Sunday, 29 March 2009

University Report

Today is a report on one of larger, yet ignored, systems in North America. The CIS Championship was handed out today to the winner of the Canadian Inter University Men's Ice Hockey Champions, while the CIS Women's Championship was decided on March 22. It surprises me that there isn't more attention paid to the Canadian Collegiate Hockey System, but it seems that the major media sources in Canada have little interest in the University circuit in Canada. So let's take a look at the CIS Women's Hockey Championships today, and the CIS Men's Championships tomorrow.

CIS Women's Hockey Championship

The CIS Women's Championship took place on March 22, 2009 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The defending champions in the McGill Martlets (22-0) were ranked #1 after winning the Quebec Conference (QSSF), and would lead Pool A's three teams. The Ontario University Athletic (OAU) Champion Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks (30-2) were ranked #2 and would lead Pool B's three teams. Joining McGill in Pool A would be the #3-ranked Canada West Champion University of Manitoba Bisons (25-3-1) and the host St. Francis Xavier X-Women who were the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) finalists.

Pool B saw St. Francis Xavier joined by the AUS Champions and #4-ranked Moncton Aigles Bleues (24-0-2) and the QSSF finalists and #6-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees (10-11-2).

Surprisingly, Canada West finalist University of Alberta Pandas did not make the top-six teams despite having the country's best player in Player of the Year in Tarin Podloski and Coach of the Year in Howie Draper.

From Pool A, the McGill Martlets used a 2-1 overtime victory over the Manitoba Bisons on Thursday, March 19, and defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Women 5-1 on March 21 to secure a 2-0 record in Pool A to advance to the Gold Medal Final. The Bisons advanced to the Bronze Medal Final with a 1-1 record after defeating the St. Francis Xavier X-Women 2-1 via the shootout after playing hard to secure a berth in the medal round. The X-Women will play for the Consolation Final on March 22 after finishing 0-2 in Pool A despite playing hard through the weekend.

Pool B action opened with the #2-ranked Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks meeting the #6-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees on Thursday, March 19. The Golden Hawks hammered the Gee-Gees 6-1. The Golden Hawks had controlled the game with a 25-10 shot advantage by the end of the second period, but only had a 3-1 score to work with. However, three third period goal put the game out of reach, and secured the 6-1 victory over the Gee-Gees for the Golden Hawks. In another exciting opening game, Moncton's Kristine Labrie scored 1:28 into overtime to propel the #4-ranked Aigles Bleues over the #6-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees into the second game with a 2-1 win. The 0-2 Gee-Gees would now face St. Francis Xavier X-Women in the Consolation Final on March 22. The Moncton Aigle Bleues advanced to meet the Manitoba Bisons after dropping a hard-fought match against the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks by a 5-2 score, and finishing the tournament 1-1.

In the Consolation Final, the #6-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees met the #5-ranked St. Francis Xavier X-Women for the second-straight year. Ottawa opened the scoring on Samantha DeLenardo's second goal of the tournament 52 seconds into the game. St. Francis Xavier's Jessica Shanahan replied for the X-Women at 5:14 into the first period before teammate Kelly Boudreau scored an unassisted shorthanded marker at 6:42 of the first. Christine Allen of Ottawa even the score at 2-2 at 7:57 of the first period as the two teams moved into the first intermission.

The second period was a tightly-contested stanza. Ottawa did break the stalemate at the nine-minute mark when Samantha DeLenardo scored her second marker of the game on the powerplay. However, both teams matched each other for the rest of the period as Ottawa carried a 3-2 mark into the second intermission.

The X-Women responded in the third period as Jessica Shanahan notched her second of the game at the 4:05 mark. St. Fracis Xavier took the lead at 10:57 as Christina Davis potted the go-ahead goal. However, Ottawa didn't quit, and they tied it up on Joelle Charlebois' goal at 16:25. Sure enough, this game was headed for overtime.

And wouldn't you know it, the game was over before fans had returned to their seats. Just 27 seconds into the extra frame, St. Francis Xavier's Brayden Ferguson scored her first goal of the game, and third point, to give StFX the 5-4 overtime win. Congratulations go out to both teams on their success this season!

In the Bronze Medal Game, the Manitoba Bisons matched up against the Moncton Aigles Bleues. This was a tight-checking affair that went to a soccer-style finish. In the first period, Manitoba was the only team to crack the goose egg. Addie Miles potted her first of the tournament on the powerplay at the 7:22 mark.

The second period didn't see many more goals, but the Bisons doubled their efforts on a goal by Sarah Francis at the 9:34 mark. Aside from a handful of penalties, there wasn't much else.

The third period saw the Université de Moncton battle back. Mariève Provost broke Manitoba's shutout just 1:01 into the third. With the new-found momentum, the ice began to tilt in favour of Moncton. Janie LeBlanc chipped in her first goal at 11:19. And the game was afoot. Despite both teams making a valiant effort to score the winner, they were destined for overtime.

Both teams battled through overtime to no avail, sending this game to an old-fashioned shootout. Both goaltenders were sensational, but Moncton's Mariève Provost scored on Manitoba's Stacey Corfield in the fourth round of the shootout. That was the only goal recorded, giving Moncton a 3-2 shootout win and the bronze medal. Congratulations to both teams on their successful seasons, and to les Aigles Bleues for their bronze medal win!

The 2008 CIS Finalists got a chance to square off once more as the defending champion McGill Martlets met up with last year's silver medal team in the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks. At stake besides the gold medal? A perfect season by the Marlets as they entered the game 35-0 against CIS teams this season, and are on a ridiculous 53-0 streak since a 2-1 shootout loss against Alberta on December 30, 2007. Wow.

The top-two teams in the tournament tangled in a tightly-contested first period. Back and forth action led to scoring chances for both teams, but only McGill got on the board. Ann-Sophie Bettez scored her second of the tournament at 11:41, putting the Martlets out in front.

The second period was much the same as the first with both teams battling up and down the ice. Again, similar to the first, McGill was the only team to strike. Alessandra Lind-Kenny scored her first of the tournament, and the Martlets were out to a 2-0 lead. With one period to play, Wilfred Laurier needed to mount some offence.

Unfortunately, it was McGill who struck in the third period. Marie-Andrée Leclerc-Auger, who might have the longest last name in Canadian women's hockey, scored her first goal at 11:07 on the powerplay. The Golden Hawks rallied less than a minute later as Lauren Barch snapped Charline Labonté's shutout. However, it was not to be for Wilfred Laurier as the McGill Martlets successfully defended their title by a 3-1 score in the gold medal game. Congratulations to both teams on their successful seasons, and to the McGill Martlets for winning the 2009 CIS Women's Hockey Championship!

So there you have it. The Canadian Collegiate Women's Hockey Championship was won by the McGill Martlets for the second year in a row. A number of these women will be suiting up for Canada in the future if they so desire, while goaltender Labonté already has a pile of experience in net for Team Canada. Congratulations go out to all the teams for their incredible seasons!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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