Cinderella run over for Queen’s
On Jan. 23, the Queen’s Gaels started their improbable run of 12 straight wins with a 6-1 victory over the University of Western Ontario.
Six overtime post-season games, one record-breaking marathon contest featuring nine periods of hockey, and one Ontario University Athletics championship later, the Gaels have fallen.
But it took the number-one team in the country to bring the high-flying team from Kingston back to Earth.
On Saturday afternoon, the McGill Martlets, featuring three national team players, and boasting a 31-0 record versus CIS opponents this season finally vanquished the unlikely squad who seemingly had destiny on their side, 3-1.
The Gaels will now settle for a bronze medal showdown with one of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the Manitoba Bisons, or the St. Francis Xavier X-Women from pool B on Sunday at 4:00pm.
“They left everything on the ice,” said head coach Matt Holmberg. “It’s funny- we’re down 3-1and the team was still quietly confident. They’ve just done it so many times.”
That they have.
Saturday’s affair marked the first time the Gaels did not emerge victorious when surrendering the first goal, as they have in all six occasions in the playoffs.
The Gaels played with purpose and showed the nation’s top team just what the OUA champions are made of.
It was the penalties that proved to be their Achilles Heel.
The Gaels took seven minors, including two each from Elizabeth Kench and Morgan McHaffie.
McGill converted on two of their seven man-advantages.
There could very well have been more, but the referees put the whistles away in the third period.
A dangerous position for the zebras to take as both the Martlets’ Katia Clement-Heydra and Gaels’ forward Brittany McHaffie were drilled into the boards by thunderous boarding checks.
Both players stayed in the game.
“In the third, it did get quite aggressive, but I think that’s because both teams were battling it out to the end,” said Gaels’ fourth-year captain Michelle Hunt.
Clemente-Heydra opened the scoring just 1:23 into the game with a backhander as she skated through a pack of red Gaels’ sweaters to the front of the net.
And as they have always done in the post-season, the Gaels answered right back.
This time, it was Kelsey Thomson who brought the retribution, wiring a slapshot past Martlets’ goalie and national team member, Charline Labonte from the slot after a horrendous and uncharacteristic giveaway by Martlets’ captain and fellow Canadian-team standout Cathy Chartrand.
In the second, the Martlets pulled away from the Kingston Cinderella squad scoring twice in 2:33.
Jordana Peroff and Alyssa Cecere recorded their first tallies of the tournament for McGill.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Hunt. “We earned our spot. We knew if we worked hard, we could play with them.”
It just wasn’t enough for the team everyone’s talking about in the tourney.
The nation’s top powerhouse showed why they’ve now won 30 straight matches.
They’ll play the top team from Pool B after the last round robin game is played Saturday at 7:30 between St. FX and Manitoba.
Holmberg recognizes his team’s trailblazing place in school history with their astounding run.
“I’m very proud of what the girls have done for the program… we’ve learned a lot from this experience.”
“Losing’s disappointing,” lamented Hunt.
“But we’ve got a great chance to go for a medal.”
And not many can claim they saw that in the crystal ball for the improbable team from Kingston.