FREDERICTON, N.B. (ISN) – Team captain Evan Vossen scored six minutes into overtime to lead the McGill Redmen to a 4-3 win against the Western Mustangs and the first CIS men’s hockey title in program history, Sunday night, at the University of New Brunswick’s Aitken Centre.
Cavendish Farms University Cup website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mice/index
It was only fitting that the Redmen, the oldest hockey team in the world in their 136th season, triumphed in the 50th anniversary edition of the University Cup championship.
Vossen, a senior forward from Switch Current, Sask., who was wearing the McGill jersey for the last time, took a pass from Alexandre Picard-Hooper, shot from the left face-off circle and beat goaltender Josh Unice five-hole along the ice, on a play that was reminiscent of the Stanley Cup-winning OT goal scored by Chicago’s Patrick Kane in 2010.
It was the ninth University Cup final to be decided in overtime, including eight in the last 13 years.
“It’s like a storybook ending,” said Vossen, who had also scored on Saturday against Saskatchewan. “It couldn’t have been any better for us and for myself. Especially after last year’s heartbreak.”
McGill had reached the national final for the first time in team history a year ago but fell 4-0 to host tournament UNB.
“He whiffed,” Unice said of Vossen’s shot. “They made a good play over the blueline, but I’m pretty sure he tried to go high with it, but it went in (anyway). It sucks.”
“I thought my best chance was probably to go high,” Vossen admitted. “He played me well, he played me tight, and I really didn’t have much. I just got it on net and it found a hole. I’ll take it.”
Head coach Kelly Nobes, in his second season behind the Redmen bench, couldn’t have been happier for his captain.
“It’s so fitting that Evan Vossen scored that goal,” Nobes said. “What an unbelievable captain this guy’s been for the program. He did it at both ends of the ice, for 200 feet. He was a key guy on that penalty kill and then to get the winning goal is just so fitting for our program.”
“This is such a huge victory for the McGill hockey program. It’s a win for the ages,” added Nobes. “This program is bigger than just this team. Redmen Hockey has a large family and this championship is for all of those people. I’m so proud of the guys. Not only are they among the top-student athletes in the country but they are now the top hockey program in the country.”
Benoit Lévesque of Vaudreuil, Que., with two, and Nicolas Biniek of Montreal, with his third of the tourney, also scored for McGill. Lévesque earned game-MVP honours for the winners.
With an assist on Vossen’s game-winner, Picard-Hooper, a fourth-year centre from Boucherville, Que., set a team record with his 268th career overall point. The helper also gave last year’s CIS player of the year the tournament scoring title with six points (1-5-6).
Picard-Hooper was selected to the all-tournament team along with teammates Francis Verreault-Paul, a forward from Mashteuiatsh, Que., and Marc-André Dorion, a defenceman from St-Hubert, Que., forward Keaton Turkiewicz and goalie Unice, both of Western, as well as UNB rearguard Jonathan Harty.
Verreault-Paul, who was named McGill player of the game in each of the Redmen’s first two University Cup outings, finished the tournament with a 3-2-5 mark and received the Major W.J. ‘Danny’ McLeod Award as the most valuable player of the championship.
The fourth-year sniper had to watch the end of the final on a TV monitor however after he was ejected from the game 7:14 left in regulation. With his team holding on to a 3-2 lead, Verreault-Paul was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging the goalie on a partial breakaway.
Western took only 32 seconds to take advantage of the golden opportunity and tie the contest. Turkiewicz deflected a Kevin Baker shot for his second goal of the night. The senior from Brantford, Ont., who led the nation in the regular season with 47 points in 28 matches, had five points and a tournament-leading four goals this weekend.
Baker, a fourth-year centre from Georgetown, Ont., also found the back of the net for the Mustangs.
“I didn’t see the replay but I didn’t want to hit the goalie, obviously. I was on a (partial) breakaway and the guy tripped me. Maybe I deserved two minutes but not five,” said Verreault-Paul, who led the OUA in conference play with 21 markers in only 23 games. “I was so proud of Evan and so happy for him. He’s a clutch player and a tremendous captain. He deserved it.”
Clarke Singer, the 13-year Western head coach who led the Mustangs to their lone University Cup title in 2002, was quick to praise his opponents and his own troops.
“First of all I want to give credit to McGill. They had a great season and a great tournament. We certainly would have loved to see it go a different way but that’s sports I guess. I’m very proud of our guys, they left it all on the ice,” said Singer, whose team had dropped a 4-1 decision to McGill in the OUA final two weeks ago. “We would have needed a second goal on that five-minute power play but McGill did a great job on the PK.”
“Josh was our best player in the playoffs and he was our best player this weekend,” continued Singer. “He gave us a chance to win every game this weekend and that’s all you can ask of your goaltender.”
Unice turned aside 36 of 40 pucks fired his way by McGill and averaged 38 saves in his three starts at the championship. The native of Holland, Ohio, was the Mustangs’ game MVP on Friday and Saturday.
The Redmen outshot Western 29-10 in the first two periods and finished with a 40-27 advantage.
McGill dominated the play for most of the first frame. Verreault-Paul almost opened the scoring three minutes in but hit the post to the right of Unice on a wrap-around.
The Mustangs got on the board first however. The Redmen were caught with too many men on the ice at 7:21 and Western made them pay only 77 seconds later. Turkiewicz skated around the net and beat netminder Hubert Morin, who was caught out of position.
McGill responded at 15:38 when Lévesque tip the puck behind Unice after Dorion, who had joined the rush, threw it in front of the net after skating around a sprawling defenceman.
Lévesque gave McGill its first lead of the evening only 48 seconds into the second stanza. The sophomore left-winger pushed a rebound past Unice after the goalie stopped Marc-André Daneau twice from up close.
Western tied it up at 2-2 with 6:11 left before the second intermission. Rearguard Scott Aarssen found Baker to the right of the net with a perfect cross-ice pass and the sniper easily beat an outstretched Morin.
McGill jumped back in the lead less than two minutes later. On a two-on-one rush, Christophe Longpré-Poirier patiently waited until the last second and passed the puck to Biniek, who deflected it into an empty cage.
GAME NOTES: Second-seeded McGill took first place in Pool B in the preliminary round after a 6-3 win over Moncton on Thursday and a 4-3 loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday. All three teams in the group finished with identical 1-1 records but the Redmen advanced to the final thanks to a better goal differential… Fourth-seeded Western finished first in Pool A after edging UQTR 3-2 in overtime on Friday and upsetting top-ranked UNB 3-2 on Saturday… The Cavendish Farms University Cup championship was once again a huge success in Fredericton as all seven contests were played in front of sold-out crowds of 3,750… The CIS men’s hockey championship will be held in Saskatoon in 2013 and 2014.
MVP (Major W.J. ‘Danny’ McLeod Award): Francis Verreault-Paul
Goaltender: Josh Unice
Defenceman: Marc-André Dorion
Defenceman: Jonathan Harty
Forward: Francis Verreault-Paul
Forward: Alexandre Picard-Hooper
Forward: Keaton Turkiewicz