Kingston, Ont. – The regular season may be winding down, but as the saying goes, save the best for last. And when it comes to the men’s hockey schedule, one of the best rivalries across university sport will help to wrap up the final weekend of the season in thrilling fashion. This week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters Canada, will feature the RMC Paladins and Queen’s Gaels in the annual Carr-Harris Challenge Cup, hitting the ice on February at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston.
While the postseason may be out of reach for the Paladins, there is still plenty for the team to play for in one of the greatest rivalries across the university sport landscape. In what will be the team’s penultimate game of the 2018-19 season, they will aim to not only give a final boost to their current five-win total for the year, but get back in the Carr-Harris win column for the 11th time and second in three seasons.
Despite the down year for the red and white, their play in this annual affair has helped make this rivalry what it is over its first 32 renditions. The most recent outing, in fact, has proven to be one of the best all-time, as the teams combined for 11 goals and needed an extra frame to find a winner.
After falling to the Paladins the year prior, the Gaels came out primed to get back in the win column and bring their overall Carr-Harris win total to 20. The Gaels made it their mission to get in front last year, but each time they did, RMC was quick to respond; an occurrence that took place four times throughout the back-and-forth tilt. The final tying marker came with just under 13 minutes to go in the final frame, when Dylan Giberson (Ottawa, Ont.) knotted things up at five and ultimately sent the game to overtime. In the extra frame, however, it was Gaels’ Darcy Greenaway who provided the heroics, putting home the winning marker with 1:21 left in OT.
While Greenaway’s winner yielded the headlines, additional offensive production from Slater Doggett (Oakville, Ont.), who netted a pair of goals, and Eric Ming (Williamstown, Ont.), who totaled three helpers, was key to the Tricolour’s ultimate victory. Riley Brandt, David Savery (Angus, Ont.), and Rhett Wilcox (Surrey, B.C.) meanwhile, also found the back of the net for the Paladins in the loss.
Despite their differing records, the Paladins have found success against the Gaels over the years, doing so most recently in the 2017 edition of the Carr-Harris Cup, when three different goal-scorers buoyed RMC to victory – their 10th in the storied competition. Hoping to re-capture that magic from two years ago will be someone who is well-versed in Carr-Harris competition. Deric Boudreau (Ottawa, Ont.), who is one of many Paladins to find the scoreboard in the rivalry game during his university tenure, is back for another taste of the marquee matchup, and will enter as one of the team’s top scorers.
Alongside Boudreau is fellow forward Wilcox, who is tied with the former for second in RMC scoring (18 points) and has also added his name to the rivalry’s goal-scoring folklore. While this dynamic duo, along with five other Paladins have surpassed the double-digit point plateau this season, the team is led by the eight goals and 20 points of Cameron Lamport (Newmarket, Ont.). But while the team boasts talent up and down the roster, the breaks just haven’t gone their way this season. They have struggled to put the puck in the back of the net on a consistent basis, and despite the best efforts of the goaltending duo of Brad Van Schubert (Barrie, Ont.) – who was tabbed earlier in the season as the OUA’s Male Athlete of the Week – and Austin Hannaford (Calgary, Alta.) in net, the wins just haven’t added up for red nation.
Anchoring the Gaels into the home stretch of their regular season, albeit one that will lead to the upcoming quest for the Queen’s Cup as opposed to their Thursday combatants, is Doggett, who has paced the Kingston-squad in scoring for the year. His 20 goals and 32 points are both team-highs and have him among the crème of the crop in conference scoring.
While Doggett leads the pack, he is by no means the team’s only offensive weapon. In fact, a total of 12 players have amassed at least 10 points this season, including seven who have shone in the passing game with double-digit assists. One such passing powerhouse is Spencer Abraham (Campbellville, Ont.), who has remained one of the premier two-way defenders this season after claiming the OUA’s Defender of the Year award (East Division) a year ago. Alongside Doggett’s impressive goal-scoring totals, meanwhile, are another nine tallies from Mason Kohn (Hollywood, Fla.) and seven from Duncan Campbell (Brandon, Man.), all of whom contribute to the team’s sixth-ranked goals per game mark (3.38) on the year.
With no shortage of scoring, it is easy to rest your cap on the offence, but the Gaels’ greater strength comes on the defensive end, thanks to the likes of Abraham, Nevin Guy (Mountain, Ont.), and several other key contributors on the blue line, as well as one of the league’s best between the pipes.
The combination of Justin Fazio (Sarnia, Ont.) and Jack Flinn (Halifax, N.S.) has been as steady as they come across the province; anchoring what has been the conference’s second-best team in terms of goals-against average and save percentage. The former has picked up 11 wins for the Gaels, doing so as a result of a stingy 2.26 GAA and .940 SV% (good enough for fourth and first in the OUA, respectively), while the latter has shone bright to the tune of 2.72 GAA and .927 SV% - not bad for a freshman and a sophomore.
While all of these numbers tell a story of the season so far, numbers can often be thrown out the window when rivalries roll around. The stakes rise, the pressure mounts, and the competitive spirit comes out in full force. So, while Queen’s may hold the edge in terms of the 2018-19 season, as well as the Carr-Harris Cup as a whole, the storied rivalry that dates back to 1886 is anything but predictable, and the 32nd edition should be no exception.
All the action will start on Thursday night at 7:30pm at the Leon’s Centre but fans not in attendance can still tune in. The game can be seen LIVE on oua.tv or via the corresponding app available for download on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.