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Women's Hockey
2011 Women's Hockey Championship Preview
OTTAWA (CIS) - The top-seeded and undefeated McGill University Martlets will need to navigate through one of the deepest fields in history later this week if they want to return to the top of the CIS women’s hockey world.

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice

The 2011 CIS tournament, hosted for the first time by Wilfrid Laurier University, gets under way Thursday at the Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex and culminates Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with the gold medal final.

SSN Canada will have live webcasts of all nine games.

Joining the Martlets, who have won six straight Quebec titles, are the second-ranked St. Francis Xavier X-Women (AUS champs), No. 3 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West champs), No. 4 Queen’s Gaels (OUA champs) and No. 5 Laurier Golden Hawks (host team), as well as the reigning national champions, the No. 6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West finalists).

McGill will compete in Pool A with Queen’s and Alberta in the round-robin portion of the tourney, while Pool B is comprised of StFX, Manitoba and Laurier.

This year’s list of contenders includes a quintet of usual suspects, as well as a new kid on the block hoping the write the final chapter of a Cinderella story.

When it comes to women’s hockey, no team can match the accomplishments of the Pandas since the sport was added to the CIS program in 1997.

Alberta has captured seven of the first 13 national titles and has reached two other finals. They sport a mindboggling .818 winning percentage (27-6) at the CIS tournament and share the all-time mark of 12 appearances with McGill, including this year.

While McGill has “only” two championship trophies to show for in 11 previous trips to the “dance”, the Martlets are tied with Alberta for most CIS podium finishes, with nine (2-3-4).

Laurier has one gold and five silvers in nine previous appearances. Returning after a one-year absence, Manitoba has three podiums to its credit – all bronze medals. StFX is also a regular at the event but has yet to enjoy success on the national stage, as indicated by its subpar 3-24 all-time record (.111) in eight previous CIS tournaments.   

And then there’s Queen’s. Experience at the national championship, none. Number of OUA titles before last weekend, zero. Number of games heard around the world: one.

The Gaels are riding an improbable streak of five consecutive overtime wins into the CIS tourney, three of which required a second extra period, and then of course the longest game in university hockey history – women’s or men’s – a nine-period affair that took 167 minutes and 14 seconds of playing time, which spanned over five hours and 15 minutes in actual time during Game 1 of the OUA best-of-three final, on March 2. That marathon trails only a 1936 NHL matchup between Detroit and the Montreal Maroons for longest overall contest (176:30).

The puck from Morgan McHaffie’s game-winning goal scored 17:14 into the sixth OT frame now sits at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

While Alberta enters this week’s showcase event as defending champions, all the spotlights are on a McGill team that has looked nearly invincible over the past four years, except for setback against the Pandas in last year’s national final.

The Martlets entered the 2010 gold medal match riding a record 86-game overall winning streak against CIS opponents, a sequence that spanned over two seasons and included the team’s two national titles in 2008 and 2009. But the quest for a three-peat came to a sudden halt against the Pandas, who prevailed 2-0.

McGill is back with a vengeance this year, and to say the squad from Montreal has reloaded in order to return to the top would be an understatement.

The Quebec champs sport an unblemished 30-0 overall record versus CIS opponents this season including non-conference wins over three of the teams a the CIS tournament. They edged Laurier 3-2 in a shootout in their season opener back on September 18 in Waterloo, and then blanked Manitoba 5-0 and Alberta 3-0 at the Bison Holiday Classic in late December in Winnipeg.

Goaltender Charline Labonté and head coach Peter Smith are both back after a one-year absence - during which they helped Canada claim gold at the Vancouver Olympics - and the perennial powerhouse has also added, among others, two-time Olympic champion Gillian Ferrari who joins former national team member Cathy Chartrand on the blueline. For good measure, they also added some firepower on offence thanks to Quebec rookie of the year Katya Clément-Heydra, who led all McGill forwards in conference play with 26 points, including 11goals, in 20 games.  

