WINDSOR, ON – After almost 80 minutes of hockey without a goal, on the first shot of the third overtime period in the second longest championship game in OUA Queen’s Cup history, UQTR Patriotes forward Felix Lauzon was the hero as he fired a rebound past Windsor Lancers’ goaltender Nathan Torchia to propel the Patriotes to their second consecutive OUA championship.
The Patriotes will head to the 2023 U CUP as the defending National Champion and two-time defending OUA champion. A dynasty is forming in Quebec.
It was a very even affair, both teams played very well on defence, offence and in net, but the Patriotes were able to capitalize on that one extra chance which sealed their victory.
Five minutes into the second overtime period, the entire arena thought the Lancers had won, but the referee correctly ruled the puck never crossed the line. Instead it hit the inside corner of the net, where the post meets the crossbar.
The Lancers dominated the second period; they controlled the possession, created more scoring chances than the Lancers, seemed to win every loose puck battle, attacked relentlessly in transition and outshot their opponent 15-6 in the frame.
The Patriotes’ defence was getting tired which opened up space for the Lancers to attack, however goaltender Alexis Gravel stood on his head all night, particularly in the second overtime period, where he stopped all 15 shots he faced and made numerous highlight reel saves to keep his team alive. Gravel stopped 54 of 56 shots he faced and was a huge reason why the Patriotes won.
In the other crease, Torchia stood on his head all night long, making several unbelievable saves to bail his team out and keep them in the game. He faced 60 shots and stopped 57 of them. Both goalies deserve their credit.
How did the game develop?
Early in the first period, both teams knew what was at stake and didn’t want to make a mistake that would give their opponent an early advantage. Each team emphasized defense first, were physical in battles for the loose puck and carefully moved the puck around to scout out its opponent’s play style and how best to attack their opposition.
At around five minutes into the first period, both teams found their footing and began exchanging scoring chance after scoring chance for the remainder of the period, using their speed to get to loose pucks, physicality to win puck battles, and playmaking skills to get the puck up the ice to an open teammate for a shot on goal.
The transition attack was critical for both sides to get the puck up the ice quickly before the opposing defence could set up which created a lot of chances on odd-man rushes all game long. Both goaltenders had to be sharp early on to keep the game a scoreless tie.
Defenceman David Noel gave the Patriotes their first lead of the game nine minutes into the first period with a nice goal to finish off a tic-tac-toe play set up by Olivier Garneau and Zachary Lavine.
Both teams exchanged multiple chances in the second half of a back and forth action packed first period that saw a combined 32 shots – 17 for UQTR and 15 for the Lancers – and four goals.
In the final 3:40 of the first period, UQTR and Windsor combined for three goals and the game was tied 2-2 after 20 minutes.
Lancers’ forward Matt McNamara tied the game with his second goal of the playoffs 3:39 to play in the first period after he swiftly controlled a long stretch pass from Nolan Gardiner at high speeds in transition before making a move and tucking it past Patriotes’ goalie Alexis Gravel.
Exactly 2:36 minutes later, left winger Louis-Philipe Cote’s powerful shot on the one-timer from Justin Bergeron gave UQTR their second lead of the first period. Less than a minute after that, Gardiner erased the Patriotes’ lead for the second time in an exhilarating first period with a sensational move to tuck it past Gravel seconds after receiving a perfect centering pass on the tape from McNamara. Gardiner and McNamara each finished with a goal and an assist.
Special teams were a huge factor coming into this game. UQTR had the number one powerplay in the OUA and the eighth best in Canada and Windsor had the best penalty kill and the third best powerplay in the OUA, but there wasn’t a single man advantage until overtime. Each team got one powerplay chance in overtime, but nothing came of them.
In the second period, the Patriotes controlled the puck, dominated possession, spent the majority of the period in the offensive zone and outshot the Lancers 17-8. They created multiple chances with their speed in transition, and their ability to always find the open man with their stellar playmaking and vision.
The Lancers stepped up defensively, using their sticks to close off passing and shooting lanes, putting their bodies on the line to block shots and they weren’t afraid to be physical or to finish a hit to strip their opponents of the puck and advance the other way in transition.
Torchia stepped up and made numerous key saves in the second to keep the game tied 2-2. He calmly stopped all 17 shots he faced in the second period including denying a handful of odd-man rushes in transition by the Patriotes.
The third period was a very even, fast-paced, defensive battle. Each team recorded nine shots on target and recorded numerous chances on the transition attack.
Both teams desperately tried to find a winning goal as the clock wound down; their forwards and blue line played higher up the ice, which left them vulnerable on the counterattack, but the speed and skill on both team’s defences allowed them to track back and shut down the transition attack.
Both Torchia and Gravel stood on their heads in the third and made some huge saves down the stretch to give their team the momentum, keep the game 2-2 and send it to overtime.
The first overtime period was fast paced with relatively few whistles or stoppages. Both teams were sharp, didn’t make very many mistakes and were still playing with a lot of energy even after regulation time ended. Each squad was skating well and using their excellent puck movement to create scoring chances. Gravel and Torchia both stood on their head in overtime, making numerous key saves to keep their team alive and provide a spark of momentum.