The McGill Redmen (21-5-0) showed why they came into the OUA East semifinals as clear favourites on Friday night, sweeping the best-of-three series against the Queen’s Golden Gaels (13-12-1) with ease. Following a come-from-behind 3-1 win in game two in Kingston, the Redmen will get a few days to rest before taking on UQTR in the OUA East Finals.
McGill went into game one of the series riding the momentum of back-to-back wins against Concordia and got on the scoreboard first with a redirected goal off the stick of star centre Cedric McNicoll midway through the second period.
Momentum in the game quickly shifted, however, as McGill began to get into serious penalty trouble. Queen’s tied it up on a power play goal just seven minutes after McNicoll’s goal, and succeeded in getting under the Redmen players’ skin over the last two periods. The Gaels, however, greatly underestimated the task of scoring shorthanded goals against McGill this season.
The Redmen, who had one of the top penalty-killing units in the CIS this year, managed to fend off five straight power play opportunities before striking back with a power play goal of their own with just minutes left in the third period. After getting the puck from star defenceman Samuel Labrecque, junior winger Jonathan Brunelle fired a shot at Queen’s goalie Kevin Bailie. The puck was tipped into the net by junior winger Patrick Delisle-Houde for the go-ahead goal.
The Redmen have now allowed just two goals over 20 power play opportunities in the playoffs thus far, but as any Redmen player will tell you, much of the credit goes to the man in net, sophomore Jacob Gervais-Chouinard. Head Coach Kelly Nobes has tapped Gervais-Chouinard as the team’s starting goalie in the playoffs, and he has not disappointed, posting a 4-1 record to go along with a .932 save percentage through five games.
Though Queen’s scored first in game two, the Gaels looked desperate in the face of elimination and the Redmen dispatched their opponents with a strong third period. Following what may go down as one of the greatest offensive regular seasons by a defenseman in OUA history, Samuel Labrecque began adding to his post-season legend, scoring twice in a 17-second span to put McGill up for good. It also happened to be his birthday.
After Labrecque’s one-timer off a pass from Brunelle knotted the score at 1-1, the referees called a penalty on a Queen’s assistant coach following a comment directed at the officiating team. Back on the power play, McNicoll wasted no time getting the puck back into the Gaels’ zone, quickly feeding Labrecque for another one-timer that caught Bailie off-guard. Junior winger Max Le Sieur added an empty netter with 50 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Redmen.
Moving forward, the Redmen will need to continue to be lock down their end of the ice and make the most of their opportunities on offence—the deeper it gets into the post-season, the more consistency will matter.