Gaels making final push for postseason

Men’s hockey looking to take advantage of lighter schedule with seven games to go

The Gaels have won eight of their last 11.
Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
The Gaels have won eight of their last 11.

The men’s hockey team has faced obstacles at nearly every turn during the 2017-18 season.

But despite facing an unforgiving early-season schedule, a head coach with commitments to both Queen’s and Canada’s junior hockey program, as well as countless injuries to their star players, the Gaels have remained one of the OUA’s top teams.

After a winless weekend against McGill and Concordia — both teams are nationally ranked — Queen’s convincingly beat the RMC Paladins 5-2 on Wednesday night. The win was their eighth in their last eleven, propelling them to a tie for fourth place in the OUA East with Carleton.

“I think the guys responded real well and put a great effort together,” head coach Brett Gibson said following the game.

Wednesday’s win was a rare weekday game for the Gaels, who will have played five games in eight days by the end of this weekend. Despite having such tight turnaround between contests, Gibson noted it was good for raising team morale after two demoralizing back-to-back losses in Montreal.

“The problem with our schedule sometimes is you can have a bad weekend and a full week to practice. That’s a lot of time,” Gibson said. The Wednesday win prevented them from dwelling on a poor performance last week, bringing a positive vibe back to the locker room. “They responded and we can get back to feeling good about ourselves.”

The Gaels, Gibson added, are looking to preserve this feeling as they hit the home stretch to close out their season. Queen’s hopes to take advantage of a relatively light schedule in the coming weeks — a luxury that’s lacked for much of the year. Six of the team’s last seven games are scheduled against opponents below them in the standings.

“If you had told me our record at the start of the year I thought we’d be right up there, but all the teams are winning,” Gibson said. Now in his 13th year as Queen’s head coach, Gibson knows a strong end to the season is needed for the Gaels to secure a playoff spot.  

“We’re on a good little run here so we’ve just got to keep on winning,” Gibson said.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle the Gaels have had to clear this season has been the sheer number of injuries to the roster. Currently, the Gaels’ injured reserve includes Nathan Bilitier, Damian Bourne, Alex Row, Eric Margo and Nevin Guy. With a small chance of their return before the end of the season, Gibson has been impressed with his team’s response to the battered roster.

“It’s one of those times where guys are really stepping up,” Gibson said, highlighting the depth of the Gaels’ roster. “That’s the credit to these guys coming in — there hasn’t been much drop-off.”

With opportunity for improvement going into the final stretch of the regular season, Gibson has full confidence his team can make a deep run in the OUA playoffs.

“Do I love our record? No,” Gibson said bluntly. “But I like our team.”

Queen’s will hope to relish on their home ice advantage this weekend, where they welcome Nipissing and Laurentian to the Memorial Centre on Friday and Saturday night. 


Men's hockey

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