Like last year’s ice, the Gaels’ 2022-23 season has melted away as their new season is brought to life under the bright arena lights.
With a successful pre-season run of five wins against Dalhousie University, Acadia University, Nipissing University, the University of Waterloo, and Royal Military College (RMC), the regular season is looking just as promising as the Men’s Hockey team holds a record of 4-0 thus far.
Starting the season on Oct. 5, the Gaels defeated the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks 7-1. They took on the York Lions on Oct. 6 where they won 8-3. On Oct. 13 and 14, they played the uOttawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens, beating both teams 5-3 and 4-2, respectively.
Last season, the Gaels finished with a 12-14 record, and sat at a record of 0-2 by this point in the season. This type of play didn’t match their 2021-22 statistics, where Queen’s saw 17 wins and only three losses.
Head Coach Brett Gibson said last season’s disappointment was good for the team, and they needed some time to lose to regain their hard-working mentality.
“When we work, we’re really tough to beat. When we don’t work, we’re just another good team. We want to be a great team,” Gibson said in an interview with The Journal.
Now, it’s time to get back to their competitive status, something Gibson believes will be found in the depth of their roster.
Gibson shared the importance of having a lineup that can play the tough games and step up when needed. With a stellar recruiting class, the team’s depth is a major contributor to the their success, according to Gibson.
“There’s no farm teams, injuries occur, school gets in the way, and you’ve got to have the depth of when someone goes down, it’s a next man up mentality and they fill in,” he said.
With several rookies on this year’s roster, the team has spent time bonding and forming relationships outside of the game. Gibson believes this to be beneficial since it’s a team’s chemistry that drives them towards success.
“I have to know these 27 guys individually before I can push them as a coach and having the time on an 18-hour bus ride to the Maritimes or going to a ball game and seeing them away from the rink build[s] that trust as a coach and a player,” he said.
“The relationships we’ve created as a team are allowing us to be a close-knit group and something that’s been lacking since COVID,” he said. “[During the] COVID years, you come to the rink [and] that was the only time we saw each other. Now, you really get to know your players and it’s been great.”
Despite opening the season eighth in the U SPORTS national rankings, the team isn’t relaxing as they near the top early on.
“Accountability has to be high, and that’s everywhere. That’s in the classroom, that’s in the gym, and then when they come to the rink,” Gibson said. “We don’t have time to pat ourselves on the back because there’s too many good teams in the league.”
Despite this, Gibson says the team likes being seen as a championship contender. Having the target on their back leads to an extra level competitiveness brought on by their opponents.
“Everyone looks at where people are in the standings and where they are in the national rankings. When you are at the top, you’re going to get the best from opponents, which I love,” Gibson said. “We have a responsibility when we are now nationally ranked, and we now are at the top of the standings, to give them our best.”
Moving forward, Gibson noted the team needs to work on their consistency throughout the game, with an emphasis on their game starts.
“We’ve shown we could come back against any opponent, but our starts haven’t been great. I’m preaching a little bit this week in practice,” he said. “When you get to the rink, that’s when practice starts and that’s when your mindset has to start.”
The Gaels will play two away games on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 against the Brock Badgers and Guelph Gryphons, respectively. Against Brock the Gaels have a 5-1 record since 2012, and they have a 4-5 record against Guelph. Last season, the Gaels won in their game against Brock and lost against the Gryphons.
Taking the season one game at a time, Gibson said the game against Brock will be a test for his team.
“It’s going to be our best test to date in terms of a team that’s very well coached, [they’re] a team that has been at nationals,” he said. “They understand the importance of winning the tough games and I’m sure we’re going to get the best out of them.”
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