The Martlets advance to face Concordia in the RSEQ finals after defeating the Gees on Feb. 26. Photo: Kyle Darbyson.
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U of O women’s hockey takes McGill to the limit in RSEQ semi final

Despite fighting tooth and nail, the University of Ottawa women’s hockey team couldn’t contest with the likes of the McGill Martlets and were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, Feb. 26.   

But unlike last year’s playoff series against McGill where they got swept, the Gee-Gees forced a third game in the 2016–17 Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) semi-finals by making the Martlets work for every single goal.

Game one

A huge level of athletic tenacity was on full display on Thursday, Feb. 23 in Montreal, where the Gees took the Martlets to double overtime.

Even though the U of O ended up losing by a final score of 2–1, they dominated the first period thanks to outstanding goaltending from Maude Lévesque-Ryan and an early goal courtesy of Marimée Godbout-Parent.

The Martlets managed to tie the game up at 1–1 a couple minutes into the second period, and both teams engaged in an aggressive back and forth that would keep them at a scoreless stalemate until the end of regulation time.

The first round of overtime saw 10 minutes of intense four-on-four hockey, where the Gees’ offense threw everything but the kitchen sink at McGill goaltender Tricia Deguire, but to no avail.

The second round of overtime did not last long, since Martlets forward Gabrielle Davidson snuck one by Lévesque-Ryan in under a minute to hand her team a 2–1 victory and a 1–0 lead in the series.

Game two

The Gees managed to bounce back at home on Saturday, Feb. 25, where they fended off an aggressive Martlets offense to a narrow 2–1 win.

While the first 20 minutes remained scoreless, Gees forward Cindy Laurin got her team on the board with a quick shot from the slot in the second period to make it 1–0. Mélodie Bouchard then capitalized on a Martlets penalty less than 20 seconds later to give the Gees a  2–0 lead.

After the Martlets cut the Gees’ lead in half, thanks to a power play goal from Gabrielle Davidson, the U of O slid into defensive mode and would remain there for the rest of the game. McGill’s offense pounded them from every side, but the Gees managed to hang on to their lead until time expired and they won by a final of 2–1.

Not only was the series tied up at 1–1, but this game also marked the Gees’ first playoff win since February 2012.

Game three

Unfortunately, the U of O couldn’t translate that momentous victory into a win in Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 26. Instead, McGill came away with a pretty decisive 5–2 victory, which brought the Gees’ season to a unceremonious end.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest hindrances to the Gees’ performance on Sunday was completely beyond their control.

“It’s hard to get any momentum going when you’re getting calls every two seconds,” said Gees defender Bryanna Neuwald, recalling the questionable officiating that plagued both teams throughout the entire game.

This really came to pass at the start of the third period, where the referees waved off a pretty crucial goal from Gees forward Shanie Deschatelets that would have made it a 4–2 game.

Still, regardless of their disappointing finish, head coach Yanick Evola is confident about the future of this hockey program, especially if his team continues to play like they did in the playoffs.

“Towards the end of the season we were looking at being consistent, playing 60 minutes, and I thought we were able to do that,” he said. “I thought we came to compete and we represented the school the right way, and it was really good hockey. It was playoff hockey and we were ready for it.”

As for Neuwald, she’s more than willing to step up to the plate next year and take on a leadership role. This will be especially necessary now that a good number of the Gees’ senior players, including Carol-Ann Upshall, Cindy Laurin, Vickie Lemire, Cynthia Whissell, Julie Lévesque, and defender Émilie Bouchard, are graduating this year.

“I’m also still really excited about next year because even though we’re losing people, I think we’re gaining some really good recruits that’ll help us match up against some of the other teams.” said Neuwald.

And with fellow up-and-coming stars like Bouchard, Deschatelets, and Lévesque-Ryan in the line-up for next year as well, women’s hockey could be the U of O varsity sport to watch in the 2017–18 season.