After an injury-riddled season that ended with a devastating loss to the Nipissing University Lakers in a best- of-three quarterfinal series, 2-1, the McGill Redmen are looking to return to the former glory of their 2012 Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship season. Even with all the injuries, leading to an estimated 130 player games lost (meaning over the season, injured players missed a collective 130 games), the Redmen were able to finish the season with a respectable 17-7-4 record, leaving them third in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario University Athletics league. So what went wrong? What changes have been made to remedy last season’s defeat? What should we be expecting from our McGill Redmen Men’s Hockey team this season? To answer these questions, I sat down with Kelly Nobes, the head coach of the Redmen.
The first thing I wanted to know was what type of system is implemented for the success of his team. “We like to play a fast game. We like to play quick transition, quick attack style of play,” Nobes said. This style was attributed to the smaller-sized team that McGill had last year, which was one of the main things that Nobes and coaching staff wanted to change. “This year we added more size, so we are looking to play a more physical style and more aggressive. We’ve got a good group this year, a young group. 22 guys in their first or second year. Our skill level is high, speed is good, good size and lots of depth,” Nobes continued. Not only was size upgraded but also maybe more importantly, this year’s squad has a lot of added depth.
Mainly due to injuries, the depth on this team could be what changes the ill fate of last year’s team into a team more like the 2012 championship team. Nobes said, “Now we’ve got a roster of 29 guys, which is more than you would normally carry, but we are going to rely on that depth throughout the season if and when injuries occur.”
The next area of concern that I addressed was goaltending. When asked, Nobes seemed very confident in his goalie tandem, claiming, “We are in good shape there. We’ve got a fifth year goalie who was [at McGill] last year, Andrew Fleming, and we have a first year goalie in Jacob Gervais-Chouinard who played in Sherbrooke last year. Saw a lot of games there, saw a lot of rubber there, and he finished the season with Hamilton in the American [Hockey] League [the level below professional]. So he is a very solid goaltender.” Last year, Fleming posted a 2.45 goals against average, a .923 save percentage and earned 8 wins in 15 games. When asked who would be the starting goalie come opening day, he simply replied, “[The goalies] are going to sort that out as we go.” This could see a goalie controversy develop, if both ‘tendies’ push each other for the starting job. Like last year, we could see a split of starts, with more of a 1A, 1B goalie situation. From the goalie position, our conversation turned to leading scorer for the McGill Redmen, Patrick Delisle-Houde.
Racking up 24 points in 26 games played, on a team that lacked high offensive output, rookie Delisle-Houde was one of the prominent scoring threats for McGill last year. “We expect Pat[rick] to produce offensively for us,” Nobes continued, “But he is a 200 foot player [meaning he plays well anywhere on the rink]. He can be our best guy in the defensive zone, on the penalty kill, and he is going to put some pucks in the net this year [at the same time].” Look for Delisle-Houde to improve his numbers in his second year, due to the additional offensive support the coaching staff brought in this year. Of the players brought in, Coach Nobes specified one that McGill students should look out for this year.
Coming from the Western Hockey League, Neal Prokop has been added to the roster. The 6 foot 3, 212 pound forward should bring the power forward type player that the Redmen lacked last year to the lineup. “For us we needed to add some size for our lineup, and guys like that are going to help us,” Nobes said. This infusion of size is what Nobes proclaimed will “be [an] advantage to us. Means that we might be a little more durable too.”
One of the biggest concerns of last year’s team was the lack of offensive output. Of all the Eastern playoff teams, McGill ranked second to last in goals for with only 89. When asked if Coach Nobes was concerned with this statistic he responded, “We were so depleted due to injuries last year that it had a factor in our offensive output. But we also didn’t generate enough offensively and clearly that’s an area we are looking to improve and you will see that number go up for sure this year.”
Although these are only predictions at this point, the Redmen’s coaching staff has tried to change the dynamic of the group to make sure that the events of last year do not repeat themselves. The one attribute that Nobes commented would be in short supply this season is “the obvious, and that is experience.” Nobes hopes that the young players can step up and prove to the team that they are accountable servicemen for this club. Through more depth up front, a bigger team, a more aggressive style of play, and developing younger players, the Redmen are poised to have a comeback season and return to former splendour. Nobes finished by saying, “We made a lot of changes. In terms of our personnel, what we are doing off the ice, in our training, and how we are managing ourselves. Time will tell if some of these changes help but we are confident that they are going to make a difference.”