If there was a grain of doubt in the minds of Gee-Gees men's hockey faithful following the team's 5-3 loss in game two of their opening round series against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, it was quickly erased Sunday.
The Gee-Gees turned in one of their most complete performances of the season, dominating the Ridgebacks en route to a 5-0 win at the Minto Sports Complex in game three and clinching a spot in the OUA East semi-finals.
"They have a really small rink over there, so they really clog up the ice," said Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaître. "We thought we would be able to take advantage of our bigger ice in game two, and we didn't. We adjusted some things, especially in our neutral zone offensive schemes and it paid off."
Ottawa was playing catch-up all-day Saturday, failing to lead at any point after the Ridgebacks hopped out to a 2-0 advantage. The Garnet and Grey tied the game with two powerplay markers from Médric Mercier and Connor Sills, only to have the visitors regain the lead.
Ontario Tech took a 4-3 lead seven minutes into the third period and they would not relinquish it, forcing a deciding third game.
The Gee-Gees had their backs against the wall heading into Sunday. The team was 1-3 in game three's since 2016 and were on a three game losing streak at home in the playoffs.
Unlike the second game of the series, Ottawa enjoyed a fantastic start. Marc Beckstead made a physical play behind the Ridgebacks net to wrestle the puck away from an opponent and centred it for Kyle Ward, who slammed it past goaltender Leif Hertz.
"It was huge and especially from that line," said Grandmaître when asked about the first goal. "Beckstead's been struggling with an injury and Ward hasn't played in the centre for a long time. When you get a goal from your third or your fourth line – a hard working goal as well – it generates some momentum on the bench."
The Gee-Gees took over in the second period, scoring three times in quick succession. Michael Poirier had a shot attempt from the slot ricochet over the head of Hertz and Yvan Mongo jammed in a puck on the doorstep after a long Daniel Hardie shot on the man advantage.
Domenic Graham gave up four goals on 29 shots in game two, but was stellar on Sunday, stopping all 25 pucks thrown his way. This is the first playoff series win for the fifth-year transfer from Nipissing University.
"We never doubted ourselves, we just had to adjust," said Graham. "There's some stress that goes with it, but you have to adjust and be focused. That's what we did. It takes the whole team to commit and we did that today."
Ottawa dominated special teams in the series, scoring five times on 16 powerplays (31%) and going 14-for-15 (94%) on the penalty kill.
A LOOK AHEAD
The Gee-Gees will now take on the second-seeded UQTR Patriotes, who swept the Queen's Gaels in their first round series. Ottawa took two of three games against the Pats in the regular season, although their most recent confrontation was a 4-1 decision for UQTR in January.
The Gee-Gees will open the series on the road at UQTR on Wednesday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m. The series will then shift to Ottawa for game two on Friday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. and, if necessary, back in Trois-Rivières for game three on Sunday.