When hockey’s oldest rivalry renews this year, one team will be looking to bolster their playoff position. The other is just looking for a win.
The Gaels will face the RMC Paladins in the 29th annual Carr-Harris Cup Challenge on Thursday at the K-Rock Centre. While the challenge game only dates back to 1986, the rivalry extends 100 years further back.
Queen’s (11-12-1) currently sits sixth in the OUA East — four points back of the fourth-place Laurentian Voyageurs (12-9-3) — and must win both their remaining games to have a chance at home-ice advantage in the playoffs. RMC (0-20-3) is last in the nine-team division.
The Gaels were upset in last year’s Carr-Harris contest, losing 2-1 despite outshooting RMC 53-24.
Queen’s head coach Brett Gibson said his team is mostly concerned with what a victory would mean for their playoff hopes.
“Anytime there’s a trophy up for grabs, you want to be in that picture at the end of the game,” Gibson said. “The big picture for our program is we’re looking to move up and get home ice in the first round, and in order to do that, we have to beat RMC on Thursday.”
Even though the Paladins have no shot at making the post-season, Gibson said he isn’t counting on their matchup to be easy.
“We’re not going to take them lightly,” he said. “We’re preparing very strategically on how we’re going to get to the net on RMC, and it should be a great game.”
Queen’s and RMC’s two most recent regular season meetings couldn’t have been more different. After losing last February, the Gaels demolished the Paladins 14-4 on Nov. 8.
“With all due respect to that game, I have really thrown it out the window for our guys.” Gibson said. “Yeah, we scored a lot of goals that game, but it will be a completely different game.”
The Gaels have added firepower since last year’s loss in rookie forwards Darcy Greenaway and Eric Ming. Greenaway’s 15 goals is fifth-best among all OUA players, while Ming has 17 points on the season.
“I think [RMC head coach] Adam [Shell] knows that our lineup can score goals — it’s just a matter of we have to get to the areas where we can score goals,” Gibson said. “It should be two different teams. We’re a different team this year than we were last year.”
The Carr-Harris game is the same as any other in terms of accumulating points in the standings — but the festivities and crowd at the K-Rock Centre take it to a significantly heightened level of fanfare.
Second-year Gaels netminder Kevin Bailie said it’s important his team treats the game normally and doesn’t lose sight of the points up for grabs.
“It’s very special. I got to say it’s an honour. It’s a 130-year tradition — getting to write my name on that is pretty cool,” Bailie said. “Having said that, we have to treat it like another game. We’re in this to win a championship and to do that, we have to position ourselves in the playoffs.”
Getting a chance to seek redemption for last year’s loss, Bailie added, would just be an extra bonus.
“There’s two trophies I can win in this league — you can win the Carr-Harris and you can win the OUA,” he said. “So I think this is the first step on to something bigger.”
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