorthanded empty-net marker and 29 seconds remaining. It was a CIS-leading seventh "shorty" for the Martlets.
Since Daoust's much-anticipated return to the line-up last week from a lower-body injury suffered last August, she has scored seven points, three of them goals, in just three games. Over her three seasons, the talented 5-foot-6 physical education junior has a 42-62-104 record in 41 career regular-season contests.
The Martlets, who outshot Ottawa by a lopsided 46-9 margin, went 1-for-5 on the power-play and erased five of six shorthanded situations.
"We gave up that one early goal on the penalty-kill which was a bit disappointing but other than that, we played a good all-round game," said Martlets head coach Peter Smith, who owns a 416-149-31 record in 596 games overall behind the McGill bench. "They played us hard and we knew that they would. It was a very physical game but we stood up to it and battled hard. We had some good productivity out of pretty much everybody."
Brittany Smrke, making her fourth straight start between the pipes for McGill, registered eight saves on nine shots to collect the victory, improving to 10-3-0 on the season. Levesque-Ryan took the loss for Ottawa, despite a 43-save performance, dropping her record to 7-10-0.
It was McGill's fifth straight victory and put them atop the RSEQ standings with a 16-4-0 record. Whether the Martlets finish first or second now depends on what the No.2-ranked Montreal Carabins (15-4-0) do in their season finale at Concordia (7-7-5) on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Stingers, who are 0-4 against the Carabins, will finish third no matter what and meet the second-place team in the RSEQ semifinals. So they can pick their poison. A loss to Montreal will give the Carabins the pennant and set up a McGill-Concordia semifinal. However, a victory over UdeM will give McGill the pennant and create a Carabins-Concordia semifinal.
Whatever happens, McGill will host either third-place Concordia or fourth-place Ottawa (7-12-0) in an RSEQ best-of-three semifinal series, beginning Thursday (Feb. 26) at McConnell Arena. Puck drop is 7 p.m. Game 2 will be away on Saturday (Feb. 28; time TBC) and if a rubber match is needed, it will be back at McConnell Arena on Sunday (Mar. 1) at 3 p.m.
"I like where we're at and what we have going," added Smith. "We've improved a lot over the course of the season, in terms of our structure and maturity."
MARTLET MURMURS: Gabrielle Davidson is poised to become the third different McGill player to win the RSEQ scoring crown in as many years. She has a 19-20-39 record in 20 games. The only person that could catch her would be Carabins sniper Ariane Barker (16-16-32) who would need at least seven points in her last game... Katia Clement-Heydra won the title with 40 points in 2013-14, preceded by Melodie Daoust with 54 points in 2012-13... The last non-McGill player to win the Quebec conference scoring title was way back in 2005-06, when Ottawa's Kim Kerr, with 20 points in 15 games... Goaltender Taylor Hough continues to rehab from a lower-body injury suffered in an early February practice. She has missed four straight games and the back-up on the bench has been rookie Kayla Loberg... Defenceman Adrienne Crampton missed her 11th straight league game since suffering an unspecified injury on Nov. 30. Her status for the playoffs is uncertain.