By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It’s easy, sometimes, to be in the presence of greatness and come to take it for granted.
Unlikely as it may be that the Queen’s Golden Gaels ever will fail to appreciate what goaltender Kevin Bailie brings to the hockey team, every now and then he provides a reminder, anyway.
Friday night’s game provided just such evidence.
Bailie, the third-year goaler from Belleville, made a number of saves that would be considered outstanding, splendid, spectacular—insert superlative here—for mortal netminders, but for him?
Another day at the office.
“You think you know how good he can play and then he comes out and does that tonight,” Gaels coach Brett Gibson said after Bailie’s 39-save performance was instrumental in Queen’s 2-0 victory over No. 9-ranked Carleton at the Memorial Centre.
“He made some saves tonight that were incredible.”
It was Bailie’s third shutout of the season, his second against the Ravens, the fourth-highest scoring team in the country. He leads the nation both with his 1.94 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
Perhaps the best of all the saves from which that percentage is derived came when the game was scoreless in the first period, and Bailie found himself facing Carleton’s Brett Welychka. The Gaels were on a power play and, apparently oblivious to Welychka’s presence in their end of the ice, all five of them chose that moment to head to the bench for a line change. Welychka, close enough to attest to the colour of Bailie’s eyes, feinted one way, then the other, and lifted the puck toward the top corner, but not quickly enough to elude Bailie’s flashing glove.
With Queen’s leading 2-0 late in the second period, Bailie slid to his left to get a pad on a shot by Brett Gustavsen, who was unguarded off the right post, with what had looked for all the world like an open net facing him. Not long after that, Gustavsen was denied again, when Bailie held his ground and gave the diminutive Ravens rookie nowhere to shoot at the end of a partial breakaway.
A person could go on.
“He has tremendous personal pride in his game,” Gibson said. “He’s the best goalie in Canada for a reason. Tonight he showed that.”
The win leaves the Gaels three points behind fourth-place Ontario Tech, a 4-2 winner at home Friday night over the Royal Military College Paladins. Queen’s has played three fewer games than Tech and though fourth place might not seem like much of a prize, in a division where the top three teams all are ranked among the top nine in Canada, home-ice advantage in the first round of playoffs is nothing to sneeze at.
In fact, catching Carleton for third place is not beyond the scope of reality. Queen’s trails the Ravens by seven points, with three games in hand—and two games left with last-place RMC.
Such possibilities were not mentioned 10 days ago, when Carleton left the Memorial Centre with a 3-2 win, but they could be entertained after Friday’s game, one for which Queen’s expended a much more spirited effort.
“I challenged our guys,” Gibson said. “It wasn’t a challenge about scoring the first goal, it was a challenge to set a tone for the game. They were ready to play. I knew they were ready to play in the room (before the game).
“That’s a Top 10 team we’ve now beaten twice. It will breed some confidence, that’s for sure.”
What pleased him most, Gibson said, was the speed at which the game was played, and the competitive level his players displayed.
“If you’d seen us up north (in a two-game sweep of Laurentian and Nipissing last weekend), we competed, and this is a try-hard league.
“If you work hard, then your skill will take over. If you just try to out-skill a team, it doesn’t work.”
Braden Mercier opened scoring with his second goal of the year, after Spencer Abraham threaded the needle through the Carleton defence with a backhand pass that found Mercier alone in front of the Ravens goal. Mercier faked one way and slid the puck past Carleton goaltender Patrick Killeen in the game’s 16th minute.
It was the first time in eight games that Queen’s scored the first goal of a game.
In the opening minute of the second period, some valiant work by Patrick McGillis, who fell, regained his feet and kept the play alive in the Carleton end, led to the puck finding its way to Andrew Wiebe at the base of the right wing circle, from where he beat Killeen with a high shot for what proved to be the final goal of the game.
After two periods that were played at a tremendously fast pace, the third period, one in which the Gaels were outshot 13-11—at least—was much more ragged.
“It was 1985 all over again,” Gibson said. “It was prison rules out there, and I think it ruined the pace of the game. Both ways, there could have been penalties everywhere. One team would take over for a good five minutes, and then the other team would.”
The Gaels, 14-6-1, resume play Saturday night in Montreal, where they will face the sixth-ranked McGill Redmen. Queen’s dropped a 3-2 decision to the Redmen at home in the only previous meeting this year, in late November.
The Gaels will be seeking to end a 30-game losing streak against McGill, the team that eliminated them from the playoffs a year ago. The last time Queen’s defeated the Redmen was almost 12 years ago, on Feb. 6, 2004, a 5-2 win in Montreal.
In Oshawa Friday night, two goals less than two minutes apart late in the second period broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks to a 4-2 win over RMC.
Twice in the first period Tech took a one-goal lead, only to have the Paladins tie the game less than three minutes later. As a result, the visitors escaped from a period where they would be outshot 21-11 in a 2-2 tie.
RMC ultimately would be betrayed by its power play, however, as Tech’s fourth goal, by Jesse Stoughton, came while the Ridgebacks were shorthanded.
It was Stoughton’s league-leading third shorthanded goal of the season.
RMC had three man-advantage situations in the third period and failed to capitalize on any of them. The Paladins ended the game 0-for-5 on the power play in a game where they would be outshot 43-32.
The Paladins got their goals from a pair of first-year players: Bennett Huber, who scored his seventh of the year, and David Savery, who got his first.
RMC is idle until Thursday, when the Paladins will face Queen’s in the annual Carr-Harris Cup game at the Rogers K-Rock Centre.