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U CUP PREVIEW: Gee-Gees take on hosts Acadia in quarters at National Championship

Photo of Jacob Hanlon and Brendan Jacome
Photo: Greg Mason

The Gee-Gees men's hockey team will be in hostile territory Friday, when they take on the Acadia Axemen in the quarterfinals of the 2020 U SPORTS National Championship.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. local time, 6:00 p.m. EST, at the 10,500-seat Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.

Ottawa enters the tournament as the number-four seed, having lost to the Guelph Gryphons in the Queen's Cup Final last Saturday. The triple-overtime affair in Guelph was the longest Queen's Cup final in the trophy's 109-year history.

Despite having the automatic bid, Acadia played their way into the National Championship, earning the number-five seed. The Axemen beat the Saint Mary's Huskies in the AUS semi-final before losing to the powerhouse UNB Reds in game three of the final.

Although they finished second in the Atlantic conference with a 19-9-2 regular season record, Acadia had just one player in the top-15 of league scoring. Third year forward Cristiano Digiacinto enjoyed a breakout campaign, putting up 20 goals and 37 points. The former sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning had just 16 points through his first two seasons out East.

Digiacinto earned five goals in seven AUS playoff games, while teammate Owen MacDonald had six points.

Between the pipes, Acadia will be relying on Logan Flodell. A workhorse sophomore, Flodell started 25 games during the regular season, leading the conference with a .918 save percentage. His 2.79 goals-against average was third to the Varsity Reds duo of Samuel Harvey and Rylan Parenteau.

Ottawa are boasting a hot netminder of their own. Domenic Graham had an up-and-down regular season in Garnet and Grey, but was lights-out in the playoffs. His 1.85 goals-against was by far the lowest in the conference, buttressed by a .935 save percentage.

Gee-Gees skaters led all major offensive categories during the OUA postseason. Kevin Domingue's eight goals and Nicolas Mattinen's nine assists were the most in the conference, while Mattinen, Domingue and Cody Drover were the top-three point getters.

The Gee-Gees have been to the U SPORTS National Championship on two occasions – 1985 and 2004.

In 2004, the Gee-Gees lost both of their games in the round robin to powerhouses Alberta and New Brunswick and did not advance to the championship round.

This will be the first time Ottawa is competing in the championship in its current format – an eight team, single-elimination tournament. There is no consolation bracket.

The team's matchup with Acadia represents the second time they will be facing an AUS opponent since the program was re-established in 2016. The StFX X-Men, the alma mater of head coach Patrick Grandmaître, visited the Minto Sports Complex during the 2018 pre-season. The Gee-Gees fell by a score of 5-2.

The winner of the Ottawa-Acadia matchup will advance to the semi-final to face the winners of the number-one seeded UNB Varsity Reds and the number-eight ranked UBC Thunderbirds. UNB have won three of the last four University Cups and ended their regular season on a 14-game winning streak.

2020 U SPORTS Men's Hockey National Championship seeding:

1. UNB Varsity Reds (AUS Champions)
2. Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West Champions)
3. Guelph Gryphons (OUA Champions)
4. Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA Finalists)
5. Acadia Axemen (AUS Finalists/Hosts)
6. Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS Bronze Medalists)
7. Western Mustangs (OUA Bronze Medalists)
8. UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West Finalists)