In an unforgettable time that has seen women’s ice hockey in Montreal achieve legendary status, an aspect of these halcyon days is attributed to a shared dynasty of elite university hockey between the McGill Martlets and their eternal rivals, Les Carabins de Montreal. This golden age has also provided a seemingly endless amount of star prospects, ready to stake their own claim while building on a formidable legacy.
Among the McGill Martlets freshman class this season, Jade Downie-Landry is poised to become the heartbeat of its offense in the seasons to come. With Canadian national team alums Melodie Daoust and Gabrielle Davidson in their fifth and final seasons, Downie-Landry has gained the opportunity, and subsequent privilege, of learning from two of the greatest to don the Martlets colors in this decade.
Prior to her debut with the Martlets, Downie-Landry gained the opportunity to join the Hockey Canada sorority, competing with Canada’s U22/Development team in a three-game exhibition series against the United States. Among her teammates was Eve-Audrey Picard, who both won La Coupe Dodge and the Esso Cup as teammates in 2013. As a side note, Downie-Landry was the team captain for LHFDQ Nord at the Esso Cup, being named Top Forward.
Downie-Landry certainly made an impression in the three-game series. An August 17 match resulted in a 2-1 win as she logged the assist on a goal scored by Victoria Bach. Two days later, Downie-Landry helped set the tone for Canada, as she scored in the first period, as Sarah Potomak and Rebecca Leslie gained the assists, part of a 4-3 final. Along wtih Katelyn Gosling, a recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, they were the only two CIS players to suit up for Canada in the series.
“Words cannot describe it. To wear a brand new jersey, there was a lot of pride putting it on. It was a great opportunity.”
The Hockey Canada experience shall continue for Downie-Landry this January, she was the only CIS competitor named to the U22/Development that shall look to defend their gold medal at the 2017 Nations Cup. She is one of four Quebec-born players on the roster, joined by Sarah Lefort, Brookey Stacey and Elizabeth Giguere, currently starring with Cegep Limoilou.
Hailing from St. Jean sur Richelieu, QC, Downie-Landry holds the potential to be a fixture on the Martlets offensive unit for many seasons to come. Having amassed 17 points in 19 games played (including exhibition games), she looks to emulate the heroics of legendary players such as Cathy Chartrand, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Alyssa Cecere, currently on Peter Smith’s coaching staff.
The prodigious skills of Downie-Landry first shone at the CEGEP level with the Dawson College Blues. One of the signature programs in Quebec junior hockey, Dawson College has proven to be the springboard towards greater glories. Players that have suited up for the Blues read like a who’s who of women’s ice hockey in La Belle Province, including Winter Games gold medalists Catherine Ward, also one of the greatest blueliners in Martlets history and Marie-Philip Poulin, who have both had their numbers retired by the Blues.
Of note, Poulin is currently in her first season as a skills coach with the Martlets. Joining her among the distinguished names on the Martlets coaching staff is Charline Labonte, whose Martlets roots shine proudly, providing mentoring as a goaltending coach. The opportunity to be surrounded by such world-class talent is among the highlights in Downie-Landry’s freshman season,
“They are good role models to follow. Especially for them to work with us, we want to work a lot more. Everyone looks up to them and we want to be like sponges, soaking up all their advice.”
The presence of Labonte with the Martlets took on a new dimension during the preseason. Of note, Downie-Landry’s first game as a member of the Martlets took place in a September 9 exhibition against the CWHL’s Canadiennes de Montreal, which is also Labonte’s club team, where she captured the league’s Goaltender of the Year Award in 2015-16.
“It was not the first time that I had played against her but she is a great goalie. To have a goalie like her definitely made it a bit more of a challenging game. I think it gives us something to work up to after university. It was good competition and they are great players. McGill was able to compete against them.
Her final season with Dawson College was one that placed Downie-Landry among the program’s greats. From the outset, she was bestowed the honor of team captaincy for the second straight season, a privilege she would reciprocate by leading the Blues to a pair of championships, including the JWHL U19 Challenge Cup and the CEGEP championship. Leading the team in all three major offensive categories (28 goals, 35 assists, 63 points), she would also rank first overall in CEGEP in assists and points. As a side note, she led all CEGEP players in goals scored (36) following the 2014-15 season.
This season, Downie-Landry is one of four Dawson College alums on the Martlets roster. Joining her includes a familiar face in fellow freshman Lea Dumais. Along with junior defender Erica Starnino and fifth-year forward Gabrielle Davidson, all are elevating their game to a new level while extending the Dawson legacy as Martlets teammates, a strong point of pride,
The presence of such familiar faces has allowed for a pleasant transition, potentially maintaining their strong team chemistry while providing the Martlets with a cornerstone for future glories.
“Of course. We have bonded together. To go to the same team here (at McGill) and connect with these girls you have known each other in the past (is great).”
Dumais would contribute to one of Downie-Landry’s first milestones with the Martlets, teaming up with fellow freshman Cassidy Bell to log the assist in her game-winning goal against the Harvard Crimson, the program’s fifth straight win against an NCAA opponent, and their first against Harvard. The game also saw team captain Melodie Daoust score her 100th career goal, as Olivia Atkinson earned the historic assist.
Facing a 2-0 deficit in another exhibition contest against NCAA opponents, the game held an emotional component for Downie-Landry. Skating against the Vermont Catamounts, Downie-Landry was lined up against Eve-Audrey Picard. Downie-Landry would serve as the catalyst on offense as she earned the assist on Nicole Howlett’s first goal of the season, while she scored on the power play in the third. Atkinson and Daoust gained the assists, as Daoust would finish the contest with three.
Such success against NCAA teams continued for Downie-Landry. A September 24 tilt vs. the St Lawrence Skating Saints saw her capitalize on the power play as Kristen Padalis served a tripping penalty, with a second period marker, which also stood as the game-winning tally. Against Dartmouth, she notched an assist on the first goal of game, scored by Atkinson, an eventual 2-2 tie, as their barnstorming tour against NCAA teams culminated with a 3-1-1 mark.
“It is fun to know that we can compete against teams from the NCAA. Growing up, we are encouraged to do the States and get a scholarship. To play against them shows that we are capable of being competitive.”
From September 17 to October 14, Downie-Landry enjoyed an eight-game scoring streak, which saw the Martlets sport a solid 5-3-0 record. The dawn of the regular season did not see her slow down, scoring a goal in a 5-1 win on the road against the defending national champion Carabins de Montreal.
In four of her first five games, Downie-Landry would log at least one point. November 4 would present another memorable day for her, as her first multi-goal game took place, achieving the feat on the road against the improving Carleton Ravens.
With the Martlets enjoying a 5-2-0 start, there is no question that Downie-Landry’s freshman campaign may culminate with a chance to compete at the CIS national championships, allowing her with another treasured milestone. Having logged at least one point in five of those games, her potential shines brightly while her prodigious contributions place her in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Mark Staffieri