Seventeen seconds was all it took for men’s hockey’s season to take a drastic change.
Queen’s held a 1-0 lead over the McGill Redmen with just over seven minutes left in the second game of their OUA East semi-final last Saturday, but allowed the Redmen to come back.
McGill defenceman Samuel Labrecque scored a pair of power play goals just 17 seconds apart to give the Redmen a 2-1 lead. They later added an empty-netter to win the game 3-1 and sweep the series.
Labrecque’s first power play marker came after Gaels defenceman Warren Steele was called for cross-checking. After McGill tied the game up, Gaels head coach Gibson received a bench minor for disagreeing with the initial penalty.
“It’s never a good feeling to lose,” Gibson said. “But our program made some big strides this season.”
The series as a whole was a low-scoring affair, with just seven goals combined over the two games. Queen’s goalie Kevin Bailie finished the post-season with an OUA playoff-best .957 save percentage through five games, including 55 saves in the Gaels’ game two loss.
“I think he’s the best player in the league.” Gibson said. “Even when he has an off day, his good is better than most guy’s best efforts.”
Bailie was ultimately bested by an equally impressive performance in the other net. McGill’s Jacob Gervais-Chouinard gave up just two goals in the series, posting a .944 save percentage through five playoff games.
Forward Andrew Wiebe scored the Gaels’ lone goal in a 2-1 game one loss on Feb. 18, while Patrick McGillis netted for Queen’s in game two.
Gibson said the Gaels didn’t lack competitive fire over the course of the series. Instead, he said McGill’s ability to create chances and capitalize on their opportunities played a major role in his team’s loss.
Queen’s advanced to the divisional semi-finals when Kelly Jackson scored the overtime winner in game three of their first-round series against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Feb. 15. It was just the Gaels’ second series win in the past 10 seasons.
The playoff success came off the heels of a middling regular season. The Gaels finished 13-12-1 and suffered through a stretch of seven losses in eight games from Nov. 29 to Jan. 23.
First-year defenceman Spencer Abraham led Queen’s with 28 points on the year, while fellow rookie Darcy Greenaway racked up a team-high 16 goals.
Four players from this year’s roster won’t return next year. Jackson, captain Corey Bureau and fourth-year forwards Braeden Corbeth and Tyler Moore are all graduating.
Gibson said the majority of his off-season efforts will be focused on recruiting, exit interviews with his players and facilitating workouts.
With fewer spots than usual to fill, Gibson added that the growth of his 17 first- and second-year players will be key moving forward.
“You can’t replace the leadership of the guys we’re losing,” he said. “But we’re confident in the group we have.”
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