Regulation warriors

Hot start spurs long-awaited return to the country’s top 10

The Gaels topped the Windsor Lancers twice in two days last weekend, winning 3-0 and 4-1 at the Memorial Centre.
The Gaels topped the Windsor Lancers twice in two days last weekend, winning 3-0 and 4-1 at the Memorial Centre.
Photo: 
Photo: 

It’s been an eventful and historic fall for men’s hockey.

At about the halfway point of the year, the Gaels (8-0-5) sit first in the OUA with 21 points. As of Tuesday, they’re ranked eighth in the country — their first time cracking the CIS Top 10 since 1982-83.

Impressively, they’ve kept up a streak of not losing a single game in regulation. The Gaels didn’t lose any of their five preseason games, either, stretching this streak to 18 games.

They took over first place this weekend with a pair of victories over the Windsor Lancers. Goaltender Kevin Bailie shut out the Lancers 3-0 on Friday night and came back strong on Saturday with a 4-1 victory.

“Every win’s been different,” said Gaels head coach Brett Gibson. “There’s not many teams that can say they’ve gone the full first half without a [regulation] loss. That’s the challenge I put out to my guys.”

Bailie has been one of the Gaels’ brightest stars this year, sitting first in the OUA with a .942 save percentage and a 6-0-4 record.

Fellow netminder Chris Clarke has posted a 2-0-1 mark in limited action.

“Kevin has kept us in a lot of hockey games,” Gibson said. “I’m going with my gut, but there’s no drop-off if I play [Clarke].”

Forward Kelly Jackson leads the team in scoring with seven goals and 11 points, while defencemen Patrick McEachen and Chris Van Laren both have eight points to lead the Gaels’ back line.

Last weekend, Windsor came into the Memorial Centre ranked seventh in the nation, but struggled to manage much of an offensive output against the Gaels.

“They’re a well-coached team,” Gibson said. “But I was just talking to their coach and he said that our guys were basically able to shut them down.

“I don’t like to say that they’re upset wins,” Gibson added, as Windsor entered the weekend with a 9-2-0 record. “Our coaching staff made a mandate this week that we were going to have our kids as prepared as possible, and I think we did that.”

Jordan Coccimiglio scored the winner on Friday with his first of the season, and McEachen and Jackson added goals to increase the team’s lead.

Meanwhile, Taylor Clements scored the winner on Saturday and added an assist on Braeden Corbeth’s goal to lead the way for the Gaels. Jordan Soquila and Patrick McGillis also added tallies for Queen’s.

“We want to have a winning team with a winning attitude,” Clements said. “The morale’s really high … everything’s clicking in the room, we all get along well off the ice and things are clicking on the ice.”

Clements added that the Gaels’ consistency has been key to their success.

“We’re going to keep building our confidence,” he said. “Everyone’s referring to us as the underdogs and I don’t feel like we’re the underdogs anymore. We’re making a statement.”

Up next for the Gaels is another weekend home series with games against the Laurentian Voyageurs and Ottawa Gee-Gees. Queen’s will look to avenge a 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa and repeat their success against Laurentian, as they defeated them 6-3 earlier in the season.

The Gaels will travel south of the border on Sunday night to Potsdam, N.Y. as they take on the NCAA’s Clarkson Golden Knights in an exhibition matchup.

Clements kept the game plan simple in the approach for the upcoming weekend.

“We’re just going to go in with our winning attitude — nothing more to say,” he said.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.