Labonté was her usual spectacular self in net with 17 wins in as many starts to go with a minuscule 0.71 goals against average and a stingy .953 save percentage. The two-time Olympic gold medallist had seven shutouts in league play to up her career total to a CIS-record 37 whitewashes in 67 matches. In the playoffs, the three-time all-Canadian was 4-0 with a 0.50 GAA and stopped 97.7 per cent of pucks fired her way.

“We’ve seem to have had an extra bit of attitude and work ethic right from the get-go this season because of last year, when we won every game against CIS opponents, except the last one,” says Smith, the Quebec conference coach of the year, who has compiled a 295-109-29 record overall in 11 seasons behind the McGill bench. “We have prepared relentlessly, beginning with our off-ice conditioning, our up-tempo practices and our difficult schedule which includes top teams in both the CIS and NCAA and even boy’s teams. Everything that we’ve done has been about relentless preparation.”

“One thing I like about our current team is that we are well-prepared and have a lot of experience. It’s our ninth consecutive season going to Nationals and we’ve reached the championship final in each of the four previous years. Sixteen players on our roster have experienced playing in at least one CIS gold medal game.”

McGill will be tested from the start in Thursday’s tourney opener at 4 p.m. when they face the Pandas, who settled for the No. 6 seed for the championship after being swept by Manitoba in the best-of-three Canada West final.

Surprisingly, the Martlets will not only be looking for revenge when the puck drops, they’ll also be looking for their first-ever win over their archrivals from Edmonton at the national championship. Alberta is 6-0 against McGill in head-to-head competition at the CIS tourney, including victories in the 2000, 2007 and 2010 finals.

“This year’s CIS tournament draw is a little topsy-turvy as there were a number of upsets in the conference playoffs,” says Smith. “We’ve played three of the other five teams in the tourney, so we have some familiarity with them. Everybody who qualified for the CIS tourney this year is a strong team and we will need to beat good teams along the way to winning a championship, so we need to be ready to play a top-notch team, regardless of who our opponent is. To be honest, I don’t really care who we play, just tell me when we play and who we’ll face.”

“We’re a different team than what we were at the national championship last season,” says Alberta head coach Howie Draper. “I would say we’re a tighter team this year and one that plays the game with a preference to hard work and grit. It’s going to be a challenge for sure, but I think this team is prepared to do the work necessary to be successful.”

The Pool B opener between host Laurier and StFX Thursday at 7:30 p.m. will also be a duel at the top.

The Golden Hawks, who’ll have the support of their fans, spent most of the season at No. 2 in the national rankings and only dropped in the tournament seeding after suffering back-to-back double overtime loss to Queen’s in the OUA semis, part of the Gaels amazing playoff run.

The X-Women have been ranked third in the Top 10 for most of the campaign and were one of two teams in the country to remain undefeated in the regular season (24-0) and the conference playoffs (3-0), along with McGill.

The game will pit two of the top three scorers in the nation in StFX teammates Janelle Parent (21-23-44) and AUS rookie of the year Alex Normore (16-25-41) against last year’s CIS MVP, Laurier goalie Liz Knox, who led all CIS netminders this season with a stellar .955 save percentage.

 “It’s an exciting time to be hosting the championship as the calibre of play has risen to a high level over the last few years. With the selection of teams this year, anyone could win the title,” says Laurier head coach RICK OSBORNE. “We are looking forward to the competitiveness and the extra excitement of playing at home in front of our fans.”

The winners of the opening day confrontations enjoy a rest until their second game on Saturday, while the losers of McGill-Alberta face Queen’s and the losers of Laurier-StFX battle Manitoba on Friday.


