RMC Freshman goalie Joey May makes 47 saves in win
The Gee-Gees men’s hockey team dropped their fourth consecutive game on Sunday night, losing 4-3 in overtime to the RMC Paladins on home ice at Minto Sports Complex.
The game marked Jean-Robin Mantha’s return to the ice after a year and a half long battle with testicular cancer. Mantha received a standing ovation from the hometown crowd when the PA announcer called out his name in the starting lineup. The Gatineau native laced up his skates to play for the Gees for the first time since the 2017-18 season, playing with lots of power in his return.
“What an awesome feeling, to see all the support I have from the Gee-Gees family,” Mantha said after the game. “There was a little rust but I felt pretty good out there, so it was fine.”
Fourth-year veteran Graham Hunt started in the net for the Gee-Gees. The American netminder started a game for only the third time this season after being designated third-string goalie behind Domenic Graham and Anthony Brodeur. Coming into action on Sunday, Hunt had only allowed four goals in two games and had last played in a 3-2 shootout loss to Queen’s on Jan 24.
RMC sophomore Liam Stagg beat Hunt less than three minutes into the game to open the score on the powerplay with a nice crisp shot from the slot. The Gee-Gees were on a penalty kill following a hooking penalty by Kevin Domingue.
The Gee-Gees tied it minutes later on the powerplay when Brendan Jacome buried his sixth goal of the season on a nice tic-tac-toe play from Adam Beveridge and Daniel Hardie.
Ottawa took the lead the very next shift, and Connor Sills cut to the net and beat RMC goaltender Joey May to make it 2-1. The Gee-Gees added to their lead two minutes later on a broken play that resulted in a bouncy Sills shot sneaking past May between the left pad and glove, giving the big format forward his second goal of the game and 11th of the year. Kyle Ward and Jacob Hanlon were credited with the assists.
Both teams would get opportunities in the latter half of the period but Hunt and May would stand tall, keeping the game 3-1 for Ottawa.
Ottawa really started to dominate in the second, spending long periods of time in the Paladins’ end. May stood strong against multiple Gee-Gees chances and made a number of big saves, but none were bigger than a sprawling blocker save off a two-on-one shot by Hardie.
The tide did end up turning with about eight minutes left in the period. Ottawa found themselves on the wrong end of a five-on-three after a Marco Azzano hip check that was deemed a trip. RMC’s Christopher Paquette found the back of the net from outside the right circle with a nice shot that beat Hunt blocker side.
Minutes later, Domingue missed a golden opportunity to give the Gees back a two-goal lead, hitting the crossbar. Paquette then managed to break away but was judged off-side by the linesman. Unbeknownst to him, May then robbed Gee-Gees captain Quinn O’Brien, who was looking the other way with his right pad.
After two periods the Gees led only by one, 3-2.
The Calgary native made 47 saves on the night and was a standout star for RMC.
“He’s making a run for team MVP,” said Paladins head coach Richard Lim. “He’s been outstanding, I mean, without him we definitely don’t win the last two games, he looks real good and I’m very glad for him to get this opportunity and run with it.”
Both teams came back from the break a little sloppy with a number of bad turnovers, giving each team golden chances they missed early in the third period. RMC’s Seamus McGuire then went to the box after breaking his own stick on a slash to Jacome’s piece of fibreglass.
The Gee-Gees were menacing on their powerplay but unable to capitalize on any of their chances, with May once again stopping everything. RMC fed off their goalie’s heroics and Paquette managed to breakaway with two minutes left and beat Hunt with a shot bar down to tie the game at three.
With 1:18 remaining, the Gees scored to take a 4-3 lead off a bounce from the back glass but it was waved back after it was determined Marco Azzano hit the puck with a high stick.
With about 40 seconds left, May made his first mistake of the night and shot the puck out of play for a delay of game penalty, giving Ottawa a powerplay that they took with them to overtime.
In overtime and on the powerplay, the Gees tried hard to set up one-timers from Medric Mercier and Domingue. RMC’s defenders were able to put sticks in the way, or May stopped them.
RMC then had their chance on the powerplay but were unable to score. Finally, Liam Murray beat Hunt off a terrible rebound to end hostilities with 1:47 left in overtime, sending RMC to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
“It’s unreal, I can’t even process it, this group of guys, I’m speechless,” Kim said after the game, with a smile from ear to ear. “We know we’re a strong team to beat UQTR and then come in here and beat a strong Ottawa team and to clinch playoffs, (it’s) unreal, the guys have so much heart and courage.”
Visibly upset with giving up a lead for the second game in a row, associate coach Brent Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff who filled in for a sick head coach Pat Grandmaitre on the night declined interviews after the game.
“I think we definitely had our moments when we wanted to play, we were playing a full game and pushing the pace,” said Gees forward Connor Sills in his post-game press conference. “It wasn’t good enough tonight, we got to play a full 60, that’s kind of what happened and we’ll put it past us now.”
With the loss, the Gee-Gees are now 15-11 on the season and sit in fourth place in the OUA East standings. With just two games remaining in the regular season, Ottawa will look to pass McGill, who sits just one point ahead of the Gees with the same amount of games played. The Gee-Gees have already clinched a playoff spot and are now fighting to play the lowest possible seeded team in the standings.
RMC will face Queen’s next week before taking on Carleton in the playoffs.
The Gees will play their final home game against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Saturday at 3 p.m. Ottawa will then hit the road on Sunday to close out the regular season against the Queen’s Golden Gaels in Kingston at 2 p.m.