Cracks in the Steele wall

Despite defensive breakdowns, Gaels escapes the weekend with a win

Goaltending has remained inconsistent at the beginning of the season as the Gaels look for their starting netminder.
Goaltending has remained inconsistent at the beginning of the season as the Gaels look for their starting netminder.
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Ten games into the season, the men’s hockey team has yet to find a regulation victory or a consistent starting goalie. Despite these weaknesses, the team managed to split their weekend games. The Gaels beat the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees on Friday night 5-4 in a shootout at home. The next day they lost 7-5 to the Concordia Stingers in Montreal.

The Gaels continue to be undecided between the goal posts, with both David Aime and Steele De Fazio posting save percentages around .800.

“I flip a coin [to choose my goalie] right now, neither one of them has stepped up,” head coach Brett Gibson said.

The Ottawa game provided fierce competition and a nail-biting finish. Both teams entered the game with identical 4-3-1 records, foreshadowing the parity they would find throughout the game. The Gaels blew a big lead in their last game against the Gee-Gees this season but were able to take a 7-6 shootout win.

There would be no big leads in this one as Ottawa struck 10 minutes into the first on a power play. The Gaels couldn’t find their flow in the first despite three power play opportunities. The intermission allowed them to refocus and they came out after the break to score three unanswered goals taking a 3-1 lead. Forwards Joey Derochie, Brock Ouellet and Scott Kenway tallied for the Gaels.

Just when they had taken control of the game, Ottawa came up with three of their own to chase starting goaltender Steele De Fazio out of the game. With backup David Aime in net, the Gaels mounted a desperate assault on the Ottawa net in an effort to get back from the 4-3 deficit. Aime allowed no goals on 13 shots and Jordan Soquila scored with 2:08 remaining to force overtime.

With only four shots in a deadlocked overtime, the game went to a shootout. With the shootout tied at one, neither team could score until Ouellet beat the Concordia netminder with a nice deke in the eighth round.

The victory was the Gaels’ fifth win in either a shootout or overtime. Derochie said that the team’s strength in extra time is a matter of mentality.

“We know what to expect,” he said. “We just give it our all and go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ve already got one point, you might as well get two.”

The trip to Montreal demonstrated some of the Gaels’ most prominent woes. Kenway and forward Jonathon Lawrance opened the scoring to give the Gaels a 2-0 lead after the first but the team simply couldn’t hold on to the advantage as Concordia scored two of their own at the start of the second.

Although the Gaels answered back with goals from Derochie and Ouellet, a relentless Concordia offence rattled off three unanswered goals to claim a 5-4 lead. The Stingers would score two more to end the game 7-5.

Head coach Brett Gibson said he was not pleased with the 7-5 loss that Concordia secured with an empty-netter.

“It [was] a frustrating loss,” he said. “We had an opportunity to win multiple times. The effort was there but our mental mistakes are costing us points. We’re finding ways not to win in regulation.”

Aime was given the nod against Concordia after his shootout heroics the night before but failed to capitalize on his opportunity to challenge for the starting role. He gave up six goals in 34 shots for a .824 save percentage. De Fazio wasn’t much better before he was pulled on Friday as he posted a .846 save percentage and gave up three goals in a four minute span.

Injuries continue to challenge the team as well. One of last year’s lead scorers, forward Jordan Mirwaldt, left in the second period of the Ottawa game and will be out with an undisclosed in jury for about two weeks. The team has also missed the play of forwards Payton Liske and David Chubb. Last season Liske was tied with Mirwaldt for the team’s point leader with 40 points in 28 games. Chubb posted 17 points in 27 games. Liske is expected to return in a week while Chubb will be out until Christmas.

In their absence the team has needed find goals elsewhere. Gibson gives a lot of credit to his veteran line of Lawrance, Kenway and Ouellet.

“They’ve been phenomenal all season,” he said. “With the recruiting classes I’ve had the past two years I figured that they’d be my third line but they’ve been my best line all season. They get it. They work hard and are being rewarded.”

The Gaels will play the Universite de Quebec Trois Rivieres Patriotes on Friday at the Kingston Memorial Centre. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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