The No.1 ranked team since the third coaches’ poll of the campaign, the UBC Thunderbirds were a fitting choice as the team to beat at the U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship.

The Thunderbirds are joined in Napanee, Ont., by the No.2 Guelph Gryphons (OUA champions), No.3 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champions), No.4 McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions), No.5 StFX X-Women (AUS finalists), No.6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West finalists), No.7 Concordia Stingers (RSEQ finalists) and No.8 Queen’s Gaels (Hosts). A complete schedule is available below.

Only three teams in the field have previously lifted the Golden Path Trophy, with Alberta holding the most championships (7), followed by McGill (4) and Concordia (2).

Canada West representatives

No.1 UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West Champions)
2016 result:
Off Rank: 5th (3.07 GPG)
Def Rank: 5th (1.60 GAA)

Top scorer: Cassandra Vilgrain (24 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Amelia Boughn (14-3-1, 1.72 GAA, .918 SV%)

No.6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West Finalists)
Last appearance: 
National titles: 2000, 2002-2004, 2006, 2007, 2010
Off Rank: 14th (2.57 GPG)
Def Rank: 2nd (1.32 GAA)

Top scorer: Alex Poznikoff (24 GP, 13 G, 12 A, 25 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Lindsey Post (15-2-1, 1.31 GAA, .929 SV%)

After losing Game 1 of the best-of-three Canada West Final to Alberta 2-0, the Thunderbirds (23-4-1 regular season) captured their second straight conference championship and third in the last five seasons, rallying to take the final two games of the series, capped off by a 1-0 shutout on home ice. UBC also defeated Saskatchewan in three games in the semis en route to the title, while Alberta (21-4-3), beat Manitoba in two games.

“Our program is excited and honored to be a part of this national event where the top teams will come together and compete,” said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. “We are very proud of our group and what they have accomplished this season. Our entire team is looking forward to this tournament and to represent UBC.”

“We’ve got a young team this year comprised primarily of first and second-year players, so it took a bit to get our feet underneath us,” said Alberta head coach Howie Draper. “We’ve seen a significant amount of growth over the second half which has been encouraging and hope to find our peak in Napanee.  I feel like our team is pretty well balanced offensively and defensively as a whole and we have strong goaltending that gives us a chance to win every game.  Our girls form a determined group that have dominated at times, and shown resilience in times when things haven’t gone so well. Nationals provides another step in the maturation of our team and I’m confident that we’ll compete as well as any team in the hunt for this year’s championship.”

OUA representatives

No. 2 Guelph Gryphons (OUA champions)
2016 result: 4th
Off Rank: 3rd (3.17 GPG)
Def Rank: 1st (1.31 GAA)

Top scorer: Kaitlin Lowy (24 GP, 16 G, 13 A, 29 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Valérie Lamenta (15-3-1, 1.39 GAA, .945 SV%)

No.8 Queen’s Gaels (Hosts)
Last appearance: 
Off Rank: 17th (2.25)
Def Rank: 19th (2.36)

Top scorer: Addi Halladay (24 GP, 13 G, 3 A, 16 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Stephanie Pascal (13-7-1, 2.09 GAA, .924 SV%)

Guelph (20-3-1) won its second straight OUA McCaw Cup via a convincing 6-1 win over an upstart Nipissing squad that was playing in just its fourth season of U SPORTS Women’s Hockey. The Gryphons’ suffered only a single loss in claiming their sixth conference title in school annals, sweeping Windsor in two games in the opening round before edging Waterloo in three games in the semifinals. Queen’s (14-8-2), meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Toronto in the quarter-finals, losing 2-1 in double-overtime on the road in Game 3, in a series that featured three one-goal contests

“We started the season thinking it was a rebuild with 10 rookies and only two players on our roster who were in their fourth year of eligibility,” said OUA Coach of the Year and Guelph bench boss Rachel Flanagan, who also led Canada to a silver medal and the 2017 Winter Universiade last month. “By mid-season, we started thinking that we might be able to host a playoff series. Then after Christmas, we decided that maybe it wasn’t a rebuilding year but a repeat year.

“Our rookies quickly bought into our team culture and a number of them have played significant roles this season. We’ve depended on a strong core of second and third-year athletes to be leaders both on and off the ice and they’ve exceeded our expectations. We’re hoping our experience at nationals in the past two seasons will provide focus and calm during games.”

