Back-to-back games can be gruelling tasks in the sport of hockey, but the McGill Redmen managed to look fresh during the second of two home games against the Windsor Lancers this past weekend. The Redmen dropped Friday night’s game 4-3 in the shootout, but managed to rebound for a 6-2 win in a physical affair Saturday night.
The two teams combined for 76 penalty minutes Saturday evening over the course of a chippy three periods. The referees handed out three separate 10-minute misconducts—two to the Lancers and one to McGill’s Mathieu Pompei—and 23 minor penalties.
McGill’s Patrick Delisle-Houde opened the scoring 3:47 into the first period on a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and into the back of the net. Although it was their only goal of the period, the Redmen were strong right from the start, out-shooting Windsor and controlling even-strength play. This was a key difference between the first and second game, according to McGill Head Coach Kelly Nobes.
“You know, [a slow start] was our downfall in the game [on] Friday,” Nobes said. “In this league you have to play 60 minutes against the good teams.”
Although they have struggled as of late, Windsor remains in fourth place in a tough OUA West Division. They are also the second-most penalized team in the CIS, a possible factor in explaining the game’s rough play. At times it appeared as though players had forgotten about the puck and were simply focused on how best to hit or be hit. The Lancers and Redmen have not traditionally been rivals, but it certainly looked as though they were with emotions running high and scrums breaking out after the numerous whistles.
“One of the things that is important in a game like that is to keep your composure,” Nobes said. “We did a good job of it, knowing that if we kept working and being relentless, that we’d get our power-play chances.”
Nobes got his wish—20 seconds after forward Cedric McNicoll scored to put McGill up 2-1, left winger Delisle-Houde netted his second of the game on a power-play to make it 3-1. Delisle-Houde’s three points give him 24 on the year, tying his season total from 2012-13.
McGill’s dominant play against the Lancers continued to close out the game—the Redmen’s leading scorer Ryan McKiernan potted his 12th goal of the season to put the home team up 4-1 entering the third period. During the final frame McNicoll netted another goal and left winger Neal Prokop earned his sixth of the year, ending the game with a final score of 6-2.
Rookie goaltender Jacob Gervais-Chouinard was the unsung hero of the night, stopping 30 of 32 shots on his way to a win. Both Gervais-Chouinard and Windsor goalie Parker Van Buskirk faced significant pressure at times, but Gervais-Chouinard remained solid while Van Buskirk succumbed to the pressure, allowing four goals before being pulled at the end of the second period.
Saturday evening’s win brings McGill’s record to 19-5-2, good enough for 40 points and second place with two games left to play in the regular season.
“In the playoffs, the farther you go along, the more important it is to play 60 minutes,” Nobes said. “It’s so tight and there’s so much parity among the top teams.”
At this point in the season, the playoffs are a guarantee for the Redmen. No matter which team they draw in the post-season, however, the team will need to bring the type of full game effort they showed against Windsor on Saturday if they hope to succeed.
McGill’s next game is against UOIT on Feb. 7 at McConnell Arena. at 7:00 p.m.