Men’s hockey riding high ahead of Queen’s Cup

Gaels host Guelph with chance to win sixth OUA championship, first since 1980-81

Left to right: Alex Row, Nevin Guy, Jusin Fazio.
Left to right: Alex Row, Nevin Guy, Jusin Fazio.

A visit from members of The Tragically Hip doesn’t happen every week—which is the precise message Head Coach Brett Gibson has been trying to communicate to his team.

“You want, at this time of the year, [to] be energized,” Gibson told The Journal. “You don’t want it mundane and the same task.”

Ahead of this weekend’s Queen’s Cup final against the Guelph Gryphons, Gibson brought in Paul Langlois and Rob Baker of The Hip, as well as ex-Queen’s Head Coach of the 1980-81 Queen’s Cup championship team, Fred O’Donnell, to speak with his players. Now, with a chance to break the 38-year dry streak for the program, Gibson’s made a concerted effort to communicate the meaning this weekend holds to his players.

“It just makes you excited to come to the rink,” he said.

Performing at this stage is familiar territory for a strong portion of this year’s team—two years ago, the Gaels lost to the York Lions 3-4 in the OUA Final. But with the game on home ice and over 1,000 tickets already sold for Saturday, Gibson’s enforced a different mindset to prepare his team for Saturday night.

“When we did finally make it to the university cup, we celebrated,” he said, alluding to the team’s 2016-17 run to the finals. “This year, we didn’t celebrate getting to it. We’ve had one goal. It wasn’t the university cup, it wasn’t the Car Harris Cup. It was to win the Queen’s Cup.”

The Gaels’ opponents finished fifth in the OUA West with a 13-11-4 record. Despite barely reaching a .500 winning percentage, Guelph’s gone on a shocking playoff run, taking down the sixth-place Windsor Lancers (13-14-1), West-leading Ryerson Rams (20-5-3), and, most recently, the Western Mustangs (15-12-1) in the Western Conference Finals. Their series against Ryerson and Western both went to three games, winning both deciding contests by a single goal.

The Gaels and Gryphons played once earlier this season, where Guelph dominated 7-1 on Queen’s home ice.

“Sure, we’re ahead [in] the standings, but Guelph is a great team and they came into our building earlier and beat us pretty good,” Captain Spencer Abraham told The Journal. “They’re well-coached and they’ve had a great run as of late—as have we.”

Preparing to play in front of a jam-packed home crowd with the highest stakes they’ve faced all season, Abraham said they’ve spent ample time putting thought into their attitude.

“The team that’s afraid is the team that likely will lose,” Abraham said. “You got to go out there and play every game like [it’s] your last.”

With that in hand, he said the team has been aiming to balance the pressure by keeping the energy in the dressing room light.

“We’re all having a lot of fun,” the fifth-year said. “We’ve really come together these past few weeks.”

Saturday night’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Kingston Memorial Centre. With droves of alumni and students expected to attend, Abraham summed up the team’s overarching sentiment heading into the final.

“We aren’t satisfied yet.”

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