Time of the season

After their best year in decades, Queen’s real test comes now

The Gaels triumphed over the UQTR Patriotes 4-2 on Saturday, with forward Patrick McGillis tallying two goals in the game.
The Gaels triumphed over the UQTR Patriotes 4-2 on Saturday, with forward Patrick McGillis tallying two goals in the game.

Men’s hockey is looking to turn their fortunes around from a history of post-season heartbreak.

The Gaels are looking to win their first playoff series in recent memory, as a string of first-round exits has been the tale of the tape for Queen’s hockey in recent seasons.

They’ve been swept out of their last three series and haven’t won a post-season game since 2010 — but the team will have home-ice advantage when playoffs start on Feb. 19.

Their regular season finishes off this Saturday in Trois-Rivières, Québec, as the Gaels take on the nationally seventh-ranked UQTR Patriotes. Queen’s is fresh off beating the same squad — who was previously slotted fifth in the country — 4-2 at home last Saturday.

Earlier this week, the Journal sat down with top Gaels scorer and fifth-year forward Joey Derochie, team goals leader and second-year forward Patrick McGillis and captain and third-year forward Corey Bureau to talk about how they foresee the upcoming playoff run.

How have things changed from last year to this year to make you more successful and geared up heading into the playoffs?

McGillis: I think we have an opportunity to go a bit deeper in the playoffs, especially with two teams from Ontario getting a shot at the national championship this year. It’s a big opportunity for the program and everybody on the team wants to head in that direction.

Derochie: I think we’re a lot more confident this year, especially having the home-ice advantage in the playoffs now. After beating UQTR, it’s given us an extra boost too. If we can knock them off again, I think it’ll give us the added advantage coming into the playoffs.

Bureau: Compared to last year, it feels like every game compared to last year we’re going to win, whereas last year we had a bit of doubt with some of the top teams, like Carleton in the playoffs last year. This year, we know we can win every game we go into.

Your team has been successful all year despite not really having a clear-cut offensive leader. How have you been able to keep up the level of play you have so far?

McGillis: Even though we don’t have a lot of standout players, I think [we go] four lines deep.

We’re good defensively and we don’t need to go score five or six goals a game if we’re only going to give up one or two.

Derochie: We have no standout players really — we all just work hard. We don’t really lean on any one line. It’s nice to know that everyone’s there every game.

Building on that last point, how do you guys look to play a solid defensive game every night?

Derochie: There’s always things you can improve on. We’d like to limit our turnovers and try and decrease our shots against.

We don’t want to rely too much on our goaltending, it’s always nice to pot some offence so we don’t have to worry about letting in an extra goal or two.

Bureau: You’re not going to have any blowout games in the playoffs. The biggest thing is being able to play with a lead, which starts with getting the lead. For us, we’ve been in the situation a lot of times on both ends. We’ve learned from it all year and we’ll be able to finish off the close games.

Even though the future looks bright for the team, how important is it to have a strong playoff run now?

McGillis: Not many people get the opportunity to play on a team that’s had a season like ours, so especially for the older guys that are moving on, it’s a little fire to help the guys have a last good season and end it the right way for them.

Some of these guys will never play hockey again, so you want to send them off on the right foot.

Derochie: This being my final season in hockey, I think this year’s been a lot of fun, and there’s no reason why we can’t go far in the playoffs. There’d be no better way to end a hockey career than to make a run for the national championship.

Bureau: I’ve still got more time, but playing for some of the older guys that are done, you just want to play as hard as you can because you know they’re not going to get the chance again.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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