New Year’s checkup

Midway through the winter season, we look in on the Gaels

The Gaels sit tied with the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA East playoff picture. Their 8-3 record places has the pair tied for third.
The Gaels sit tied with the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA East playoff picture. Their 8-3 record places has the pair tied for third.
Greg Faulkner averages an OUA-leading 25.3 points per game and is men’s basketball only consistent offensive threat.
Greg Faulkner averages an OUA-leading 25.3 points per game and is men’s basketball only consistent offensive threat.

Men’s basketball

Starting the season with five straight losses doesn’t bode well for Queen’s post-season aspirations.

It wasn’t until their sixth game of the year that men’s basketball (2-5) earned their first victory — an 86-84 nail-biter over the York Lions (3-4).

It was at that time the group could breathe a collective sigh of relief, as they were able to keep pace with the Lions and the Toronto Varsity Blues (2-6) for the final two playoff spots in the OUA East.

Veteran Greg Faulkner has been a standout on the floor through the opening third of the season. He currently leads the OUA with 25.3 points per game, while averaging a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game.

Besides the stud guard, though, the Gaels have little else in the way of serious offensive threats — no other player averages more than 10 points per game.

This week the Gaels are in action against the Laurentian Voyageurs (2-5) and the Nipissing Lakers (0-7). This is an opportunity for the men to shake off the first half of the season, pad their record and look ahead to two more winnable games against York and Toronto.

Starting with a contest against the Ryerson Rams on Jan. 24 comes a string of six straight games against teams with winning records, including home matchups against the CIS powerhouse Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens.

The Gaels’ final contest against Toronto on Feb. 21 could determine whether they make the playoffs. The new OUA post-season structure guarantees three spots to the East division.

— Brent Moore

Women’s basketball

A year after winning the OUA East and a spot in the CIS Championships, women’s basketball has fallen back to the middle of the pack.

The Gaels (4-3) are third in their division, with two games in hand over the second-place Toronto Varsity Blues (5-4). While a playoff spot is likely, they’ll be hard-pressed to repeat their 2014 success.

Part of the problem has come from injuries. Key contributor Gemma Bullard has yet to hit the court this year due to a concussion, and point guard Liz Boag has missed the team’s last three games.

Third-year guard Emily Hazlett has stepped up in their absence, starting five contests and averaging 10 points a game. Wing Jenny Wright leads the Gaels and sits among the OUA’s top 10 scorers at 14.7 points per game.

A defence that has allowed the third-fewest points per game in the OUA will have to continue its strong play if Bullard and Boag remain out of the lineup. Tonight’s home matchup against the OUA’s newest team, the Nipissing Lakers, should keep the Gaels in position to gain ground on the East-leading Ryerson Rams (6-3).

The OUA’s top four teams will receive byes in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Laurier Golden Hawks and Windsor Lancers will likely take the top two positions, with several teams are battling for the final two byes. A solid push could net one for the Gaels, though a return trip to nationals is doubtful.

— Sean Sutherland

Men’s hockey

The team has seen neither hot nor cold streaks so far, alternating wins and losses en route to a .500 record.

Goaltender Kevin Bailie has been excellent again this season, posting a 2.23 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. The latter matches his number from 2013-14, when he was named provincial MVP and CIS Rookie of the Year.

Highlights of the season so far include a weird back-to-back series against the Lakehead Thunderwolves (6-9-2) in November. Queen’s pelted the Thunderwolves 6-0 one night, before losing 7-6 in overtime the next day.

Defenceman Spencer Abraham leads the squad with 18 points, while Darcy Greenaway and Patrick McGillis have both racked up 17.

Queen’s finished 17-6-5 last season, dropping every game that went to overtime. They beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Carleton Ravens in three games.

While the playoffs are a certainty, it remains to be seen how deep the Gaels will go this year. They currently sit sixth in the OUA East with 17 points, well back of the conference’s top three teams.

The Gaels must buckle down with nine games left before the post-season. They’ll need to beat other middle-of-the-pack teams to distinguish themselves as a potential contender.

