Freshman defenceman Samuel Labrecque came out of the Redmen locker room after Friday night’s game and addressed the media outside in short, quiet sentences.
“I was pretty lucky on all the goals,” Labrecque said, after ending a 22 game hat trick drought for McGill and becoming the first Redmen blueliner in 19 years to accomplish the impressive feat.
Modesty aside, Labrecque’s heroics helped McGill top Queen’s 4-1, stretching its streak to 27-consecutive games without a loss to the Golden Gaels (9-12-1). With the win, the CIS No. 8 ranked Redmen improve to 17-5-0 on the year, tied for second place in the OUA East division with Carleton. Despite the victory, McGill came out slow, with only four shots in the first frame.
“In the first [period,] I just didn’t think we were skating,” Head Coach Kelly Nobes said. “We weren’t getting pucks behind [their defence] nor to the net.”
After their poor showing in the first period, the Redmen opened the scoring early in the second. Just 30 seconds into the stanza, Queen’s backstop Kevin Bailie misplayed a puck behind the net, leading to an easy one-timer for senior centre Marc-Olivier Vachon. Halfway through the frame, the floodgates finally opened for McGill. With the help of third-year defenceman Jean-Philippe Mathieu, who was playing in his first game of the season after fracturing his eye in a freak golfing accident, Labrecque found the back of the net three times in an eight-minute span. A one-timer from the point made the score 2-0 before he added another two in quick succession—a tip-in in front of the net and a pinpoint shot to the top corner.
“The guys made great plays on my second one,” Labrecque said. “I just put a lot of pucks on net, and it ended up working for me.”
The final frame saw the Gaels switch to sophomore netminder Chris Clarke after Bailie had given up four goals on just 16 shots in the second. Clarke stopped all 11 Redmen shots in the final period, but Queen’s could not crack McGill’s sophomore netminder Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, who added another spectacular performance to his resumé after registering a shutout in his last start.
As the Redmen sticks cooled off in the third, tempers began to flare. Five roughing minors had both boxes packed tight before McGill’s bruising winger Neal Prokop was called for unsportsmanlike conduct to put the Redmen down a man.
The Redmen, however, are no strangers to the art of playing shorthanded. They continued to dominate on the penalty kill, blanking the Gaels on all eight of their power plays and upping their penalty kill rate to a conference-best 90.3 per cent.
“Our penalty kill has been real good for us all year,” Nobes said. “There are a lot of things that go into a good penalty kill […] certainly the goalie stopping the puck is a big part of that, and [Gervais-Chouinard] was real solid out there tonight.”
Gervais-Chouinard stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced, conceding a rebound goal late in the third after 116 straight minutes of shutout hockey.
On Wednesday, the Redmen head out to Trois-Rivieres to take on the division-leading UQTR Patriotes [17-3-2]. The McGill squad will have revenge on their minds after the Patriotes defeated them 3-1 at McConnell Arena earlier this month.
If the Redmen can come away with a victory against a tough UQTR squad, they’ll be in a good position to run the table and finish the atop the OUA East standings for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
“It’s a big game,” Nobes said. “If we win our next four games, we finish first and we’d like to finish ahead of Trois-Rivières, so it’s a must-win game for us.”