Can’t find the way in North Bay

Road trip yields one point as Gaels take the Lakers to overtime on Saturday

The women’s hockey team defeated the UOIT Ridgebacks 4-1 on Friday. Read more about the game this Friday.
The women’s hockey team defeated the UOIT Ridgebacks 4-1 on Friday. Read more about the game this Friday.
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The men’s hockey team drove six and a half hours north this past weekend to take on the second place Nipissing Lakers. For Queen’s, riding a three game winning streak coming in to the game, the weekend’s objective was to build on success by adding points to the playoff push. However, the Lakers didn’t serve their guests the points that they needed, instead they sent the Gaels packing with two straight losses. Nipissing took both games Friday and Saturday winning 5-2 and then 3-2 in overtime.

The Friday game may have been a display of the effects of a long road trip. The Gaels lasted through a scoreless first period outshooting the Lakers 12-9, but in the second period Nipissing broke open the scoring just two minutes in.

Defenceman Patrick McEachen scored a response goal for the Gaels on the power play but it would be the closest the Gaels would get. The Lakers roared back into the lead, sitting comfortably with a 5-1 lead after two goals in the second and third. The final score was 5-2 after Queen’s scored a goal late in the third. Gaels captain Jonathon Lawrance said the team lacked effort.

“We just didn’t play with any kind of energy,” he said. “They’re a team that’s tough to play at home. We came out flat and they put a couple goals together in the second period and we lay down and that was it.”

The Gaels mounted a much more aggressive attack the following day but were only able to come out with a consolation prize of one point. Following the tough 5-2 loss, the Gaels knew they needed to bring a much stronger effort in order to secure a win. Queen’s forward Brandon Perry opened the scoring with a goal in the first but the Lakers would once again respond, potting two unanswered goals, one in the second and the other early in the third.

Faced with the much more manageable 2-1 deficit the Gaels answered back when Lawrance scored his seventh goal of the season, unassisted in the last four minutes of the game. The goal forced overtime, but the Lakers ramped up their game just enough to score on a Queen’s penalty and take a tough win from the hands of the Gaels.

The Queen’s offence struggled to succeed on the power play, finishing 1-for-14 over the weekend as they simply couldn’t overcome the Nipissing penalty kill.

“They did a good job of pressuring us,” Lawrance said. “We had trouble getting setup in the zone. They [also] had two good goalies that made saves for them. We had the chances but we just couldn’t capitalize.”

The team was also notably outshot in both affairs with the shot totals going 39-27 and 38-29 both in favour of Nipissing. Gaels forward Jordan Mirwaldt said the offensive pressure was to be expected.

“They’re a run and gun team,” he said. “They’re really offensive. They have a lot of weapons and they move the puck well.”

The barrage of shots put the Gaels goaltenders to the test. David Aime and Steele De Fazio weathered the storm by stopping a combined 69 of 77 shots. While De Fazio did give up five goals in Friday’s effort, head coach Brett Gibson felt that he was largely responsible for keeping the margin of loss tolerable.

“If it wasn’t for Steele [De Fazio] it could have been much worse,” he said.

Injuries were once again a factor for the Gaels this weekend. The glaring hole in the lineup was the absence of forward Payton Liske. Liske was forced to sit out once again because of a nagging ankle injury that bothered him in the first half of the season. After the break he appeared recovered particularly after a six point stretch in two games against Toronto and RMC. His 1.07 points per game average is the highest on the team.

The Gaels are beset by several other injuries as well. Along with Liske, the team has six players—David Chubb, David Fitzpatrick, Robert Stellick, Brandon Perry and Brock Ouellet—who have been struggling with injuries this season. Gibson said that if the team could just get healthy for the postseason the Gaels would have a big advantage. “If we ever get a full lineup we are going to be a really dangerous team,” he said. “I haven’t had a full lineup all season. Teams wouldn’t know how to scout us.” Despite two losses, Gibson said he doesn’t see the past weekend as a speed bump in any sense.

“[We are] 5-3-1 in the last ten, one bad game doesn’t make a streak,” he said. “Going six hours to play the second place team up north and getting one point is not hitting a wall by any means. Four games left in the Kingston, we can end up over .500, and with all of the injuries we’ve had it would be a great season. We’d be on a high note going into the playoffs.”

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