One of the premier programs in USPORTS women’s ice hockey, the Guelph Gryphons were a constant presence at the national championship tournament. Boasting some of the nation’s finest on-ice talent, led by elite head coach Rachel Flanagan, their McCaw Cup victories in the Ontario University Athletics Conference were not matched by the Golden Path title, awarded to the national champions.
In their search for an elusive championship, a pair of program luminaries provided a heroic effort that supplied a fitting finish to their fine careers, simultaneously allowing Flanagan, who has served as bench boss for the last 12 seasons, the long-awaited of adding a title to her peerless coaching resume.
Challenging the dynastic McGill Martlets in the gold medal game, any victory would not only be hard-earned, it would only cement their standing as national champions. Undoubtedly, the Martlets provided a significant obstacle, as First-Team All-Canadian goaltender Tricia Deguire constantly frustrated the Gryphons offense.
Replying in the opposing net was a highly motivated Valérie Lamenta. Raised in the province of Québec, Lamenta’s goaltending proficiency in her youth should have made her destined to stand between the pipes for one of Montreal’s Big Three universities (Concordia, McGill, Montreal Carabins). Instead, Lamenta was forced to tend her craft in the neighboring province of Ontario, emerging as one of the greatest recruits in Gryphons history.
Fittingly, the 2019 Nationals served as her finest hour, enjoying an element of redemption as she shut out Les Carabins de Montréal in the semi-finals, while keeping the Martlets off the scoresheet in the title game.
Long-time teammate, and current captain, Kaitlin Lowy would supply the other half of the heroics, scoring with 1:45 left in the second period for the game’s only goal. Such a goal, which saw Claire Merrick soar through the neutral zone to feed Lowy the puck, proved to be the salve that the Gryphons required, after the Martlets denied them in two power play opportunities earlier in the period.
A multiple OUA All-Star selection, and competitor for Team Canada in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Universiade, said goal stood as the last of Lowy’s brilliant five-year career. Ending her career, along with Lamenta, who is also in her fifth year, in storybook fashion.
Adding lustre to the prestige of the championship-clinching goal was the fact that Lowy was recognized as the Player of the Game for Guelph, while Shana Walker gained the honors as McGill’s Player of the Game. In addition, three Gryphons gained a spot on the Tournament All-Star, featuring Lamenta, Claire Merrick and Mallory Young.
Although it was McGill’s Jade Downie-Landry who captured Tournament MVP honors, Lowy enjoyed another unique privilege. With her jersey given to Scott McRoberts, the athletic director for Guelph, said jersey shall be submitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for posterity.
In the bronze medal game, Les Carabins de Montréal bested the number-one seeded Alberta Pandas by a 2-1 tally. With a 2-0 lead in the third period, Alex Poznikoff, who captured the Broderick Trophy as USPORTS Player of the Year, trimmed the lead of Les Carabins. providing fifth-year player and team captain Valérie St-Onge with a prized podium finish. Aube Racine captured the Carabins honors as Player of the Game, while Danielle Hardy gained the nod for the Pandas.