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.”

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