Heading into the weekend, Queen’s hockey was looking to rebound after their nail-biting 2-1 loss to the U of T Varsity Blues on Jan. 14. Friday night’s affair was a rematch, and the Gaels knew better what Toronto’s strengths and weaknesses were. They hoped not only to come out with a victory, but also to move ahead of RMC in the standings and into first place in their division.
Early in the first, the Blues took a penalty, and Queen’s had a window of opportunity to take the lead with a two-minute powerplay. The Gaels capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead thanks to Michael De Lisio’s powerplay marker at 2:50, assisted by Jeff Bigelow and Brian Moore. Holding onto the 1-0 lead, the Gaels took a few penalties and showed their undisciplined side, but their penalty kill prevailed and Queen’s walked into the dressing room still leading 1-0.
The second period was a similar story, with Queen’s again firing on all cylinders. Alex Archibald scored his first of the season at 6:47, assisted by Cliff Starke and Wilder Weir. With seven penalties, four by Toronto and three by Queen’s, both teams had numerous chances to score more goals. Nevertheless, both penalty kill units played hard and refused to allow any powerplay goals. Unfortunately for Queen’s, Toronto’s top line notched two goals to tie the game up at two apiece going into the third period.
In the third, the Gaels suffered a defensive meltdown, allowing three goals and letting the game slip away. The game ended with a 5-2 Queen’s loss.
Defenceman Weir said he was disappointed with the loss.
“It was a tough loss for us, since we knew it was a must-win game if we wanted to move ahead in the standings,” Weir said.
“This game also meant something to us since it was Alumni Night after the game, and also because Toronto has a history of knocking us out of the playoffs, so we have a little added incentive to come here and win against the Blues,” he said.
However, Weir was quick to point out that Queen’s was at a severe disadvantage because of an injury bug, with players Clinton McCullough, Brad Walford, Jeff Ovens and Craig Johnson forced to sit the game out.
Forward Jamie Brock said he was happy with the team’s first-half effort and felt it just slipped away in the third.
“[The] early powerplay goal helped jumpstart us, but I think we pretty much lost it in the third,” Brock said.
Brock added that in the game against the Blues, Queen’s was a “little flat, and didn’t show intensity for all 60 minutes,” which is something he said he feels the team needs to work on.
The weekend’s second match featured the winless Ryerson Rams, and the Gaels knew they needed to earn points to keep pace in the division.
The first period featured a rash of penalties by both teams, as the Gaels and Rams racked up a total of seven for the period. Despite the numerous powerplay chances, neither team was able to capitalize on the man advantages. However, the Rams finally broke out with an even-strength goal at 11:16 to give them the 1-0 lead going into the second period.
In the second period, the Ryerson fans saw an offensive explosion by the Gaels, with Queen’s tallying three goals in the first six minutes of the period, starting with Brady Olsen’s marker at 54 seconds, and followed by Moore’s and Kyle Cassidy’s notches at 1:12 and 5:32 respectively. Ryerson returned the favour with a goal at 7:09. What really hurt the Gaels, however, was Ryerson’s goal with three seconds left in the second to cut Queen’s lead to 4-3. This goal gave the Rams some added momentum going into the third.
The third period was evenly played, with no penalties by either side. However, Ryerson was able to score midway through the third to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Queen’s desperately needed two points to remain ahead of Toronto and try to catch RMC. The Gaels therefore decided to pull their goalie Matt Kenney and hoped the man advantage would bring them the victory. Unfortunately, Queen’s bad luck continued into Saturday night, and they lost on an empty-netter at 3:43 to drop to 6-13-1-1 after the 5-4 loss.
Even though the Rams entered the game winless, Weir said Queen’s by no means expected an easy game.
“You can never underestimate a team, and it was just unfortunate that we let up a fluky goal at the end because of our pulled goalie to lose the game,” he said.
Brock said he was devastated by the loss, since it was a game they needed to win to catch RMC in the standings.
He added that it was the Rams’ second goal in the second period that was probably the turning point of the game.
Even though both players were clearly upset at the outcome of the weekend, they said they were still optimistic about the rest of the season. They said the team planned to improve on their weaknesses and be better prepared for the upcoming games against McGill and Ottawa.
“Going into Montreal, they usually have sellout crowds, so our best strategy is to stay with McGill throughout the game so that we can take the crowd out of it,” Brock said.
Weir said he was also looking forward to this weekend’s affairs up north.
“[We have] four days to work hard, and if we can work on putting the puck in the back of the net, we should be fine with our already solid defence,” he said.
The Gaels face off against McGill on Friday night, followed by a game against Ottawa on Saturday.
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