(Laurie-Anne Benoit / McGill Tribune)

Hawks soar as penalties plague Redmen

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The ‘Loo came to town this weekend, with the Redmen hockey team hosting both the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Waterloo Warriors. Friday night’s contest saw the Redmen lose 4-3 to the Golden Hawks, who currently sit last in the West Division. It was the first game between the two teams since Head Coach Kelly Nobes left Laurier for his current job with McGill. Although the Redmen outshot and outplayed the Hawks, the team was unable to top their opponents on the scoreboard. Inconsistent play and penalty trouble meant that McGill was battling from behind for much of the game.

“Clearly that put us behind the eight ball,” Nobes said. “You know, I thought there were certainly some soft calls […] but at the same time, we put ourselves into some bad positions […] where we allowed [them] to call penalties on us.”

The two teams traded goals in the first period, with the Hawks scoring twice on four powerplay chances. Sophomore Mathieu Pompei tallied two assists on the night, but his late first-period tripping penalty ended up being a costly mistake leading to a Laurier goal that tied up the game. Pompei looked dangerous all game and had a solid night with the exception of a few bad giveaways. McGill spent most of the second stanza on the attack, but the Hawks capitalized on their chances and potted two goals late in the period a mere 75 seconds apart. Despite having the upper hand in both possession and shots, McGill couldn’t crack Laurier goaltender Duncan Long, who picked up just his second win of the year.

Sophomore winger Jonathan Brunelle scored on the powerplay to bring the Redmen within one-point with 10:11 to play in the third on a slapshot that beat Long blocker side, but it was too little too late. The late minutes of the game were frantic, but the Redmen couldn’t quite break through. With 5:28 left in the period, both the Redmen and the crowd thought they had a goal, but the referee waved it off, signaling that the puck didn’t cross the line. That was as close as McGill would come to tying the game. Plays that developed were always one pass or shot away from a scoring chance, but the Redmen were unable to capitalize on these opportunities. Ultimately, it was the goaltending that separated the two teams. First year Jacob Gervais-Chouinard got the start between the pipes for the Redmen and was uncharacteristically weak. Gervais-Chouinard allowed four goals on just 22 shots and did not give the Redmen key saves when they needed them. Nobes felt, however, that the team just did not have the effort on Friday that was required to win.

“Our bread and butter as a program is how hard we work and how relentless we are,” Nobes said. “And if we don’t bring that, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing the first place team or the last place team.”

McGill bounced back Saturday night against Waterloo with a 4-1 victory, but now sits in second place behind a surprisingly strong Queen’s squad. McGill has just two games left on their schedule before the Winter break: the “Score With School” morning game against Concordia on Nov. 26 and another at home against Laurentian on Nov. 30.

“When you play a 28-game schedule every game is important; and looking at our division in the East, you can see how tight it is,” Nobes said. “Nobody is giving anything up.”

The game against Concordia is part of annual series that brings students under Montreal’s English School Board to McConnell Arena. The two games are crucial as the team starts the New Year with five games on the road against the top teams in its division.