Men's hockey blazing into U Sports Championships

Gaels travel to Lethbridge, Alta., set to play St. FX in quarterfinal on Friday night

The Gaels are seeded third among the eight teams competing in Lethbridge this weekend.
The Gaels are seeded third among the eight teams competing in Lethbridge this weekend.
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The past month has been a dream for the men’s hockey team—and they have a chance to continue it this coming weekend. 
 
Fresh off a historic win in the Queen’s Cup final last Saturday, the Gaels are entering this weekend’s U Sports Championships as the tournament’s third seed. They’re slated to play the No. 6 St. FX X-Men on Friday night in a quarterfinal bout, with intentions of building on their current four-game win streak.
 
“We expect every team to be the best competition we’ve faced this year,” Assistant Coach Kevin Bailie told The Journal on Wednesday, a day after the team touched down in Lethbridge to commence preparations.
 
Lining up against St. FX for the first time this season, Queen’s is going up against a team that made the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) finals despite going 15-12-3 in the regular season. The last time the X-Men won the U Sports Championships was in 2004.
 
“It’s almost like a professional hockey league with the way [St. FX] play,” Bailie said. “They play a heavy game, but also have a lot of skilled players.”
 
Stacked up against each other, the Gaels have a statistical advantage over their opponents. 
 
Queen’s 3.39 goals per game puts them 11th in the country compared to St. FX’s 3.00 goals per game, putting them at 18th. In net, Queen’s goaltender Justin Fazio posted stronger numbers than St. FX’s Chase Marchand—Fazio’s .936 save percentage bested Marchand’s .910—and was recently named to the OUA All-Rookie team.
 
Over the Gaels’ playoff run, they took down higher seeded teams in UOttawa and Carleton, as well as closely-ranked Concordia. Queen’s won their series over Concordia and Carleton in two games, and snuck a tight three-game series win over UOttawa.
 
“A source of confidence for our team is that we’ve played the Concordia’s, we’ve played the [U]Ottawa’s, we’ve played the Carleton’s,” Bailie said of how the team is prepared for St. FX. 
 
“Those are teams that play extremely similar styles, so it’s not like we’re going to be surprised or not acclimatized to the level of play we’re going to see Friday.”
 
Bailie added the Gaels’ ability to gain an understanding of their opponents’ style of play has been core to shaping their identity this season—and in years past.
 
“I think one of the only reasons we won our league is our team is always the best-prepared team in any game we play,” he said. “Sunday morning [after the Queen’s Cup], the coaching staff was happy we won the league, but we were over it and watching video on St. FX.”
 
The Gaels kick off against the X-Men on Friday at 9 p.m. EST. While the team has an entire championship run to look forward to, Bailie reflected on Queen’s run thus far.
 
“You couldn’t script it any better. It’s been a long, long journey,” he said. “It’s the exact way you want to finish.”
 

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