Junior jolt for Gibson’s Gaels

New netminding tandem hits Memorial

Centre Taylor Clements was second on the Gaels in goals last season, tallying eight.
Centre Taylor Clements was second on the Gaels in goals last season, tallying eight.

Men’s hockey head coach Brett Gibson has reason to believe 2013-14 will be a special season for the Gaels.

Gibson, who’s been coaching at Queen’s since 2005, said he’s noticed changes in the team’s preparations for the upcoming year.

After finishing seventh in the OUA East last year, the club added 10 incoming recruits, many of whom boast extensive junior experience.

“You can see there’s a major difference in attitude [from previous years],” Gibson said.

With longtime backstop Riley Whitlock gone due to eligibility restrictions, Gibson noted that there will be a season-long competition between the team’s two new goaltenders.

Chris Clarke won a Memorial Cup as a backup goaltender with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2013 and is heading into his first season with the Gaels.

The other newcomer is Kevin Bailie, one of three goalies that spent time with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights last season. Bailie appeared in 27 games for the 2012-13 Knights while managing an 18-4-1 record.

Gibson said Bailie would start in the Gaels’ season opener, but he’s unclear of who the number one goalie for the year will be.

“Do I have a set starter for the season? No, it’s still early,” he said. “They’ll be competing all year long.”

In addition to the goaltending changes, the team has added eight other new players, including forward and former Kingston Voyageurs captain Mike Schug.

“There will be five guys sitting out every night,” says Gibson. “It makes guys try that much harder in practice to want to be on the ice.”

The Gaels finished the preseason with a 3-0-2 record, losing their first two games in shootouts before winning three straight.

Gibson was proud of his team’s effort and willingness to compete in exhibition games.

“We’re learning early how to win games in a number of ways and how to play well,” he said.

Despite his confidence in the team, Gibson is wary of being over-optimistic heading into the season.

“We’ve been together for a month — we’re still gelling,” he said. “I don’t want to be a man of predictions. I’ve been in this league too long to do that.”

The Gaels bowed out in the first round of last year’s playoffs, losing two straight games to the Carleton Ravens.

In addition to Carleton, Gibson noted McGill and Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières as two top opponents they’ll face throughout the year.

“Any time you want to make a playoff run in the OUA, you’re going to have to go through those three teams,” he said.

Besides their 28-game regular season schedule, the Gaels are also venturing to the United States for a pair of exhibition matchups against Division I NCAA squads.

They defeated the Rochester Institute of Technology on Oct. 5 and will head to Potsdam, NY to play the Clarkson Golden Knights on Dec. 1.

“You look at the sort of commitment and dedication that those schools put into their hockey program and you can’t help but learn from that,” Gibson said.

The Gaels open their season this Saturday on the road against the Waterloo Warriors, before hosting the York Lions on Friday, Oct. 18 for their home opener.

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