94th QUEENâ??S CUP PREVIEW

FOURTH TIME IN SIX YEARS WESTERN AND UQTR MEET FOR OUA SUPREMACY

LONDON - The Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes and The University of Western Ontario Mustangs have had a few Queen's Cup run-ins over the years. Before each travels to nationals in Alberta in two weeks, the rival men's hockey powerhouses meet Saturday, March 19 at Thompson Arena in London to once again decide the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship, the Queen's Cup. Face-off is set for 8:00 pm.

For UQTR, it's an opportunity to win the Queen's Cup for the sixth time in seven years. Western lost three consecutive OUA title games to the Patriotes by a one-goal margin, including a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat in 2002, though they rebounded to win the University Cup that year.

It's a rivalry that certainly involves mutual admiration.

"We'll make the guys aware of it," Mustangs head coach Clarke Singer says of UQTR's impressive results against his team. "They're a program that has had unbelievable success. They're well-respected and a good team."

"We played three years in a row in the Queen's Cup and each time it was a very tight game," said Patriotes head coach Jacques Laporte. "I think it's the two best teams in the league the last couple of years. We are two similar programs."

Western earned the right to host the OUA championship after disposing of a tough Lakehead University squad in a 5-4 overtime thriller in the third and deciding game of the series. Mike Rice scored two early goals, goaltender Mike D'Alessandro stood on his head making 47 saves and first-year player Sal Peralta found the net 1:11 into the overtime period, lifting Western to the emotional victory, after they returned to London down a game in the series.

The win guaranteed the Mustangs a berth in the nationals, but the team is only focused on one game for the moment.

"I think the boys are really excited right now," says Rice. "Our goal is to worry about the OUAs and then go to nationals. Not many teams get to play for an Ontario championship."

The deep Mustangs are one of the most prolific offensive teams in the nation, scoring 4.50 goals per game through 24 games.

UQTR had a dominant third period in defeating the powerful Redmen from McGill University 4-1 in the third game of their series last weekend. Laporte indicated that his six defencemen were key to stifling McGill on its home ice. The Patriotes have relied on the skill of some obvious stars to win games in recent years, like former CIS Player of the Year Alexandre Tremblay, but this year's edition of the team is a hard-working, blue-collar bunch that is stingy in the defensive end of the rink (2.46 goals against in 24 games).

"This year, it's not one guy who has made the difference," says the coach. "We play very well defensively together. We don't have any superstars."

The Patriotes - CIS champs in both 2001 and 2003 - may not have the stars, but there is no shortage of talent. Goaltender Danny Dallaire has been solid in the net (2.37 goals against average and .924 save percentage in 21 appearances) and Nicolas Pelletier is a proven offensive contributor, with 11 of his 20 goals this season coming on the power play. UQTR's special teams have been the story of late with the unit manufacturing eight power-play goals in the playoffs.

Singer says the Mustangs must be aware of the Patriotes ability to counter attack.

"Although, they're a defensive team, they certainly have the potential to be offensive," says the Western coach. "We should get our share of goals but we have to be good defensively."

(Source: David DiCenzo, Special to the OUA)

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