Sunday, 22 December 2013

University's Best

Pictured to the left is Caitlin MacDonald. Caitlin is a defenceman with the University of Manitoba Bisons, and she's generally regarded as one of the better defencemen in the CIS. Statistics aside, I know this to be true because she was chosen for the second time in her University hockey career to participate as a member of Team Canada at the Universiade Games. With Christmas approaching, it would have been great to make it a holiday filled with gold as Team Canada and alternate captain Caitlin MacDonald went looking for medals in Trentino, Italy!

I'll be upfront in telling everyone that things in Italy went exactly according to plan. Canada went oversea with their team of University-based all-stars and established their dominance over their opponents. In fact, it wasn't even close to even being a competition when Canada was on the ice. I'm a little embarrassed to say that about the team because these women are exceptionally talented, proving it in all seven games they played while amassing a goal differential of +75. No, I didn't mistype that differential. 77 goals-for, and a mere two goals-against. Wow.

Perhaps what was most scary about this Canadian women's team was that they led the tournament in scoring by a wide margin, but saw their power play go 3-for-21 in their seven games to finish fourth out of the six teams. They had no shorthanded goals to boast either, so that means they scored 74 goals at even-strength! And the two goals they surrendered through the entire tournament? Both of those came while on the penalty-kill which finished last of the six teams at 5-for-7. Unstoppable at even-strength? You might say that.

However, the adage of "the best defence is a good offence" may have played into things in a large way. Canada held their opponents to 52 shots throughout the entire tournament! Russia, who finished with the silver medal, surrendered 202 shots as the second-best defensive team! It's pretty hard to fire shots at the Canadian goaltenders when you don't have the puck, and it appears that Canada controlled the puck for the majority of every game they played. The total number of goals scored and the total number of shots against indicate that Canada really dominated in the games they played.

Canada opened the tournament on December 10 against Spain, and it was over before Spain even had a shot on net. Canada led 13-0 after two periods while Spain had a grand total of zero shots. ZERO. The final was 21-0 with Canada surrendering a mere two shots before the final horn sounded. Sirois Rousseau of the University of Montreal had an overall easy game fort he shutout while Spaniard Martin-Calero Alvarado faced all 75 Canadian shots. Caitlin MacDonald finished with one assist for her first Universiade Games point!

Canada returned to the ice against Russia on December 12, and this game looked to be more difficult for the Canadian women as they battled an established hockey nation. However, the scoreboard showed a different story once more as Canada took a 1-0 lead into the dressing room at the first intermission, but had an 18-3 advantage in shots. It was the same story in the second period as Canada jumped to a 2-0 lead and a 31-7 advantage in shots. The third period saw Canada strike three times as they poured on the pressure, outshooting the Russians 23-3. Canada would win 5-0 as Russian goaltender Anna Prugova stopped 51 of 56 shots by the time final horn had sounded. Another decisive win for the Maple Leaf-clad squad. Kelly Campbell registered the ten-save shutout while Caitlin MacDonald did not register a point in this game.

Canada squared off against Great Britain on December 13 as they looked to push their record to 3-0. Britain lost a heartbreaker to the US squad by a 2-1 score the day before, so they were looking to build on their solid game. Unfortunately, Canada squashed those ideas early and often. Canada threw 38 shots at the British net and goaltender Nicole Jackson in the first period as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. It was 7-0 for Canada after forty minutes, and Canada had a 61-0 shot advantage! Not to dwell on how lopsided this game was, but Kelly Campbell recorded the one-save shutout in the 13-0 win for Canada as they outshot Britain 94-1 in the game. Kudos to Nicole Jackson for standing in there to make 81 saves in the game! Caitlin MacDonald picked up another assist in the game to give her two points in the tournament.

The two North American nations met on December 15 as Canada and the US teams faced off. The US team is made up of mostly Ivy League NCAA players, and there's always an intense rivalry between the two nations on the ice. The shot totals were closer than seen in previous games as the Canadians outshot the Americans 9-4 in the opening frame, but Canada took a 2-0 lead into the break. Canada added four more in the second period as they outshot the Americans 12-3, and the rout was on as Canada led 6-0 through two periods of play. After Cara Wooster of the University of Saskatchewan made it 7-0 for Canada, the first blemish happened as Cassondra Catlow of the University of Rhode Island beat Sirois Rousseau on the power play with Jenna Smith in the box to end Canada's shutout streak. Canada would find the twine twice more before the end of the game, though, and skate to the 9-1 victory. Kudos to Penn State University goaltender Katie Vaughn for facing 36 shots in the loss. Caitlin MacDonald scored her first Universiade Games goal with 2:56 to play in the game as Canada's ninth goal, and that pushed her total to three points in four games (1G, 2A).

