Laurier to play for bronze after Carabins vault themselves to final

EDMONTON, Alta – The No. 4 University of Prince Edward Island Panthers had the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks scoreboard watching from their phones at West Edmonton Mall on Saturday, but even the moral support offered by the number-one team in the nation wasn’t enough for the Panthers to overcome the Montreal Carabins.

The No. 6 Carabins defeated the Panthers, 4-1, on Saturday and had previously conquered the Laurier shoppers on Thursday, 6-5, to elevate the upstart Montreal team to the gold medal final at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s hockey championships.

After Jessie-Anne Howard scored the Panthers’ first ever goal at the CIS tourney three minutes into the second frame, the high-flying Carabins reeled off three-straight markers of their own within a span of four minutes and 34 seconds to end the period.

That sucked the life out of UPEI and that ended any dreams the Hawks had of making the gold medal final. The team from Waterloo needed the Panthers to be victorious after they left their fate in the hands of UPEI, giving up an uncharacteristic six goals on day one to Montreal.

“You have to play a whole 60 minutes,” stressed an upbeat UPEI head coach Bruce Donaldson after the game. “I think we took a couple of shifts off. We were doing things a bit better [than yesterday against Laurier in a 3-0 loss] but we had just took an entire four minutes off. For those who are returning next year, it’s a good lesson.”

And for the Panthers, Donaldson is tremendously pleased with his team’s showing at the elite tournament.

“We’re very proud of where the program is,” said the six-year UPEI coaching veteran. “The fact that we’ve been in every game, I’m quite pleased with.”

The Panthers were starting the game without Kristy Dobson, their goaltending sensation and almost lone reason why the UPEI team is at the tournament in the first place. The year-long unranked team shocked the No. 4 St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the Atlantic conference’s semifinals to get here.

Donaldson chose to give the start to Bailey Toupin, the Edmonton native.

“Dobson will play tomorrow [in the fifth-place game] but I wanted to give Bailey an opportunity. I wanted to make sure she had a chance to play in front of her hometown.”

Toupin was no slouch in Dobson’s absence, stopping 26 of 30 shots, but couldn’t single-handedly lift the Panthers over Montreal.

Marie-Eve Couture and Maude Gelinas notched their first of the tournament for Montreal while Josianne Legault and Ariane Barker scored their second.

The Carabins, in only their third year of existence, are making their second-straight appearance at the tournament. They finished in fifth last year.

“Our plan was within five years [of the Carabins’ inception in 2009] to be in those six or eight teams that are the best in the country,” said Carabins’ head coach Isabelle Leclaire. “And we’re going to hope that, if not tomorrow, quite soon that we’re the best in the country.”

Hawks’ head coach Rick Osborne decided to hold a practice early Saturday morning, but then figured the team should get away from the rink for a day. He wanted them focused for whatever medal they should play for on Sunday.

Now the Hawks will face one of the Calgary Dinos, McGill Martlets or Alberta Pandas for bronze, a position they didn’t want to be in, but within which lies the reality of a four-day tournament with zero-tolerance for large margins of error or slip-ups.

And for Montreal, the scary part about the young program, headed by ex-Team Canada coach and now Montreal general manager Daniele Sauvageau, is that they’re only getting started.

“If it turns out that the result isn’t a gold medal, you’re certainly not going to see a team crying and down on the ice. They’re going to be happy,” said Leclaire. “It’s great for our program; our future.”

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