PREVIEW 2015 CIS women’s hockey championship: Top-seeded Martlets looking to repeat in Calgary

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Mar 10, 2015

OTTAWA (CIS) – The top-seeded McGill University Martlets hope to successfully defend their national title this week at the CIS women’s hockey championship in Calgary.

The University of Calgary hosts the 2015 tournament at the Markin MacPhail Centre. The competition, using a new eight-team format this year, gets underway on Thursday and culminates Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time (8:30 p.m. ET) with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet ONE. Saturday’s semifinals are also televised live on Sportsnet ONE (3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. MT) and all 12 games from the tourney will be webcast on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

Joining the newly-crowned RSEQ champion Martlets in their quest for the CIS banner are the second-seeded Western Mustangs (OUA champs), No. 3 Alberta Pandas (Canada West champs), No. 4 St. Francis Xavier X-Women (AUS champs), No. 5 Guelph Gryphons (OUA finalists), No. 6 Montreal Carabins (RSEQ finalists), No. 7 Moncton Aigles Bleues (AUS finalists) and No. 8 Calgary Dinos (Canada West semi-finalists).

The quarter-final matchups, split over two days, include Guelph vs. StFX (3 p.m. MT) and host Calgary vs. McGill (7 p.m.) on Thursday, followed by Moncton vs. Western (3 p.m.) and Montreal vs. Alberta (7 p.m.) on Friday.

The Martlets earned No. 1 status after they edged archrival Montreal in three games in a best-of-three RSEQ championship series. The two Quebec powerhouses, who faced off in last year’s national final, were ranked 1-2 in the country all season, with both teams topping eight of 16 weekly coaches’ polls. McGill holds a slim 5-4 edge in nine contests overall this year.

Thanks to the likes of RSEQ scoring champion Gabrielle Davidson (19-20-39 in 20 GP), Katia Clément-Heydra (9-26-35 in 20 GP) and Leslie Oles (14-17-31 in 18 GP), the Martlets had the second most explosive offence in the nation in league play with 4.25 goals per game. As if they needed more firepower, forward Mélodie Daoust, a former CIS player of the year and a 2014 Olympic gold medallist, returned to the lineup on Feb. 13 after suffering an injury in the preseason and has since racked up 18 points in eight games overall, including a hat-trick in the decisive match of the Quebec final.

“I have no idea of whether we’ll have a target on our back or not,” said 15-year head coach Peter Smith, who has already guided his program to four CIS titles and 12 national podium finishes (4-3-5). “We’ve been to the national championship numerous times before and the one thing we’ve learned is that when you get there, you have to have three peak performances. You can’t spend any time worrying about who you’re playing or any of the extra noise that goes on. You just have to be well prepared to play and to take each team one game at a time. Our goal is always to have an up-tempo game and to play with structure. Yes we have good players but the strength of our team is really about playing as a team.”

While top-ranked McGill wins with offence, No. 2 Western has captured its first-ever OUA title and is about to make its first appearance at the CIS tourney thanks to the third-ranked defence in the nation (1.30), led by goaltender Kelly Campbell, who went 16-1-3 in league play with a stingy 1.23 goals against average and a .954 save percentage. The all-star netminder was at her best in the OUA final, turning aside all 23 shots she faced in a 2-0 shutout against Guelph, the Mustangs’ third win in as many head-to-head confrontations this season.

“Our goal will be to get the girls in the right state of mind. We’re dealing with 23 players who have never gone to the national championship,” said fifth-year bench boss Chris Higgins. “We’ll be tight, there will be nerves, and our job is to make sure we can play to our potential and control our nerves.”

Third-seeded Alberta is the most decorated team in CIS women’s hockey history with seven titles since the inaugural national championship in 1998, the last one dating back to 2010. Like Western, the Pandas dominate on defence and were ranked second in the country in league play (1.25) thanks in large part to third-year goalie Lindsey Post (1.18 / .940), who recorded a mind-boggling 10 shutouts in 27 conference games and added another one in the Canada West championship series as Alberta swept Manitoba in two.

