Canada’s best come to Laurier

McGill Martlets

Last year, the McGill Martlets lost in the national championship finals to the Alberta Pandas, ending their 86-game winning streak against Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) opponents and their run of back-to-back CIS titles.

The Martlets picked up where they left off this year, finishing the season undefeated against CIS opponents and earning the number one seed in the CIS women’s hockey finals for the fifth year running. Returning this year, after spending the 2009-2010 season with the Canadian national team, are head coach Peter Smith and goaltender Charline Labonté, who won gold last year at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Labonté has been a key player in the Martlets success, allowing only 12 goals all regular season.

Fellow national team member Cathy Chartrand also played a major role in the team’s undefeated run this season, finishing the season with 29 points.
Forwards Katia Clement-Hydra — who finished 15th in the CIS with 26 points — and Ann Sophie-Bettez were also important contributors to the team, sharing the team lead for goals scored with 11 goals. The Martlets enter the tournament riding high off of an 8-1 shellacking of cross-town rivals, the Montreal Carabins.

—Stefan Goulet, the McGill Daily

ST. F.X. X-Women

The St. F.X. X-Women enter the CIS finals after dominating their Atlantic opponents throughout the season. The X-Women went undefeated in the regular season, before cruising through the post-season, out-scoring their opponents 24-5 over three games to claim the AUS title.

Second-year Janelle Parent and rookie Alex Normore led the potent X-Women attack, finishing second and third in CIS scoring with 44 and 41 points respectively. St. F.X. also got considerable offence from the back end as veteran defenceman Suzanne Fenerty led all AUS blueliners with 22 points.

Between the pipes, the X-Women used a tandem approach with second-year Katie Greenway and rookie Kirsty Garrow splitting time. However, that didn’t seem to hamper either goaltender as they both finished in the top three in the AUS in goals against average (GAA).

This year will mark the tenth appearance at nationals for the X-Women, who qualified for the previous two tournaments as the hosts. Despite so many appearances in the CIS finals, however, the X-Women have never finished higher than fourth, which they only did once in 2006.

—Justin Fauteux

Manitoba Bisons

Most of the pre-tournament buzz the Manitoba Bisons will generate will come as a result of being the reason four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser won’t be playing in the CIS finals. The Bisons beat Wickenheiser’s Calgary Dinos in the Canada West semifinals, but it wasn’t exactly an upset as the Bisons finished ahead of the Dinos in the regular season. However, the Bisons would go on to pull off an upset win in the Canada West final, beating the conference’s top regular season team and defending CIS champions, the Alberta Pandas. The win marked the first conference title in the Bisons’ history.

The Bisons’ attack relied on a balanced approach, as leading scorer Addie Miles had just 19 points, good enough for 10th in the conference. However, three of her teammates were just behind as fifth-year Tammy Brade had 18 points, and second-years Nellie Minchull and Amy Lee had 16.

After a mediocre regular season, goalie Tara Lacquette caught fire in the playoffs, facing nearly double the amount of shots of any other goalie in the conference, but finishing with the best post-season save percentage and second lowest GAA.

—Justin Fauteux

Queen’s Gaels

Coming into this season, the Queen’s Gaels were able to take away many positives from 2009-10, namely the breakout performances by rookie goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher and forwards Brittany and Morgan McHaffie as well as significant contributions by veteran forwards Liz Kench, Kelsey Thomson and Becky Conroy.

The Gaels, however, didn’t get the start they hoped for. Going 4-3-1 in October, the Gaels continued their season battling in the middle and only won two more games before the winter break.
But the Gaels emerged, along with Conroy who had been injured since the beginning of the season, reinvigorated and set off on a tear that vaulted them into the playoffs with momentum.

Queen’s ended their season 9-2 and on a six-game winning streak during which they held opponents to one goal in each game.
Dodd-Moher has been the star of the postseason with a save percentage of 0.971; the best of the OUA postseason. She has faced 207 shots, allowing six goals.

The playoffs have been a battle for the Gaels as each game ended in multiple overtimes besides their series clincher versus Guelph.
Queen’s rides into nationals on swelling momentum after thrilling sweeps of Laurier and Guelph.

—Kate Bascom, the Queen’s Journal

Laurier Golden Hawks

This season was a bit of a strange one for the Laurier Golden Hawks. For starters, they lost three games, which is more than they lost in the previous two season combined. But things got stranger still in the OUA semifinals as the Hawks were swept by the upstart Queen’s Gaels, ending a streak of seven consecutive provincial titles.

Despite a few more losses than they’re used to, Laurier’s 24-2-1 record was still good enough to put them first in the OUA, scoring 103 goals (16 more than any one else), while allowing just 30 (19 less than anyone else).

OUA Rookie of the Year Laura Brooker had a huge year for the Hawks, scoring 19 goals, putting her third in Canada, while veteran
forward Katherine Shirriff —who played a large role in Brooker’s success — had by far the most productive season of her career, racking up 32 points. Meanwhile, Fiona Lester, Alicia Martin and Alannah Wakefield highlighted the stingy Hawks’ defence, all taking home OUA all-star honours.

In net, reigning CIS player of the year Liz Knox was her usual self. A 20-2 record, five shut-outs, a goals-against average under one, she was still only an OUA second-team all-star.

—Justin Fauteux

Alberta Pandas

After falling to the Manitoba Bisons in the Canada West finals two weeks ago, the University of Alberta Pandas hockey team is looking to regain their footing on a journey to repeat as national champions and claim their eighth CIS trophy in team history.

Seeded sixth in the national championships this year, the Green and Gold are back-boned by CanWest coach of the year Howie Draper, who along with Pandas captain Leah Copeland, has guided an inexperienced roster to some unexpected successes this season.

In previous years the Pandas have dominated their western Canadian opponents. However, with Hayley Wickenheiser suiting up in a Calgary Dinos uniform and the continued development of other women’s hockey programs in the CanWest, the Pandas have faced some stiff competition this season.
The divisional parity seems to have better prepared the Green and Gold for the vigours that they’ll face at the national championships. During the first half of the regular season, the Pandas had difficulties finding their defensive groove. But as the season progressed, the blue liners were able to shore up their presence in
front of the net, something that has been critical to their success this season.

—Matt Hirji, the Gateway

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