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University of Ottawa goes 1–1 in pre-season play

It was a slow beginning to the Gee-Gees’ men’s hockey season, with two pre-season games this weekend. On Friday Sept. 27, the University of Ottawa posted a 3–1 loss against Queen’s University, and on Sunday Sept. 28 they scored a 2–1 victory against the Royal Military College (RMC). Both games were messy for the Gee-Gees, with many missed passes and players finding themselves out of position on the ice.

In the Queen’s matchup, the Gaels’ hard and speedy two-man forecheck exposed the U of O defence, which wasn’t able to move the puck quickly enough to escape the pressure. This led to extended zonetime for Queen’s, and U of O wasn’t able to get their offensive game established.

Against RMC, the Gee-Gees came out noticeably quicker and used the speed of their forwards to establish a constant offensive attack. They came flying through the middle and caused multiple problems for the slower RMC defense as they drove wide to the net.

The Gees’ best player in both games was second-year forward Nicolas Larocque-Marcoux. With his speed and desire to get into the corners, Larocque-Marcoux was dangerous every time he was on the ice. He scored the first goal of the game against RMC, after he drove to the net and put a rebound high glove side.

The team only scored one power play goal all weekend, which came on a five-on-three against Queen’s. With little movement when the Gees had the puck, both RMC and Queen’s had an easy time killing penalties by pressuring the points for an easy clear.

By contrast, the Gee-Gees’ penalty kill was fantastic. With 15 penalties, the Gees found themselves a man down for considerable portions of both games and only allowed one power play goal all weekend. With excellent movement as a four-man unit, the U of O kept shooters to the outside and limited second and third rebound chances.

Goaltending also made the penalty kills a success. Netminder Francois Lacerte was fantastic against Queen’s on the power play, with a number of key saves in the third period to keep the Gee-Gees in the game. Lacerte came into the game at the 14-minute mark of the first period, after a skate blade caught on goalie Robin Billingham’s ankle.

Goalie Russell Abbott also had a strong showing, making multiple point blank saves during his 60 minutes in net against RMC, including a last-second flurry to keep the score at 2–1 for the Gee-Gees.

Even with a strong penalty kill, discipline has to be a concern for the Gee-Gees as they head into the regular season. During their first game of the weekend against Queen’s, they put up 10 penalties, spending the entire third period on the penalty kill. This included a five-minute major and a game misconduct to defenseman Darren Miller for slashing with seven minutes 24 seconds left in the third period, and a number of slashing and crosschecking penalties away from the play.

Things were better against RMC, with only five penalties, all of which came in the first half of the game.  RMC was considerably more aggressive and the Gees responded well; penalties were somewhat inevitable.

If the Gees continue to adapt quickly, the season won’t be theirs, but it will definitely be a good one.