Scorers lead the way in North Bay

Men’s hockey clinches season series against Lakers, begin to gear up for divisional matchup with Varsity Blues tonight

Gaels’ centre Clinton McCullough and right winger Mike Bushby try to get the puck off Lakers’ left winger Justin Villeneuve during Saturday’s 6-3 win. With the win, the Gaels moved to within two points of division rivals University of Toronto.
Gaels’ centre Clinton McCullough and right winger Mike Bushby try to get the puck off Lakers’ left winger Justin Villeneuve during Saturday’s 6-3 win. With the win, the Gaels moved to within two points of division rivals University of Toronto.
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Staff Writer The Gaels’ one-two punch of Payton Liske and Jordan Mirwaldt combined for six points in North Bay last Friday to lead the men’s hockey team to a 6-3 win over the Nipissing Lakers on Saturday. The Gaels have won all three games against the Lakers this season with one left to play.

With the win, the Gaels also earned two very valuable points to keep stride in a tight divisional race which took a hit when Queen’s lost 4-1 to the Royal Military College Paladins last Wednesday.

Head coach Brett Gibson said the win was the result of taking chances.

“We had a lot of chances and we bagged [those] chances,” he said. “That was the key of the game. Every opportunity we found the back of the net. I was happy about that.”

Goaltender Steele De Fazio put up another strong performance, stopping 42 of 45 shots and posting a .933 save percentage.

One dangerous trend continued from the Paladins game—racking up penalty minutes. One of the least-penalized teams coming into last weekend, the Gaels managed to rack up a whopping 105 penalty minutes in two games, forced to go on the penalty kill 15 times. Gibson said the penalties reflect an increased intensity as the playoffs approach. He said the team needs to keep its temper down.

“Everyone is vying for playoff spots. These are intense games,” he said. “We need to keep our emotions in check because these games are only going to get more intense. [We] cannot let the refs control the game”

The fierce competition for playoff spots certainly plays a big role in the Gaels’ increased physicality, but the four game misconducts Queen’s players have racked up in the last few games paint a different picture.

Maintaining discipline seems to be the main theme for the coming weeks. Ranked fifth in the OUA East, the Gaels are comfortably in playoff position and sit one win away from the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Every player understands the implications of tonight’s matchup against the Varsity Blues.

“Two points behind, not much motivational speaking needed. The guys know what is at stake. We want the home-ice advantage going into the playoffs.” Gibson said.

Mirwaldt said the magnitude isn’t lost on him.

“We definitely know the implications of the game,” he said. “[We just need to] crack down on discipline.”

Mirwaldt said the players realize the penalty woes they’ve been dealing with and the team’s sloppy defence have been covered up by De Fazio’s goaltending.

“[We need a] commitment to defence,” he said. “We can definitely score goals, [it’s] one of our strengths. Games are going to get a little tighter and won with lower scores. Defence from everyone is going to be crucial.”

The Gaels face off against the Varsity Blues tonight at 7 p.m. in Toronto. The Tricolour will be back in action at home on Saturday when the Gaels host the sixth-place Ryerson Rams at the Memorial Centre. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.

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