U Sports MHKY: Montreal rivalry hits the ice in the OUA playoffs

Montreal, QC- The McGill Men’s Hockey Team finished their season this past weekend with two tenacious games, though ultimately falling to Ontario Tech and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières in consecutive days. These outcomes solidified a 4th place finish in the OUA East Division, creating a first round playoff series with crosstown rival Concordia. The postseason has come at the perfect time for the 5th placed Stingers, winners of their last four games and six of their last seven contests. Further, the team is well rested, having only played one game since February 1st. 

The two Montreal universities matched up three times during the regular season with only one game in 2020. Concordia ended victorious in the first contest at home in a close 3-2 overtime affair in early October. McGill then avenged their loss at the end of the month with a 5-2 win on the road and ultimately won the season series in January with a 3-2 overtime victory at home. These outcomes were crucial for McGill as home ice in this playoff series could give a needed advantage in a possible third game. 

(McGill Athletics)

McGill ended their OUA regular season with a record of 16-10-2 (34 Points), 92 goals for and 70 goals against. The team was fantastic in their own end of the ice all season with a U Sports leading 90.2 penalty kill percentage and a top five goals against average (2.55). The team will look to improve in the other aspect of special teams, as their powerplay unit was bottom five in the country and many opportunities will arise for this unit in the preliminary series as Concordia finished with 459 penalty minutes, 4th in the nation. 

Individually, McGill hopes to have their veterans extend their regular season success into the opening round. Fourth Year forward Guillame Gauthier led the team with 15 goals in 28 games and Fifth Year defecemen Dominic Talbot-Tassi led all skaters with 26 assists and 30 points. Starting goalie Louis-Philip Guindon posted a 0.936 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average and must maintain or eclipse these impressive figures if McGill wants to advance through the difficult OUA East division playoffs. 

Across town, Concordia finished their 13-10-5 (31 Points), 94 goals for and 93 against. Though they did not finish with any major strengths statistically, a slight advantage should exist in the offensive end against McGill, as the Stingers finished with a higher goals per game and power play percentage than their rivals. The priority for the team, however, will be in their own end, as their 3.28 goals against average and 79.7 penalty kill percentage will need to be significantly improved to win in the playoffs. 

Concordia 5, Ontario Tech 1: Stingers cement fifth place finish in regular season
Concordia plays the OUIT Ridgebacks earlier this season (The Concaordian)

In contrast to their rivals, Concordia will rely upon their younger stars to upset McGill in the first round, with First Year Tyler Hylland leading the team in goals, assists and points, posting a 13-17-30 stat line on the year. Fellow rookie Gabriel Bilodeau was solid in the back end, finishing with 13 assists and 15 points, second among all defencemen on the roster. Despite their reliance on impressive new players, Fourth Year goalie Marc-Antoine Turcotte must have a solid series between the pipes and improve on his respectable 0.914 save percentage and 2.97 goals against average.

The opening game of this first round series plays out tonight at 7 PM at McConnell Arena on the McGill campus, with the second game at 7:30 PM on Saturday February 15th at Concordia’s home rink, Ed Meagher Area. The series should be a tightly contested affair with both sides playing for their seasons and ultimately, national glory. 

Cover Photo: McGill Varsity Teams

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