SPORTS

McGill Martlets chase back-to-back women's university hockey titles

03/11/2015 05:55 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - The McGill Martlets appreciate their past, but they don't dwell on it.

They forgot to bring the championship trophy they won last year in Canadian university women's hockey to this year's tournament in Calgary.

"It's this team out here this year, now, that needs to perform," head coach Peter Smith said Wednesday. "It has very little to do with what happened last year.

"I don't think anybody has ever said anything on our team about winning last year. I don't think we spend any time thinking about last year. The focus is totally on what we've got going now and our next game."

Smith believed the trophy will either be shipped or brought by McGill personnel to Calgary in time for Sunday's championship game.

McGill is the No. 1 seed heading into the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women's hockey tournament followed by Western Ontario, Alberta, St. Francis Xavier, Guelph, Montreal, Moncton and host Calgary.

The quarter-finals kick off Thursday at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre. Guelph takes on St. Francis Xavier followed by Calgary versus McGill.

On Friday, Moncton and Western Ontario square off prior to Montreal versus Alberta. The winners of Saturday's semifinals advance to Sunday's championship game.

The men's tournament, featuring defending champion Alberta, opens Thursday in Halifax.

The men's and women's hockey championships expanded this year from six to eight teams. The format has also changed from pool play to single-game elimination of quarter-finals, semifinals and final.

McGill defeated the Montreal Carabins 4-3 in double overtime to win last year's women's championship in Fredericton, N.B. Defenceman Brittney Fouracres of Calgary scored a power-play goal for the winner 37 seconds into the second extra period.

The Martlets and Carabins clashed again this past weekend in a three-game series to determine the Quebec conference champions.

After a 6-2 victory in Game 1, the Martlets fells 5-1 to their archrivals Saturday. They recovered for a decisive 7-2 win the following day.

"It just showed we can deal with adversity," Fouracres said. "Losing that second game the way we did, that was pretty tough. A lot of girls were emotional about that.

"A lot of times that can affect your next game and it was a quick turnaround. I think we showed a lot of maturity and strength as a team."

McGill's offence has averaged 4.25 goals per game, which is second only to Montreal's 4.40.

The Martlets' attack was further bolstered by the return of centre Melodie Daoust on Feb. 13. She hadn't played a game since winning gold with Canada's Olympic team almost a year ago in Sochi, Russia.

An undisclosed injury, which she sustained during dryland training last June, was serious enough to keep her off the ice for most of the season.

The 23-year-old from Valleyfield, Que., is making up for lost time with six goals and 12 assists in eight games since her return, including a hat trick Sunday against the Carabins.

"I was not supposed to come back with that injury until next year," Daoust said. "I worked really hard with the physio and had a good team around me too to make sure I was ready for playoffs and that was my goal.

"I achieved it and I'm just happy I get to play even though I'm not 100 per cent."

Forward Gabrielle Davidson of Pointe-Claire, Que., was last year's tournament MVP and ranks second in CIS scoring with 39 points in 20 games. She's one of 19 returning players, including both goaltenders, on McGill's roster.

McGill has won four of the last seven women's titles, but Alberta owns the most with seven in the 17-year history of the tournament.

The host Dinos, coached by four-time Olympian Danielle Goyette, are without forward Hayley Wickenheiser. The all-time leading scorer on Canada's national team had season-ending foot surgery last month.

The Dinos are led by three-time Russian Olympian Iya Gavrilova, the top goalscorer in the CIS this season with 21 in 23 games.

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