The Redmen came out flying on Saturday night at McConnell Arena, dominating the Ottawa Gee-Gees at both ends of the ice en route to a 9-0 trouncing. With both teams’ playoff fates already sealed before the opening face-off – McGill in, Ottawa out – the Redmen were able to use the game as a tune-up, and judging by their performance, they’ll be able to enter the postseason with some much-needed confidence and momentum.
“Since we came back from our long trip at Christmas time, we’ve had a really hectic schedule and we went into an energy dump,” said Redmen Head Coach Jim Webster. “I’m most happy that we’re coming out of that.”
Puck possession was the name of the game for McGill, as the Redmen controlled the play throughout most of the first period. A strong and structured defensive game plan helped the Redmen severely limit Ottawa’s time on the attack.
Junior forward Simon Marcotte-Legare opened the scoring less than four minutes into the first stanza. Not long after, sophomore forward Maxime Langelier-Parent beat Gee-Gee netminder Riley Whitlock five hole for McGill’s second goal. The Redmen would score twice more in the period, including an impressive backhander from a near-impossible angle by junior left-winger Evan Vossen.
In a game that was out of Ottawa’s reach from early on, the Gee-Gees found a way to vent their frustration in the third period. The gritty play and constant presence of McGill’s Guillaume Doucet in front of the Gee-Gee net drew the ire of a few Ottawa players, who ganged up on the alternate captain late in the game. Ottawa’s physicality intensified late in the third, resulting in a slew of Gee-Gee penalties and a series of extended five-on-three power plays for the Redmen.
“[Doucet’s] a skilled guy and he’s had a very good year,” said Webster.
While Webster was reluctant to attribute Saturday night’s success to any one player, the evening clearly belonged to sophomore right-winger Francis Verreault-Paul.
Verreault-Paul shone on the power-play late in the game, as he netted the team’s eighth and ninth goals of the night, including a blistering slap shot from the face-off circle. Going into Saturday’s game, Verreault-Paul found himself three points behind Francis Charland of UQTR in the scoring race. With three goals and an assist on the night, the Mashteuiatsh native took over sole possession of the top spot for both goals and points in the OUA.
Verreault-Paul was on the ice for most of the game, even when the team was up by a considerable margin, but Webster has firsthand experience with winning a scoring title, and was quick to point out the significance the record can have on a team going into the playoffs.
“I won the scoring title [when I played for McGill] on the last game of the season, right in this building,” he said. “I think [Verreault-Paul] appreciated that I tried to help him as much as I could. You don’t win the scoring championship every year.”
Despite one player making the record books, not everything went according to plan for Webster and his team. After playing a disciplined game, the Redmen let their emotions boil over in the final minutes of a third period that was filled with scrums and cheap shots. 104 penalty minutes were handed out in the final period, including two misconducts, three game misconducts, and a hit after the whistle on Verreault-Paul after he scored McGill’s ninth goal. Webster will be content with the end result so long as he has all his players in uniform come playoff time.
“I was happy right up until the last scrum,” said Webster. “[If we end up missing guys] it will weaken our team.”
The Redmen now turn their attention to the Nipissing University Lakers, who they will face in the OUA quarterfinals next week. Game One is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.