Playoffs in sports are occasionally referred to as the ‘second season.’ The slate is wiped clean for all those participating, and while a high seed translates to home-ice advantage, it guarantees little beyond that. That being said, players on the Redmen (21-5-0) ice hockey team deserve to feel at least a little pleased with themselves after clinching the OUA East title with a 5-1 home win Saturday night against the RMC (0-26) Paladins.
The title-clinching win came on the heels of a gruelling 4-3 double-overtime win Friday against the Concordia Stingers in the 28th annual Corey Cup. Despite the extra time on the ice the previous night, the Redmen looked fresh against the Paladins. Junior centre Cedric McNicoll opened the scoring, but the Paladins struck back quickly and the two teams finished the first period knotted at 1-1. The goal was McNicoll’s 11th of the season and his 34th point, a total good for eighth-best in the CIS.
McGill broke the game open midway through the second frame, scoring three goals in less than four-minutes. The first of those three came off of the stick of rookie defenceman Samuel Labrecque, and was Labrecque’s sixth game-winning goal of the season, which ties a school record that has stood for 27 years. Labrecque has been a force to be reckoned with as of late, scoring seven goals over the last five games, including the overtime-winner in the Corey Cup.
Sophomore goaltender Karel St-Laurent gave McGill more of the quality play it has received all season from both of its net-minders. St-Laurent stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced for his eighth win of the season. As the Redmen enter the playoffs, Nobes is faced with a problem that any coach would dream about: Two goaltenders who are equally worthy of playing time in the post-season. St-Laurent finishes the season with a .932 save percentage, the third-best mark in the entire CIS. The league leader, however, is St-Laurent’s teammate Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, who holds a .944 save percentage.
Fortunately for Nobes, no matter who he chooses to start game one of the playoffs, he’ll be making a good decision. Both goaltenders have been consistently solid, and deserve a lot of credit for helping lead the Redmen to the top seed in the division.
The Redmen now turn their attention to their quarterfinal, best-of-three matchup with Concordia beginning Feb. 11 at McConnell Arena. The last time McGill captured the OUA East Division crown was 2011-2012, when they went on to win the CIS Championship. Past performance does not guarantee future success, but with the number one seed in hand, you can’t blame the Redmen if they’re hoping history will repeat itself.