Injury-ridden Gaels march to playoffs

Hits were a common theme of the night as the Gaels and Paladins combined for 80 penalty minutes at the Constatine Arena.
Hits were a common theme of the night as the Gaels and Paladins combined for 80 penalty minutes at the Constatine Arena.
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Forwards Jonathon Lawrance and Scott Kenway celebrate a goal in the Gaels’ 5-2 win over the Paladins.
Forwards Jonathon Lawrance and Scott Kenway celebrate a goal in the Gaels’ 5-2 win over the Paladins.
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The Gaels had plenty to celebrate last weekend as they clinched a playoff position and won their fourth straight Carr-Harris Cup against RMC.

The weekend began with a solid 3-1 win over the Ryerson Rams at home on Friday. The following day the Gaels traveled across the causeway to face the RMC Paladins in their annual historical matchup taking the game 5-2.

After two losses in North Bay on Jan. 28 and 29, the Gaels’ Friday night game against Ryerson returned Queen’s to their winning ways. Forwards Jordan Mirwaldt and Jordan Soquila broke open a scoreless game in the second and gave the Gaels a 2-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. The Rams scored a response goal early in the third period, but Queen’s captain Jonathon Lawrance ended all hopes of a comeback for Ryerson with a goal of his own only two minutes later. The Gaels took the game in regulation 3-1, although a missed penalty shot opportunity by forward Brock Ouellet could have easily made it 4-1.

The win was important, as it guaranteed the Gaels a spot in the playoffs. Forward Jordan Mirwaldt said that keeping positive momentum is crucial at the end of the year.

“You don’t want to get in through the backdoor into the playoffs,” he said. “You want to win in [to the playoffs] and we’re on a little streak here. You want to play your best hockey going into the playoffs. That was a big win for us.”

The next day was just as important for the Gaels as they traveled to face off against their Kingston rival Paladins for the Carr-Harris Cup.

The game celebrates Lorne Carr-Harris, a British soldier born in Kingston who attended RMC, graduating in 1917. Carr-Harris served in the British army and also competed on the British hockey team in the 1924 winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. Although the game is only in its 25th year, the Queen’s-RMC rivalry of 125 years provides plenty of historical motivation.

RMC’s Constantine Arena was packed to the brim with rowdy fans from each school. Both teams raced around the rink with a ferocity not seen in most regular season matchups; their thoughts on much more than just two points. The Gaels struck first as forward Kelly Jackson found the back of the net on the power play 7:04 into the first period. The teams would continue to trade chances for the rest of the period but the game remained 1-0 Queen’s.

As tension mounted in the second period the play turned scrappy. A few misguided penalties by the Gaels gave RMC a sustained man-advantage where they were able to score twice to take the lead. The Paladins outshot the Gaels 13-10 in the second frame, in large part because of eight Gaels penalties. This led to a 2-1 RMC lead going into the third period. Queen’s head coach Brett Gibson said it can be hard to play against RMC.

“You have to stay patient against RMC, they play a frustrating brand of hockey,” he said. “That gives them the credit. I told the guys to dictate the pace of the game and we allowed them to dictate it with no retaliating and stupid penalties.”

The Gaels figured things out in the third to break open the game in their favour. After killing off a two-man advantage, the Gaels gained a man-advantage of their own and Jackson potted another goal midway through the third. Lawrance scored on another power play to take the lead. Finally forwards Kenway and Soquila added insurance goals on breakaways to give the Gaels a 5-2 win. Gibson said the Gaels executed their game plan in the third.

“When we finally decided to play, we dictated the pace and that’s the reason the score was 5-2,” he said.

Jackson was awarded the game MVP award for the two big goals that held the Gaels in the game before their offensive explosion in the tail end of the third.

The big win did not come easily by any means. The Gaels saw their forwards Brock Ouellet and Chris Murphy aggravate existing injuries early on, forcing them to sit out for a majority of the game. These players are only two of a large group of hurt players for the Gaels. The team also played without Joey Derochie this weekend, another entry in the list of about eight players currently unable to compete.

Verbal and physical battles filled the game from its outset. On multiple occasions fists were flying as referees battled to keep the players in check. The teams combined for 80 penalty minutes that clearly influenced the outcome of the game. Jackson said the rivalry fit its billing.

“[The history] definitely lived up to its anticipation,” he said. “It’s tough, we don’t like each other and it gets pretty scrappy out there. That’s the hockey we like to play, we don’t shy away from that.”

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