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Maria Dominico magnificent in Lakers run to Nationals

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Shining as a prodigious playmaker for the Nipissing Lakers, the contributions of Maria Dominico heralded the program’s halcyon days. Assembling a monumental 2021-22 campaign, the efforts accentuated her expanding legacy. Hosting the McCaw Cup championship, representing a fascinating first for the Lakers, it was part of a memorable time for the distinguished forward.

Having begun her Lakers career as a recipient of both, the OUA and U Sports Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, it served as the launching pad for greater achievements. Undoubtedly, that destiny reached fulfillment in 2022, capturing the OUA scoring championship.

Joined by Katie Chomiak, Brianna Gaffney and Madison Laberge with All-OUA recognition, Dominico also gained recognition as the OUA East Forward of the Year. Accumulating 18 points in 14 games played, a hat trick in the home opener versus the York Lions, a game honored Noah Dugas, signified her finest, and perhaps, most emotional performance.

Recording a goal in each period, including the game-winning tally, a 6-0 final saw Chantelle Sandquist earn the shutout. Two days later, a rematch at York’s Canlan Ice resulted in Dominico logging another pair of goals. Rewarded for her effort with the Lakers Female Athlete of the Week Award (for November 8-14), the recognition foreshadowed another notable Lakers athletics honor by season’s end.

Worth noting, Dominico and fellow senior, team captain Katelyn Heppner, also a member of Manitoba’s provincial baseball team, gained roster spots on Canada’s contingent for the 2021 Winter Universiade in Lucerne, Switzerland. Additionally, teammate Marilyn Fortin earned a place on Team Switzerland. Unfortunately the event cancelled due to pandemic concerns would have signified Dominico’s first appearance in the Canadian colours.

By season’s end, the honours continued for Dominico, including an exciting career first. Gaining a well-deserved place among the U Sports All Canadians, earning First Team honors, Toronto Varsity Blues goaltender Erica Fryer joined her as the only OUA competitors on said Team. With the announcement occurring at U Sports Nationals, it helped set an exciting tone for the distinguished forward, whose Lakers qualified for the event.

“I am incredibly honoured to be named a USports All-Canadian. I am dedicated to continually developing myself as a player and strive to be the best at the style of game I play. Our game is filled with talented players, and to be recognized for my hard work is extremely rewarding.”

With a very strong showing at Nationals, the profile of the Lakers elevated to significant prominence. Beginning with a 1-0 defeat of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbrids, Dominico contributed to the heroics. With a scoreless tie requiring overtime, she fed the puck to Madison Solie, scoring on UBC backstop Elise Hugens, clinching a place in the medal round. On the opposite end of the ice, Chloe Marshall recorded a superlative 41 saves for the triumphant Lakers.

Opposing the Atlantic University Sport champion University of New Brunswick Reds in the semifinals, Marshall needed only 16 saves. Prevailing by a 4-0 mark, younger sister Malory Dominico placed her name on the scoresheet in the second period, assuring the program of its first podium finish in program history.

Advancing to the gold medal game, opposing the top ranked Concordia Stingers, the Lakers assembled a valiant effort. With neither team allowing a goal en route to the Finals, not surprisingly, a shutout determined which team captured the Golden Path trophy.

Despite the Stingers emerging victorious, goaltender Alice Philbert posting the shutout, while Marshall faced 33 shots, there remained highlights in the game’s aftermath. Earning recognition as the Lakers Player of the Game, Dominico also gained a place on the Tournament All-Star team, joined by Solie. In an interview with CBC Sports, she took the time to mention the North Bay IceBoltz organization, an admirable show of community support.

“Our goal was to make USports Nationals. To have the opportunity to play for Gold, was the game we had been preparing for all season. I knew that I had to be at my best and leave everything on the ice every shift of every game. Being selected as the game MVP and to the tournament All-Star team was truly a humbling experience.”

With Heppner, in her role as team captain, providing each of her teammates with the silver medal, it marked a tremendous display of sportsmanship and team unity.  Paying tribute to her teammates collective efforts, hugs upon the medals adorning their necks, adding to the emotion of reaching the podium involved a significant milestone. Worth noting, the women’s ice hockey team made history as the first varsity team in Nipissing Lakers athletics to play for a National Championship.

The theme of unity remained prevalent upon the Lakers return to North Bay. Receiving a heroes welcome, several hundred fans, including University President Dr. Kevin Wamsley and Mayor of North Bay Al MacDonald, cheering and applauding as the players exited the bus, the heartwarming show of support maintained a strong sense of momentum.

Early April saw Dominico and her teammates enjoy a public skate with the IceBoltz, graciously signing autographs with jubilant fans. With the onset of Awards season, Solie gained recognition as the Lakers Female Athlete of the Week (for the week of March 21-27), while Marshall earned the Lakers athletics Peak Performer Award. 

Dominico added her name to the list of Lakers receiving hockey hardware, bestowed the honor of the Team MVP Award, bringing a brilliant season full circle. Following it up with the prestige of the Jack and Mary Jones Award, in recognition of the Lakers Female Athlete of the Year, it affirmed Dominico’s place as one of the university’s all-time greats.

Throughout this fascinating journey, the only honour more poignant involved calling her sister Mallory, the 2020 OUA Rookie of the Year, as her teammate. Having also played soccer together during their youth, the opportunity to wear the Lakers colors stands as a seminal moment.

Enjoying the opportunity to make history together during an exhilarating playoff run, including a victory over the No. 1 ranked Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA playoffs, a lifetime of memories made adds luster to their celebrated time as Lakers. Celebrating each other’s achievements on social media, the outpouring of admiration strengthens an unbreakable bond, representing a strong point of pride.

“To win Silver at Nationals was incredible. This was the first National Championship for any Nipissing University sports team, and I could not be more grateful to be a part of it. Having the opportunity to share this experience with my sister is extra special as we are each other’s biggest supporters.”

All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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