Defenceman Mercier scores twice in loss
The Ontario Tech University Ridgebacks defeated the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s hockey team 5-3 in Game 2 of their best of three series on Saturday afternoon. The win forces the tenure of a do or die Game 3 at Minto Sports Complex Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.
The Ridgebacks played a structured game and were able to capitalize on some major defensive lapses in coverage by the Gee-Gees. Ottawa came into the playoffs averaging an OUA best 41 shots per game, and despite having 37 shots on Saturday, they couldn’t find a way to tie the game.
“They’re a very well-coached team and they play tight, so it’s to be expected,” said Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaitre.
Minutes into the first period Ontario Tech captain Alex Yuill held the puck in at the blueline, dropped a pass to defence partner Brennan Roy, went to the net and was able to bang in the rebound from Roy’s shot on his backhand.
Three minutes later, the Ridgebacks caught Ottawa out of position as Jake Bricknell took a stretch pass at the Gee-Gees blueline from his own zone and walked in on a two on one. He slid a backhand cross-ice pass to Austin Eastman, who one-timed the puck past Domenic Graham as the Ridgebacks two leading scorers gave their team a quick 2-0 lead.
Despite the loss, fifth-year transfer Domenic Graham had a solid game for the Gee-Gees in net. Early in the first period he made a big save with his left arm on a one-timer from right in front of the net, and then made a huge right pad save halfway through the first as he stretched out to rob Eastman on the backdoor.
With three minutes left in the first frame, Kevin Domingue drew a cross-checking penalty with strong puck possession along the boards. On the powerplay, the Gee-Gees moved the puck around in the offensive zone, resulting in Dominic Cormier sliding a pass to Medric Mercier, who one-timed a shot that hit a defender’s stick and deflected past the Ontario Tech goalie.
The Gee-Gees cut Ontario Tech’s lead in half and entered the first intermission down 2-1.
The play was evenly matched and full of penalties in the first half of the second period. Just past the halfway point and with the Gee-Gees on the powerplay, Nicolas Mattinen picked up a loose puck off the boards, walked into the Ontario Tech zone and slid a pass to Daniel Hardie.
Hardie cut to the high slot and took a shot that hit Ontario goalie Leif Hertz up high and fell into the crease, Connor Sills fought his way to the blue paint and buried the rebound to tie the game at 2.
A minute later the Ridgebacks got a powerplay of their own. After a faceoff win, Eastman was able to get the puck back to Yuill at the point, and his slapshot was deflected in front by Josh Maguire and found the back of the Ottawa net to give the Ridgebacks a 3-2 lead.
Five minutes later, after a parade of players went in and out of the penalty box, the Gee-Gees found themselves on the powerplay. Some good movement on the outside of the Ridgebacks zone saw the puck go from Sills to Hardie to Michael Poirier, who set up Mercier for a one-timer at the top of the right circle.
The shot beat Hertz over his blocker, giving Mercier his second goal of the game and the Gee-Gees their third powerplay goal Grandmaitre said after the game that the Gees’ special teams play is a positive aspect of their game that they can take into play on Sunday. The second period ended in a 3-3 tie.
“I got some good passes, I just tried to lean on it and hit the net,” said Mercier after the game about his two goals.
After the penalty-ridden second period, the pace of play was frantic in the third, with Ontario Tech doing their best to limit the Gee-Gees high-quality scoring chances.
During a mad scramble in front of the net, Graham made a great save and the Ridgebacks dug away at the loose puck, celebrating as if they scored. The refs made no signal and after closer inspection, ruled that Graham had stopped it before it crossed the line — no goal.
Soon after there was a scramble along the boards in the Ottawa end, the puck was shot up the boards but deflected into the middle of the ice. Sean Ross of the Ridgebacks was able to pick it up and walk in with an open lane to the net, he made a nice move to his forehand and was able to shoot it top shelf past the outstretched glove of Graham.
With the Ridgebacks now leading 4-3, the Gee-Gees pressed hard for offence but could not muster a goal. The closest they came to scoring was sliding a puck under Hertz’s leg during a scramble. Similar to Ontario Tech’s previous scramble in front of the Gees net, the players on the Ottawa bench and many spectators celebrated as if the puck went in, but the refs immediately said no goal.
With 30 seconds left Liam Hurley picked off a pass and was able to score on the empty Gee-Gees net, sealing a 5-3 win for the Ridgebacks and forcing a Game 3.
“These games are fun, it’s something that you live to play for, and I’m sure we’ll respond the right way,” said Grandmaitre. “(We need to) take advantage of the middle of the ice, or just chip the puck behind them to get them on their heels and see what happens”.
Sean Ross, Jake Bricknell and Medric Mercier were named the first, second, and third stars of the game.
The third and final game of the series will be played on Sunday at the Minto Sports Complex. After playing in front of a crowd of 185, the Gee-Gees hope to get similar support for Sunday’s Game 3, with puck drop scheduled for 3 p.m. The winner of Game 3 will advance to play UQTR in another best of three series in Round 2.
Elsewhere in the OUA…
OUA EAST: (8) RMC vs. (1) Carleton, Ravens won the series 2-0.
OUA EAST: (2) UQTR vs (7) Queen’s, Patriotes won the series 2-0
OUA EAST: (4) McGill vs (5) Concordia, series tied 1-1, game 3 at McGill tonight at 7:30 p.m.
OUA WEST: (8) Western vs. (1) Toronto, series tied 1-1, game 3 in Toronto tonight at 7 p.m.
OUA WEST: (2) Ryerson Rams vs (7) Lakehead Thunderwolves, Rams won the series 2-0
OUA West: (3) Guelph Gryphons vs (6) Laurier Golden Hawks, series tied 1-1, game 3 in Guelph tonight at 7:30 p.m.
OUA WEST: (4) Windsor Lancers vs (5) Brock Badgers, Badgers won the series 2-0