“It seems like so long since our team has been at the national championship and longer still since we have won a Canada West championship,” said 18-year coach Howie Draper, whose team returns to the national stage after missing back-to-back CIS tournaments, a first in the program’s storied history. “It’s not easy to get out of Canada West, as demonstrated by the fact that five different teams have won the opportunity to represent the conference at the national championship in the last five years. It’s a great achievement in and of itself.”

After losing 2-1 to UPEI in its conference opener back on Oct. 17, StFX won 20 games in a row before dropping its last three of the regular season from Feb. 1st to 7, a stretch that coincided with superstar Alex Normore being away with Team Canada at the Winter Universiade in Spain. The team’s all-time leading scorer and four-time AUS MVP returned to the roster just in time for the playoffs and the X-Women proceeded to sweep both their best-of-three series, with Normore scoring the double-overtime winner in Game 2 of the conference final against Moncton.

“This year’s version of the X-Women is built on speed and competitiveness. We plan on being a team that is going to be difficult to establish a game plan against at the national tournament,” said first-year head coach Ben Berthiaume, whose troops boast the top power play (24.5%) and the best penalty killing unit (90.7) in the country. “Our team has shown a lot of character throughout the season and I think this represents who we are as a team, a group that is going to compete for 60 minutes and set the bar high intensity-wise.”

Like Western, the OUA’s second entry in the tournament, Guelph, can be considered a new kid on the block as the Gryphons return to the competition for the first time since 2000, and the only third time in school history. Guelph’s top-ranked defence (1.19) starts with goalie Stephanie Nehring, who went 14-3 in league action with five whitewashes, a 1.18 GAA and a .947 save percentage.

“We aren’t heading to Calgary just to gain valuable experience; we are going there to win,” said first-year interim coach Scott McMillan, whose team played two preseason games in Calgary back in September, losing 2-1 in overtime to Alberta and defeating the Dinos 4-2. “We know we are facing a great team in StFX in our opener, but we aren’t going there just to shake hands, we want to get the victory.”

Sixth-seeded Montreal has reached the national final in each of the past three campaigns, including the first CIS title in the program’s young history in 2013, and is hungry for more after a heartbreaking double OT loss to McGill in last year’s championship match in Fredericton. Led by RSEQ player of the year Ariane Barker (16-16-32 in 17 GP), the Carabins are the highest scoring team in the country this season (4.40) and displayed their firepower on numerous occasions this year against their cross-town rivals, scoring five goals or more on the Martlets four times in nine head-to-head contests overall.

“It’s always motivating to compete for a national championship. We want to relive those great moments from the past couple of years,” said head coach Isabelle Leclaire. “All the teams at the tournament are extremely talented but we couldn’t have asked for a better preparation than going the limit against McGill in our league championship series.”

Atlantic finalist Moncton is another contender that can score at will as proven by its number-three national rankings in both overall offence (3.13) and power play efficiency (22.2). The Aigles Bleues, whose best result at the CIS tournament remains a bronze medal claimed in 1999, hope to fare better than a year ago in Fredericton, where they lost 6-0 to Laurier and 8-2 against McGill in pool play before edging host St. Thomas 2-1 in the fifth-place game.

“We truly believe we can surprise people at this tournament,” said bench boss Denis Ross. “We can build on the experience from last year. We know we can compete with any team in the country. We had a great season and we’re up to the challenge.”

Championship host Calgary was dealt a tough blow last month when the legendary Hayley Wickenheiser was lost to a season-ending injury. The Dinos’ success this week should rely heavily on the shoulders of three-time Russian Olympian Iya Gavrilova, who was named the Canada West player of the year thanks to her 21-16-37 record in 23 league games and also helped her home country capture its first-ever Universiade title in February in Spain thanks to a gold-medal triumph against Canada.

