Team has a bright future with an impressive showing in second half of year
After taking a two-year hiatus, nobody expected much from the revamped Gee-Gees men’s hockey team this season. With a roster boasting 17 freshmen and only one returning player, second-year defenceman Gabriel Vermette, the team was bound to face its fair share of struggles and growing pains along the way.
Coming into this season, expecting a playoff finish for the Gees seemed like a pipe-dream.
And, to be fair, the Garnet and Grey did start their season the way many people expected, recording only two points of a possible 14 in their first seven contests.
Following a double overtime loss at the hands of the McGill Redmen on Oct. 29, the Gees began to turn things around and reeled off a six-game point streak, going 5–0–1. Furthermore, after allowing 34 goals against in the first seven games of the season, the Gees only let in seven goals during this hot streak, seeing a huge improvement by both their goaltenders and the defensive core.
There was no team hotter than the University of Ottawa following the Christmas break. From Jan. 7 to Feb. 11, the Gees suffered only one regulation loss, going 8–1–2, and outscored their opponents 52–28 in that time frame.
After three straight one-goal losses, the Gees ended their season with a win against Laurentian University and looked to make some noise in the playoffs against the favoured Queen’s Gaels.
The first two games of the series ended with a 3–2 score after double overtime, with each team grabbing a victory.
Mathieu Newcomb was the hero in the latter of the two games for the Gees, scoring the overtime game winner.
With both games going down to wire, the deciding third game could have gone either way. However, the Gees couldn’t solve Gaels goaltender Kevin Baillie, who turned away all 24 shots that came his way.
Ultimately, the Gees ended up losing the game by a final of 2–0, which means the Gaels took the best-of-three series by a 2–1 margin. Despite the crushing loss, Graham Hunt came up big for his team in net after replacing Anthony Brodeur in the first game of the series.
Head coach Patrick Grandmaître knew that playoff hockey was going to be difficult for such an inexperienced team.
“Any mistake can cost you your season (in the playoffs). I felt like we were right there. I do think that the better team won, but I do know we had our chances to take that series.”
Throughout their season, many players stepped up for the Gees to contribute to their success. Most notably, Kevin Domingue, a former member of the Sherbrooke Phoenix, powered the offensive attack with 31 points and a league-high five game-winning goals.
“I think the success of Kevin is his speed and his shot,” said Grandmaître. “Kevin rose to the challenge with such a young team, he produced from day one right into the playoffs.”
On the defensive end, Michael Poirier, a second-year economics student at the U of O, propelled the offensive attack from the blue line with five goals, the most amongst Gees defensemen this year.
Grandmaître was proud of the way his team developed in the second half of the season.
“Our start to the season was not what we wanted, but we felt that we knew that we could play with those teams. After getting a big win against Concordia, we went on a pretty big roll after that.”
With the majority of players returning, Grandmaître doesn’t expect to do a whole lot of recruiting for next year.
“I might bring one, two, maybe three guys max. I’m looking at interest from some high-end players.”
After what can only be viewed as a very successful inaugural season for the remodelled U of O men’s hockey team, the future looks very promising for such a young group. Gee-Gees fans will definitely have to keep their eyes out for this up-and-coming squad in the years to come.