By CLAUDE SCILLEY
The final weekend of the regular season is no time to feel warm and fuzzy about yourself.
“That effort is night and day to what we’ve seen in the last couple of games,” Queen’s Golden Gaels hockey coach Brett Gibson said Friday night, after his team was defeated 3-2 by the Nipissing Lakers in an Ontario University Athletics game that went into two overtime periods.
“In that case, we took a step in the right direction,” Gibson continued, “but there’s no moral victories. Now it’s out of our hands where we play next Wednesday.”
Gibson was referring to the opening game of the playoffs. Queen’s, one point ahead of fifth place Ontario Tech going into Friday’s play—with no way of being caught if the Gaels won their final two games—fell into a tie as they gained just a point from the overtime loss, but Tech gained two from its 1-0 overtime victory over the Laurentian Voyageurs Friday night.
A goal by Kingston’s Ben Blasko gave the Ridgebacks the victory, and it restored his team’s upper hand in any season-ending ties, since Tech took three of four points from the Gaels this year, winning 5-3 in Kingston and losing 4-3 at home in November.
The teams trade opponents to close their regular schedules Saturday night, the Ridgebacks entertaining the Lakers in Oshawa and Queen’s hosting Laurentian at the Invista Centre at 7:30.
Queen’s has been in the throes of a terrible slump since the middle of January. They’re 5-7 in that time, having lost five of those games to teams with poorer records than they had.
Friday night’s contest was the fourth game in seven days that has gone to double overtime, and Queen’s has lost three of them. This time, the Gaels were nursing a 2-1 lead into the second half of the third period, when Brock Morrison scored his third goal of the year to tie the game for Nipissing at 14:11.
The Gaels, who played the game without two veteran defencemen, the all-star Spencer Abraham and captain Patrick Downe, both injured, dominated the first overtime period, one in which Nipissing’s Sam Gleason was penalized and Queen’s skated 4-on-3 for two minutes. The best scoring chance, however, was at the other end of the rink, denied by Gaels goaltender Kevin Bailie, after Nipissing’s Erik Robichaud took off on a breakaway when a long rebound off the end boards found him at centre ice as the penalty expired.
In the second overtime, with the teams skating 3on-3, Nipissing hit a goal post behind Bailie, who subsequently made another breakaway save. Joseph Luongo had Queen’s best chance, when Lakers goalie Domenic Graham robbed him when he was alone at the tip of the crease, but then Colin Campbell scored his 12th goal of the year, on a high wrist shot from the right wing circle, to give the Lakers the victory.
“We probably deserved a better fate,” Gibson said. “I thought we played really well tonight. That’s hockey. When you’re in a slump and you don’t do things right for about three weeks … you’ve got to earn it back.
“If we can play like that, we’ll be fine.”
Queen’s, stinging from a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Royal Military College Thursday, pounced on the Lakers, outshooting them 19-9 in the first period. The Gaels came away with just one goal, however, as Darcy Greenaway sent Queen’s into the second period up 1-0.
Joel Herbert tied the game in the eighth minute of the second period but five minutes later Shawn Boudreau scored his fifth goal of the year, unassisted, to restore the one-goal Queen’s lead, one that stood until Morrison scored late in the second period.
“We had more than enough opportunities to win this hockey game,” said Gibson, who wouldn’t entertain the thought that his team was playing with fatigue by the end of the game, the Gaels’ fifth in eight days, the last four of which were double-overtime contests.
“That team’s been on a bus for 10 hours,” he said, referring to the Lakers.
“We had one breakdown and it cost us right at the end. The guys played well. They worked hard tonight. We did a lot of the right things. We got pucks deep, our turnovers were very limited—we did a lot of good things. Now it’s a matter of doing the right things all the time.”