The University of Calgary women’s hockey team was defeated at the hands of the Université de Montreal Carabins in the Dinos’s attempt to defend their national championship title on March 2 in Toronto by a score of 3–2. It was the first Canadian Interuniversity Sport title in program history for the Carabins. Despite the remarkable efforts the defending champions made in the final game, the Dinos’s labours ultimately fell short and they failed to capitalize on several opportunities to pull away from their opponents.
The tournament included the champions from all three CIS conferences, the host school and the second-place team from the Canada West conference. On the opening day of the six-team tournament, the Dinos soundly defeated the Atlantic Conference champions and second-ranked St. Francis Xavier University X-Women 4–0. The Dinos’s three power-play goals were the story of the game and the team ultimately proved their superiority by outshooting the X-Women 45–17. Dinos goalie Amanda Tapp was confident in game one and earned what would be the only shutout of the entire tournament.
“Tapp played really strong. When she’s in we have a really good chance to win so we just have to keep playing as hard as we can to back her up,” said captain Tanya Morgan after the first game. Morgan had a goal and two assists in the opener.
With the win, the Dinos were granted Friday off and awaited Queen’s University Golden-Gaels on Saturday afternoon. “We’ve never played them before but I think every team here is ready for every game — we’re expecting a hard battle but we’re ready to go,” said Morgan.
Saturday’s game saw the Dinos defeat the Golden-Gaels 5–4 in overtime. Queen’s — coming off of a 2–1 overtime loss to St. FX the previous night — were sluggish throughout the first two periods against the well-rested U of C squad, allowing the Dinos a 4–1 lead heading into the final period. The Dinos only needed to reach overtime to secure their spot in the national championship game on Sunday night. Already with goals from Iya Gavrilova and Haley Wickenheiser, Stephanie Ramsey and Erika Mitschke both netted goals 33 seconds apart in the middle of the second and seemed poised going into the final frame.
However, the Dinos surrendered three goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period, which included the Queen’s tying goal with only 15 seconds remaining in regulation. Regardless, the Dinos had guaranteed their spot in the championship game.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t follow the game plan that we put together today, but it’s a lesson learned,” said Dinos head coach Danielle Goyette. “When we play with speed and we share the puck that’s when we’re effective as a team. I feel we did that part of the game but not all of it, and that’s why we finished the way we finished — we had to finish together for 60 minutes.”
Gavrilova eventually scored her second of the game on the power play, four minutes into overtime, avoiding what would have been a humiliating come from behind loss.
“Gavrilova is a gifted player, she has good hands and she played perfectly for our advantage,” said Goyette. “We played our game today. As a team, if you want to be successful you need to have your best players to be the best players and they did that today, and we needed them today — they came out hard.”
Ramsey was named player of the game as she recorded a goal and an assist in the second period.
With the win, the Dinos locked their spot with the Pool A winners Montreal for the gold-medal game. The top-ranked Carabins qualified for their second-consecutive tournament final after eliminating the McGill Martlets and joined the U of C as the only returning teams from last year’s championships in Edmonton. With wins over the hosts the University of Toronto Varsity Blue and University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, a rematch from last year’s gold-medal game was secured.
However, it was the Carabins who would taste revenge in the gold-medal game, handing the Dinos a crushing 3–2 loss and a silver medal. The Dinos’s inability to find the back of the net in the second half of the game ultimately allowed Montreal’s spectacular defence to settle in and control the pace of the game.
“We had ups and down this year, but the players put everything on the ice tonight and I’m proud the way they played,” said Goyette following the loss. “When I look back on the way we finished the season as a team, that’s the most important thing. The sad thing is that for some players it’s their last game and it’s always more fun to finish on a positive note.”
The Dinos were without the service of Wickenheiser in the gold-medal game as she suffered a lower-body injury from Saturday’s game against Queen’s. Forwards Sinead Tracey and Stephanie Zvonkovic scored the two Dinos goals, both of which were assisted from Dinos player of the tournament Iya Gavrilova. Gavrilova was undoubtedly the Dinos’s best player in Toronto, recording three goals and three assists in the three games played.
“We really stuck together and played as a team today, but it just wasn’t our game night. Some periods we outplayed them but just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” said Gavrilova. “Of course we wanted to get first place — it’s what we were going for from the beginning. I think the whole team just played spectacular, especially this tournament. We stuck to the plan and played as a team.”
Calgary surrendered two of the three Carabins goals in the final minute of the first and second periods — the first goal with only 23 seconds remaining in the first period and the third goal with only 24 seconds remaining in the second period. Afterwards, the Montreal defence shut the Dinos offence down entirely.
“Things like that are going to happen. We’re going to win and lose as a team and that’s what we talked about — no matter what happens on the ice we have to play for each other and go shift by shift, minute by minute,” said Goyette.
St. FX eventually won the bronze with a win over host U of T, while the CW champions UBC squad finished in fifth, defeating the winless Queen’s. Despite their fifth-seeded ranking entering their second national championship tournament, the Dinos had one of the best regular season records in the country, which was only one of the many successes of the 2012–13 campaign.
The Dinos were dominant throughout the regular season, posting a 23–4–1 record before winning an additional seven games in the CW playoffs and CIS Championships. Ranked number two in the country for the majority of the season, the Dinos secured home-ice advantage in the CW playoffs.
The Dinos also had four players named to the 2012–13 CW women’s hockey all-star roster as Wickenheiser, Ramsay and Gavrilova were all named first-team all-stars, while Tapp was named to the second team.
This year, the future hockey hall-of-famer Wickenheiser was named the CW women’s hockey player of the year for the second time in the past three seasons as a result of her unprecedented total of 115 points in 53 conference games since 2010.
Morgan was awarded the Student-Athlete Community Service Award for her outstanding academic achievements in addition to being recognized for her extensive involvement in the hockey community. Furthermore, after being named a first-team all-star at the CIS finals, Gavrilova was named to the Russian national team for next year’s Olympics in her home country.
Despite the less-than-perfect finish, the 2012–13 season was remarkably successful and full of memorable moments. With the first ever instalment of the Crowchild Classic versus the Mount Royal Cougars at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Dinos set one of the highest attendance records in CW women’s hockey history — a game that exhibited the strength of the Dinos program in a 5–2 beating of their cross-town rivals.
With the addition of Wickenheiser and Gavrilova over the past two seasons, the U of C women’s hockey program has had tremendous recruiting classes the past three seasons. Senior players like Tanya Morgan, Elana Lovell, Erin Davidson, Melissa Zubick and Jennifer Mallard — who all played their final games this past weekend — have made such a substantial impact to the Dinos hockey program in just four seasons at the CIS level. The opportunity to attract top players to the U of C has improved substantially due in part to the legacy that this team has left on the ice, becoming one of the most elite programs in their conference and the country.