The Gee-Gees men's hockey team exacted some revenge on the Queen's Gaels, erasing a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday night at the Minto Sports Complex.
It was the first matchup between the teams since the second round of the OUA playoffs last season. The Gaels beat the Gee-Gees in three games, the third of which was a thrilling, 6-5 decision in Ottawa that ended the Garnet and Grey's season.
Goaltender Graham Hunt made his first appearance since that fateful playoff series nine months ago. After giving up two goals on seven shots in the opening period, Hunt settled down and was perfect the rest of the way, including stymying all three Queen's shooters in the shootout.
"Queen's never beats themselves," said Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaître. "You have to earn your points against them. After going down two-nothing in the first, I thought we were playing well. I thought we kept our poise. We didn't change our game plan. The power play came up with a goal and the penalty kill came up big."
The visitors opened the scoring in the first, with Jared Bethune finding the back of the net. Mason Kohn had moved in on a partial break and the puck found its way to Bethune who beat a helpless Hunt. Kohn doubled the lead before the period was out.
Ottawa had yet to win when trailing at the end of the first, and the Gaels were undefeated when scoring first and leading after the opening frame.
Defenceman Jacob Sweeney did his best to change that, as he smoked a shot past netminder Luke Richardson midway through the second period. Ottawa broke in on an odd-man rush and Cody Drover showed tremendous patience to find Sweeney, who entered the zone late.
With the third period underway and the Gee-Gees behind by one, Jacob Hanlon was cut by a high stick, bringing up a four-minute power play for the Garnet and Grey. They made quick work of it, as Nicolas Mattinen capped off a slick passing play. Drover and Kevin Domingue notched assists as Ottawa tied it up.
The score would hold firm throughout the third period and overtime, bringing up the shootout.
Connor Sills scored the pivotal goal for Ottawa, using his patented shot through the five-hole that just squeaked through Richardson.
However, the hero of the shootout was Hunt. The senior goaltender struggled in the shootout last season, stopping just two-of-seven opportunities, but he was a perfect 3-for-3 Wednesday. Hunt stopped consecutive one-handed, Peter Forsberg-esque moves by the Gaels, doing the splits and earning the Gee-Gees the extra point.
With his two assists, Drover now leads Ottawa with 19 points. He is on an eight-game point streak and his 16 helpers are second in the OUA, one behind Julien Tessier of UQTR.
"I've got good line mates, I have to give them a lot of credit," said Drover. "We have good chemistry; Dingo with either Mongo or Jacome at centre. A lot of credit to them since they're finding the back of the net while I'm giving it to them."
Domingue also kept his point streak alive. He now has a point in all seven games the Gee-Gees have played in the month of November.
Ottawa went 1-for-6 on the man advantage and were 4-for-4 on the kill. They now own the best penalty kill in the conference, sitting at 90.4 percent.
"We've changed from being a passive team in the past years to a very aggressive team," said Grandmaître of the penalty kill. "It's been helping us out. Our forecheck has been good with not letting teams get set up in the zone easily, so that's digging into some power play time. PK always comes down to willingness to outwork teams and block shots and that's what's going on right now."
The Gee-Gees (9-4-1) move into sole possession of third place in the OUA East, two points clear of McGill (8-5-1) and five points behind second-place UQTR (11-2-2). The Gaels (6-9-1) remain in eighth position.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Gee-Gees continue their busy stretch of six games in eleven days to close out the 2019 calendar year.
Ottawa remains at home this coming weekend to face the Concordia Stingers on Saturday, November 30 and the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks on Sunday, December 1. Both games are matinee affairs, with 3:00 p.m. puck drops at the Minto Sports Complex.
Concordia (6-6-3) enters the weekend four points behind Ottawa in the standings. The Stingers snapped a five-game losing streak last weekend against the RMC Paladins and enter well rested – Saturday will be their second game in 13 days. Rookie Tyler Hylland leads the way with nine goals and 18 points.
Ontario Tech (6-8-2) beat the Gee-Gees at home in late October. Five different Ridgebacks found the back of the net in a 5-2 victory. Ontario Tech has also been struggling recently, having dropped four of their last five games.
For in-game updates, follow @GeeGeesMHKY on Twitter. The games are streamed on OUA.tv. Tickets to all Gee-Gees home games are available at tickets.geegees.ca.