The McGill Martlets are the best women’s hockey team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and have a 25-game unbeaten streak against CIS teams. But if the Concordia Stingers had their choice, they would be their first round opponents in the Quebec Student Sport Federation (QSSF) semi-finals.
“I think our players would rather play McGill in the first round then Ottawa,” Stingers head coach Les Lawton said. “I think our style of play matches up well against them, we always play well against them. They are the number one team on the country, so you’d have to get through them eventually, and I’d prefer to go through them in the first round then the second round,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you finish first or fourth,” Stingers captain Andrea Dolan said. “You’re going to have to play every team whether it’s in the first round or second round if you want to get to the top,” she said.
The Stingers and Martlets are on a collision course for the first round of the playoffs, with Concordia sitting in last place at the moment. However, they are four points behind the Carleton Ravens with four games to go, two against the Ravens. The Stingers will need to pass Carleton to gain third place, since the Ravens have the advantage in head-to-head battles.
Dolan says the wins are important, but not necessarily for the standings.
“Obviously you want to win as many games as possible,” she said. “You have to win games to learn how to win games. So we definitely want to take that momentum into the playoffs but in terms of the standings, to me it doesn’t matter where we finish,” Dolan said.
The Stingers have played McGill about as well as anyone else in the conference. Except for a 7-0 loss on Oct. 27, the results of the games between the two teams have been 4-2, 3-1, 4-2, 3-1 and most recently, 3-0 on Sunday afternoon.
“You don’t even have to try to be prepared for [games against McGill],” said Dolan. “You get the schedule in September and the first thing you do is highlight the McGill games.”
“We have played well against them,” said Lawton. “I think their style of play matches ours. We give them less room than other teams do, and that’s our game plan going into the games.”
The Stingers have been the best team statistically against McGill out of the QSSF teams. In six games, Concordia has been outscored 24-6 compared to 26-5 for Ottawa (in five games) and 25-1 for Carleton (in four games). Dolan attributes that to something other than just the cross-town rivalry.
“There’s a personal rivalry as well,” she said. “I’ve played with or against one-third of the McGill roster, and there are some players who have played against each other since they were seven years old,” she said. “I love playing against McGill more than any other team.”
However, this rivalry has been one-sided as of late. McGill has won the last eight meetings between the two teams, but there have been close contests between the two teams in that stretch, and before that stretch when Concordia had the upper hand.
The bright side of Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the no. 1 ranked Martlets is that they only allowed one player to score.
Christine Hartnoll scored all three goals; all on special teams, to lead the McGill win. She scored power play markers with 1:08 left in the first period and 21 seconds into the second before adding a short-handed goal with over five minutes left in the second period.
“You want to come out of the period with an even score, and that can create momentum because they are a very good and very skilled team and if you can hold them at bay in the first period, then going into the second period you have a little more confidence,” Lawton said.
Dolan agreed that that goal hurt the team.
“Any goal late in a period is demoralizing because they go in the room with a bit of momentum and we go in a bit down,” she said.
The Stingers took 12 penalties in the game, including two too-many-men penalties in the third period.
“I thought five-on-five it was an even game,” Lawton said. “You don’t mind taking penalties that are aggressive or due to hard work, but 90 per cent of our penalties today were just lazy and our players should know better.”
The Stingers offence was unable to get a goal past McGill goaltender Charline Labont