BURLINGTON, Ont. – From the second the puck hits the ice for the opening whistle until the final buzzer sounds, anything can happen. For the McGill Redmen and Brock Badgers, who came through their respective divisions from the No. 1 and No. 5 seed, respectively, they have been able to maximize their output to the tune of a Queen’s Cup appearance and a shot at a provincial title.
McGill, who last hoisted the Queen’s Cup in 2012 to complete their run of three straight titles, capped off a 22-win campaign with three straight series wins against their divisional combatants. The Redmen started their quest for the Cup with an offensive onslaught against Laurentian, thrusting 14 goals on the Voyageurs in their two-game sweep. After that, McGill turned out a pair a tough three-game series wins against Ottawa and Concordia, respectively. Despite losing the first game in both series, the Redmen showcased their determination and resiliency to outlast their talented opponents and continue their march to the Queen’s Cup final.
If the Redmen want to translate their regular season and postseason success into an OUA title, they have the ability to turn to both a top-ranked defence, as well as a highly potent offence to give them a boost against Brock. On the offensive side, the Quebec-based squad finished second in the OUA in goals, recording an average of 4.0 per contest, while peppering the opposition with a conference-best 40 shots per game.
This relentless Redmen attack led to plenty of scoring chances for their roster, which features 23 players from the CHL, five of whom scored 20-plus points this season. Leading the way on offence was the OUA’s second-leading scorer, Jerome Verrier (Drummondville, Que.), who racked up a sizzling 41 points (12 G, 29 A) in 28 games, but the productivity didn’t stop there. Also filling up the scoresheet this season was Michael Cramarossa (Markham, Ont.), Christophe Lalonde (Mirabel, Que.), and Keanu Yamamoto (Spokane, WA), not to mention another 11 goals coming off the stick of Samuel Tremblay (Saint-Basile, Que.).
There is offence no matter where you look for the Redmen, and they have managed this in every facet of the game. Beyond their strong five-on-five play, McGill excels on special teams, with a power-play that operated at 17.9 per cent, along with a penalty-killing unit that ranked second with an 88.4 per cent success rate and tallied a league-leading eight shorthanded goals.
The Redmen are no slouches on defence either with a league-leading 2.36 goals-against average. Offensive-minded rearguards Dominic Talbot-Tassi (Mascouche, Que.), Nathan Chiarlitti (Maple, Ont.), Nikolas Brouillard (St. Hilaire, Que.), and Max Daigle (St. Lambert, Que.) lead the way on the blueline, while sophomore netminder Louis-Philip Guindon (St. Joseph du Lac, Que.) led all OUA goalies in goals-against average (2.22), wins (18), and shutouts (3) to go along with a .917 save percentage.
McGill’s impressive group of scorers will have a tough test in front of them, as Brock’s Clint Windsor (Hamilton, Ont.) has been a standout for the Badgers all season long. Beyond the award-winning regular season for Windsor, earning the OUA Goaltender of the Year Award, it has also been a lights-out performance in the postseason to carry the St. Catharines squad to the provincial finale. Windsor, who scripted a 2.51 GAA and 0.930 SV% in his 26 starts this season, has gone above and beyond in the Badgers’ three series thus far, tallying marks of 2.18 GAA and 0.949 SV%, all while making a playoff-high 283 saves.
This strong play began in their first round sweep of Laurier, which saw the Badgers ground the Golden Hawks in the form of just one goal against in their two wins. Brock then tangled with the conference’s top offence, as the Guelph Gryphons brought their No. 1 East Division seeding to a second-round tilt with the Badgers. Once again, it was Brock that turned in a two-game sweep, as Ayden MacDonald (Langley, B.C.) and Mitch Nardi (Hamilton, Ont.) each potted an overtime winner to help the Badgers advance to a divisional final against the reigning champion York Lions. While this final series took an extra game, with the Lions dishing out Brock’s first loss of the postseason, the Badgers turned the tables on a 2-0 deficit in Game 3 to notch three straight goals and knock out the 2016-17 Queen’s Cup winners.
The Badgers weren’t known for their goal-scoring during the regular season, ranking in the bottom quarter of the OUA in goals per game (2.75) – with similar ranks on the power-play – but if they are going to score, they can turn to a pair of seniors to lead the charge.
Brandon O’Quinn (Trenton, Ont.) and Josh Timpano (Orillia, Ont.) tied for the team lead in points (17), along with Dexter Weber (New Dundee, Ont.) and MacDonald, with the latter pacing the club in goals (9). Helping the club to elevate their play in the postseason, however, has been an electric performance from freshman Cosimo Fontana (Toronto, Ont.), whose 11 playoff points have already topped his regular season output. Fontana’s five goals and six assists have been a key part of the Badgers success, but their defensive efforts cannot be understated heading into their final OUA tilt of the season. Brock allowed the second fewest goals against this season (70), which is no small feat against the third-highest shot totals seen – and led the conference in save percentage as a team.
While top netminder Guindon wasn’t between the pipes for the Redmen in their one and only meeting with Brock this season, the matchup was ultimately written as their season stats would suggest. McGill scored just over four minutes into the game, before finding the back of the net again in both the second and third periods. This trio of tallies was enough to overcome a late shorthanded goal from the Badgers and earn a 3-2 win in Montreal. Despite the loss, Windsor was electric in net, turning away 49 of the 52 shots he faced to give his squad a fighting chance at the early season victory.
Windsor will need to be in similar form on Saturday to keep Brock’s Cinderella run going, but McGill will also turn to their strengths with their eyes set on a Queen’s Cup win. Both teams believe they can win, both teams have the pieces to win, so the only thing left to determine is which squad will come away with the win once all is said and done.