TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. -- Mathieu Pompei of Laval, Que., scored the series-winner and added an assist as No.3-ranked McGill defeated the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 2-1 to sweep their OUA men's hockey eastern conference semifinal, Saturday, at Le Colisée. The Redmen took the opener 3-1 last Wednesday.
It marked the third road win in as many meetings on UQTR ice, an historic single-season best for the Redmen, who went 5-1 over the campaign with their greatest rival. It was also the eighth series win over the last nine playoff confrontations against the Pats, a powerhouse program that once owned McGill with 11 consecutive playoff series conquests dating back to 1978.
McGill now rides an eight-game winning streak into the OUA East Division best-of-three finals where they will face the winner of the other semi, between Concordia and Queen's. That series is tied 1-1 and will be decided with a rubber match on Sunday (Feb. 26) night. The divisional final, which opens at McConnell Arena on Wednesday (Mar. 1) at 7 p.m., means that McGill will have two chances at a trip to the Nationals. A series win would assure the berth, while a loss would lead to a sudden-death wild-card play-in game.
"Both teams came out real hard," said Redmen head coach Kelly Nobes, who improved his record to 204-90-3 in 297 games overall behind the McGill bench. "We wanted to make sure our first five minutes were really strong and we played with a lot of urgency right from the start, knowing that they were going to be coming out hard. We killed a penalty in the first three minutes and then got our power-play chances -- our PP was quick and good tonight, which was nice to see. They had a bit of a let-up in the second period and then we played a very strategic third. The boys battled and grinded and willed their way to victory."
Pompei, a 5-foot-7, 166-pound centre, assisted on the opening goal of the game by Nathan Chiarlitti of Maple, Ont., at 5:32 of the first, then added one of his own just 76 seconds later. Defenceman Dominic Talbot-Tassi of Mascouche, Que., assisted on both tallies and netminder Jacob Gervais-Chouinard of Sherbrooke, Que., earned a rare goalie assist on the game-winner.
Marc-Olivier Mimar put the Patriotes back in the game at 6:27 of the second period, assisted by Charles-David Beaudoin and Pierre-Maxime Poudrier but it was all the hosts could muster against McGill's suffocating defensive structure.
In the dying minutes with the sweep in sight, Alexandre Sills of Amos, Que., won a crucial defensive-zone face-off and teammate Jerome Verrier of Drummondville, Que., added two additional key faceoff wins with UQTR netminder Sébastien Auger pulled in favour of the extra attacker. Auger made 27 saves on 29 shots in defeat.
Team captain Patrick Delisle-Houde of Quebec City also stepped up, blocking two huge point shots from the high-slot in the final 20 seconds to preserve the one-goal lead.
"He's been a great leader for us here and continues to lead from the front," said Nobes of the fifth-year senior. "He showcased that in the third period on the (two blocks) but closing the game was a team effort. Everybody's on board and everyone's playing the right way. You've got to really be happy with the outcome for sure, but especially with the way we played as a team and the way stuck to our structure. We used our speed and we showed tons and tons of grit."
Gervais-Chouinard, got the call between the pipes instead of Game 1 starter Louis-Philip Guidon, breaking a long-held hockey tradition that dictates coaches don't change goalies in the playoffs until after a loss. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior turned away 23 of 24 pucks in the win and was selected as the first star. Both goalies were credited with an assist in the respective starts, marking the first time in school history that more than one goalie has earned an assist in the same playoff season.
"Chewy played a great game and made some real big saves to get the win, so good for him," offered Nobes, who has been rotating his goaltenders throughout the season. "Everybody's contributing and this is the next step in our process."
McGill was 1-for-5 with the man advantage and was perfect on all three penalty kills. The Redmen snuffed out all seven PP chances by the Pats in the series.
GAME NOTES: Ryerson, the top seed in the OUA West, was swept in two straight games against seventh-place Windsor, losing 4-2 and 3-1. The Rams were one of only six teams to defeat the Redmen during the regular season, along with Queen's, UQTR, Western, Laurier and UOIT... Heading into Sunday's schedule, the only one left standing, is the Gaels, who swept McGill 4-0 and 2-1... The Redmen now have a 90-84 lifetime record in post-season play, including a 21-27 mark against UQTR.
Source: McGill Athletics