Canada met up with the upstart Japanese team on December 16, and there was a chance with a Japan win that the Canadians would be in tied for first-place with Japan! Also to play for in this game was the winner advancing to the semi-finals to play the fourth-seeded team, so the easier path to the gold medal was at stake between these two squads. Like they had done all tournament, Canada came out firing, putting 17 shots on Hazuki Maeda in the Japanese net and finding room behind her twice. After a 2-0 lead and a 17-3 shot advantage in the first period, Canada continued its barrage on opposing netminders as threw another 16 shots at Maeda with one getting by her for a 3-0 lead and a 33-5 shot advantage. It appeared Canada would skate to the 9-0 victory, but Sophie Brault of the University of Montreal was whistled for tripping with just over a minute to play. And Canada suffered their second blemish as Ayano Ichijo put a power play goal behind Sirois Rousseau with just 46 seconds to snap Rousseau's shutout. Caitlin MacDonald had the seventh Canadian goal to push her to four points (2G, 2A) in the tournament.

With the win, Canada wrapped up top spot in the six-team tournament, giving them the top-seeded ranking for the medal round. With Japan's loss, it created a three-way tie amongst Japan, Russia, and the US for the next three spots. After some complicated math calculations, Russia emerged as the second-seed, USA as the third-seed, and Japan as the fourth-seed. That set the semi-finals with Canada meeting Japan in back-to-back games, and Russia would face off against the USA.

Canada and Japan renewed acquaintances on December 18 with Japan looking for the major upset. Having played two days earlier, there was a shot at knowing how the Canadians would play and possibly stopping them. However, Canada didn't offer that idea even a glimmer of hope. As they did all tournament, Canada came out guns a-blazing. Japan weathered the storm early on, but three goals in 4:18 put the Canadians up 3-0 going into the break, having outshot Japan 14-3. Five more goals on 18 shots in the second, and seven more goals on 18 shots in the third period was the damage done as Canada skated to a berth in the gold medal game with a 15-0 victory on 15-of-50 shooting. Kelly Campbell recorded the eight-save shutout and Caitlin MacDonald stepped up in a big game as she recorded three assists to push her to totals to two goals and five assists in the tournament!

After the Russians downed the Americans by a 3-2 score in the other semi-final game, the Canadians and Russians met for university hockey's highest international honor on December 20. Anna Prugova would man the Russian net once more as she looked to trip up the Canadians en route to the gold medal. This game, however, followed nearly the same script as the first Canada-Russia game as Canada took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after outshooting the Russians 17-3. Canada would score twice in the second period as they extended the shot differential to a 38-6 margin, leaving just the final frame for the Russians to mount a comeback. But that comeback would never materialize as Canada scored two more times to win the Universiade Games gold medal game by a 5-0 score. Canada finished the game with a 52-12 advantage in shots, and Kelly Campbell recorded her fourth shutout in the four games she appeared in! Caitlin MacDonald added another assist to her total, bringing her Universiade Games total to eight points (2G, 6A)!

Not surprisingly, Canada had the best goaltending tandem as Kelly Campbell didn't surrender a goal in her four games, stopping all 31 shots she faced. Sirose Rousseau finished the tournament with two power play goals-against for a 0.67 GAA and a .905 save percentage with one shutout. Brittany Fouracres of McGill University was the leading scorer amongst all blueliners with 11 points (1G, 10A), and Manitoba's Caitlin MacDonald finished second with her eight points (2G, 6A). Caitlin's two goals also tied her with five other players as the highest goal-scoring defencemen in the tournament. Forward Gabrielle Davidson of McGill University was the leading scoring with 22 points (13G, 9A) and her 13 goals were tops in the tournament as well. Katia Clement-Heydra of McGill lead the tournament with 13 assists as she finished second in scoring with 18 points (5G, 13A).

So after all that, Canada returns home with their third gold medal since the Universiade Games began play in 2009. Canada has yet to lose a game in the women's ice hockey event, going 21-0 in three tournament thus far. In a rather interesting note, there has been a Manitoba Bison on each of the teams as goaltender Stacey Corfield helped the team to gold in 2009, and Addie Miles helped Canada win in 2011. Caitlin MacDonald was chosen to be part of that 2011 team, but had to withdraw due to injury.

Here are your 2013 Universiade Games women's ice hockey champions: TEAM CANADA!

Congratulations to all the women who participated in the event, and to all the members of Team Canada on their victory! Here's hoping we can get Caitlin in the UMFM studios soon with her shiny new neckwear! Next up for her? A CIS Championship with the Manitoba Bisons!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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