By Earl Zukerman
Max Le Sieur tallied twice, including the game-winner, as the sixth-ranked McGill men’s hockey team quadrupled No.7-UQTR 4-1 to sweep an OUA East best-of-three semifinal series at McConnell Arena, Saturday.
McGill, which took the series opener 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday, has now captured seven consecutive playoff series over the Patriotes, after losing the first 11 series played since their first post-season rendezvous in 1978.
“We had 20 guys going hard tonight, everyone bought into the system,” said Redmen team captain Benoit Levesque, an economics senior from Vaudreuil, Que. “Once we got that lead, we knew that we didn’t have to play fancy hockey anymore. We really stuck to our defensive game, played well in our zone and always had a third guy high on the backcheck, so we didn’t give up any odd-man rushes. We really tried to limit their offensive chances and it really worked out well for us.”
McGill, which argiuably played their most disciplined game of the season, outshot UQTR during each period to finish with a 32-24 advantage. The Redmen went 2-for-4 on the power-play and effectively killed off the one shorthanded situation they faced.
The long-time rivals played a scoreless first period. Rookie Alexandre Comtois of Sherbrooke, Que., finally broke the ice with a power-play marker at 6:11 of the second period but Olivier Hotte replied for the Pats at 9:05.
Less than six minutes later, Le Sieur scored what proved to be the winner, re-directing Jean-Philippe Mathieu‘s point shot on the power-play.
McGill took a stranglehold 3-1 lead at 4:49 of the third period when rearguard Ryan McKiernan of White Plains, N.Y., rifled in a point-shot on the power-play. It was the second marker in four post-season contests for McKiernan, who led all CIS blueliners with 37 regular season points and was second in goals with 13 in 28 games.
Le Sieur added an empty-netter, converting a pass from Neal Prokop at 19:59.
McGill sophomore Cedric McNicoll continued his torrid-scoring pace with a pair of assists. With a 5-4-9 record in four post-season contests, he shares the OUA playoff scoring lead with Lakehead freshman Cody Alcock.
Rookie Redmen goaltender Jacob Gervais-Chouinard kicked aside 23 of 24 shots faced and improved his unblemished playoff record to 4-0. For UQTR, Marc-Antoine Gelinas was credited with 28 saves and took the loss, ending his playoff run at 2-2.
The OUA East best-of-three final series – and a berth at the CIS championships – is scheduled to begin on March 5. McGill awaits the winner of the Carleton-Queen’s series, which is knotted at 1-1 and will be decided on Sunday. If the first-place Ravens defeat Queen’s, they would host Games 1 and 3. The Ravens swept the two-game season series against McGill, winning 6-4 (Oct. 25) and 3-2 (Jan. 3). Both meetings were played in Ottawa because of the quirky new OUA schedule, which had Windsor playing twice at McGill.
Should the fourth-place Gaels upset Carleton, then McGill would have home-ice advantage and host the opener. The Redmen swept both games with Queen’s, winning 4-3 in Kingston (Jan. 11) and 2-1 at McConnell Arena (Jan. 17).
The boxscore can be seen here.
REDMEN RAP: McGill sophomore David Rose, who had a 7-14-21 record in 22 games, was a surprise scratch after suffering an unspecified injury in Game 1 of the series against the Pats.., McGill is now 19-25 in 44 lifetime playoff confrontations against UQTR, including a current five-game win streak and an 11-10 mark at home… Among the faces in the crowd was renowned sports psychologist Dr. Wayne Halliwell, a 1973 McGill grad, who just returned from the Sochi Olympics, where he served as a mental performance consultant for Canada…The 139th anniversary of the first organized game of indoor hockey, a pick-up game between two sides which featured a number of McGill students, is coming up on Monday… That first game was played on March 3, 1875 at the old Victoria Skating Rink, which is now a parking garage – bordered by Stanley and Drummond Streets, as well as Boulevard Rene Levesque – just a slapshot from the Bell Centre… Two years later, the McGill men’s hockey team became the first organized hockey club and they played their first game on Jan. 31, 1877… The OUA all-star teams and major award winners will be announced on March. 5.