OUA East Final: Redmen knock off No.3-ranked UQTR, qualify for Nationals
MONTREAL - Francis Verreault-Paul exploded for five points,
including a pair of goals, as fifth-ranked McGill rallied from an
early deficit and roared back to blitz the No.3-UQTR Patriotes 7-4
before a sell-out crowd of 1,046 at McConnell Arena, Friday. The
win gave McGill a two-game sweep over their long-time nemesis from
Trois-Rivières in the OUA East best-of-three final series
and the Redmen will advance to the CIS championship tourney for the
fourth time in five years.
It was the highest number of goals ever scored by McGill in a playoff game against UQTR and the victory was McGill's eighth consecutive post-season conquest over the Pats, a team that, since the mid-1980s, appeared almost invincible. After losing 14 of their first 15 playoff meetings with UQTR, McGill has since registered a 12-10 post-season record against them.
"They've always battled us hard in my three years but we've swept them in the playoffs each season since I've been here," said Evan Vossen, a hard-nosed, third-year winger from Swift Current, Sask. "It feels great to beat that team."
Although both teams had 30 shots apiece, the game never appeared to be in doubt as McGill bounced back from a 2-1 deficit at the 14-minute mark with five consecutive goals. The Redmen led 4-2 after one period and stretched that into a 6-3 advantage after two.
McGill's power-play proved deadly once more, going 4-for-5 to overwhelm the Pats for the second time in as many meetings. In the series opener, a 3-2 win in Trois-Rivières last Wednesday, the Redmen went 3-for-7 with the man-advantage.
"We prove night after night that hard work pays off," said Jim Webster, in his first season as coach of the Redmen. "The biggest difference in this series was that we've shown a lot more discipline and cut back on the time spent in the penalty box. UQTR took more penalties and our power play made them pay the price."
Verreault-Paul -- who won the OUA scoring title and now leads all OUA playoff scorers with a 9-5-14 record in seven games -- ignited McGill's "super sophomore" line, which produced 12 points on the night and includes centre Alexandre Picard-Hooper (1-3-4) of Boucherville, Que., and winger Andrew Wright (1-2-3) of Toronto.
Also hitting pay-dirt for McGill was Maxime Langelier-Parent of Levy, Que., plus blueliners Marc-Andre Dorion, a sophomore from St. Hubert, Que., and Sebastien Rioux, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound freshman from Chicoutimi, Que., who played with the poise of a seasoned veteran.
Scoring for the Pats was Francis Charland of Victoriaville, Que., and Olivier Donovan of Gatineau, Que., in the first period to put UQTR ahead 2-1. Rounding out the scoring was Alexander Blais of Levis, Que., midway through the second to make the score 6-3 and Jean-Sebastien Breton of Pincourt, Que., who tallied at 18:11 of the final stanza to make it 6-4 before an empty-netter by Verreault-Paul sealed their fate.
Goaltender Hubert Morin, a sophomore from St. Georges de Beauce, Que., made 26 saves for the victory. It was his 13th consecutive start for the Redmen and he has posted an 11-2 record in that stretch. During the post-season, he is 6-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Patriotes netminder Jean-Christophe Blanchard, a native of Trois-Rivieres, was hung with the loss after being beaten six times in 29 shots.
Before the Redmen head to the CIS championships (March 24-28), they have some business to handle and will head to Ontario for the league's Queen's Cup title game on March 13. They will play the winner of the OUA West conference final between the Lakehead Thunderwolves and Western Mustangs. Lakehead won the opener of that series 4-1 in Thunder Bay on Thursday and the series shifts south to London this weekend.
The Patriotes still have an outside chance at extending their season and possibly getting another crack at the Redmen at the Nationals, however. They will be cheering for Western to lose their OUA West Conference final series to Lakehead, which won the opener 4-1 at home and will play the next two games in London. Should Lakehead win the series, they would qualify for Nationals as champions rather than as host team. In this scenario, an OUA bronze medal game would be played on March 13 and Western would play at UQTR for the final OUA seed to the big dance.
FACES IN THE CROWD: Among the many Redmen alumni spotted at McConnell Arena to see McGill beat the Pats was Steven Pearce (who drove in from Fredericton), Mike Richards, Teddy Kyres, Joel Bergeron, Mike Nelson, Todd Hanrahan, Danny Bain, Mike Farmer, Charlie Hayward, Charlie Lafontaine, Herb Madill, Ken Covo, Pierre-Antoine Paquet, Mike Teolis and Chad Blundy (who made the trip from Kingston).