Men’s hockey opened their season with a heartbreaking loss on Wednesday. The team traveled to RMC to face the Paladins with head coach Kirk Muller behind the bench in a pin-stripe suit rather than his more familiar pads and skates. The Gaels lost 2-1 to their hometown rivals.
“We wanted to play a good, solid, safe road game, and keep it low scoring,” said Muller. “The guys played well. One little miscue and it was over.”
Queen’s trailed 1-0 on an early RMC goal, but stayed the course and settled in. The two teams played tough, physical hockey—as is usually the case when these cross-town rivals get together—but neither squad could muster much in the way of offence. Gaels goaltender Matt Kenney and RMC backstop Blair Robertson were sharp in turning away numerous chances at both ends.
The Gaels opened the third period still trailing 1-0 and the physical play escalated. After a whistle, winger Jamie Brock took a face-wash and some abuse from RMC’s Luke Pierce without retaliating. Pierce drew a 2-minute penalty and a 10-minute misconduct on the play, sending the Gaels to the powerplay. Despite some good pressure, however, the Gaels were unable to capitalize.
A short time later, Cliff Starke took a penalty in the offensive zone, putting the Gaels a man down, and 18 seconds later assistant captain Jeff Ovens was also penalized, giving RMC a two-man advantage for 1:42. The Paladins had chances, but the Gaels stayed disciplined. Late in the powerplay, Matt Kenney failed to clear a loose puck, but made up for it with an excellent save, stacking the pads in close.
“Kenney was really strong in goal,” Muller said of his starter.
The Gaels finally got on the board in the final five minutes of the game. Second-year defender Alex Archibald broke up an RMC rush with a well-timed hip check along the boards, and then sent a breakaway pass to a streaking Clinton McCullough. The promising rookie—with an RMC defender challenging him from behind—sent the puck over Robertson’s left shoulder to tie the game at 1-1.
With 30 seconds left, however, Luke Pierce redeemed himself for his earlier misconduct when he tipped a point shot past Kenney to give the Paladins a 2-1 win. The Gaels pressed RMC in the dying seconds, and a small skirmish erupted at the buzzer, but there was nothing Queen’s could do as Muller suffered his first loss as an OUA coach.
“I think we’re making strides,” Muller said. “We talked about getting our goals against down, so now we’ve got to get more goals offensively.”
Veteran winger Jamie Brock said he was disappointed with the loss, but thinks the team has promise.
“We’ve got to learn how to win one-goal games,” he said. “We haven’t been in that position a lot. We’re ahead of any place we’ve been at this point in the year in past seasons, though.”
Winger Brian Moore also said he was frustrated with the result against RMC.
“We’ve got to bear down—we had 38 shots and one goal, and that says something,” he said. “We really didn’t take advantage of our chances.”
The Gaels play tonight at 7:30 p.m. at York, and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Brock. Their home opener is on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Jock Harty Arena against the Guelph Gryphons.
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