“We are thrilled and proud to be hosting this year and it’s been an amazing season leading up to this point,” said Queen’s head coach Matt Holmberg. “We are ready to compete with the best in the country and look forward to an exciting weekend of great hockey!”

AUS representatives

No.3 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champions)
2016 result: Bronze
Off Rank: 4th (3.08 GPG)
Def Rank: 7th (1.71 GAA)

Top scorer: Breanna Lanceleve (24 GP, 15 G, 24 A, 39 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Rebecca Clark (14-2-3, 1.64 GAA, .933 SV%)

No.5 StFX X-Women (AUS finalists)
Last appearance: 2015
Off Rank: 2nd (3.46 GPG)
Def Rank: 21st (2.52 GAA)

Top scorer: Sarah Bujold (24 GP, 24 G, 19 A, 43 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Ariana Orasanin (13-2-0, 2.09 GAA, .904 SV%)

In a thrilling conclusion to the AUS season, Saint Mary’s (18-3-3) outlasted StFX (16-8-0) in Game 3 of the final, with third-year forward Gemma MacDonald scoring at 7:17 of triple-overtime to end the second-longest game in AUS history. In defending their conference crown and earning their sixth championship, the Huskies also went the distance with Moncton in the semifinals, while the X-Women swept Dalhousie and defeated St. Thomas in three games.

“We are looking forward to the challenge of playing the best teams in the country,” said StFX head coach David Synishin. “Our success this year has been based on our work ethic, which will be extremely important moving forward into the championship tournament this weekend.”

“We are looking forward to travelling to Napanee and representing SMU as AUS champions at this year’s national championships,” said head coach Chris Larade, the AUS Coach of the Year. “(We) look forward to testing ourselves against the best competition and teams in the country.”

RSEQ representatives

McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions)
2016 result: Lost in consolation semifinal
National titles: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014
Off Rank: 8th (2.85 GPG)
Def Rank: 8th (1.75 GAA)

Top scorer: Mélodie Daoust (18 GP, 11 G, 19 A, 30 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Tricia Deguire (14-3-0, 1.75 GAA, .930 SV%)

Concordia Stingers (RSEQ finalists)
Last appearance: 
National titles: 1998, 1999
Off Rank: 11th (2.70 GPG)
Def Rank: 20th (2.40 GAA)

Top scorer: Audrey Belzile (20 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 PTS)
Probable starting goaltender: Katherine Purchase (8-8-1, 2.33 GAA, .907 SV%)

McGill (16-4-0) reclaimed the RSEQ banner after conceding it to Montreal in three of the last four seasons, shutting out Concordia (10-9-1) by a combined 7-0 score over two games. The Martlets also beat Ottawa in a three-game semifinal, while Concordia (10-9-1) swept the defending national champion Carabins to secure their first berth at the U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship in 12 seasons.

“It’s a very strong field and all the teams are good enough to win it,” said McGill head coach Peter Smith. “We had some injuries to deal with and had a lot of new faces at the start of the year. It took us a while to find our identity and our structure. But it is a very coachable group that has worked extremely hard. We had a challenging exhibition schedule which prepared us well for the regular season. The RSEQ conference has become extremely competitive and has prepared us well for this tournament. We are peaking at the right time and have played some very good hockey the past five or six weeks.”

“We’ve been committed to a process all year long. Our hard work and commitment to that process allowed us to play great hockey, especially in the second half, and it earned us the opportunity to compete at the nationals,” said Concordia head coach Julie Chu.

“We’ll continue to be committed to our process in our preparation for Friday’s game and being ready for that moment. Once we are finished with Friday’s game, we’ll focus on the next steps of our preparation and execution.
“We’re excited about the type of hockey we’re playing right now.”


Wednesday, March 15
6:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Hockey All-Canadian Awards

Thursday, March 16
3:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.4 McGill vs. No.5 StFX
7:00 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No.1 UBC vs No.8 Queen’s

Friday, March 17
11:00 a.m. Quarter-final 3: No.3 Saint Mary’s vs No.6 Alberta
3:00 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 2 Guelph vs. No. 7 Concordia
7:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2

Saturday, March 18
11:00 a.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4
3:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2
7:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4

Sunday, March 19
11:00 a.m. 5th-place game
3:00 p.m. Bronze
7:00 p.m. Final