EDMONTON (ISN) – An offensive outburst headed by Leslie Oles in the final frame broke open a tight game, as the No.2 McGill Martlets beat the fifth-seeded and host Alberta Pandas by a 4-0 score on Day 2 of the CIS Championships, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Championship website (including webcast): http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice/index
Oles, who hails from Beaconsfield, Que., scored two goals in the third period while Chelsey Saunders added the third, and Gillian Ferrari opened the scoring back in the first period for McGill. Not to be overshadowed, though, was Charline Labonté’s 26-save shutout, already her 80th bagel in 179 games as a Martlet, and her fifth in 14 national championship games.
Senior netminder Kaitlyn Chapman, of Chauvin, Alta., held her own in the Pandas net, keeping host Alberta in the game until the final 20 minutes.
The opening 20 minutes were almost up before McGill got its first tally of the game, and ultimate game-winner. Recently named CIS rookie of the year Mélodie Daoust won an offensive zone face-off and slipped the puck back to Ferrari at the point, and the Thornhill, Ont., native threw a seeing-eye wristshot towards the goal that eluded Chapman with 22.4 seconds left on the clock.
“I thought that was huge for us,” said Martlets head coach Peter Smith, who was named the 2012 CIS Coach of the Year. “We didn’t exactly have the start that we envisioned, but I’ll give the girls credit, they never lost focus…they just kept going at it.”
McGill continued to apply pressure in the second period, but it was Chapman who stood tall in the Alberta goal, including a penalty kill where she was without her stick for more than 30 seconds, making saves when her defence wasn’t courageously blocking in front of her.
Unfortunately, the fifth-year puckstopper had no chance on Oles’ deflection of a Cathy Chartrand point shot 3:54 into the third period, which doubled the Martlets’ lead.
Sensing the growing strength of the defending champions, rearguard Nicole Pratt came in on a partial break three minutes later, but Labonté, shut the door on Pratt’s wrister and also threw down the right pad on a Janelle Froehler rebound.
“I think she has a little mystique about her,” lamented Alberta head coach Howie Draper. “The more she stops, the better she feels, and the more we start to think she’s invincible.”
Having to press harder to break through Labonté’s ever-growing “mystique” as the period wore on, the Pandas gave up a breakaway to Darragh Hamilton midway through the final frame and although she was unable to get a shot away, Saunders found the loose puck and fired it into the empty net for the three-goal lead.
Oles put the game away for certain just over two minutes later when she sniped a shot from the faceoff circle, chasing Chapman from the Alberta goal to be replaced by Kanesa Shwetz, and deflating the entire Pandas squad that fired only five more shots on the McGill net in the final seven and a half minutes.
The four-goal margin of victory all but assures McGill of reaching the CIS medal round for the 10th consecutive season. The Martlets, who finished pool play with a record of 1-1, can advance to the national championship final for the sixth-straight year if Alberta (0-1) defeats Calgary (1-0) on Saturday by less than eight goals. Otherwise McGill will play for bronze. With one game left to go in the “Group of Death”, a Calgary/Alberta dust-up going at 7 PM MT, the seven-time champion Pandas have a tough challenge ahead to make their way to a medal game on Sunday. To play for gold, Alberta needs to win by eight or more goals against the Dinos tomorrow; less than eight but still winning affords the Pandas a chance to play for bronze, and a win by Alberta in overtime or a Calgary victory and the Dinos have the go-ahead to the championship game.