Queen’s in need of more magic vs. undefeated McGill

There is likely no better story at this year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s hockey championship than the Queen’s Gaels. In fact, they just might be the best story in all of CIS women’s hockey this season.

After a mediocre start to their season, the Gaels had just six wins at the winter break and seemed destined for another season in which they finish middle of the pack and are dealt an early playoff exit. But this scrappy Queen’s team came out of the break on a tear and finished the season 9-2, going into the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs as the league’s hottest team. Despite their momentum, they were still underdogs in the grand scheme of things, with Laurier, Brock and Guelph all ranked ahead of them.

Queen’s opened their playoffs with a 2-1 overtime win over the Windsor Lancers in the OUA quarterfinal. And that’s where the magic began.

They went on to have every single one of their post-season games go to at least one overtime period as they shocked number-two nationally ranked Laurier in the OUA semis, both games going to double-overtime with Queen’s winning 2-1, and then disposed of Guelph in two more OT games in the OUA finals, one of which went a marathon six extra frames.

The Gaels were then able to carry over some of that magic into the CIS finals as they downed the defending champion Alberta Pandas — in overtime yet again — in their tournament opener.

But today at 4:00 that momentum this team of destiny has been riding will be tested like it’s never been tested before. The Gaels will play their second national championship game of the weekend, and in school history, against the undefeated, number-one nationally ranked McGill Martlets, who’s only loss in the past four years came in last year’s CIS final to Alberta.

McGill came into this tournament as the clear favourites, not just because of the way they rolled through their Quebec competition — on top of the undefeated season, they beat Montreal 8-1 in the conference final — but because of the roster they boast. The Martlets had two players on both the first and second teams of All-Canadians as well as one on the CIS all-rookie team.

Not only that, McGill goaltender Charlene Labonte, along with defencemen Cathy Chartrand and Gillian Ferrari all have experience with Canada’s Olympic team; Labonte winning gold in Vancouver last year.

The powerful Martlets didn’t disappoint in their tournament opener on Thursday, beating, bashing and bruising Alberta on their way to a 4-2 win.

Without getting to wrapped up in the mind boggling tie-breaking scenarios that come along with this tournament, essentially the winner of this game will make the gold medal game. So in a few hours, we will find out not only who will be the Pool A representatives in Sunday’s gold and Bronze medal games, but also just how far that magic the Gaels have been living on can take them.