Redmen cruise to OUA title

For the second straight year, the McGill Redmen travelled deep into Ontario and emerged Queen’s Cup champions. The Redmen put an exclamation point on their final OUA match with a 6-2 rout of the Western Conference champion University of Western Ontario Mustangs, the fifth time in eight playoff matches that McGill managed to score five or more goals. The Queen’s Cup victory is McGill’s second in a row and 16th since winning the inaugural competition in 1903.

As a Quebec team playing in the OUA, McGill had the disadvantage of having to play on the road in the 100th edition of the Queen’s Cup. This turned out not to be much of a hindrance, as the Redmen scored early and often. For the second straight game, six different players lit the lamp for McGill, who will go into the Cavendish University Cup in New Brunswick as one of the favourites.

“I thought we had a real solid game from all 20 guys,” said Head Coach Kelly Nobes. “It was a good effort from the net out, through our six defencemen and four forward lines. You could see that on the scoresheet—we got goals from six different guys in a big game. We wanted to win the Queen’s Cup, which was one of our objectives at the beginning of the season. We’ve got one more big one to win, and that’s our next objective.”

Western fed off a large, purple-clad crowd in the opening minutes, spending most of their time in the Redmen end. This quickly changed, however, when Max Langlier-Parent found Patrick Belzile, who notched his first goal of the playoffs just seven minutes in. Belzile also added an assist to finish plus two on the night. Nobes recognized that his team was able to count on contributions from everyone on the roster.

“It’s tough to point to one guy specifically [who has stood out in the playoffs]. I think we’ve had great contribution from everybody and we’ve won games throughout the playoffs because of many different guys having big games.”

Just 56 seconds later, with McGill on the power play, Andrew Wright deflected a Guillaume Doucet point shot past Western goalie Anthony Grieco for a 2-0 Redmen lead. Only three minutes after Wright’s goal, Doucet recorded his second assist of the period when he slipped the puck to a net-crashing Evan Vossen, who slammed home what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.

The Mustangs capitalized on a Redmen parade to the penalty box in the first half of the second period and got a power play goal on a wrist shot from Jason Swit just as Langlier-Parent was leaving the box. The teams tradeed goals in the second as Alex Picard-Hooper and Simon Marcotte-Légaré tallied for McGill, and Western scored a shorthanded goal off the stick of John Furlong.

In the third period, up 5-2, the Redmen sat back, anticipating a furious rally by Western to get back into the game. The rally never materialized, as the airtight McGill defence only allowed the Mustangs to get six shots through to goaltender Hubert Morin, who stopped 21 out of 23 shots in the game, including going six for six in the closing stanza. On a shorthanded defensive zone faceoff, Marc-André Dorion lobbed the puck 180 feet into an empty net to salt away the victory and signal it was time to warm up the bus for the celebratory trip back to Montreal.

The outburst of goals for the Redmen hasn’t just been a playoff phenomenon. McGill scored 141 goals in the regular season in which they went 24-2-2. Western was the nation’s second highest scoring offence, managing 21 fewer goals than McGill.

“I think we scored a lot of goals all season and we’re right where we were most of the year,” Nobes said. “Guys are peaking at the right time of the year, we’re getting pucks to the net and finding different ways to score. That’s important in order to have success.”

The scoring success will have to continue at nationals in Fredericton, which will feature the top-ranked University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds who led the nation in the regular season by allowing just 43 goals. McGill knows the power of the Varsity Reds, having lost 7-1 in Fredericton on December 30. Despite the sting of that early loss, Nobes is still optimistic.

“Our team has evolved since then, and we’ve grown as a group,” he said. “We’ve improved in all facets of our game. That game [vs. UNB] was a good learning experience for us and it’ll pay dividends moving forward.”

Both the Redmen and the Mustangs will have over a week to prepare for the Cavendish University Cup presented by Home Depot, which gets going on March 24 and runs until March 27. Joining McGill and Western will be the host Varsity Reds, the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the Alberta Golden Bears, and the Calgary Dinos. Of the top seven ranked teams in Canada, only defending champion St. Mary’s will miss out on the tournament, having lost to St.FX in the AUS semifinals.

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