“Hosting the national championship was one of the key things we set out to do when Joan Snyder gave us her generous donation in 2011, and we’re excited that the opportunity is in front of us,” said Dinos head coach Danielle Goyette, whose team returns to the national tournament for the third time in four years and claimed its lone CIS banner in 2012. “It’s a great opportunity for our team to represent our city and our university, and every time you go to a national championship, every team has a chance to win. It’s a new experience to be playing at home in front of friends and family, and student-athletes don’t always get the chance to play at this level. It’s something we will not take for granted.”

NOTES: All Wednesday practices at the Markin MacPhail Centre (A arena) are open to the media, starting at 7 a.m MT… The Sun Life Financial All-Canadian Banquet is set for Wednesday evening at the Markin MacPhail Centre.

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

NO. 1 McGILL MARTLETS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Peter Smith (15th season)
Regular season record: 16-4-0
Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ
Playoff record: 4-1
Playoff finish: RSEQ champions
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 22-6
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 5-4 (5-4 vs. MTL)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 1
Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (8 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 16
National ranking (offence): 2nd (4.25)
National ranking (defence): 13th (2.09)
National ranking (power play): 5th (19.8)
National ranking (penalty kill): 19th (82.7)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: None
Conference 1st team all-stars: Kelsie Moffatt (D), Katia Clément-Heydra (F), Gabrielle Davidson (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Brittney Fouracres (D), Leslie Oles (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Marie-Philip Lavoie (F)
Season leader (points): Gabrielle Davidson, 19-20-39 (20 GP)
Season leader (goals): Gabrielle Davidson, 19 (20 GP)
Season leader (assists): Katia Clément-Heydra, 26 (20 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Kelsie Moffatt, 3-14-17 (20 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Brittany Smrke (13 GP, 10-3, 3 SHO, 2.10, .888)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 15th
Last appearance: 2014 (champions)
All-time record: 30-12 (.714)
All-time medals: 12 (4-3-5)
Best result: 4-time champions (2014, 2011, 2009, 2008)
Sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance (12th in 13 years)

NO. 2 WESTERN MUSTANGS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Chris Higgins (5th season) / Co-Head Coach: Dave Barrett (1st season)
Regular season record: 20-1-3
Regular season standing: 1st OUA
Playoff record: 5-0
Playoff finish: OUA champions
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-3-5
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 3-0 (3-0 vs. GUE)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 3
Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (last 8 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 12
National ranking (offence): 14th (2.54)
National ranking (defence): 3rd (1.30)
National ranking (power play): 13th (17.1)
National ranking (penalty kill): 4th (89.2)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: Chris Higgins & Dave Barrett (coaches)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Kelly Campbell (G), Katelyn Gosling (D), Kendra Broad (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Brianna Iazzolino (D)
Conference all-rookie team: None
Season leader (points): Kendra Broad, 15-15-30 (24 GP)
Season leader (goals): Kendra Broad, 15 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Kendra Broad, 15 (24 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Brianna Iazzolino, 7-9-16 (22 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Kelly Campbell (21 GP, 16-1-3, 3 SHO, 1.23, .954)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 1st
Last appearance: –
All-time record: 0-0
All-time medals: 0
Best result: –
Sequence: 1st appearance

NO. 3 ALBERTA PANDAS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Howie Draper (18th season)
Regular season record: 20-7-1
Regular season standing: 1st Canada West
Playoff record: 4-0
Playoff finish: Canada West champions
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 27-10
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 6-3 (1-1 vs. GUE, 5-2 CGY)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 4
Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (4 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 16
National ranking (offence): 5th (3.07)
National ranking (defence): 2nd (1.25)
National ranking (power play): 10th (18.1)
National ranking (penalty kill): 5th (89.2)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: None
Conference 1st team all-stars: Jessica Kampjes (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Tess Houston (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Hannah Olenyk (F)
Season leader (points): Jessica Kampjes, 13-12-25 (22 GP) / Hannah Olenyk, 10-15-25 (28 GP)
Season leader (goals): Jessica Kampjes, 13 (22 GP)
Season leader (assists): Hannah Olenyk, 15 (28 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Hannah Mousek, 1-12-13 (28 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Lindsey Post (27 GP, 20-7, 10 SHO, 1.18, .940)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 14th
Last appearance: 2012 (5th place)
All-time record: 29-10 (.744)
All-time medals: 9 (7-2-0)
Best result: 7-time champions (2010, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000)
Sequence: Return after 2-year absence (11th appearance in 14 years)

