It’s been three seasons since the McGill Redmen (11-3-0) won its only CIS University Cup.With the way that the squad is currently playing, winning nine of its past 10 games following a 4-1 victory against the Toronto Varsity Blues (4-8-1), a second consecutive trip to the National Championships and a second title aren’t out of the realm of possibilities.
On Saturday night, McGill outclassed the visiting Varsity Blues, jumping out to an early lead in the first period, and never relinquishing. Junior forward Jonathan Brunelle started the scoring midway through the period before left winger Patrick Delisle-Houde notched the game-winning goal on the man advantage with five minutes remaining in the first. Cedric McNicoll tapped in a rebound and winger Max Le Sieur notched an empty net goal to round out the scoring.
Goaltender Karel St. Laurent was stout in net for the Redmen, saving 20 of 21 shots en route to improving his season record to 5-1. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, the regular starter, owns a 6-2 record, but is playing marginally worse than his backup. St. Laurent leads the OUA in save percentage and goals against average (GAA). Head Coach Kelly Nobes downplayed any goaltending controversies and highlighted the benefits of excellent depth.
“I think it’s a great situation to have your two goalies at the top of the league in terms of save percentage and goals against,” Nobes explained. “The past few weekends they’ve been splitting the duties and pushing each other to be better in giving us a chance to win every night.”
This year’s squad has a few similarities to that title-winning team. Both are defensive juggernauts—McGill finished second in the CIS in GAA and first in save percentage in the 2011-2012 season, while this year’s squad ranks second and third, respectively, at the national level. Nobes pointed out that although this year’s team has been stout, it still has a long way to go to.
“[The] team that won was a high-scoring, high-offensive output team and was able to dominate a lot of games offensively,” Nobes said. “ [For us] we look at our structure and try to be as structured as possible, and that’s probably why you see some pretty good defensive numbers from our group.”
The victory against University of Toronto was the team’s second 4-1 victory of the weekend—the team topped the Ryerson Rams (8-4-1) on Friday. McGill continues its season at home on Thursday, Nov. 27 against the Concordia Stingers (5-11-0) in the annual “Score with School” game sponsored by the English Montreal School Board, before setting its sights on a showdown with rivals Carleton (11-3-0) on Nov. 29, the last regular season game of 2014.
The team, which sits ninth in the CIS nationwide rankings, still has plenty of obstacles in its way—the Redmen are currently tied with Carleton for second in the treacherous OUA East, and is one point behind division-leading UQTR (11-2-1). As a result, Nobes’ squad knows that there is still much to be done to secure a playoff berth in arguably the toughest division in the CIS.
“It’ll be like last year where it’ll come down to the playoffs, and it’s going to come down to us being healthy for one, and clicking at the right time, and being at our best at the right time of the year,” Nobes said. “The focus is just on getting better every day here at practice staying in the moment [to] just make sure that we’re continually improving as a group.”