Sports  McGill Redmen hockey mid-season report

Men's hockey looks to continue its hot start

After a season filled with injuries, a lack of scoring, and a disappointing final upset in the playoffs, the McGill Redmen Men’s hockey team has gotten back on the horse this year, once again becoming one of the staple names in the Ontario University Athletics League (OUA). Led by head coach Kelly Nobes, changes in the off-season have reinvigorated the 2013-14 team. The Redmen currently sit in second place in the Eastern division with a formidable 12-5-1 record. They only trail the 12-0-5 Queens Gaels.

One of the key factors of the Redmen’s success has been their ability to light the lamp at a much higher frequency this year compared to the previous year. So far, the Redmen have potted 73 goals in 18 games, which averages a remarkable 4.05 goals per game. They are poised to eclipse the previous year’s mark of 89 goals in 28 games (3.18 goals per game) and are second in the OUA for overall team offence. This increased offence was one of the promises made by Coach Nobes at the beginning of the year that the team has actualized.

Defenceman Ryan McKiernan has led the attack this year from the blue line, accruing 20 points in only 18 games. Getting that type of high powered offence from the defence is a rarity in hockey, and to have that threat from the back end gives the forwards more room to get open, creating more offensive opportunities. Neal Prokop, a newcomer to the team, leads the forward regiment with 16 points in 18 games. He is followed by Cedric McNicoll, who has 15 points in only 13 games played. Last year’s leading scorer, Patrick Delisle-Houde, has managed only 15 points in 18 games, but has been invaluable to the power play and penalty-kill units. Look for him to start heating up as the season approaches its climax, and into the team’s playoff run.

One of the most important strategies in hockey is that a great defence makes a great offence. This is one of the fundamental reasons that the offence has had great success: a good defensive corps. Other than McKiernan, with his offensive prowess, the defence has been pretty boring – a positive adjective when referring to a team’s defence. The ability to make smart plays in the defensive zone without any flashiness is something that the Redmen’s back end should be proud of. It is rare to see such poise and maturity from the whole blue line, especially with such a young group. The defence has done a great job of extricating the opposing forwards from the front of the net, which has allowed the goalies to do their job: keep the puck out of the net.

The goaltending tandem of Jacob Gervais-Chouinard and Andrew Flemming has been very solid to say the least. Flemming, the incumbent goalie from last year’s team, has posted a respectable 5-2 record with a 2.67 goals against average and .909 save percentage. Newcomer Gervais-Chouinard, however, has really stood out with his excellent play, as displayed by his 7-3 record, 1.96 goals against average, and .928 save percentage. Currently both netminders have played an equal amount of games. However, it will be interesting to watch what will happen as the games gain more importance toward the end of the season. Nobes will have to decide whether Chouinard will earn more games based on his recent superiority in the net. Come playoff time, one of the goalies will emerge as the clear starter, and will play the majority of games, and it seems as though Chouinard is well on his way to getting the final nod in net.

Overall, the coaching staff, led by Nobes, have backed up their words with actions. They believed in changing the losing culture of last year’s team during the off-season by adding size, depth, and improving the goaltending. This has led to a revitalization of the hockey club, while giving them the added swagger that we last saw in their 2012 championship season. The Redmen are once again a powerhouse in the OUA, with a high throttle offence and a rock-solid goaltending tandem.

Look for the Redmen to shred through the rest of the regular season with ease, and make a strong run into the playoffs. The Redmen are striving to regain their former glory as champions, which is more than a pipe dream; it’s an expectation. As the famous football coach Vince Lombardi once noted, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”