Head coach Brett Gibson said he doesn’t have a magic wand to help fix the men’s hockey early season struggles.
Coming off a difficult opening to the season against nationally-ranked opponents, the Gaels were unable to get a win over the UOIT Ridgebacks and Carleton Ravens this past weekend. The pair of losses puts Queen’s at a 4-3-3 record and places them fourth in the OUA East.
“They were definitely not the results we wanted,” head coach Brett Gibson said, adding the sub-optimal performances should remind the team “[i]t’s time to get things back on track.”
The loss was the Gaels’ fifth in their last six games this season, three of which were decided by two goals or less.
The Gaels’ penalty kill struggled against UOIT on Friday night, with the Ridgebacks’ first three goals coming off of the powerplay. Down 3-0 at the end of the second period, the Gaels made a final push in the third period.
After Ryan Bloom scored at the 6:28 mark on the powerplay, Slater Doggett put Queen’s one goal away from tying the game with less than seven minutes left. As the clock wound down, the Gaels pulled goaltender Jacob Brennan to bring on the extra attacker. Unable to muster up any offense, the Ridgebacks put the game away with an empty-net goal, ultimately winning by a score of 4-2.
Saturday’s matchup against the Carleton Ravens saw a very similar outcome. With the score sitting at 2-0 after two periods of play, the Gaels fought back to narrow the Ravens’ lead to 2-1 after a goal from second-year defensemen Graeme Brown.
Despite having a seemingly re-energized attack, the Ravens sealed the game late in the third period with two goals in the last two minutes. The final score read 4-1.
The weekend saw some significant absences for the Gaels. On Monday, Gibson returned from a three-week-long coaching stint for the Canadian Under-17 hockey team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in British Colombia.
“It is painful,” Gibson said. “I live and die with this program and to see them struggling when I’m away is hard to go through.”
Gibson noted his distance between the team will allow him to come back with fresh eyes on how to approach the final games of the first half of the season.
“It starts with mentality — our theme this year is karma. We’re going to get what we deserve and we deserve the results we’ve had because we’re not doing the right things both on and off the ice,” Gibson said on the Gaels’ sluggish start to the year.
“For me, I don’t have a magic wand. We have to move forward and try to find ways to get the results we need.”
In addition to the absence of Gibson, the Gaels roster has been reduced by injuries. Goaltender Kevin Bailie, defenceman Nathan Billitier, as well as players Cory Genovese, Nevin Guy and Jaden Lindo have all missed time this season.
“That’s a lot of firepower in our lineup but you should never let injuries be an excuse,” Gibson said.
The weekend marked the closing of a difficult stretch for the Gaels, where they took on top-ranked teams such as McGill, Concordia and UQTR. Despite these matchups, the Gaels didn’t go in with low expectations.
“I knew it was going to be a tough stretch, but we’re supposed to be a top team and to me, we failed that stretch,” Gibson said.
The Gaels will spend the upcoming weekend in Northern Ontario where they will take on Laurentian and Nipissing as they try to get back on track.
“It’s a good thing to get on the road. I get to spend a lot of time with them and we can figure some things out,” Gibson said.
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