Men’s hockey can’t hide defensive woes with goals

Gaels’ 12 goals overshadowed in opening weekend by a lack of effort in defensive end

The Gaels couldn’t keep up with the Concordia Stingers in their own end leading to a 8-5 loss.
The Gaels couldn’t keep up with the Concordia Stingers in their own end leading to a 8-5 loss.

Last Saturday against Concordia, with five minutes left in the third period, Gaels forward Brandon Perry stormed onto the bench, took a few steps down the tunnel towards the locker room and then smashed his stick against a wall until carbon fibre splinters littered the ground. Concordia had just scored their seventh goal of the night, bringing a sour conclusion to the opening weekend for men’s hockey.

With the additions of several promising rookies and an undefeated preseason against Canadian opponents, the Gaels entered the season with lofty ambitions but the weekend kept things in perspective.

They played their first game of the season on Friday against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. Queen’s hit the ground running in Ottawa: scoring four first period goals and looking dominant against the hometown team.

In the second period they added two more goals to take a 6-3 lead. Last year’s lead scorers Payton Liske and Jordan Mirwaldt both had multipoint games and newcomer Jordan Soquila potted two goals, making it seem like the cogs were running smoothly until the third. Though Queen’s had been outshooting Ottawa 26-21, Ottawa was able to take a dominant shot differential of 21-3 in the final frame.

The Gaels coughed up the lead and allowed the Gee-Gees to force overtime, with the score 6-6. A stalemate overtime led to a shootout where Joey Derochie and Payton Liske scored to rescue the Gaels from their own blunders.

Lessons from the Ottawa game failed to sink in before their game against Concordia Saturday. The Stingers took a 4-0 lead in the first period and drove rookie David Aime out of the game. The Gaels didn’t give up, but the match became more of a bar brawl than a hockey game; 42 minutes of penalties would be handed out by the end, with blood boiling on both sides of the ice.

Defenceman Alexi Pianosi said he felt the physicality resulted largely from the score.

“Any time the score [gets high] ... one team starts to get frustrated and one team starts to get a little arrogant,” he said. “No one likes to be embarrassed.”

The Gaels scored two goals of their own in the second period but the Stingers answered, leaving the score 6-2 going into the third. Desperation set in as the Gaels pushed it as close as 7-5, until an empty netter by Concordia sealed the game for the away team. The one bright spot for the Gaels was the excellent performance by first-year Kelly Jackson who had two goals and two assists on the night.

Head coach Brett Gibson said he felt strongly about the defensive woes.

“I think some guys might have had their Thanksgiving dinners early,” he said. “We had no legs, no jump and the results speak for themselves. We’ve given up 14 goals in two games, which is totally unacceptable. This is a tough league to play in. If you just show up with talent that’s not going to work. We’ve got the talent this year and now we’ve got to find the work ethic.”

With neither goalie having a weekend to remember, the battle for the starting spot continues. Steele De Fazio gave up six goals in the Ottawa game, two of which were scored in the last minute of regulation. David Aime gave up four goals in 12 shots against Concordia leaving him with a .667 save percentage and 12.00 goals against average after getting yanked for the second period.

“They’ve got to figure it out,” Gibson said. “One of them has to step it up. I can’t tell who my number one goalie is and that’s the frustrating part right now.” With a tough weekend behind them, Jackson provides a valuable mentality for the season going forward.

“Never give up, [the Ottawa game] was a prime example,” he said. “We were up 6-3 going into the third and Ottawa came back against us and it went into overtime. But [we should] never give up, we are averaging six goals a game right now so four goals is nothing for us ... We really need to just rely on who we have out there.”

The men’s hockey team will be in Toronto this Friday facing the Varsity Blues. They will then return home to face the Nipissing Lakers on Saturday. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. at the Kingston Memorial Centre.

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