NO. 4 StFX X-WOMEN

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Ben Berthiaume (1st season)
Regular season record: 20-4-0
Regular season standing: 1st AUS
Playoff record: 4-0
Playoff finish: AUS champions
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 28-5
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 5-2 (5-2 vs. MCT)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 6
Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (3 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 12
National ranking (offence): 4th (3.08)
National ranking (defence): 4th (1.39)
National ranking (power play): 1st (24.5)
National ranking (penalty kill): 1st (90.7)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: Alex Normore (MVP), Taylor Dale (most sportsmanlike), Ben Berthiaume (coach)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Sojung Shin (G), Jenna Downey (D), Alex Normore (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Daley Oddy (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Nicole Halladay (D)
Season leader (points): Alex Normore, 10-22-32 (21 GP)
Season leader (goals): Daley Oddy, 11 (21 GP) / Kara Power, 11 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Alex Normore, 22 (21 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Jenna Downey, 9-8-17 (17 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Sojung Shin (17 GP, 14-2, 5 SHO, 1.19, .949)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 12th
Last appearance: 2013 (bronze medallists)
All-time record: 7-26 (.212)
All-time medals: 1 (0-1-0)
Best result: Finalists (2011)
Sequence: Return after 1-year absence (6th appearance in 8 years)

NO. 5 GUELPH GRYPHONS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Scott McMillan (1st season – interim)
Regular season record: 18-3-3
Regular season standing: 2nd OUA
Playoff record: 4-2
Playoff finish: OUA finalists
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-10-1 (one tie)
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 2-4 (0-3 vs. WES, 1-1 ALB, 1-0 CGY)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 5
Top 10 best ranking: No. 5 (last 2 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 16
National ranking (offence): 14th (2.54)
National ranking (defence): 1st (1.19)
National ranking (power play): 24th (13.0)
National ranking (penalty kill): 3rd (89.6)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: None
Conference 1st team all-stars: None
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Leigh Shilton (D), Jessica Pinkerton (F)
Conference all-rookie team: None
Season leader (points): Jessica Pinkerton, 8-16-24 (24 GP)
Season leader (goals): Katie Mora, 10 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Jessica Pinkerton, 16 (24 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Leigh Shilton, 5-12-17 (24 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Stephanie Nehring (18 GP, 14-3, 5 SHO, 1.18, .947)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 3rd
Last appearance: 2000 (5th place)
All-time record: 2-5 (.286)
All-time medals: 0
Best result: 4th place (1998)
Sequence: Return after 14-year absence

NO. 6 MONTREAL CARABINS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Isabelle Leclaire (6th season)
Regular season record: 15-4-1
Regular season standing: 2nd RSEQ
Playoff record: 3-2
Playoff finish: RSEQ finalists
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 21-8
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 4-5 (4-5 vs. McG)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 2
Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (8 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 16
National ranking (offence): 1st (4.40)
National ranking (defence): 8th (1.80)
National ranking (power play): 4th (20.6)
National ranking (penalty kill): 6th (88.9)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: Ariane Barker (MVP)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Élodie Rousseau-Sirois (G), Ariane Barker (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Janique Duval (D), Audrey Gariépy (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Alexandra Paradis (D), Jessica Cormier (F)
Season leader (points): Ariane Barker, 16-16-32 (17 GP)
Season leader (goals): Ariane Barker, 16 (17 GP)
Season leader (assists): Ariane Barker, 16 (17 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Janique Duval, 0-13-13 (19 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Élodie Rousseau-Sirois (12 GP, 3 SHO, 8-4, 1.99, .918)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 5th
Last appearance: 2014 (finalists)
All-time record: 8-4 (.667)
All-time medals: 3 (1-2-0)
Best result: 1-time champions (2013)
Sequence: 4th consecutive appearance

