MONTREAL - While there might not be too much celebrating by Habs fans come spring time, you have to think that Montrealers were walking around with a little sense of extra pride on Monday after a pair of championships were won by the McGill Redmen and Montreal Stars.
Quite often in this country, so much focus is put on the NHL ranks that great stories are missed and teams that deserve recognition slip through the cracks. There are hundreds of hard-working, dedicated athletes playing in the CIS and the CWHL, competing game-in and game-out to win a championship. This weekend, two teams had some great stories to share as they were crowned champions, both from Montreal.
It's hard to believe that the Redmen, the oldest hockey team in the world in their 136th season, have never won the University National Championship. That was until captain Evan Vossen scored six minutes into overtime on Sunday night to lead the Redmen to a 4-3 victory over the Western Mustangs, capturing the CIS National title in the 50th anniversary edition of the University Cup championship.
It was the ninth University Cup final to be decided in overtime, including eight in the last 13 years, making it a storybook ending. The win also avenges a 4-0 loss to UNB in last year's final, the other appearance in the CIS National Championship by McGill.
Alexandre Picard-Hooper assisted on the game-winner to break the all-time points record for McGill. He completed his career with 268 points in 175 games. Francis Verreault-Paul was named the MVP of the tournament. The trophy, named after former NHL supervisor of officials Major Danny McLeod, was presented by McLeod himself.
For Vossen, the goal will mark an end to his University playing days while McGill will lose eight or nine players from this championship, making a repeat a very difficult task.
Yet, the championship becomes a great moment in not only McGill history but for the city of Montreal as well, giving hockey fans something to celebrate. Last night in OT, there were a lot of "honourary" McGill alumni popping up across the city and on Twitter, pulling for a Redmen win; including some rival Concordia students.
Alumni players such as Mathieu Darche of the Canadiens, joined in on a viewing party with other former McGill pals to watch the game and cheer them on.
While this was the first CIS title for the McGill Redmen men's hockey team, the women's squad has tasted victory on a national level three times. The Martlets fell short for a fourth title this year, but have won three of the past five women's CIS titles in hockey. Women's hockey has existed in some form at McGill since 1896.
Several of the CIS champion players on the women's side have gone on to play in the Canadian Women's Hockey League and compete for the Clarkson Cup.
Earlier on Sunday afternoon in Niagara Falls, the Montreal Stars pulled out a 4-2 win over Brampton to capture the first ever back-to-back Clarkson Cup championship, and third Cup in the last four years. Montreal won the inaugural Clarkson Cup on 2008.
In fact, there are several ties between McGill and the Montreal Stars.
The McGill Martlets won their first CIS National Championship in 2008, led by their captain Shauna Denis. While at McGill, Denis lived with roommates Catherine Ward and Alyssa Cecere. All three would win CIS titles with the Martlets in their university careers.
In 2009, Denis would play for the Montreal Stars in the inaugural Clarkson Cup, scoring the first goal for Montreal and earning the trivia note of being the first ever goal scorer in the Cup final and won the first title with Montreal. Ward, who won gold with Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, would also join the Stars and has become one of the top blueliners in the CWHL.
And on Sunday, Cecere, who also now is a member of the Stars, scored the opening goal of the game for Montreal in their third franchise Clarkson Cup victory.
Other notable Martlets to move onto the Stars include McGill's second all-time points leader Vanessa Davidson, Rebecca Martindale, Carly Dupont-Hill, and goaltender Kim St-Pierre, who did not play this season to have a baby.
That opened the door for Jenny Lavigne to take the starting role. Lavigne led the league in wins on route to the title. She also was drafted by the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL in 2002, and attended their training camps for two years.
So, all in all, it's a great week to celebrate being a McGill alumni member in the hockey family, as there is a lot to cheer about.
The Stars are also loaded with talented Olympians like Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu, Sarah Vaillancourt (injured) and CWHL MVP and scoring champion Meghan Agosta.
The women's game continues to grow in Canada, and the continued emergence of the Clarkson Cup and the Canadian Women's Hockey League has become a bright beacon for the game. With a team in Boston now, allowing some of the U.S. based players to join the league, it has created a place to play for many female players after their school careers, and also in between Olympics and World Championships.
In fact, several players from the Cup this week will be heading off to training camps for the Women's World Championships, which kicks off April 7th in Vermont. The 2013 World's will be held in Ottawa.
With spring starting to take over in Montreal and despite the Habs' lack of a trip to the post-season, the city of Montreal and its hockey fans can still have a lot to be proud of, with two of their teams winning big championships in their own right this weekend and no doubt giving several players memories that will last a lifetime.
Félicitations à les Redmen et les Stars !
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