Good start to long climb

The men’s hockey team will push for a playoff spot amid tough competition in the OUA

The men’s hockey team continue to battle for a playoff spot in OUA against teams like Carleton, Nipissing, Ottawa and Concordia.
The men’s hockey team continue to battle for a playoff spot in OUA against teams like Carleton, Nipissing, Ottawa and Concordia.
Journal File Photo

The men’s hockey team started off the New Year with two much needed wins. The Gaels triumphed 6-1 last Thursday over their Kingston rival, the RMC Paladins.

The next evening they hosted the Toronto Varsity Blues, winning a tight 4-3 match in a shootout. The weekend ended with a tough 3-1 road loss to the Université du Québec a Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes on Sunday.

The win over the Paladins showcased a balanced attack and strong goaltending. The Gaels opened up the scoring on the power play 12:47 into the first period as defenceman Stephane Chabot tallied his first goal of the season. Forwards Scott Kenway and Joey Derochie each potted even-strength goals in the first to close the period up 3-0. The Gaels didn’t let up in the second as they found the back of the net early in the period but RMC would follow up with a goal of their own on a man-advantage.

That would be all they would get, as frustration sank in with RMC facing a 4-1 deficit. RMC committed six penalties in the third and the Gaels made them pay, scoring twice to finish the game.

Forward Payton Liske said RMC’s penalty woes were a natural result of the score.

“Any time a team goes down four or five goals things start to get chippy,” he said.

Eleven Gaels recorded points and five players had a multi-point night. The power play clicked, going four for eight to help carry the Gaels to the win.

The matchup against Toronto would prove to be a much tighter contest. The Gaels were down 1-0 in the first but responded early in the second with a goal. However Toronto bounded back taking a 3-1 advantage by the halfway mark of the second period. Undaunted, the Gaels fought back with a power play goal by forward Alexi Pianosi at the end of the second and tied the game early in the third with a goal by forward Kelly Jackson.

In such a tightly matched 3-3 game it was only fitting that the decision would end up going to a shootout. Goaltender David Aime closed a second strong game by stopping all three shooters while forward Payton Liske scored the only shootout goal for the Gaels to give them the 4-3 win. The Sunday matchup against the UQTR Patriotes lacked the lustre of the earlier games. UQTR blitzed the Gaels in the first to take a 3-0 lead and simply held on to take the 3-1 win. Head coach Brett Gibson said that travel and a lack of rest could have factored into the result.

“I don’t take a moral victory that’s for sure, but it was a bad situation,” he said. “The team had to wake up at seven, it was close to a six hour [drive], and [then] play [one of] the top teams in the country but we hung in there.”

One of the brightest spots of the weekend was the strong play of both Queen’s goalies. OUA rookie goaltender David Aime stopped 22 of the 23 shots and 33 of 36 shots against RMC and Toronto respectively. Although Aime has struggled at times this season, he holds a 4.58 goals against average, he was red-hot this weekend. Although Steele De Fazio didn’t take home the win he also made some noise by stopping 32 of 35 against UQTR.

Gibson spoke well of both of his net minders.

“Those three games, best goaltending we’ve had all year,” he said. “It’s been a sour point for our team. Our team knows it and our goalies know it. Even in Steele’s effort [against UQTR] I saw a much better game. That’s what I expected at the start of the season.”

The six game losing streak at the end of 2010 puts the Gaels in a difficult hole in the OUA East. Their 7-9-2 record puts them in seventh place with 16 points. Ahead of them lie McGill, UQTR, Carleton, Nipissing, Ottawa and Concordia. Although McGill has pulled away from the pack with an 18-0-2 record, the rest of the field remains in reach with second place UQTR with 26 points. Nevertheless the Gaels will need a very strong second half to do any damage in the standings.

“We dug ourselves a hole and we need to get back on the playoff race. We need to stay committed to our systems and commit to our goaltending,” said Gibson.

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