By Earl Zukerman
SASKATOON – David Rose of Longueuil, Que., scored what proved to be the game-winner as McGill opened their quest for a CIS men’s hockey championship with a 3-2 victory over Carleton in front of 8,304 fans at the Credit Union Centre, Friday afternoon.
The No.4-seeded Redmen (1-0) can advance to Sunday’s gold medal game with a victory over top-seeded Alberta (1-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. (Eastern). The contest will be televised live on Sportsnet 360 and webcast on a pay-per-view basis ($8) online at www.cis-sic.tv
Carleton went 0-2 in their first-ever appearance at the University Cup tournament. The Ravens had lost by an identical 3-2 score against Alberta on Thursday.
It was the sixth meeting of the season between the OUA East rivals and evened their record at 3-3 but the Redmen, who were swept by Carleton in their two regular season meetings, won when it counted most. They edged the division-leading Ravens 2-1 in the best-of-three OUA East final and then doubled their pleasure at Nationals, improving to 26-18-1 lifetime in 45 games played overall since the rivalry started in 1968.
Redmen rearguard Jean-Philippe Mathieu opened the scoring at 7:49 of the first period when he caught CU goaltender Francis Dupuis out of position after the goalie had lost his stick near the faceoff circle. Dupuis gambled to try and recover his stick after making a kick save on a Neal Prokop attempt. But he lost his wager when the rebound went right to the corner where Mathieu collected it and fired a wrist shot at a sharp angle over the shoulder of Dupuis.
Carleton tied the game on a fluke goal in the dying seconds of the opening stanza. The 7,000 school kids in attendance had been counting down the final 10 seconds of the period, but unfortunately for the Redmen, they were a second too fast. Timothy Billingsley took a shot from the blue line that eluded Gervais-Chouinard, who let up after the kids counted “zero.” The officials went upstairs to look at the replay and confirmed the puck crossed the red line with 0.3 seconds remaining. This is the first year that video replay is in use at the Nationals and every goal is being reviewed.
“The kids were yelling out the countdown and honestly I was tricked by that and stopped,” admitted the first-year netminder, who is majoing in teaching English as a second language. “I took my eyes off the puck, stopped moving and the puck went through the five-hole. I thought the period was over.”
Kelly Nobes, head coach of the Redmen, reaffirmed the first-goal folly during the post-game press conference.
“We played the kids count and not the clock,” he said. “But we came out in the second and I thought (it) was our best period. I thought we were good, we had a good start today, we weathered the storm a bit at the end of the first and in the third.”
McGill took a 2-1 lead at 2:05 of the middle stanza on a Patrick Delisle-Houde power-play marker. Senior Ryan McKiernan, the CIS defenceman of the year, received a cross-ice pass near the faceoff dot and and quickly centered the puck for Delisle-Houde, who deflected it past Dupuis.
McGill extended its advantage to 3-1 five minutes later when Rose pounced on a rebound and slid the puck through Dupuis pads.
Carleton came out strong in the third period with their backs against the wall. Joey West, their player of the game, cut the lead in half when he converted a rebound. Unfortunately, for the Ravens, two late penalties dampened their chances of tying the game.
The Redmen know they will be in tough against the Golden Bears Saturday but they are prepared for the challenge.
“They are a good team they proved it throughout the year, we will need to stick to our game tomorrow, said Rose, an elementary education sophomore, Rose was named player of the game for McGIll. “We need to play hard and be on the puck all the time. For us, we approach it like a semifinal. It’s a single game and we need to be ready for it.”
“I’m happy with how our guys worked. We lost to two really good hockey teams, they have a rich history and I think that showed,” said Ravens head coach Marty Johnston.
McGill had a 38-36 edge in shots and went 1-for-4 on the power-play, while Carleton was 0-for-3.
Gervais-Chouinard celebrated his 22nd birthday with 34 saves in the winning effort, improving his post-season record to 7-2, while Dupuis made 35 saves in a losing cause.
“It’s pretty special to get my first University Cup win on my birthday. The guys gave me a great gift today,” said Gervais-Chouinard, who played a stint with Hamilton in the AHL before joining the Redmen this season after a solid junior career in Sherbrooke.
In the late game on Friday, No. 5 Saskatchewan (1-0) upset No.2 Acadia (0-2) with a late goal for a 3-2 final.
REDMEN RAP: McGill defenceman Vincent Barnard was shaken up with an undisclosed injury in the second period and did not return… Among the former Redmen spotted in the crowd were westerners Scott Giroux and Mark Debusschere, along with out-of-towners Paul Grech, Mike Nelson and Adam Shell…Another familiar face was John Pitblado, who played on McGill’s junior varsity hockey team in the mid-1980s and is in town to produce the Sportsnet broadcasts of the final three games at the University Cup championship.