Heading into his second year with the men’s hockey program, defenceman Spencer Abraham has high hopes for the team.
“I think we’re going to make a solid push to be one of those top three teams [in the OUA East Division],” he said.
Abraham had a stellar first season at Queen’s, winning OUA East defenceman of the year, while also picking up the OUA and CIS rookie of the year awards.
Named an assistant captain before the start of this season, he’s established himself as both a team leader and one of the better players in the league.
“It’s a role reversal; coming in here last year I looked up to the older guys,” Abraham said. “I have to be a role model to younger players, on and off the ice.”
Abraham forms the leadership group with captain Patrick Downe, and assistant captains Darcy Greenaway and Patrick McGillis.
Abraham led the team in scoring with 28 points last season, while Greenaway potted 16 goals to finish fourth in the OUA in that category.
The team looks to build off of a 13-12-1 record last season, with Abraham setting the team’s ambitions at around the 18-20 win mark over the 28-game regular season. To do that, Abraham believes defensive play will be among the most crucial assets.
“In this league, goal scoring’s at a premium,” he said. “You don’t really have those guys who can take over a game. You have to rely on your defence and your goaltending to win games.”
The Gaels have six defencemen returning, while bringing in three new defenders to the team: Cory Genovese, Jake Clements and Steve Trojanovic.
Kevin Bailie returns for his third season as the Gaels’ starting goalie, while newcomer Jacob Brennan will slot into the backup role.
The Gaels went 2-2 in the preseason, which included a pair of road trips to PEI and Connecticut.
“I think we had a good preseason,” head coach Brett Gibson said. “We got see the veterans come back and see where they’ve progressed.”
In particular, Gibson pointed to a trio of second-year forwards who are looking to slot into the lineup more regularly this season.
“Braden Mercier has come back in way better shape,” Gibson said. “He brings a physical element to our fourth line.”
In regards to Geordie Maguire, Gibson said, “He couldn’t find a spot in the lineup last season, but he’s been fantastic in preseason.”
Lastly, Gibson praised Ryan Bloom, who worked his way up the lineup over the second half of last season.
“If you watched him in the playoffs, I knew that was the type of player he could be,” Gibson said. “He’s going to start in the top six for us and play significant minutes this season.”
Gibson’s Gaels last season finished on a four-game winning streak, but faltered in the middle stages with a six-game losing streak that hurt their final standings.
“What I want to see from our team is more consistency,” Gibson said. “When we were good last year we were real good, when we were bad last year we were real bad.”
Gibson often tinkered with his roster last season, and sees his team’s depth as a strength this upcoming year.
“Any coach will tell you, a lineup is like a puzzle,” he said. “That puzzle may be different on every given night based on the team you’re playing. You have consistent pieces and complementary pieces. We have the best of both worlds. We’ll have guys who are in and out of the lineup, but we’re looking to have our consistent pieces too.”
Having won playoff rounds in each of the past two seasons, Gibson believes the days are long gone when teams could look at the Gaels and not see a quality opponent.
“They’re not going to fly under the radar. Everyone knows they’re a pretty good team,” Gibson said.
The puck drops on the Gaels season this Friday with a matchup against RMC, before they host their first game of the year against York a week later. RMC went winless in 26 contests last year, but has started off their season with a 6-5 victory last weekend against the Nipissing Lakers on the road.
The Gaels meet RMC three times this season.
“RMC proved they’re a team that’s improved this year,” Gibson said. “We’re not going to take them lightly.”
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