March 19, 2022

Article at Ontario University Athletics

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Banner Season: History to be made as Nipissing, Brock search for first McCaw Cup titles

Burlington, Ont. (via David DiCenzo) – The goal of each OUA women’s hockey team is to end the season with their players’ hands on the McCaw Cup. It didn’t happen last year – for any squad, making the desire to hoist the cherished silverware greater than ever.

That honour will go to either the Brock Badgers or the Nipissing Lakers, each in search of their school’s first-ever OUA women’s hockey banner. The two teams meet in the McCaw Cup championship game at the Memorial Gardens in North Bay on Saturday, March 19. The puck drops at 7:30pm, with the game broadcast on,, and available through the CBC Gem app.

Nipissing, with former NHL all-star Darren Turcotte behind the bench, has a mouthwatering opportunity to make school history. The Lakers are currently seventh in the U SPORTS rankings, after finishing the regular season with a 9-4-1-0 record before. Fourth-year veteran Maria Dominico has led the way, topping the conference with 18 points (10 goals and eight assists). Dominico earned the OUA forward of the year award for her efforts, while also securing first team all-star honours alongside second-year defender Madison Laberge (4-4-8). Dominico and fellow veteran forward Brianna Gaffney, a second team all-star and tied for second in OUA scoring (8-8-16), make a tremendous one-two punch capable of haunting opponents.

Gaffney was a force in Nipissing’s playoff opener against Ryerson on March 12. After the Rams jumped out to a 1-0 lead, the Tamworth, Ont. native simply took over. She scored the equalizer later in the first period, added a second goal on the power play for a 2-1 lead in the second, and then iced the game with her hat-trick effort in the dying moments of the game. Lakers’ goalie Chloe Marshall was sharp, stopping 24 of the 25 shots she faced.

Nipissing saved something special for the semifinal matchup with the defending OUA champion Toronto Varsity Blues, the top-ranked team in U SPORTS. The Lakers knew they were in for a challenge going up against the powerhouse Blues, who featured the East Division goaltender of the year Erica Fryer. But it was the underdogs who struck first when Madison Desmerais beat Fryer for an early 1-0 lead. After Toronto replied by scoring twice just 23 seconds apart, Nipissing needed a boost. Jetta Derenoski provided it. Derenoski would level the game at 2-2 late in the first period, setting the stage for her dramatic winner midway through the third period to keep the small northern school’s quest for the McCaw Cup alive.

There was a time earlier this season when Brock head coach Margot Page likely wondered if her team had the makings of a champion. The Badgers finished third in the OUA West with a 5-5-2-4 record, though they struggled mightily on home ice (1-5-1-0). The bright light has been third-year forward Cassidy Maplethorpe, a medical sciences major who led all OUA players with 11 goals in the regular season and tied Nipissing’s Gaffney and Toronto’s Taylor Trussler with 16 total points.

Maplethorpe had her say once the playoffs began, setting up Emma Irwin’s opener in the second period of Brock’s OUA West semifinal game against the Guelph Gryphons. While the Badgers were lacking at home all season, they were warriors on the road, a quality they showed against the historically strong Gryphons. Claudia Murphy added another goal to give the visitors a 2-0 lead and they held on to advance with a 2-1 win.

Brock managed to put it together back in St. Catharines, producing a dominant performance in a 3-0 win over the Western Mustangs in the West final. Mikayla Flanagan scored midway through the first for a 1-0 Brock lead, before Maplethorpe took the reins. The star sniper scored a shorthanded goal in the second and then closed out the game with another tally just 27 seconds into the third, securing Brock’s place in the McCaw Cup final. The Badgers enjoyed a timely shutout from Tiffany Hsu, who stopped all 18 shots that came her way.

Only a handful of OUA schools have won the McCaw Cup. Over the past 50 years, teams like Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier, and Toronto have made dominant runs and created dynasties. But on Saturday, March 19, a new champion will be crowned.

Both the Badgers and the Lakers intend to get their hands on that legendary trophy. After a year of dark arenas, away from the sport they love, the winner can cement their program as the new power – and usher in a new era of women’s university hockey.