(PHOTO OF NICOLAS BINIEK BY BRIAN SMITH, COURTESY UNB ATHLETICS)
FREDERICTON, N.B. -- The McGill Redmen advanced to the gold medal final of the CIS men's hockey championship for the second consecutive year despite a 4-3 loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Pool B finale, Saturday afternoon, in front of a capacity crowd 3,750 at the University of New Brunswick's Aitken Centre.
McGill, seeded second in the tourney, will face No.4 Western in the final on Sunday at 8 p.m. Atlantic, live on Sportsnet and webcast online at ssncanada.ca. The Mustangs advanced after a stunning 3-2 upset over tourney favourite UNB. The Redmen, in their fifth straight CIS championship appearance and the sixth in program history, played in the gold medal game for the first time a year ago, when they dropped a 4-0 decision to tournament host UNB.
Cavendish Farms University Cup website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice/index.
The second-seeded Redmen could've afforded to lose to the No. 3 Huskies by two goals or less and still qualify for the championship match. The OUA champions had doubled the Moncton Aigles Bleus 6-3 on Thursday, while Saskatchewan lost 5-1 to Moncton on Friday.
The three teams finished pool play with identical 1-1 records but McGill will skate in the final of the Cavendish Farms University Cup thanks to a better goal differential.
The Redmen, in their fifth straight CIS championship appearance and the sixth in program history, played in the gold medal game for the first time a year ago, when they dropped a 4-0 decision to tournament host UNB. Sunday at 8 p.m. Atlantic, live on Sportsnet and ssncanada.ca, McGill will face either UNB or Western.
"It's tough to say it was a loss because we're going to the final," said Redmen bench boss Kelly Nobes, in his second season as head coach at his alma mater. "Our focus was on going to the final. We're not happy about losing but we (learned) lessons in tonight's game. Even this late in the season you're still taking lessons. Those will serve us well (on Sunday), so it was good that Saskatchewan played us as hard as they did. They were certainly a different team than we saw (Friday)."
"Canada West finally got a win here - I mean we almost got (swept) and that was another big thing on our minds," said Saskatchewan head coach Dave Adolph, whose team needed to win by six goals or more to advance to the final. "We're real proud of our conference and real proud of being able to represent it and we thought we didn't do a good job of representing (in the loss to Moncton). That was a focus point for us today."
In his final university game, team captain Kyle Ross scored the game-winner during a power-play with five minutes and 12 seconds remaining in regulation. Well positioned in the slot, the native of Regina took a pass from Kyle Bortis and beat goaltender Hubert Morin with a quick shot.
"It was a little bit bittersweet," said Ross, a law student. "We wanted to make sure that we came out and played our game today, showed how we could play. We had some success and ended up winning."
After being kept off the scoresheet by the Aigles Bleus on Friday, The Huskies' top line, which dominated CIS in the regular season with 116 points in 28 contests, accounted for three of Saskatchewan's four goals and finished the game with six points. Ross had a goal and an assist, Bortis, who hails from Saskatoon, scored once and added two helpers, while Derek Hulak, also of Saskatoon, found the back of the net once.
Cory Smuk, another Saskatoon native, also scored for the winners.
Netminder Ryan Holfeld of Leroy, Sask., who didn't play against Moncton, was stellar from start to finish and was named Saskatchewan game MVP following a 40-save performance.
For McGill, captain Evan Vossen of Swift Current, Sask., Francis Verreault-Paul of Mashteuiatsh, Que., and defenceman Keven Dupont of St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Que., each tallied once. Verreault-Paul, who had scored twice on Thursday against Moncton, was named Redmen player of the match for the second straight game.
Alex Picard-Hooper, a senior from Boucherville, Que., who was the CIS player of the year last season, collected a pair of assists and tied the McGill all-time record for most career points. Picard-Hooper, who enters his final career game with a tourney-leading 1-4-5 record, now has 72 goals and 267 points in 174 career games overall. The mark has stood since 1990 when all-Canadian centre Tim Iannone, a former WHL star with the Regina Pats, compiled a 136-131-267 record in 136 contests over his four seasons.
Morin, a native of St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que., turned aside 26 of 30 pucks fired his way.
"Being from Saskatchewan, it was kind of nice for me (to play them)," said Vossen, a native of Swift Current, who assisted on Dupont's marker. "It was the first time that I had an opportunity to play against (them). They have a few guys that I went to high school with."
McGill dominated early and held an 8-0 edge in shots after eight minutes of play.
It was the Huskies who opened the scoring however. With his team enjoying a second straight power play, Bortis beat Morin with a perfect shot at 10:51.
The Redmen needed only four minutes to respond. Vossen took a pass from Alexandre Picard-Hooper and split the Saskatchewan defence before scoring a superb goal with a shot just under the cross-bar.
