On-ice resurgence

Round two defeat ends groundbreaking season

Men’s hockey kept their season alive with a 2-1 win last Friday at the Memorial Centre, but lost 2-0 in a deciding third game at Carleton on Sunday.
Men’s hockey kept their season alive with a 2-1 win last Friday at the Memorial Centre, but lost 2-0 in a deciding third game at Carleton on Sunday.
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It was their best season in decades, but this wasn’t how men’s hockey wanted it to end.

The Gaels were eliminated in the OUA East semi-finals on Sunday night following a 2-0 loss to the Carleton Ravens in a winner-take-all game three.

The playoff series saw the Gaels climb back from a deep hole early on, while their season overall earned Queen’s some long-lost national recognition.

Head coach Brett Gibson took a team that finished seventh in the OUA East last season to one with a fourth-place finish and a brief stint atop the OUA standings, as well as a series of appearances in the CIS Top 10 rankings. 1982-83 was the last season men’s hockey cracked the Top 10.

While Queen’s swept the Ottawa Gee-Gees out of the first round of the playoffs, Carleton easily handled game one of the next series, winning 6-2. The Gaels stormed back with a decisive 2-1 victory in game two.

Goaltender Kevin Bailie had his toughest outing of the season in game one, but performed to his expected level during the next two games, stopping 75 of 77 shots and being named Gaels athlete of the week for the third time in his rookie season.

“Game one’s on me,” Bailie said after game two, noting that strong play from the defence and the goalies were key to the Gaels’ game plan for the third matchup.

“That’s how we’ve had success all year. That’s what playoff hockey is.”

Despite Bailie’s best efforts in game three — he allowed just one goal against the country’s second-highest scoring team — the Gaels were unable to muster any offence of their own, being held scoreless for the first time all season.

Regardless of the end result, Gibson found some positive in both the decisive game and the season as a whole.

“We were one shot away from the OUA East final,” he said. “It shows that Queen’s hockey is back.”

Queen’s enjoyed a 17-game stretch to start the season when they earned at least a point in every game. They ended Carleton’s 16-game win streak in game two of their series and knocked off the UQTR Patriotes in a late-season game when they were ranked fifth in Canada.

The Gaels also tied a school record for most wins in a season and pulled off their first playoff series win in 10 years against Ottawa.

Bailie won the OUA East MVP and Top Goaltender awards, while Gibson was named the division’s coach of the year and defenceman Chris Van Laren made the second All-Star team.

Van Laren was a key component of the Gaels’ playoff run, scoring the go-ahead goal in game two and leading the OUA in goals scored by blueliners through the first two rounds. He tied with forward Joey Derochie for the team lead in regular season scoring with 20 points.

Recruiting was a major part of the Gaels’ success this season. Ten new players were brought in, and many filled key roles.

Statistically, the Gaels were the province’s strongest defensive team and finished second in the country in terms of goals allowed, but Gibson acknowledged that his squad often struggled on the attack.

“We need to score more goals,” he said. “I think the season we had here and the great academics at this school will be a strong pull factor for guys to decide next year.”

Gibson said next year’s scouting process is well underway, as the team will introduce their first set of new players later today. The Gaels are looking to replace the program’s departing veterans: Van Laren, Derochie, Stephane Chabot, Kelly Jackson, Jordan Soquila, Alexi Pianosi and Patrick McEachen.

With Bailie returning, newfound playoff experience and the hunger of defeat still fresh in the Gaels’ minds, 2014-15 could be a season to remember for men’s hockey.

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