— Brent Moore

Women’s hockey

In what has become a constant sight during the winter semester, the Gaels are among the class of the OUA in women’s hockey.

Led by the league’s most explosive offence and a dominant defence, Queen’s (10-2-2) finds themselves in second place in the province and poised to play in the OUA finals for the fourth time in five years.

The Gaels beat the third-place Windsor Lancers (9-2-3) and top-ranked Western Mustangs (12-0-2) in their last games before the break. They also hold wins over the Laurier Golden Hawks and Toronto Varsity Blues.

The Gaels boast an unblemished record at the Memorial Centre this season, outscoring their opposition 33-7 on home ice. While the squad only has four home dates remaining, their offensive power has continued on the road; a 5-4 overtime victory over Laurier on Nov. 22 is one indication.

Winger Taryn Pilon sits second in the OUA in points, and Shawna Griffin, Clare McKellar and Addi Halladay are among the league’s top 20 scorers.

The trio of Alisha Sealey, Mary Coughlin and Danielle Girard highlights a defensive corps that has allowed the second-fewest goals in the province. Netminder Caitlyn Lahonen holds a save percentage of .935 and rookie backup Stephanie Pascal has looked solid in four starts.

Only five points separate the second- and sixth-place teams in Ontario, so the Gaels will need strong play the rest of the way to ensure themselves home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the post-season.

— Sean Sutherland

Men’s volleyball

The Gaels are on track for a successful season coming off of the winter break.

The Gaels hold a 6-4 record at the halfway mark of their campaign, a slight improvement over last year’s mid-season mark of 4-6.

The first big game of the new semester takes place this Sunday against the York Lions (6-4). The squads have identical records and are holding on to the OUA’s final two playoff spots.

Queen’s opened the season at 0-3, including straight-set losses at the hands of the Western Mustangs (5-5) and the Ryerson Rams (8-3).

Their biggest win came against the third-place Guelph Gryphons (7-4) on Nov. 15. The Gaels crushed the first two sets 25-17 and 25-18 before closing out 25-23.

Queen’s has yet to play the OUA’s top team, the 9-1 McMaster Marauders. They’ll host the Marauders on Jan. 18 and travel to Hamilton on Feb. 6.

A win in either of those games would be a tremendous confidence booster going into the playoffs.

At this point in the year, libero Ivo Dramov leads the OUA in digs, with 127 averaging 3.34 per set.

Outside hitter Mike Tomlinson leads the team with 133.5 points, followed by Philippe Goyer at 121.5 and Markus Trence at 117.5.

Last season, the men went 9-11 before losing to the Waterloo Warriors in the first round of the OUA playoffs.

This February, expect a better record and for the Gaels to move past the opening round of the playoffs.

— Brent Moore

Women’s volleyball

The Gaels aren’t losing to the teams behind them, but they aren’t beating the teams ahead of them either.

Queen’s (8-3) is tied for third with the Ottawa Gee-Gees (8-3) in a tightly-contested OUA East division. While the Gaels’ path to a playoff spot is likely, heading deep into the post-season may not be quite as easy.

The team’s three losses in 2014 came to Ottawa and the two squads ahead of them in the East — the Toronto Varsity Blues (9-0) and Ryerson Rams (8-2). Rematches with all three teams come in the middle of the Gaels’ remaining seven games, with the Toronto and Ryerson contests coming at home.

Wins in those matches could vault Queen’s into a home playoff date — if the Gaels continue to top the York Lions, RMC Paladins and Nipissing Lakers, and maintain their perfect record against OUA West foes.

No Gael ranks among the league’s top 10 in kills per set, and only Shannon Neville and Brett Hagarty are among the top 20. Defence has driven the team instead; Nikki Slikboer’s 44 blocks are Ontario’s best, while Hagarty and libero Becky Wilson are among the top five in digs.

Should they continue to hang with the East’s other top teams, playoff success could be there for the Gaels this year.

— Sean Sutherland

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