EDMONTON (CIS) – In their first appearance at the CIS women’s hockey championship in over a decade, the third-seeded, and Canada West champion Calgary Dinos opened up with a 1-0 victory over the defending champion and second-seeded McGill Martlets in Game 1 of Pool B action, Thursday evening at Clare Drake Arena.

Championship website (including webcast): http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice/index

Third-year Dinos’ forward Sinead Tracey, who is originally from St. Albert, AB, got the only goal of the game, and netminder Amanda Tapp stopped all 20 McGill shots for the shutout victory.

Charline Labonté, who was named to the CIS First Team All-Canadian squad on Wednesday, made 22 saves for the Martlets in the loss.

At the end of Day 1 action, the Dinos top the “Group of Death” standings with three points and, with the win, give themselves a day’s rest before playing on Saturday against the host Alberta Pandas at 7:00 PM MT. A Calgary victory over the host Pandas would put the Dinos in their first ever championship game in program history. McGill, winners of three of the last four CIS banners, will face off against the Pandas on Friday, with puck drop also going at 7:00 PM MT. A McGill win combined with a Calgary loss to Alberta would open the door for any of the three teams to advance based on goal differential.

Considering the amount of skill and Olympic-level credentials on the ice, and behind the bench, it was no surprise that the two teams combined for a very physical, hard-fought, fast and highly entertaining hockey game. With the free-flowing play stopped just twice due to penalties, the fans in Edmonton were treated to one of the best women’s hockey championship games in recent memory.

Labonté, who hails from Boisbriand, QC, kept the score close throughout the entire night, making spectacular saves when needed, including a marvelous right pad stop on Calgary’s Russian sniper Iya Gavrilova early in the first.

She then managed to catch a Melissa Zubick wristshot in the shoulder, but in the ensuing goalmouth scramble, Tracey managed to shovel the puck into the net, from her knees, for the one-goal lead, and eventual game winner, 11:47 into the game.

“We knew with Labonté in their net, it wouldn’t be a pretty goal and we’d need to put pucks on net with lots of traffic to be successful,” said an overjoyed Dinos head coach Danielle Goyette.

McGill almost went down 2-0 in the third period when they were caught on a bad line change, which allowed the Dinos to skate in on a three-on-one rush. Gavrilova attempted the backhand deke in tight on Labonté, but the 2010 Olympian was equal to the task.

At the other end of the ice, Tapp, who had a fifth-best 1.65 goals against average among the national leaders during conference play, gave a steady performance for Calgary’s first-ever shutout on the national stage.

With Labonté on the bench for an extra attacker, McGill had a great chance to tie the score in the dying seconds of the third. After winning the offensive zone faceoff, the puck found its way to CIS Rookie of the Year Mélodie Daoust on Tapp’s doorstep, but she fired her backhand shot just over the crossbar.

“We have to give credit to our goalie,” noted Goyette. “She wasn’t flashy, but she made the right save at the right time. If you want to be successful at a championship, you need to have a goalie make a big save and she did that tonight.”

Game Notes:

Calgary’s last appearance at the national championship was in 2001 when they hosted…they were soundly beaten by both Toronto (12-1) and McGill (6-0) before rebounding to win the fifth-place game over St. Francis Xavier (5-1)…The loss is McGill’s first at the national championship since losing the gold medal final in 2010 to Alberta.