Gaels to take on defending OUA champions in season opener

Gibson talks new roster, challenges ahead of new season

The men’s hockey team plays McGill in their first game this weekend.
The men’s hockey team plays McGill in their first game this weekend.

The men’s hockey team lives and trains by one motto: karma. 

“We talked as a coaching staff and we talked as a team,” head coach Brett Gibson told The Journal in an interview. “I truly believe in karma. Especially at the U Sports level.” 

This season marks Gibson’s thirteenth year heading the men’s hockey program. He welcomes new coaches to his staff, fresh faces to his roster, and the opportunity to be challenged as a coach. 

“It’s fun,” Gibson said about the excitement of a new season. “[The players] keep you on your toes and it’s refreshing. As you get into coaching for a while, it’s nice to be challenged.”

During their 2017-18 season, the Gaels fell short of their championship dreams during a heartbreaking second-round match-up with the Concordia Stingers, losing in overtime in the fifth and deciding game of their playoff series. 

The Gaels boasted the third-best record in the OUA last year, breaking a program milestone with 19 regular-season wins. Gibson said that while it was a disappointment not returning to the U Sports national championships after qualifying in 2016-17, his team had an impressive run. 

“I think we had a fantastic year last year,” he said. “[W]e probably had a better year than when we went to nationals [in 2016-17]—that doesn’t make it a bad year.” 

Since their playoff loss in March, the Gaels have shifted from a roster heavy with upper-year players to a younger lineup. For Gibson, this translates to speed and new skill to work with. 

Coming into this season, the Gaels bid farewell to forwards Darcy Greenaway and Eric Ming, defenceman Warren Steele and goaltender Kevin Bailie. They introduced two new goalies into the lineup, Jack Flinn and Justin Fazio, though Gibson has yet to name a starter for the position.

“We lost three key clogs … But what we gained was young enthusiasm, speed, and skill,” Gibson said. “I think we have more skill this year, but does that translate to wins? I don’t know, but I like the way we’ve started.” 

Gibson, who’s been rotating Flinn and Fazio during the Gaels’ three pre-season exhibition matches, added deciding between the two players has been “a good problem to have.” Both rookies come with significant junior-hockey level experience and bring a competitive air to the team. 

To kick-off their preseason, the Gaels were victorious against the RMC Paladins 6-0; in the East vs. West exhibition tournament, the team defeated the Waterloo Warriors and Western Mustangs in back-to-back matchups 2-1 and 5-3, respectively. 

Both Flinn and Fazio have at least one win heading into the regular season, with the former having a shutout under his belt. 

After more than a decade coaching at Queen’s, Gibson will also take on his third coaching gig with Hockey Canada, acting as head coach of one of two Canadian teams competing at the World under-17 Hockey Challenge this coming November. 

“It’s an honour to get the call to Hockey Canada, because it means you’re doing something right,” Gibson said. “You get to bring back things from the elite coaches in the country that we have, and it makes our program better.”

The Gaels travel to Montreal on Oct. 5 to face off against the McGill Redmen, where they’ll open their season against the 2017-18 OUA champions. 

“Every year is different,” Gibson said. “I’ve grown as a coach and I can’t compare this team to last year’s team. I can only deal with what’s in front of me, and I really like what’s in front of us right now.” 


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