The playoffs are a fresh start during which anything is possible, and this was exemplified in game one of the opening round series between the Concordia Stingers and McGill Redmen in the OUA East. The fierce rivalry was a one-sided affair during the regular season, as the Redmen took both games with 5-3 and 5-4 wins. In Wednesday night’s game, however, the Stingers embraced the blank slate that the playoffs afforded and took home a 6-4 upset victory in McGill’s McConnell Arena.
The Redmen got off to a rough start with alternate captain Patrick Delisle-Houde receiving a game misconduct for an ugly check from behind on Concordia defenseman Gabriel Bourret 11 minutes into the game. A five-minute power play followed for the Stingers and the Redmen’s third-ranked penalty kill unit in the OUA could not hold off for long. A quick flick from Concordia winger Olivier Hinse on a wraparound ended up awkwardly deflecting behind sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Gervais-Chouinard and into the net. Despite holding the best goals against average in the CIS, Gervais-Chouinard struggled to assert his dominance in net, resulting in a total of four goals on just over 30 shots. The flimsy goal did not get in the way of Head Coach Kelly Nobes’ team, as star freshman defenceman Samuel Labrecque responded quickly with a rocket from the blueline to open the scoring for the Redmen.
The teams went into the break tied, and both came out swinging in the second period, which was marked by two Concordia goals. A relentless forecheck from senior centre Guillaume Langelier-Parent wore down the Stinger defence, and great plays from silky-handed sophomore winger Pietro Antonelli gave the crowd something to cheer about, but McGill could not crack Concordia netminder Robin Billingham. The Stingers’ backstop recorded 40 saves on the night in one of his best outings this season.
By the final period, the game’s outcome seemed certain, even more so when Hinse added his second power play goal for the visitors eight minutes in. The goal, however, acted as a wake-up call for the Redmen offence. A sudden surge in energy from the home team led to a pair of goals—one from rookie winger Simon Tardif-Richard and another from the red-hot Labrecque—bringing the game within one with just over two minutes remaining. Nobes made the call to pull Gervais-Chouinard in hopes of tying things up in the final moments, but Concordia would go on to score two empty-net goals. Langelier-Parent scored the final Redman goal off an amazing through-the-legs set up by Antonelli, but it was too little too late.
Nobes stressed the importance of building off of the strong third period moving into game two, and touched on areas that needed improvement after the loss.
“The penalty kill needs to be something you can lean on and we weren’t able to do that here tonight,” Nobes said. “We responded well to the adversity we faced and that’s the lesson we [learned] from tonight’s game. You’re going to face adversity in the playoffs and you’ll need to adjust and adapt. So we’ll regroup here and take what we’ve learned into our game Friday.”
The series is best-of-three, leaving plenty of opportunities for the tenacious Redmen to turn things around. If McGill’s third period play is any indication of what comes next, this series should go the full three games.