EDMONTON (ISN) – The sixth-seeded Universite de Montreal Carabins registered four straight goals to down the No. 4 seed University of Prince Edward Island Panthers 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Clare Drake Arena, to win Pool ‘A’, and advance to their first CIS women’s hockey championship gold medal game.
Montreal born forward Maude Gélinas led the way for the Carabins with a goal and an assist, while fifth-year Marie-Ève Couture, Josianne Legault, and Ariane Barker each added a single tally. Sophomore goaltender Rachel Ouelette made 21 stops to collect her second win of the tournament.
Jessie-Anne Howard, who hails from Kingston, Ont., registered the only Panthers goal, with Calgary native Bailey Toupin making 26 saves in a losing effort.
The Carabins’ program, just in its third year of existence, is making only their second appearance at the national championship, following a 5th place showing in 2010. Now, two years later, they have assured their emerging program at least a national silver medal. They will meet the winner of Pool ‘B’ on Sunday at 6:00 pm MT.
Prince Edward Island will now play in the fifth-place game on Sunday morning at 11:00 am MT, while the OUA champion Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the tournament’s No.1 seed, will compete in the CIS bronze medal game at 2:00 pm MT.
Solid fore-checking, tight, defensive hockey and two highlight reel saves by the 5’4″ Panthers’ goalie defined the scoreless first period before a number of penalties ignited the offence in the second frame.
On the power-play at 3:55, the Panthers shocked the Carabins when forward Howard collected a rebound off a Samantha Sweet slap-shot, and chipped it by Ouelette to give the East-coasters a 1-0 lead.
However, in spite of the deficit, third-year Montreal coach Isabelle Leclair remained confident her team would respond.
“We weren’t skating…perhaps we were nervous, or because of inexperience. I told them that they had to give more out there. I shook them up, and our leaders really stepped up,” explained Leclair.
At 13:09 of the second, on a Montreal power-play, Jessica Gagné, of Sherbrooke, Qué., fed Couture in the slot who went glove-high on Toupin to tie the game up at one.
Three minutes later, a Panthers’ turn over was banged home by Granby, Qué., native Legault. The goal gave the Carabins the lead and Legault the tie for the tournament scoring lead.
From there, Montreal would not look back as an electrifying rush by Sophie Brault, of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, triggered Gelinas’ first tally of the tournament and stretched the lead to 3-1. The Carabins would add another in the third period off the stick of Barker, a native of Napierville, Qué., to put the game out of reach.
Despite the loss, sixth-year PEI coach Bruce Donaldson, whose team is making their first appearance at the national championship in program history, was proud of his team’s effort and remains optimistic for the future.
“I’m very proud of where the program is and how they competed today. We’re still learning. For those returning next year, I hope this is a good lesson.”
Meanwhile, Leclaire now has to guide her Carabins in their first appearance in the CIS championship final.
“It’s huge,” exclaimed Leclaire. “Whatever the result tomorrow we go off as a winner. It’s amazing for our program and for the future.”