By Earl Zukerman
Maxime Langelier-Parent scored twice and second-seeded McGill tallied three power-play goals to double the Alberta Golden Bears 6-3 before 3,520 at the CIS men’s hockey championship tournament at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre, Saturday.
The Redmen (2-0) will play in their first-ever national final Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern (live on Rogers Sportsnet).
The Redmen, who edged fifth-ranked StFX 2-1 in their tournament pener on Thursday, finished atop the Pool B standings with a 2-0 record. StFX (1-1) took second place while the No. 3 Golden Bears placed third with an 0-2 mark.
Canada West champion Alberta lost 3-1 to StFX on Saturday.
In its fifth University Cup appearance – all since 2006 – McGill will skate in the CIS title game for the first time in school history Sunday at 8 p.m. Atlantic, live on Rogers Sportsnet. The OUA champions will face either Western or tourney host UNB, who are set to battle in the final Pool A contest Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Atlantic (Rogers Sportsnet).
“We knew the situation that they were in and certainly made the guys aware of it but didn’t change our game our systems,” said head coach Kelly Nobes, in his first season behind the McGill bench after stints with RMC and Laurier. “We didn’t change anything and just wanted to play our game, get a good forecheck going and get pucks to the net. I thought we did a good job at doing that.”
“I’ve been working a lot on shooting to score in practice, which I didn’t do earlier in the season. I was always trying to pass in practice, said Langelier-Parent, who was held to four goals in 24 games in the regular season before matching that total in eight OUA playoff contests. “Working on scoring in practice has helped made it easier for me to do the same in games.”
McGill’s special teams, which have excelled all season, played a key role in the historic win. The Redmen power-play unit, which finished fourth in the country in regular season play with a 21.8 per cent success rate and clicked at a mind-boggling 36.4 per cent during the OUA playoffs, went 3-for-6 on the afternoon.
McGill also snuffed out all four Alberta man advantages. They killed 86.7 per cent of their penalties during league play.
Langelier-Parent, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound power forward from Léry, Que., made it a 2-0 affair late in the first period and opened a 5-2 cushion early in the third. He earned Game MVP honours for the winning side.
Francis Verreault-Paul of Mashteuiatsh, Que., rookie defenceman Ryan McKiernan of White Plains, NY, team captain Evan Vossen of Swift Current, Sask., and Alexandre Picard-Hooper of Boucherville, Que., also scored for the high-flying Redmen, who led the country in scoring for the second straight year in conference action with 5.04 goals per contest.
Verreault-Paul, the top sniper in CIS hockey this year with 28 goals in only 19 outings, and linemate Picard-Hooper, who was named CIS player of the year after he led the nation with 58 points in 28 games, both added an assist in the victory.
For Alberta, Derek Ryan, the Canada West player of the year from Spokane, Wash., tallied twice, while linemate Chad Klassen had a goal and a helper.
Klassen, a fifth-year right-winger from Saskatoon, was named Alberta MVP in his final university game.
The Redmen, who led 2-0 after the opening period and 4-2 after 40 minutes, did all their damage on only 20 shots on freshman netminder Kurtis Mucha of Sherwood Park, Alta.
Hubert Morin, a third-year junior from St. Georges de Beauce, Que., made 25 saves for his second win of the tourney, and improved to 9-1 in post-season play.
“Obviously it’s not easy to go into a game knowing you have to beat the second best team in the country by four goals,” said Alberta head coach Eric Thurston. “I thought overall we didn’t play bad. But credit to McGill. They’re a very skilled team. They scored six times on 20 shots.”
Needing to win by at least four to advance to the national final, Alberta roared out of the gates and dominated early but couldn’t generate any legitimate scoring opportunities.
After killing off a pair of penalties, McGill wasted no time capitalizing on its first power-play chance late in the first frame.
Andrew Wright dug the puck out of the corner and passed it in front to Guillaume Doucet, who found a wide-open Verreault-Paul to the left of the net. Verreault-Paul tallied his easiest goal of the campaign into an empty cage to break to ice at 17:24.
The Redmen doubled their lead only 62 seconds later when Langelier-Parent was sent on a breakaway by rearguard Patrick Belzile and beat Mucha along the ice.
Alberta cut the deficit in half four minutes into the second period. Greg Gardner backhanded a pass to Ryan, who took two cracks at it to tally his second of the championship.
The score remained 2-1 for over 10 minutes before a three-goal explosion in a span of three minutes late in the period.
McKiernan made it 3-1 with a blast from the left circle during a two-man advantage at 16:19, and Vossen increased the McGill advantage to three goals only 42 seconds later with a high wrist shot to the blocker side.
Klassen tapped in a rebound with 56 seconds remaining in the period to give the Bears hope heading into the third.
Langelier-Parent all but sealed the victory at 4:42 of the final stanza. He flew down the left wing and beat Mucha with a high shot from the circle.
Picard-Hooper added a power-play marker with three minutes left, and Ryan closed out the scoring at 18:41 with his third of the competition.
GAME NOTES: McGill had never defeated Alberta in four previous all-time contests… The two teams had last met last season in non-conference action on back-to-back nights in Edmonton, with the Golden Bears prevailing 6-5 in overtime (Dec. 29, 2009) and 5-4 (Dec. 28, 2009)… Alberta had won the only two previous head-to-head meetings at the University Cup, both times in pool play, 7-3 in 2008 in Moncton and 5-1 in 2006 in Edmonton… In 35 University Cup tournament appearances (including 2011) Alberta had gone winless on only five previous occasions including the last time in 2001 in Kitchener, Ontario, when the Golden Bears lost 5-3 to Western and 5-3 to StFX in pool play… Alberta also went winless at the CIS championship in 1997 (0-1), 1993 (0-1), 1989 (0-1) and 1970 (0-2).
University Cup website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice