Men's hockey breaks program record with 19 wins

Gaels coach Brett Gibson reflects on regular season prior to playoffs

Brett Gibson (above) has coached the men’s hockey team for 12 years.
Brett Gibson (above) has coached the men’s hockey team for 12 years.

After winning a program-high 19 games, the men’s hockey team is ready to compete in the OUA playoffs and bring the Queen’s Cup back to Kingston.   

The Journal sat down with head coach Brett Gibson just before his team took to the Memorial Arena for their final home-ice practice of the regular season to reflect on the Gaels’ unprecedented season.

As much as their season has been full of highs, the team has experienced their fair share of low points. For Gibson, the Gaels’ season has been “a process.”  

In particular, the coach alluded to the challenges his team endured from the onset of their training camp. 

“Some of the guys came back in great shape, some didn’t,” Gibson remarked. He said the theme for the program this year was “karma.” 

“Karma, to me, could be good or bad. [I]f you use karma to the good and you do the right things on and off the ice, you’re going to get the results,” he said. 

One of the bigger challenges the Gaels had to overcome early in the season was the sheer amount of injuries they had. 

“We were dismantled with injuries in the [first half of the season] and sometimes we went down to three defencemen,” Gibson admitted. “But that’s uncontrollable …We battled through that and I think we peaked at the right time.” 

A 19-win season, however, requires a mix of both dedication and talent — and that’s where Gibson feels his team has really excelled. The coach emphasized that what the Gaels put out in terms of work ethic is matched by their skill 

“They’re as good as anyone in the country,” he said.

Aside from having the best record in the program’s history, the Gaels have also seen a number of players hit personal milestones. Fifth-year goaltender Kevin Bailie achieved 50 career wins as a Gael on Jan. 20, while third-year forward Slater Doggett set a career-high in goals with 18. 

Gibson spoke to the team record cautiously. Albeit an accomplishment, he said the celebration has been put on the backburner. 

“It’s something I’ll sit back at the end of year and enjoy with my coaching staff and the players,” he said, “but we have one goal and that is to win the Queen’s Cup.” 

Setting a program record for wins isn’t something new to a lot of players on this team. During the 2016-17 season, the men’s hockey team set the previous wins record with 18. That team also finished second in the OUA playoffs and lost in the first round of the U Sports National Championship. 

Moving forward, Gibson’s 12 years of experience behind the Gaels bench has conditioned him to understand the competitive and intense nature of the OUA playoffs. When asked what he believed would prove the greatest challenge for his team in this year’s postseason, Gibson was quick to add it’d be their competiveness.  

“It’s a whole different ball game when you get to the playoffs,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if this season you ranked — it’s about who wants it more.”

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