PARTICIPATING TEAMS

No. 1 McGill Martlets
Head Coach: Peter Smith (11th season)
Regular season record: 20-0-0
Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ
Playoff record: 4-0
Playoff finish: RSEQ champions
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 1
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 1 (16 weeks: last 16 polls / No. 2 in first poll)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 17
Conference award winners: Katya Clément-Heydra (rookie), Peter Smith (coach)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Charline Labonté (G), Cathy Chartrand (D), Gillian Ferrari (D), Ann-Sophie Bettez (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Caroline Hill (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Adrienne Crampton (D), Katya Clément-Heydra (F)
Season leader (points): Cathy Chatrand, 29 (20 GP, 8-21-29)
Season leader (goals): Ann-Sophie Bettez, 11 (17 GP) – Katya Clément-Heydra, 11 (20 GP)
Season leader (assists): Cathy Chatrand, 21 (20 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Charline Labonté (17 GP, 17-0, 7 SO, 0.71 GAA, .953 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 12th  
CIS championship all-time record: 22-11 (.666)
CIS championship all-time medals: 9 (2 gold, 3 silver, 4 bronze)
CIS championship best result: 2-time champions (2009, 2008)
CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (silver medal)
CIS championship sequence: 9th straight appearance (12-in-14 since inaugural tourney in 1998)

No. 2 St. Francis Xavier X-Women
Head Coach: David Synishin (9th season)
Regular season record: 24-0-0
Regular season standing: 1st AUS
Playoff record: 3-0
Playoff finish: AUS champions
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 3
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 3 (13 weeks: last 13 polls)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 17
Conference award winners: Alex Normore (rookie)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Suzanne Fenerty (D), Alex Normore (F), Janelle Parent (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Marilynn Hay (D)
Conference all-rookie team: Kristy Garrow (G), Jenna Pitts (D), Alex Normore (F)
Season leader (points): Janelle Parent, 44 (24 GP, 21-23-44)
Season leader (goals): Janelle Parent, 21 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Alex Normore, 25 (24 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Kristy Garrow (13 GP, 13-0, 5 SO, 1.53 GAA, .914 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 10th
CIS championship all-time record: 3-24 (.111)
CIS championship all-time medals: 0
CIS championship best result: 4th place (2006)
CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (6th place)
CIS championship sequence: 4th straight appearance (6th in 7 years)

No. 3 Manitoba Bisons
Head Coach: Jon Rempel (7th season)
Regular season record: 16-5-3
Regular season standing: 2nd Canada West
Playoff record: 4-0
Playoff finish: Canada West champions
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 6
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 3 (1 week: poll 3)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 17
Conference award winners: None
Conference 1st team all-stars: None
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Tara Lacquette (G), Caitlin MacDonald (D), Addie Miles (F)
Conference all-rookie team: No all-rookie team in Canada West
Season leader (points): Addie Miles, 19 (20 GP, 9-10-19)
Season leader (goals): Nellie Minshull, 10 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Tammy Brade, 12 (24 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Tara Lacquette (17 GP, 9-7, 3 SO, 1.66 GAA, .920 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 5th
CIS championship all-time record: 7-5 (.583)
CIS championship all-time medals: 3 (3 bronze)
CIS championship best result: Bronze medal (2008, 2007, 2005)
CIS championship last appearance: 2009 (4th place)
CIS championship sequence: Return after 1-year absence (5th appearance in 7 years)

No. 4 Queen’s Gaels
Head Coach: Matthew Holmberg (2nd season)
Regular season record: 15-8-4
Regular season standing: 4th OUA
Playoff record: 5-0
Playoff finish: OUA champions
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 10
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 10 (2 weeks: polls 2 and 17)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 2
Conference award winners: None
Conference 1st team all-stars: Kelsey Thomson (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Morgan McHaffie (F)
Conference all-rookie team: None
Season leader (points): Kelsey Thomson, 33 (27 GP, 15-18-33)
Season leader (goals): Morgan McHaffie, 15 (26 GP)
Season leader (assists): Kelsey Thomson, 18 (27 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Mel Dodd-Moher (16 GP, 8-8, 3 SO, 1.92 GAA, .933 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 1st  
CIS championship all-time record: 0-0
CIS championship all-time medals: 0
CIS championship best result: First appearance in history
CIS championship last appearance: First appearance in history
CIS championship sequence: First appearance in history

