McGill Martlets forward Jade Downie.

McGill Martlets forward, Jade Downie.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The McGill Martlets will take on a heated rival, the Montreal Carabins in the opening game of the Martlets 2016/2017 campaign. The Carabins won gold at CIS Nationals last spring in Calgary. McGill will motivated to upset the champions who also won the RSEQ Conference title on McGill’s home ice, McConnell Arena last March.

The Martlets finished preseason play with a 5-6-1 record. Rookie forward, Jade Downie scored 4 goals and added 7 assists, while also adding another dangerous scoring threat to the McGill lineup.

After graduating from Dawson College, Downie had several options to continue playing hockey. McGill’s long storied history played a big part in Downie’s commitment to join the McGill Martlets family.

“Off the bat, McGill is a great school, great people,” said Downie. “I want to stay close to home, that was one of the main points. Just the fact that McGill is a great school, and I knew they had a great hockey program too.”

Coach Peter Smith has primarily deployed Downie on a line with Olivia Atkinson, and Marie-Philip Lavoie. The trio started to click at the East vs West preseason showcase at the University of British Columbia in September. Thus far, Smith likes what he has seen from Downie. The speed, skill set, and vision is all there, but there’s always room for more learning.

“She’s a very skilled player, she brings a lot to our team,” revealed Smith. “She can certainly put the puck in the net, she sees the ice really well, and moves the play real well. She’s got lots to learn like all of our young players, but she’s on the right track. She works hard.”

The 17-year McGill Martlets coach won’t be slowly easing Downie into the lineup on opening night.

“Nobody will be eased into the lineup,” said Smith. “They’ll all have to go hard, right from the get go.”

Adding secondary scoring will be key for McGill, who often depend on fifth year forwards, Melodie Daoust and Gabrielle Davidson to carry the team. While opposition defenders zero in on Daoust and Davidson, open space created by Downie, Atkinson, Lavoie, and others, could go a long way in spreading the scoring around.

“There’s no getting around it,” said Smith. “Davidson and Daoust create a lot of space and they create a lot space for their teammates. There’s certainly a focus and attention by our opponents, and so that’s what needs to happen with the rest of our team. The rest of our team needs to step. I’m not sure at times, last year that we were all as good at that, as we should have been. certainly it’s a focus. We need to get some secondary scoring and secondary scoring chances. That’s what we’re looking for to try and help them create those chances.”

McGill Martlets forward, Jade Downie in preseason action against UBC.

McGill Martlets forward, Jade Downie in preseason action against UBC.

The Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec native, isn’t expecting to be treated with kid gloves in her first year. She knows expectations will be high and each and every player will be treated the same way. Her attitude and mindset is already on point as she prepares to represent the beloved McGill Martlet crest in her first RSEQ regular season game.

“I’m just like any other player,” said Downie.”I think he expects everything from every player regardless of who you are and where you’re playing. It doesn’t really matter, you’re a Martlet, and not anyone else. You play for what’s on the front of the crest and not the back.”

The potential for Downie to become a breakout player for McGill this season and beyond is there. She was invited to a Canada National Women’s Development summer camp and scored a goal and assist. She’s has a nose for the net, and always wants to get better, and help her teammates. While Coach Smith wasn’t willing to talk potential and comparisons, he does realize Downie is a special talent.

“I think she has a really bright future and the thing with her is she’s a skilled kid who wants to learn and works hard. When you put those three things together that’s a real opportunity for a bright future and I think that she really has that. We will make sure that she gets what she needs to be able to develop into a top-notch hockey player.”

If Downie can become half of the player that her favourite role model is, she could someday be representing Canada on the Olympic stage. Indeed a lofty goal well off in the distance, but a name to remember, so don’t rule her out.

“I’d say (Marie-Philip) Poulin. I think she’s very humble and that’s what I appreciate when I watch her play. She works hard and she’s very humble. That’s how I want to be as a hockey player. I just want to work hard and show what I can do.”

VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on the Whitecaps training pitch dust up between David Ousted and Pedro Morales.



VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on the Whitecaps 2016 season.



VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Whitecaps at San Jose Earthquakes match report.



VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my story on Whitecaps striker, Giles Barnes.



VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Equalizer Soccer for my story on Canada’s big dreams and aspirations.

Canada Soccer's John Herdman and Christine Sinclair in Vancouver, on October 14.

Canada Soccer’s John Herdman and Christine Sinclair in Vancouver, on October 14.



UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas talks tactics following practice in Vancouver.

UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas talks tactics following practice on October 12, 2016.

