'The best game they’ve ever seen’: Inside the 2018-19 Queen’s Men’s Hockey season, part seven

An eight-part series on the Gaels’ Queen’s Cup victory

Brett Gibson discusses winning the Queen's Cup in 2019.

“It was probably one of the tougher losses that I’ve had at Queen’s, just because I felt that group of guys was really a unique group.”

That’s how head coach Brett Gibson described the Gaels’ 2017 OUA finals loss to York in an interview with The Journal.

“I truly believe that it prepared myself and my coaching staff for the next time that we got to the Queen’s Cup […] I think it was needed in order for us to know what it takes to win.”

Part of that learning process was a string of victories early in the 2018-19 season, pushing Queen’s up the standings. Part of it was learning how to fight through tough opponents—sometimes literally—in the case of Carleton. And part of it was knowing how to lose, Gibson noted as he described the aftermath of the 2018-2019 Carr-Harris Cup game.

“Sometimes it’s good to get humbled, and we got humbled that night,” Gibson said.

“The nice part about it is that we got to get back on our saddle the very next night against McGill and we had a long meeting after that game, we had a long meeting before […] My challenge to [the team] before the McGill game was ‘Who are we, what are we, what do we want to be?’”

With that victory secured, the Gaels were rejuvenated, heading into the playoffs, sweeping through Concordia, outlasting uOttawa, and battling Carleton for the chance to win a championship.

Waiting for them in the Queen’s Cup were the Guelph Gryphons, the team who’d beaten the Western Mustangs for the top spot in the OUA West.

“The challenge for me was they were really opposite. Western was [a] really high-scoring, skilled team where Guelph played a physical brand of hockey, which kind of played into what we were,” Gibson said.

“We had a really strong top line, but we were a junkyard dog kind of team […] [Guelph] matched up well against us.”

Unlike the NHL, the OUA playoffs have an odd format. After playing three best-of-three series through the initial rounds, the Queen’s Cup is awarded after a single game. In that sense, it’s more like the Super Bowl than the Stanley Cup.

“To be honest […] I think we were most prepared, and that led to probably the most comfortable game we had that playoff,” Gibson recalled.

“We knew what we needed to do, it was one game, not a three-game series, and it was kind of like football. We prepared for that one game and that’s probably the best execution a Queen’s team has had under my belt.”

That game plan included one aspect in particular.

“We knew we had to shut down Mikkel Aagaard,” he said, referencing Guelph’s biggest offensive threat that year.

“I think, if you look at the game sheet, he took two […] undisciplined penalties in the third period because he was frustrated […] Shutting him down was the key for the victory and then guys stepped up and Jaden Lindo stepped up.”

Stepping up meant scoring the opening goal of the game on a power-play strike within the first minute of the second period to put the Gaels on top.

From there, the challenge was matching lineups against Guelph Gryphons’ head coach Shawn Camp and ensuring Justin Fazio remained solid in the net.

“It was like a chess match with Camp, but then our depth really took over, and that was the key […] If Doggett and Aagaard were made equal, I knew our depth could take over,” Gibson recalled.

As for goaltending, Gibson was sure his netminder was solid after the end of the second period, when Fazio let one by with less than a minute to go, allowing the Gryphons to tie it with a period left to play.

“I think Justin Fazio would want to have that one back. He was so good for us all season long but […] it was a stinker,” Gibson said.

“When I cracked my door in my coach’s office just to see how they were acting, when I heard Faz say, ‘Sorry boys, there’s not another one going in’, I turned to my coaches and said, ‘We’re fine’.”

From there, the Gryphons never truly threatened the Gaels’ hold on the game. Lindo scored again to restore the lead less than five minutes into the third before Henry Thompson doubled it and Liam Dunda iced it with less than a minute left.

Final score: 4-1, Gaels.

“It’ll be something that I remember for the rest of my life. The years I’ve spent at the Memorial Centre, to see it like that was nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was loud, it was energized, it felt like it went by way too quick,” Gibson said, reflecting on the win.

“I still have people walk up to me on the street saying it’s the best game they’ve ever seen.”

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