Sports

The Gee-Gees will look to avenge last year’s loss at the Colonel By Classic on Friday night. Photo: Parker Townes/Fulcrum

TD Place to host one of the most anticipated events in USports hockey

The 2019 Colonel By Classic is right around the corner, and Ottawa’s crosstown rivals are gearing up for what promises to be a thrilling event. 

On Friday, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton University Ravens will meet for the fourth edition of the annual game at TD Place. 

Last year, it was the Ravens who won, putting themselves up 2-1 in the series. The past two games have been decided by a single goal, proving the competitiveness of the game. 

This year, the Ottawa teams met at the Minto Sports Complex just a few days before the upcoming Colonel By Classic game. In an aggressive, fast-paced game, the Gee-Gees claimed victory thanks to a late third-period goal. 

Now, the Gees-Gees have a 6-3 record, third in the OUA East while the Ravens are sitting at the top of the standings with 10 wins and only two losses this season so far. 

Sue Hylland, the director of Sports Services at the U of O, plays a key role in supporting the event.

“These teams are both nationally ranked,” said Hylland. “Between Carleton and the U of O, we’ve got some really good hockey.” 

A month into the season, Carleton has found success in Brogan O’Brien, Cody Caron, and Cole Carter, who lead the team in points. The team has only lost to the Guelph Gryphons and the Gees. 

Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaitre praised the strength of the Carleton team. 

“They are really good, they have a complete team with physical players and skilled players,” said Grandmaitre. 

Photo: Parker Townes/Fulcrum

Despite the skill of the Ravens team, it’s the Gee-Gees who have the momentum going into the Colonel By Classic. 

Though the U of O only graduated a few players from last season, there have been many changes in the strengths and weaknesses of the team. 

“We are stronger on one side of the ice, and we’re probably a tad less on the other side,” said Grandmaitre. ”Our defensive game probably stepped up a level from last year whereas our offensive output is that we are getting a lot of chances, but we aren’t finishing as much as last year. One thing that stayed the same is that we work, we skate hard and push teams out of their comfort zones.”

The Gee-Gees have been helped this year by fifth-year transfer Domenic Graham, who has been very solid in the nets for the men in Grey and Garnet.

Rookies defensemen Dominic Cormier and Nicholas Mattinen have been pleasant surprises for the club. 

Mattinen, a sixth-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been a physical presence on the Gees blue line using his big frame to win a big majority of puck battles in the defensive zone. 

Cormier a 21-year-old rookie who played for the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigers last year has provided some much-needed offensive power from the blue line, collecting eight points in nine games this season.

“There’s consistency up front with Kevin Domingue, Brendan Jacome, and Cody Drover,” said Grandmaitre. “They have been all-stars in the OUA since they got here and they are that again this year.” 

Grandmaitre has coached the team through every Colonel By Classic game since 2016 when the U of O hockey program was re-established. He knows what makes the rivalry game different and more exciting than any other regular-season game. 

“You’re not just playing for two points. You’re playing for bragging rights, to bring back the big banner,” said Grandmaitre. 

The venue itself comes with added distractions. 

“There’s the big screens, guys can watch replays, they can see the fans having fun in between whistles,” said Grandmaitre. “We try and push our guys to bring it back to what it really is, 60 minutes of hockey.”

There is no doubt that the game will be exciting to watch. 

“They’ll be fighting it out to the end,” said Hylland. 

“University hockey is very healthy and strong here in Ottawa,” added Grandmaitre. “The rivalry between Carleton and the U of O is always very strong and interesting.”

The Colonel By Classic will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday at TD Place arena.