Men’s hockey looking to break through new boundaries

Gaels set to improve off one of most successful seasons in Queen’s history

Men’s hockey finished their 2016-17 season with a program best 18 wins.
Men’s hockey finished their 2016-17 season with a program best 18 wins.
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With players flowing in and out of programs as each year passes, creating sustained success at the university level is a daunting task. The men’s hockey team isn’t intimidated by this idea in the slightest as they head into another season after making Queen’s history last season.

The Gaels capped the 2016-17 regular season in a way that no other Queen’s men’s hockey team had ever done, finishing with 18 wins. Amidst a record season, the Gaels carried this performance into the playoffs with a runner-up finish in the OUA finals to the York Lions. 

After earning a birth in the U Sports Championship with their silver medal, the Gaels fell to the University of New Brunswick in their first game. They finished the tournament fifth in the country.

According to head coach Brett Gibson, this team has all the necessary parts to compete for an OUA Championship. “It is up to this group to come together quickly, as teams will not be taking us lightly this year,” he said.

In his twelfth season as a Gael, Gibson returns to Queen’s with national and international coaching experience. Over the summer, Gibson was selected to assist Hockey Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Although this tournament will take place in November, Gibson spent his summer at Hockey Canada’s coaching development camp.

Fifth-year goaltender Kevin Bailie has seen Gibson go through years of professional development and has seen the benefit of his experience.

“We play a very smart game…he brings a lot of those concepts back to us,” Bailie said.

Even though the Gaels have a talented group of rookies, they will be led by veterans Bailie, Spencer Abraham, Eric Ming and Slater Doggett — all of whom have played at hockey’s top junior level. Gibson recognizes the role they will have to play in order to allow the first-years to adapt to a different brand of hockey.

“It depends how quickly they adjust to playing against men but there are a couple who could have impacts,” Gibson said.

With their preseason games serving as his current baseline information, Gibson has a clear vision of what the teamneeds to accomplish this season.

“We need to score more and learn to put teams away. We played in a lot of one-goal games and they wear on you through a long season,” Gibson said. In the 2017 OUA playoffs, every one of the Gaels’ games was decided by two goals or less.

This will be Bailie’s final season of eligibility, as the veteran’s position between the pipes and off the ice will make him one of Queen’s most impactful players.

Bailie has been one of the most critical pieces of the team since he stepped on campus. A prolific goaltender in the OUA, his personal accolades include being the 2013-14 OUA MVP and 2016-17 Queen’s varsity male athlete of the year. Going into his final year as a Gael, he has one thing on his mind.

“This is my last year of hockey so it’s kind of my last lap,” Bailie said. “I would love nothing more than to just win. It’s all I care about, all I want to do.”

The Gaels will look to kick their season off with a bang this weekend as they host the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday and UOIT Ridgebacks on Saturday.

With files from Matt Christie.

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