A three-point performance from rookie defenceman Nicolas Mattinen propelled the Gee-Gees to a win on Thursday night, as the men's hockey team topped the Concordia Stingers 3-2 at the Minto Sports Complex.
The Gee-Gees take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three OUA East Final series with the Stingers. The winner will play for the Queen's Cup and earn a berth at the 2020 U SPORTS National Championship.
"We got the goal right off the hop [in the third period] and that gave us some momentum," said Gee-Gees men's hockey head coach Patrick Grandmaître. "They collapse and stay in front of the net with four guys – it's going to be ugly. We wanted to get pucks on net and get some high tips and that's what we ended up doing."
After the Gee-Gees fell behind in the first period, Mattinen got the comeback started. Connor Sills made a precise centering pass that Mattinen chipped past goaltender Kyle Jessiman to tie the game at one goal apiece just 18 seconds into the third period.
Three minutes later, the rearguard striked again. Mattinen set up Marco Azzano, who was flying off the bench, and his low shot squeaked through Jessiman's five-hole to give Ottawa the lead. It was Azzano's second crucial goal these playoffs, as the fourth-year forward notched the game winner in game three of the OUA East semi-final series against UQTR last weekend.
Ottawa caught a break midway through the final frame. Yvan Mongo was cut with a clear high stick that was missed by the referees. The officials conferred at the next stoppage and retroactively rewarded the Gee-Gees a four-minute powerplay for the infraction.
Mattinen stepped up on the man advantage. His point shot was tipped in by Cody Drover, giving the Gee-Gees a two-goal lead. Concordia scored a goal of their own on the powerplay a few minutes later, but Ottawa was able to hang on to take a 1-0 series lead.
With nine points, Mattinen now leads the OUA in postseason scoring. He is also first in assists with eight, while Kevin Domingue's five goals are tied for the most in the conference.
"I'm just trying to keep things simple," said Mattinen. "If I'm walking the blue line and I see an opening, I'm taking it. We have a lot of traffic in front for rebounds and tips so it's working well for us."
Domenic Graham stood tall in the Gee-Gees goal, making 33 saves. Jessiman made 43 stops in a losing effort.
Ottawa went 2-for-8 on the powerplay, while the Stingers were 2-for-4 with one of their goals coming at 6-on-4.
The series now shifts to Montreal, where Concordia attempts to keep their season alive at the Ed Meagher Arena on Saturday, February 29 at 7:30 p.m. Should a third game be necessary, it will be in Ottawa the next day.