With their backs against the wall and two matches remaining in the regular season, the struggling Redmen desperately needed a win as they faced the fourth-ranked UQTR Patriotes last Tuesday. Only the top four teams will advance to the playoffs, and the stakes were high as fifth-placed McGill was tied with Patriotes going into the match.
Two small mental blunders at the back were all it took to sink the Redmen, and they fell to the Patriotes in a heartbreaking 2-0 loss. McGill failed to register a goal, despite three efforts that clanged off the posts and a number of acrobatic saves by UQTR keeper Raphael Belanger-Vaillancourt. This lack of offensive production has been the club’s major flaw all year. McGill exits the 2012 campaign with only 12 goals—tied for second-last overall in the RSEQ.
Despite the disappointing loss and the goalless effort, there were bright spots for the Redmen. They dominated the possession of the ball all game, consistently dictating the contest’s flow against their physically smaller opponents. In the end, the difference between the two teams was simply the winning team’s ability to finish.
The loss hit harder for certain senior Redmen, who were playing their final games at Molson Stadium. Captain Jeremy Hurdle, two-time All-Canadian Alexis Pradié, and Winston Pool are all graduating.
A crestfallen Hurdle articulated this feeling after the game, and weighed in on his time at McGill. “It’s a heartbreaking loss. I thought we didn’t play too badly, but we didn’t have the finishing touch. [UQTR] is in a hot streak right now; they finished their chances and we didn’t. Credit to them,” he said. “Right now, it sucks, but overall, five years, I’ve loved every second of it. I wish it could have ended on a better note, but I’ll never forget playing for this team.”
First year Head Coach Jose Valdes lauded the three graduating players and all their work for the team after the game.
“I’m sad I only had them for one year. I only took over in January … so this was my only fall season I had with them,” Valdes said. They’re great guys, great leaders inside the room, good guys to know and good friends too. I thank them and I wish them the best.”
In spite of the loss, a heavy-hearted McGill still had a chance for a playoff berth. They needed a blowout win over Sherbrooke, in addition to a win by their foes, the Patriotes. Unfortunately, this too fell short as the Redmen fell 3-1 to the Vert-et-Or on Sunday.
With the season now over, Valdes and Hurdle discussed the future prospects for the team.
“We’ve been able to move the ball around even with a bunch of new guys, so it’s promising for the indoor season coming up and future years as well,” Valdes said. “The keeper Max Leblond … Will Hoyle … and Olivier Lacoste, those [three] guys are the exciting core going forward.”
“We have a very young team this year,” Hurdle said. “If they stick on the team and keep working hard, in a couple of years. I’m sure this will be one of the best teams in Quebec.”
— With files from Adam Sadinsky