Men’s hockey was seven seconds away from ending their regular season on a losing note.
Gaels forward Patrick McGillis had other ideas, tying the Gaels’ Saturday game with the UQTR Patriotes in the dying seconds on a rocketing slap shot from the faceoff circle.
After McGillis’ heroics, Queen’s took the game 4-3 in a shootout. UQTR (19-4-3) came into the contest ranked eighth in the CIS.
With the win, the Gaels (13-12-1) finished the season seeded fifth in the OUA East. They’ll match up with the fourth-place Laurentian Voyageurs (14-9-3) in the first round of the playoffs this week.
The Gaels passed the Nipissing Lakers (12-12-2) for fifth in the division, thanks to a pair of Nipissing losses over the season’s final weekend — including one to Laurentian.
“We’re feeling really confident right now,” said Gaels head coach Brett Gibson. “But it’s not going to be easy — the playoffs are tough. We’re looking to go a long way this year, and you’re going to have to beat [teams like UQTR] to win a championship.”
Down one goal to UQTR in the final minute, centre Corey Bureau won an offensive zone faceoff and passed it back to defenceman Spencer Abraham on the point, who then slid the puck to McGillis waiting down low. He saw an opening and slammed a shot home.
Abraham scored the lone goal in the shootout. Though most coaches wouldn’t use a defencemen in that situation, Gibson’s hunch paid off, as Abraham performed a nifty deke around UQTR goaltender Francis Desrosiers.
“He’s a special player. People in Kingston should get out to watch him play,” Gibson said. “That goal was ridiculous.”
After falling behind 1-0 early in the first, fifth-year winger Kelly Jackson scored Queen’s first goal in his final regular season home game.
Yannick Laflamme, who has gone from frequent healthy scratch to consistent contributor, made it 2-1 for the Gaels 2:55 into the second period. Laflamme now has five points in his last six games.
UQTR responded with two straight goals to take a 3-2 lead, before McGillis’ shot took the game into overtime.
Queen’s goalie Kevin Bailie made 31 saves in the win, as well as three key stops in the shootout.
The result paralleled last year’s home game against the Patriotes, which occurred 364 days prior. McGillis also played an important role in that contest, scoring twice and adding an assist in a 4-2 win that ended UQTR’s 13-game win streak.
With the regular season finished, the Gaels now have Laurentian to look ahead to. Queen’s split their season series with the Voyageurs, losing 3-1 at home on Nov. 29 and winning 4-1 in Sudbury on Jan. 31.
Game one of the first-round series takes place Wednesday night at the Memorial Centre. McGillis said Queen’s players and coaches know there’s no magic formula for success in the playoffs, beyond hard work and ensuring they execute their game plan.
“[We need to] keep it simple and play our systems,” McGillis said. “Every guy on the team’s got to buy in.”
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