Babcock inspires Verreault-Paul and Redmen to victory over Gee-Gees
(FRANCIS VERREAULT SCORED TWICE, UPPING HIS TOTAL TO 15 GOALS IN 17 GAMES. PHOTO BY DEREK DRUMMOND)
MONTREAL - Francis Verreault-Paul, an All-Canadian senior from Mashteuiatsh, Que., scored twice - including the game-winner - and added an assist as No.1-ranked McGill skated to an easy 7-2 triumph over visiting Ottawa in OUA men's hockey before 390, including Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, at McConnell Arena, Saturday.
It marked McGill's 15th consecutive win over the Gee-Gees and clinched a playoff berth for the eighth consecutive season. With six games remaining before post-season play begins, the Redmen lead the OUA East with a sparkling 18-2-2 record and have assured themselves of finishing no worse than third in the 10-team division. McGill, which plays at Carleton (12-8-3) on Saturday, can tie the single-season school record for wins established under head coach Kelly Nobes last year (24-2-2) should they come out victorious in all remaining contests.
The seven-goal outburst was McGill's highest total in 39 games overall, dating back to a 10-5 win at Ottawa, Feb. 18, 2011. All but five of McGill's 18 skaters registered at least one point on the scoresheet.
"We had a slow start but got our feet moving halfway through the first period and certainly found the back of the net as the game wore on," said Nobes. "Our offensive zone play was real good. We ran some good routes on the power-play had good net front presence there and certainly showed some good signs."
The Redmen, who led 3-1 after one period and 4-1 after two, had a 37-22 edge in shots, including a 16-6 margin in the middle frame.
Verreault-Paul, who led the nation in goals during each of the past two seasons, tallied a power-play goal at 15:44 of the opening stanza to give McGill an insurmountable 4-1 lead. He added another early in the final period to cap a five-goal outburst. Despite missing five games, it was his 15th marker in 17 games, four shy of the CIS lead in that department.
Linemate Patrick Belzile, a gritty 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger from Saint-Eloi, Que., who missed the entire first semester due to illness, netted his first of the season and added a pair of helpers.
Alex Picard-Hooper, the third member of that newly formed line, and the all-time assist king at McGill, collected three assists to run his record tally to 179 in 160 games overall.
"It was nice to see Belzile score his first goal," added Nobes. "I thought it was great transition play up the middle with 'Pic' and a nice pass to set up Pat for that goal. (The recent move of Belzile to the top trio) adds a little sandpaper on that line and gives us more balance through all our lines."
Rounding out the scoring for McGill was team captain Evan Vossen (10th) of Swift Current, Sask., defenceman Ryan McKiernan (3rd) of White Plains, N.Y., Benoit Levesque (6th) of Vaudreuil, Que., and Christophe Longpre-Poirier (6th) of Longueuil, Que.
Guillaume Donovan of Gatineau, Que., and Mathieu Methot of Ottawa, replied for the Gee-Gees, who have now dropped four in a row and tumbled from third-place to eighth over the last three weeks. If the season ended today, Ottawa would meet McGill in the opening round of the playoffs.
Goaltender Hubert Morin made 20 saves and improved his record to 10-3. He continues to lead all OUA netminders with a stingy 1.97 goals-against average and is ranked fourth with a .922 save percentage.
Gee-Gees starter Russell Abbott (7-10) was beaten five times on 30 shots before being yanked early in the final period. He was replaced by Aaron Barton, who saved five of seven shots in just over 17 minutes of play.
McGill went 1-for-5 on the power-play and erased all six shorthanded situations, running their kill streak to four consecutive games and 26 in a row since they were last beaten on Jan. 7.
"I'm certainly happy with the way our PK has performed over the last few games," said Nobes. "The guys are taking pride in the fact that were doing well there and hopefully we will keep going in that direction."
REDMEN RAP: A surprise visitor to McConnell Arena, for the second straight day, was Babcock, the former Redmen captain, who spent four nights and part of his down time during the NHL all-star break in Montreal, catching up with old stomping grounds and classmates... Babcock, who skated for the Redmen from 1983 to 1987, also dropped by a day earlier to deliver some inspirational words to the Redmen and Martlets during practice on Thursday... Rumour has it that he enjoyed a couple of smoked meat sandwiches and at least one poutine during his rare, extended visit to the city... McGill improved to 92-77-10 lifetime against the Gee-Gees.
Ottawa 2 at McGill 7
(Friday, January 27, 2012 - McConnell Arena)
GOALS BY PERIOD:
Ottawa 1-0-1 -- 2
McGill 3-1-3 -- 7
1, Ottawa, Guillaume Donovan 6 (Chamberland), 1:55.
2, McGill, Patrick Belzile 1 (Picard-Hooper, Verreault-Paul), 7:50.
3, McGill, Ryan McKiernan 3 (Vossen, Vachon), 10:36.
4, McGill, Francis Verreault-Paul 14 (Picard-Hooper, Belzile), 15:44 (PP).
Picard-Hooper Mcg (hooking), 11:52;
Jalbert Ott (slashing), 13:25;
Langelier-Parent Mcg (slashing), 13:25;
Leduc Ott (high sticking), 15:10.
5, McGill, Evan Vossen 10 (M.O. Vachon, B. Morse), 18:04.
Biniek Mcg (tripping), 2:50;
Blain Ott (inter. on goaltender), 9:31;
Miller Ott (high sticking), 16:02;
Chamberland Ott (cross checking), 18:34.
6, McGill, Francis Verreault-Paul 15 (A. Picard-Hooper, P. Belzile), 3:07.
7, Ottawa, Matthieu Methot 10 (L.O. Blain), 3:34.
8, McGill, Benoit Levesque 6 (M. Langelier-Parent, M.A. Daneau), 6:25.
9, McGill, Christophe Longpre-Poirier 6 (V. Bourgeois, N. Biniek), 11:54.
Boisvert Mcg (slashing), 8:33;
Levesque Mcg (slashing), 9:46;
Miller Ott (roughing), 13:38;
Picard-Hooper Mcg (dble minor for roughing), 13:38;
Verreault-Paul Mcg (roughing), 16:31;
Blunden Ott (hooking), 16:36.
Shots on Goal-
Ottawa 5-6-11 -- 22.
McGill 7-16-14 -- 37.
Power Play Opportunities-
Ottawa 0 / 6;
McGill 1 / 5.
Ottawa 7 / 14;
McGill 8 / 16.
Russell Abbott (start, L, 7-10-0, 30 shots-25 saves; 42:47);
Aaron Barton (ND, 7 shots-5 saves, 17:13).
Hubert Morin (W, 10-3-0, 22 shots-20 saves, 60:00).
Start: 7:02 PM
End: 9:17 PM
Linesmen-Maxime Chaput and Jonathan Alaire.
MOLSON CUP THREE STARS:
1. MCG - 18 Francis Verreault-Paul
2. MCG - 9 Alex Picard-Hooper
3. MCG - 11 Evan Vossen
McGill Athletics & Recreation
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