Smuk restored Saskatchewan's lead only 2:55 into the middle period thanks to a wrap around.
Down 2-1 after 40 minutes, McGill once again tied the affair 4:12 into the third. Verreault-Paul tallied his third of the tournament with a one-timer during a two-man advantage.
Just over two minutes later, Hulak pushed a rebound into an empty cage to give the Huskies their third lead of the afternoon, but once again, McGill answered right back.
Only 27 seconds after Hulak's marker, Dupont, who had scored only once this season in 33 conference and playoff games, made it 3-3 with a shot from the point that eluded a screened Holfeld.
Ross netted the game-winner eight minutes later.
Saskatchewan converted two of seven power play opportunities, while McGill was 1-of-8.
GAME NOTES: It was the first-ever University Cup duel between the Redmen and Huskies.
Saskatchewan 4, McGill 3
1. SSK Kyle Bortis (1) (Shaun Vey, Kyle Ross), 10:51 PP
2. McG Evan Vossen (1) (Alexandre Picard-Hooper, Andrew Wright), 14:38
Andrew Bailey (SSK) high sticking, 0:50;
Christophe Longpré-Poirier (McG) hooking, 7:07;
Alexandre Picard-Hooper (McG) roughing, 10:24;
Michael Kaye (SSK) high sticking, 16:37.
3. Cody Smuk 1 (Matthew Delahey, Travis Brisebois), 2:55
Ryan Funk (SSK) interference, 2:33;
Francis Verreault-Paul (McG) holding, 2:33;
Francis Verreault-Paul (McG) unsportsmanlike conduct, 9:50;
Michael Kaye (SSK) slashing, 11:56;
Alexandre Picard-Hooper (McG) interference, 15:55;
Maxime Langelier-Parent (McG) holding, 19:14.
4. McG Francis Verreault-Paul (3) (Marc-André Dorion, Alexandre Picard-Hooper), 4:12 PP2
5. SSK Derek Hulak (1) (Kyle Bortis), 6:24
6. McG Keven Dupont (1) (Evan Vossen, Andrew Wright), 6:51
7. SSK Kyle Ross (1) (Kyle Bortis, Shaun Vey), 14:48 PP
Garrett Thiessen (SSK) roughing, 2:33;
Brett Ward (SSK) cross checking, 3:50;
Ryan Holfeld (SSK) holding, 7:33;
Garrett Thiessen (SSK) roughing, 7:33;
Francis Verreault-Paul (McG) roughing, 7:33;
Chris Durand (SSK) slashing, 8:29;
Garrett Thiessen (SSK) high sticking, 11:40;
Benoit Lévesque (McG) high sticking, 14:14;
Ryan McKiernan (McG) hooking, 19:34.
GOALS (by period)
SSK: 1-1-2: 4
McG: 1-0-2: 3
SHOTS ON GOAL (by period)
SSK: 9-12-9: 30
McG: 14-12-17: 43
SSK - Ryan Holfeld (W, 1-0, 43 shots, 40 saves, 3 GA, 60:00)
McG - Hubert Morin (L, 1-1, 30 shots, 26 saves, 4 GA, 60:00)
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
SSK: Ryan Holfeld
McG: Francis Verreault-Paul
REFEREES: Mario Maillet, Nathan Wieler
LINESMEN: Andrew Connors, Mike MacDonnell
ATTENDANCE: 3,750 (sellout)
POOL STANDINGS & RESULTS (all times ATLANTIC TIME)
Pool A standings (after 2 of 3 games)
GP W L GF GA PTS
1. UNB 1 1 0 6 1 2
2. Western 1 1 0 3 2 2
3. UQTR 2 0 2 3 9 0
Pool B standings (FINAL)
1. McGill 2 1 1 9 7 2
2. Moncton 2 1 1 8 7 2
3. Sask 2 1 1 5 8 2
Thursday, March 22
14:00 Pool B #1: McGill 6, Moncton 3
19:00 Pool A #1: UNB 6, UQTR 1
Friday, March 23
14:00 Pool B #2: Moncton 5, Saskatchewan 1
19:00 Pool A #2: Western 3, UQTR 2 (OT)
Saturday, March 24
11:30 Pool B #3: Saskatchewan 4, McGill 3
16:30 Pool A #3: UNB vs. Western (Sportsnet / ssncanada.ca) *
Sunday, March 25
20:00 University Cup Final: McGill vs. TBD (Sportsnet / ssncanada.ca)
Note: The last game of pool play (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ATLANTIC) will air live on all Sportsnet stations, except on Sportsnet West, which will air the game on a tape delay at 8 p.m. Mountain.
For more information:
Earl Zukerman, McGill (514) 983-7012
Michel Bélanger, SIC (613) 447-6334
Maureen Sparks, UNB (506) 470-5578