Head start for headstrong squad

Bailie, Gibson nab hardware; new recruits unveiled

Goaltender Kevin Bailie was a staple on this winter’s award circuit, racking up OUA MVP and CIS rookie of the year honours in his first university campaign.
Goaltender Kevin Bailie was a staple on this winter’s award circuit, racking up OUA MVP and CIS rookie of the year honours in his first university campaign.

October may seem like a long way away, but for one Gaels team, it can’t come any sooner.

Men’s hockey is poised to build off one of the most successful seasons in the history of the program. The last few weeks have seen the Gaels make serious strides towards becoming an Ontario and national title contender, through its national recognition and the introduction of new recruits.

Goaltender Kevin Bailie took home CIS top rookie honours, while Brett Gibson was named national Coach of the Year. The pair of awards added to an OUA East coaching award — Gibson’s second in nine years — and the OUA East MVP and Rookie prizes that Bailie earned earlier this month.

Additionally, the Gaels introduced their first recruits of the 2014-15 season last week. They’re looking to add pieces to their puzzle in the quest to bring a championship to Kingston, following a season where the team tied a franchise record in victories with 17.

After experiencing some individual and team success, Bailie said he’s ready to face the challenge of heightened expectations next year.

“We’re hard on ourselves to do well,” Bailie said. “We set a new bar for this program with this season.”

The Gaels were the country’s second-best defensive team in 2013-14, giving up just three more goals than the eventual national champion, the Alberta Golden Bears.

While the Gaels’ defensive corps was solid, much of the credit for the low goal totals has to go to Bailie and his goaltending partner, Chris Clarke. The tandem highlighted a 10-player recruiting class brought in by Gibson and the coaching staff last season.

The Gaels’ season ended in unfortunate fashion with a three-game loss to the Carleton Ravens in the OUA East semi-finals, including a 2-0 shutout defeat in game 3.

A lack of scoring hurt the Gaels’ chances of succeeding. They finished 15th out of 20 Ontario teams in regular-season scoring, and it was the key focus of Gibson’s recruiting process this offseason.

“It’s no secret we need more goal scoring,” Gibson said, “and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at the stats of some of the recruits to tell that they can score.”

Darcy Greenaway of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs leads the Gaels’ new recruiting class. He scored 35 goals and 62 points in 67 games for the Frontenacs this season, while new recruit Eric Ming netted 32 goals for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs in his final junior year.

“When you look at the teams that have success in [the OUA], they obviously have a strong team but they usually also have a few guys who score a lot,” Gibson said. “Would having a guy like Greenaway or Ming have made the difference in some of the one-goal games we played? Who knows, but it never hurts to have a guy who can score.”

In addition to his national award, Gibson was able to watch four games at the national championships in Saskatchewan, as the awards ceremony coincided with the tournament.

Gibson said the weekend featured an overall winning culture he’s looking to create at Queen’s.

“The best programs, like Alberta or McGill, never really seem to go through a rebuilding stage,” he said. “Their consistency is remarkable. They make changes and tinker with their roster, but they never seem to have an off year where they’re not competitive.

“We’ve had one good year here, and there’s no reason next year can’t be better than this one,” Gibson added.

“We’re not a team anymore that will be fighting just to get into the playoffs. We want to be competing for home ice advantage heading into the playoffs every year.”

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