Team advances to Queen’s Cup final and qualifies for CIS Nationals
By Earl Zukerman
OTTAWA – Jean-Philippe Mathieu, a sophomore defenceman from Loretteville, Que., scored the game-winner, for the second consecutive night, as third-seeded McGill upset top-seeded Carleton 2-1 to win the OUA Eastern conference championship, Sunday, before a standing-room only crowd of 523 at the CU Icehouse.
McGill, which improved to 29-10-2 overall, advances to the 103rd edition of OUA Queen’s Cup championship, presented by ArcelorMittal Dofasco, at Windsor, slated for March 15 at 8 p.m. Perhaps more importantly, the victory also punches their ticket to a guaranteed berth at the CIS men’s hockey championship in Saskatoon, March 20-23.
The Redmen, who dropped the opener 5-2 in this best-of-three eastern final, forced this rubber match after a 3-2 victory on Saturday.
“We’re really proud of the boys and the way that they played, it was a total team effort,” said Redmen head coach Kelly Nobes, who improved to 121-45-4 in his four seasons behind the McGill bench. “The amount of character and will that they displayed tonight, as well as in Game 2, to come back and win this series is a tribute to their heart.”
The Redmen could have taken the easier path by losing the Carleton series, then host the OUA West finalists (Lakehead) in one final home game to earn their pass to the Nationals as a wild card. Instead, they opted to go the harder route, winning a tough, physical battle at Carleton, then hit the road again for a 10-hour bus trip to Windsor, a team that split their two-game series played at McGill. They defeated the Redmen 4-3 in an overtime shootout (Jan. 31) but McGill rebounded to win 6-2 the next night.
“Our leadership group has been outstanding,” added Nobes. “We’ve got 23 guys in their first or second year and they’ve put themselves in a situation where they have an opportunity to win another championship. We’re seeing a young team mature and peaking at the right time. We faced a very tough opponent in Carleton and feel that we’re battle-hardened and ready for the next step.”
Mathieu, who converted a pass from Cedric McNicoll for the Game 2 winner the previous night, with a snapshot from just inside the blueline at 10:10 of the third period, scored an almost carbon copy in the deciding game. He corralled a nice feed from McNicoll in the high slot and found the net, snapping a 1-1 draw on the power-play. Samuel Carrier, the other blueliner, also drew an assist on the play.
Carleton evened the count at 14:58 of the middle frame on Michael McNamee’s sixth goal of the post-season. The Ravens appeared to score a last-second tying goal on a power-play at the end of the second but the officials ruled that the time had expired. McGill had an identical call go against them in a January road loss at UQTR.
Carleton outshot McGill 34-27 but their scoring chances were few and far between as Redmen netminder Jacob Gervais-Chouinard was on his game and gave up few rebounds. The freshman’s 33-save performance improved his playoff record to 6-1, with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.
Francis Dupuis of the Ravens was credited with 25 saves in a losing cause as his record tumbled to 5-3.
The Redmen had a fruitful night on special teams, going 1-for-5 on the power-play and erasing all four shorthanded situations.
Despite the loss, Carleton still has a decent chance of qualifying for a wild-card spot at the Nationals. This is the OUA’s turn in the rotation for the extra berth and as such, there will be an OUA bronze medal game next Saturday night. The Ravens will host Lakehead, the OUA West finalist which was swept by Windsor, in a winner-take-all game.
REDMEN RAP: Defenceman Hugo Laporte did not dress after being shaken up in Game 2 of the series… Forward David Rose, who normally wears a standard half-visor, had to leave the game in the first period after receiving a facial laceration but returned with a full helmet cage after receiving a few stitches… McGill, which lost their first three meetings against the Ravens, have now won two straight and improved their lifetime record against Carleton to 24-20-1 lifetime… The team is expected to bus to Windsor on Thursday… After an early playoff exit last year, the Redmen will be gunning for their fifth Queen’s Cup title in six seasons after ending a 62-year drought from when they previously claimed the Cup in 1946. The Redmen have won the trophy 16 times since it was first presented in 1903. Only Toronto has won more league titles with 41.