NO. 7 MONCTON AIGLES BLEUES

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Denis Ross (8th season)
Regular season record: 17-5-2
Regular season standing: 2nd AUS
Playoff record: 2-2
Playoff finish: AUS finalists
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 21-9
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 2-5 (2-5 vs. StFX)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): No. 10
Top 10 best ranking: No. 9 (first 2 polls)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 4
National ranking (offence): 3rd (3.13)
National ranking (defence): 5th (1.52)
National ranking (power play): 3rd (22.2)
National ranking (penalty kill): 20th (82.3)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: Katryne Villeneuve (rookie)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Marika Lacroix (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Gabrielle Forget (G), Katryne Villeneuve (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Katryne Villeneuve (F)
Season leader (points): Marika Lacroix, 8-17-25 (24 GP)
Season leader (goals): Katryne Villeneuve, 14 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Marika Lacroix, 17 (24 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Natacha Bergeron, 6-11-17 (24 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Gabrielle Forget (12 GP, 9-3, 6 SHO, 1.33, .941)
Season leader (goalie): Émilie Bouchard (12 GP, 8-4, 0 SHO, 1.70, .938)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 4th
Last appearance: 2014 (5th place)
All-time record: 4-5 (.444)
All-time medals: 1 (0-0-1)
Best result: Bronze medallists (2009)
Sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance

NO. 8 CALGARY DINOS

Team Statistics
Head Coach: Danielle Goyette (7th season)
Regular season record: 14-9-5
Regular season standing: 4th Canada West
Playoff record: 2-2
Playoff finish: Canada West semi-finalists
Overall record vs. CIS teams: 16-18
Overall record vs. Final 8 teams: 2-6 (2-5 vs. ALB, 0-1 GUE)
Top 10 final ranking (March 8): Unranked
Top 10 best ranking: No. 8 (poll #3)
Top 10 number of weeks ranked (16 polls): 8
National ranking (offence): 8th (2.93)
National ranking (defence): 20th (2.40)
National ranking (power play): 17th (15.8)
National ranking (penalty kill): 18th (83.3)

Individual Statistics
Conference award winners: Iya Gavrilova (MVP)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Iya Gavrilova (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Stephanie Zvonkovic (D)
Conference all-rookie team: None
Season leader (points): Iya Gavrilova, 21-16-37 (23 GP)
Season leader (goals): Iya Gavrilova, 21 (23 GP)
Season leader (assists): Iya Gavrilova, 16 (23 GP)
Season leader (points by defenceman): Stephanie Zvonkovic, 1-13-14 (24 GP)
Season leader (goalie): Hayley Dowling (21 GP, 9-10, 2 SHO, 2.18, .912)

CIS Championship History
Appearances: 4th
Last appearance: 2013 (finalists)
All-time record: 6-3 (.667)
All-time medals: 2 (1-1-0)
Best result: 1-time champions (2012)
Sequence: Return after 1-year absence (3rd appearance in 4 years)

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times MOUNTAIN TIME)

Wednesday, March 11
8:15-17:45 60-minute practices OPEN TO MEDIA (Markin MacPhail Centre – A Arena)
18:00 Sun Life Financial All-Canadian Banquet (Markin MacPhail Centre)

Thursday, March 12
15:00 Quarter-final 1: No. 5 Guelph vs. No. 4 StFX (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
19:00 Quarter-final 2: No. 8 Calgary vs. No. 1 McGill (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Friday, March 13
11:00 Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Quarter-final 3: No. 7 Moncton vs. No. 2 Western (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
19:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 6 Montreal vs. No. 3 Alberta (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

Saturday, March 14
11:00 Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
15:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
18:30 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *

Sunday, March 15
11:00 5th-place game (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:30 Bronze (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Final (Sportsnet 360 & ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *

* The webcast of the semifinals & final are on pay-per-view basis.

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