FREDERICTON, N.B. (ISN) – The second-seeded McGill Redmen scored a pair of power play goals in the first six minutes and never looked back as they doubled the No. 5 Moncton Aigles Bleus 6-3 in the opening game of the 50th CIS men’s hockey championship in front of 3,750 fans at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre, Thursday afternoon.
Cavendish Farms University Cup website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice/index
The OUA champion Redmen (1-0) take the early lead in Pool B at the Cavendish Farms University Cup, presented by The Home Depot, and get to rest until Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Atlantic when they’ll face the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies (0-0) in their second and final round-robin match-up.
For their part, the AUS finalist Aigles Bleus (0-1) will face a must-win situation when they take the ice again versus Saskatchewan Friday at 2 p.m.
McGill, which scored six times on only 19 shots against goaltender Pierre-Alexandre Marion, took advantage of some undisciplined play by Moncton to jump into a quick 2-0 lead.
Three minutes and 21 seconds in, Christopher Guay high-sticked Francis Verreault-Paul to put the Redmen on the power play. As he was skating back to his bench, Charles Bergeron butt-ended the McGill sniper and the Redmen found themselves with a two-men advantage.
Verreault-Paul, a fourth-year forward from Mashteuiatsh, Que., who led his team in scoring this season with 21 goals in 23 games, made the Aigles Bleus pay only 39 seconds into the power play when he wired a one-timer past Marion after taking a pass from Marc-André Dorion, the CIS defenceman of the year from St. Hubert, Que.
Ninety-seven seconds later, with Bergeron still in the penalty box, Verreault-Paul set up Alexandre Picard-Hooper with a perfect backhand pass and the native of Boucherville, Que., made no mistake, doubling the lead just 5:37 after the opening whistle.
“We have the experience,” said Verreault-Paul, who was named McGill game MVP. “Our first year (at Nationals) we didn’t win a game, our second year we won one… and last year we (won two and) were in the final and this year we’re focusing on the game-by-game. We’ll focus on Saturday’s game (against Saskatchewan) and we’ll see after that. But we have the experience so obviously we try to work with that.”
“Our penalty-kill is something that’s been good for us, especially in the playoffs and part of killing penalties is blocking shots,” said Kelly Nobes, in his second season as head coach of the Redmen, who were credited with 18 blocked shots in the game. “So we did a great job of getting into shooting lanes. That’s a lot about positioning… and technique as well. Certainly it was a big part of our PK tonight.”
The Redmen scored twice on six power play opportunities, while Moncton went 1-for-9.
Verreault-Paul (2-1-3) and Picard-Hooper (1-2-3), last year’s CIS most outstanding player, both ended the game with three points, while Nicolas Biniek, a sophomore left-winger from Montreal, scored twice for the winners. Senior right-winger Andrew Wright of Toronto rounded out the scoring for McGill.
Moncton received goals from forwards Christian Gaudet of Memramcook, N.B., Marc-André Côté of Montreal and Dean Ouellet of Edmunston, N.B. Côté and Ouellet each added an assist.
McGill goalie Hubert Morin, a senior from St-George-de-Beauce, Que., made 21 saves for the win, while Marion, a native of Gatineau, Que., was saddled with the loss following a 13-save performance.
“One of my good friends told me that you can’t buy experience,” said Moncton bench boss Serge Bourgeois, named CIS coach of the year prior to the tournament. “You could tell in the first period that McGill had it. They way they played, they were really used to (the pressure). A few of our guys were really nervous and I tried to calm them down but dealing (with the pressure) is part of hockey and part of life.”
“It’s the little bounces that (make the difference) and tonight we didn’t get our bounces,” said forward Éric Faille of Lachine, Que., who earned player-of-the-game honours for the Aigles Bleus. “McGill got theirs and put the puck in the net. It’s part of hockey and part of what happened today.”
Following McGill’s early goals, Gaudet cut the lead to 2-1 with 4:49 to go in the first period when he took a perfect pass from behind the net from Côté.
Biniek quickly restored McGill’s two-goal advantage however. After the Aigles Bleus failed to clear their zone, the puck ended up on his stick in the slot and he beat Marion with a nifty move on the backhand at 16:37.
In the second frame, Moncton dominated the play early on until McGill exploded for two goals in 19 seconds, all but putting the game away.
Verreault-Paul made it a 4-1 affair at 12:26 when he intercepted a pass in the high slot and fired a hard slapshot low on Marion’s glove side.
Another clearing mistake by Moncton led to Wright’s marker moments later. The puck bounced off Picard-Hooper’s skate along the boards and went straight to Wright, whose high wrister left no chance for Marion.
Team captain Evan Vossen had a chance to make it 6-1 McGill before the end of the period but was stoned on a breakaway with four minutes remaining.
In the final stanza, the Aigles Bleus capitalized on a 5-on-3 when Côté pushed a rebound past Morin off a point shot by Ouellet at 6:13.
Biniek killed any chance of a Moncton comeback with his second of the afternoon at 12:40 following a bad line change by the AUS finalists.
Ouellet rounded out the scoring with 2:23 left on the clock.
GAME NOTES: With six goals, the Redmen tied their single-game team record at the University Cup. They beat Alberta by an identical 6-3 score last year in pool play… McGill, making its fifth straight University Cup appearance in 2012, reached the national for the first time in program history a year ago, dropping a 4-0 decision to host UNB in the gold medal match.