Goals galore for Gaels in Gananoque

Men’s hockey beats RMC in 4th annual Lou Jeffries Game as Payton Liske picks up scholarship

Queen’s defenceman Brendan Bureau sends Paladins captain Jeffrey Oke to the ice during Saturday’s 8-7 win in Gananoque.
Queen’s defenceman Brendan Bureau sends Paladins captain Jeffrey Oke to the ice during Saturday’s 8-7 win in Gananoque.
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RMC goaltender Brendan Boyle stretches to save Queen’s forward Chris Murphy’s effort.
RMC goaltender Brendan Boyle stretches to save Queen’s forward Chris Murphy’s effort.
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Gaels forward Jordan Mirwaldt gets held up by an RMC forward during Saturday’s game.
Gaels forward Jordan Mirwaldt gets held up by an RMC forward during Saturday’s game.
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Fifteen goals, 44 penalty minutes and a scholarship handed out before the puck drops can only mean Queen’s and Royal Military College competing in the annual Lou Jeffries exhibition game.

The Gaels started Saturday’s game strongly, posting a 5-1 lead by the start of the second period with goals from Chris Murphy, Ben Munroe, Jon Lawrance, Thomas Franzon and T.J. Sutter. Although most of the crowd decided the game was over, the Paladins made a game of it, and the second period ended 6-5 for the Gaels. A whirlwind third saw both teams add two goals to their tallies.

The game lived up the to the standard set by previous meetings, as there was a near-scrap in the first minute and tensions didn’t cool down from there—much to the pleasure of the packed Lou Jeffries Arena in Gananoque.

Even though it was a pre-season game, head coach Brett Gibson said the game’s physicality didn’t surprise him.

“Anytime we play RMC, it doesn’t matter if we’re in a parking lot, we’re going to go to war with them. I know that’s not the best analogy to use, but that’s the way we feel about them.”

For a team that scored an OUA-low 57 goals in 28 games last year, to score eight goals would seem to be a great feat. Gibson was reserved in his praise of the performance, though.

“I didn’t like that game,” he said. “It’s the first game of the season, but I’m trying to get them to build good habits. We’re supposed to be a defense-minded team and to give up seven goals to RMC is unacceptable.”

One factor in the seven goals against the Gaels may be the loss of OUA first-team All-Star goaltender Brady Morrison, but Gibson said that shouldn’t be an issue in the future.

“I think Mackenzie Ball is capable of doing it,” he said. “Obviously he wasn’t good tonight and he’s got to be a lot better. I think he knows it more than anyone in this rink, but I think he’s going to be alright. Obviously we’ve got to be a defence by committee, but he’s got to make a few saves.”

Although his roster features 17 first and second-year players this year, Gibson said the season shouldn’t be cast off as a rebuilding year.

“We’re going to be as good as our young kids mature,” he said. “Our young kids are great and I think they’re going to be great hockey players, but if they can mature quickly I think we’ve got a great team.”

Captain Jon Lawrance said the team’s summer additions will hopefully reduce the strain Queen’s goaltenders typically face.

“Brady’s a tough guy to replace but at the same time we brought in a lot of good young guys on the back-end and I think all-in-all we have a more rounded team this year so hopefully he won’t have to bear as much weight as last year,” he said.

Lou Jeffries is a local legend in Gananoque, a pioneer of the community known for tirelessly volunteering his time to helping children succeed on and off the ice until his death at the age of 75. He was also an integral figure in bringing junior-B hockey to the town in 1971.

The Lou Jeffries scholarship was handed out before the puck drop, awarded to the first-year player who exhibits commitment and leadership in the rink and the classroom. This year it went to forward Payton Liske, who joined the Gaels this summer after a 45-point season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Liske said the award shows the team’s confidence in his ability.

“It’s a great honour,” he said. “I didn’t really know much about [Lou Jeffries] until today and [head coach Brett Gibson] started telling me about all the things he’d done for the Kingston community and especially here [in Gananoque] and it made me proud to get it.”

Switching from the life of a junior hockey player to a full-time student-athlete is never easy, but Liske said having a few weeks between the start of school and hockey allowed him to adjust.

“It’s going to be different having a full course load, that’s for sure,” he said. “Trying to juggle hockey and school will be tough. The first couple of weeks I had to get myself together.”

Lawrance, the 2007 Lou Jeffries award winner, said Liske’s addition could help last season’s goal-scoring drought.

“He obviously brings that dynamic aspect that we’ve been looking for the last few years.”

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