VANCOUVER, B.C – An early season marquee matchup will take place at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Friday and Saturday. The CIS no.2, UBC Thunderbirds host the CIS no. 9, Calgary Dinos. Each team will be looking to shake off rust from the opening weekend. The Dinos dropped a pair of games to Alberta and the Thunderbirds went 1-1-0 vs Saskatchewan.

UBC was slow out of the gate in both first periods vs the Huskies, that’s something the team has been working to improve in practice this week. Thunderbirds forward, Kathleen Cahoon knows how important it is to get off to a good start.

“We actually just had a talk about that today,” said Cahoon. “We are really going to bare down in practices and build habits through there. I think that having full energy coming into the game is going to be huge.”

The Calgary, Alberta native, will have her dad, brother, and some of her grandparents in town to take in ‘The Good Old Hockey Game(s)’. Cahoon isn’t putting any extra pressure on herself with her family in the stands. She’s treating the Dinos as any other team UBC will face this season.

“I think every game, is every game,” admitted Cahoon. “Every opposition can win on every given night. Going into every battle, it’s the same hunger, the same desire to win. That doesn’t really change throughout the season.”

Coach Graham Thomas would like to see some secondary scoring from the Thunderbirds. The line of Nicole Saxvik, Logan Boyd, and Cassandra Vilgrain dominated the Huskies at times. Vilgrain and Saxvik currently sit a top Canada West in scoring. Vilgrain’s 3 goals and 2 assists helped her earn Canada West ‘First Star of the Week’ honours.

The Thunderbirds know they have plenty of more scoring yet to come from throughout the lineup.

“That’s the funny thing, in preseason we had goals from everybody,” revealed Thomas. “It’s just weekend one, but you’re right. It is something that we do want more of and we are capable of. We have some of our typical goal-scorers from previous years, like Cahoon for example, or Fish (Mathea Fischer). They haven’t found the back of the net yet, but we’re not worried. To be successful we do need, secondary, third scoring from anyone of those other lines that hasn’t been producing right now, because they’re all capable. We’re confident it’s going to happen.”

Cahoon produced 12 goals and 9 assists in 28 games for UBC last season. Down the stretch she was at her best contributing 6 points in the Canada West playoffs, and 2 goals and 2 assists at nationals in Calgary. With her skill, talent, and size, it shouldn’t take long for her to ripple the net of opposition goalies.

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon following practice on October 12, 2016.

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon following practice on October 12, 2016.

“I think we proved in preseason that scoring can come from anywhere,” said Cahoon. “I think we’re trying to get into the swing of a full season right now. I don’t think anyone is worried right now. It’s awesome that they’re (Saxvik, Boyd, Vilgrain) producing and helping us out.”

At the other end of the ice, UBC will have to stay out of the box and step up special teams play if they are going to get the better of Calgary. Both teams made it to CIS Nationals last spring and it’s not far-fetched to think that they’ll be each others main competition to get back to the dance, in Kingston, Ontario in March.

Coach Thomas is setting up his tactics focusing in on one key specific Dinos forward who finished second in Canada West scoring last season with 14 goals and 21 assists in 28 games.

“They’re going to be good. They’ve got their Russian Olympian (Alexandra) Vafina, who’s a sniper. She’s really quick and she’s got a good quick release. I think we have to have good sticks defensively. We have to play the body, one on one. We can’t fall for the dispsy-doodle, because she’s good. She’s skilled, she’s quick, and she can score. We’ve got to shut her down. Chelsea Court is another player who can score. We’ve got to shut them down, and hopefully the rest of our depth can take over.”

While the competition and battle is fierce on the ice, both Thomas and Calgary Dinos Coach, Danielle Goyette have a respect for one and other. It’s a friendly rivalry for both coaches behind the bench and it’s got a long history. This weekend will add another chapter and a few more bragging rights for the winner.

“She’s been my longest coach rival that I’ve ever had in the women’s game,” said Thomas. “We went together when she was in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) in Calgary. I was at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) in my first year. Her and I were kind of battled each other for first place, and they ended up bumping us out first year in the playoffs. The next year we bumped her out of the playoffs to win the championship, when I came back from Syracuse (University). Regardless of what the results have been, we have a good relationship, good rapport I respect her a lot for what she’s done as a player and also as a coach, and being in the Olympics. She’s accomplished some amazing things, player and coach. It’s a good healthy competition, our teams always battle each other hard.”

UBC Thunderbirds vs Calgary Dinos 

Friday, October 14, 2016

7:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

3:00 p.m.