No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Head Coach: RICK OSBORNE (8th season)
Regular season record: 24-2-1
Regular season standing: 1st OUA
Playoff record: 0-2
Playoff finish: OUA semi-finalists
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 2
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 2 (16 weeks: last 16 polls / No. 3 in first poll)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 17
Conference award winners: Laura Brooker (rookie)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Alicia Martin (D), Fiona Lester (D), Katherine Shirriff (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: Liz Knox (G), Laura Brooker (F)
Conference all-rookie team: Alannah Wakefield (D), Laura Brooker (F)
Season leader (points): Katherine Shirriff, 32 (27 GP, 7-25-32)
Season leader (goals): Laura Brooker, 19 (27 GP)
Season leader (assists): Katherine Shirriff, 32 (27 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Liz Knox (22 GP, 20-2, 5 SO, 0.95 GAA, .955 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 10th
CIS championship all-time record: 17-10 (.630)
CIS championship all-time medals: 6 (1 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze)
CIS championship best result: 1-time champions (2005)
CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (bronze medal)
CIS championship sequence: 8th straight appearance

No. 6 Alberta Pandas
Head Coach: Howie Draper (14th season)
Regular season record: 17-4-3
Regular season standing: 1st Canada West
Playoff record: 2-2
Playoff finish: Canada West finalists
Final Top 10 ranking (Feb. 22): No. 4
Best Top 10 ranking (17 weeks): No. 1 (1 week: first poll)
Number of weeks in Top 10 (17 weeks): 17Conference award winners: Howie Draper (coach)
Conference 1st team all-stars: Andrea Boras (D), Leah Copeland (F)
Conference 2nd team all-stars: None
Conference all-rookie team: No all-rookie team in Canada West
Season leader (points): Sarah Hilworth, 26 (24 GP, 13-13-26)
Season leader (goals): Sarah Hilworth, 13 (24 GP)
Season leader (assists): Sarah Hilworth, 13 (24 GP) – Leah Copeland, 13 (24 GP)
Season leader (goaltending): Kanesa Shwetz (13 GP, 8-5, 2 SO, 1.44 GAA, .924 SV%)
CIS championship appearances (including 2011): 12th
CIS championship all-time record: 27-6 (.818)
CIS championship all-time medals: 9 (7 gold, 2 silver)
CIS championship best result: 7-time champions (2010, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000)
CIS championship last appearance: 2010 (champions)
CIS championship sequence: 9th appearance in 10 years (missed 2009)


CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
NOTE 1: All games webcast live by SSN Canada on http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/wice
NOTE 2: All games at Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex

Pool A
1. McGill
4. Queen’s
6. Alberta

Pool B
2. StFX
3. Manitoba
5. Laurier

Wednesday, March 9
12:00 Meet the Teams media conference (Delta Kitchener-Waterloo Hotel)
18:00 All-Canadian Banquet (Turret Lounge – Wilfrid Laurier University)

Thursday, March 10
16:00 Pool A #1: No. 6 Alberta vs. No. 1 McGill
19:30 Pool B #1: No. 5 Laurier vs. No. 2 StFX

Friday, March 11
16:00 Pool A #2: Loser Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 Queen’s
19:30 Pool B #2: Loser Pool B #1 vs. No. 3 Manitoba

Saturday, March 12
16:00 Pool A #3: Winner Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 Queen’s
19:30 Pool B #3: Winner Pool B #1 vs. No. 3 Manitoba

Sunday, March 13
12:00 5th Place
16:00 Bronze
19:30 Final

About Canadian Interuniversity Sport

Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Fifty-one universities, 10,000 student-athletes and 550 coaches vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. CIS also provides high performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit www.cis-sic.ca.

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