An unexpected road trip to the U Sports Cavendish University Cup for men's hockey

Nothing will stop the ‘Find a Way Gaels’ as they detour to Fredericton, N.B. following a flight cancellation and highway closure

Peter Angelopolous crashing the net.
Peter Angelopolous crashing the net.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

While most of the Queen’s community might be upset at the snow this late into March, the men’s hockey team is relishing the situation it has left them.

With everything seemingly in order after coming second at the OUA Championships, the Gaels didn’t anticipate having to prepare for an extended commute to New Brunswick.

Due to heavy snowfall, the Gael’s flight to Fredericton, New Brunswick — where the U Sports national championship tournament is being held — was cancelled. To add to the disruption, the flight cancellation would be accompanied by a highway closure on Tuesday night. Forced to hit the road, the Gaels drove into the night and stopped to rest in Quebec. They continued their road trip the next morning all the way to the east coast.

However, the unforeseen journey was just another challenge to conquer for the seasoned team. 

Dubbed the “Find a Way Gaels” this season for their uncanny ability to always find a way to triumph in close games, the men’s hockey team wouldn’t let the extended travel affect their focus.

“We would have ran here in September for a chance to play for the University Cup. So although very inconvenient, we will deal with it,” said head coach Brett Gibson, who coached Canada to a bronze medal at the 2017 Winter Universiade last month, while also coaching the U Sports All-Stars against the Canadian World Junior team this season.

Unfaltering focus is the name of the game for the tenacious Gaels. “Everyone is dealing with the travel well. Team morale is high and we are all very excited to play,” forward Darcy Greenaway said.

Since the team couldn’t make the U Sports awards ceremony, the team decided to host their own awards. Greenway and fellow forward Eric Ming were named to the “Road-Trip All-Star team” for their use of data on their phones and skill in Euchre.

The number four Gaels have eagerly been anticipating their opening game against the fifth-ranked University of New Brunswick Fredericton Varsity Reds. As the hosting team of the tournament, the Varsity Reds will likely fill the Aitken University Centre with a large home crowd.

“I believe our team’s strength to be our systems and commitment to stick to them. We aren’t the most talented team in the OUA but we are maybe the most strategic,” goaltender Kevin Bailie said. “We take preparation very seriously and that’s a credit to our coaching. We’ll have to rely on that if we want to continue our success here at UNB.” 

On home ice, York captured the OUA title against Queen’s last weekend with a 4-3 final score. As OUA silver medalists, the Queen’s Gaels are returning to the national stage for the first time since 1981. 

“Our team’s biggest obstacle would be experience. Every other  team here has been multiple times over the past several years and this is our first,” Bailie said. 

Coach Gibson exudes a quiet confidence when it comes to the ‘Find a Way Gaels’. 

“We will have to be at our best this weekend. We have been counted out many times throughout the season, but this group responds,” Gibson said. 

The number-four Gaels proved strong in the regular season with a 24-13-0 record. Deeper into the season, goaltender Kevin Bailie performed outstanding with the highest save percentage (.969) and best goals against average (1.10) during the OUA playoffs.

“It means so much to be here representing Queen’s. The Queen’s men’s hockey program has been around for over 135 years and this is only the second time we’ve been able to come to the National Championship,” said Bailie. “I feel that when I look back at my career at Queen’s, this run will be the most meaningful.” 

The energy surrounding the U Sports University Cup surges throughout the squad. “It’s a special feeling. Since my first year at Queen’s, getting to Nationals has been a huge goal for us,” Greenaway said. “We’ve made it here and now we have a great opportunity to compete against the best teams in Canada.”

With an impressive playoff performance, coach Gibson is assured that the team has developed a depth over the course of the season. 

“Whatever happens at this tournament, I am extremely proud of this group,” said Gibson. “They have broke many records that have been around for a long time.” 

“This is a special group of men that will leave a lasting impression on this program.” 

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