Cougars win women’s hockey national championship for first time in program history
Josh Werle, Sports Editor
For the first time in the program’s history, the Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars women’s hockey team are the U SPORTS National Champions. The team’s highly improbable path to the national championship is one for the record books, and is a journey that highlights how beautiful the world of sports can be. Anything can happen, especially when competing at the highest level, and the Cougars have proven that resilience, determination and confidence can take you all the way to the top.
The Canada West playoffs
After a season that saw the Cougars finish with the third seed in the U SPORTS Canada West division, the team embarked on a quest for a gold medal victory in their divisional playoffs in mid-February. Hopes were high, as the team sat behind only the University of Alberta (U of A)and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the standings.
After taking out Trinity Western University in the quarter-finals, and the U of A Pandas in the semi-finals — both in 2-1 series victories — the Cougars were set to face the UBC Thunderbirds in the divisional finals. The Thunderbirds have an overall record of 24-4, and were considered to be one of the best teams in the entire country — regardless of division. After taking the first game with a 1-0 victory it seemed like the Cougars were gearing up for a divisional playoff gold medal, but the Thunderbirds bounced back with two straight wins leaving the Cougars in second place. Although silver is still something to be proud of, receiving the medal after a loss is something that no athlete wishes to do.
The Cougars’ silver medal victory earned them a shot at the U SPORTS National Championship, a title that has never been won in the program’s illustrious history. The team was ranked as the eighth seed in the tournament out of eight total teams — their Canada West gold medal winning counterpart was ranked second — which meant that they had to square off against the number one seed in the first round of the tournament.
After 40 minutes of hard fought hockey, the Cougars were down by a goal heading into the third period. Just under 10 minutes in, Jori Hansen-Young potted the game-tying goal. With less than five minutes left in the game Breanne Trotter scored the game-winner, and the Cougars had officially upset the number one team in the country. This confidence carried over to the tournament semi-finals, where MRU knocked off the number five seed and tournament hosts Universite du Quebec a Montreal.
The UBC Thunderbirds also made their way to the semi-finals of the tournament, losing to the Concordia Stingers 3-1. This meant that the national championship would be a fresh matchup between the Cougars and the number three seeded Stingers. After a scoreless first period, the teams began to ramp up the offense, each scoring a goal in the second, and two in the third.
The Cougars’ second goal in the third period was another example of this team beating the odds, as Trotter tied the game with less than two seconds remaining. This meant the two teams would be playing a game of “next goal wins” for the U SPORTS National Championship.
Emma Bergesen played the role of the overtime hero, and scored a goal that would give the MRU Cougars their first women’s hockey national championship in the program’s history. This was one of those underdog stories that even the best writers couldn’t make up, and is a truly special moment for all who were involved. Congratulations to the MRU Cougars on their spectacular victory.