After closing out the regular season with a 4-3 win against Ontario Tech (13–11–2), the McGill Redbirds (14–8–4) opened up the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs against the Ottawa Gee-Gees (12–10–1) with a 4-2 win on Feb. 15. The best-of-three quarter-final series kicked off at McConnell Arena before heading to Ottawa for game two on Feb. 17.
With Emanuel Vella between the pipes and tension fuelled by a 4-3 overtime loss to the Gee-Gees less than a week prior, the Redbirds hoped to keep their cool in the opening round of playoffs.
“It’s playoff hockey,” second-year Brandon Frattaroli told The McGill Tribune. “Keep it simple. Get pucks in deep and stick to the game plan.”
“We know we’re a different team in the playoffs,” Captain Taylor Ford echoed. “We know we can step it up.”
Getting off to a slow start, the opening 10 minutes were characterized by the classic dump and chase, complemented by a few shots on net. The Redbirds found their flow after holding the puck in the Gee-Gees’ zone, allowing William Rouleau to find defenceman Mitchell Prowse for a shot from the point. Without hesitation, Prowse fired to the net, setting up Alexandre Gagnon for the redirection and giving McGill a 1-0 lead.
Closing out the first with a scrum at centre ice, the Redbirds were quick to get things going in the second. An errant pass sent Gagnon and McGill’s regular-season leading goal scorer Eric Uba on a two-on-one into the Ottawa zone.
“I got a stick on it. And we went down on a two on one, I cut wide and I saw the shot. So I took it. That’s my play,” Uba said.
Down 2-0, the Gee-Gees rallied to gather some momentum of their own but got a little too excited, taking an interference penalty just 13 seconds after the Redbirds’ goal. After a rather uneventful McGill power play, Ottawa finally found their good fortune, netting their first of the game just over three minutes into the period. Despite an array of chances in the back end of the second, the Gee-Gees couldn’t score again. McGill, however, saw their opportunity to capitalize with a cheeky rebound goal from Jordan-Ty Fournier to give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead.
Heading into the third, the Redbirds refused to give Ottawa any breathing room, winning battles in the corners and being bailed out by their trusty tendy Vella when need be.
With just over eight minutes to go in the final period, Fournier found Prowse, setting him up for another shot from the point, this time giving Rouleau a chance for the tip-in. With McGill up 4-1 and five minutes remaining, the Gee-Gees jumped on their last few chances, scoring a shorthanded goal courtesy of their captain, Anthony Poulin, who missed the majority of the first and second periods after taking a puck to the face.
In the dying minutes of the third, Ottawa pulled their goalie but McGill shut them down for a 4-2 victory.
As for game two of the quarter-finals, Ford believed the key was to play the same style as game one.
“If we can just outwork [them and] battle again, I mean, that’s the recipe for success. We can win it,” the Captain said.
And the Redbirds did just that, bringing home an 8-2 victory over Ottawa on Feb. 17 to secure their slot in a best-of-three semi-final against the Concordia Stingers, beginning on Feb. 22 at Ed Meagher Arena.
Moment of the game: After Ottawa cut McGill’s lead in half, the Gee-Gees were in a good position to tie the game. Fournier’s second-period goal shifted the momentum back in McGill’s favour, giving them the extra boost to win the game.
Quotable: “I really liked Fratarolli’s game. He brought some extra energy tonight, which you know, he’s not really known for—he’s more of a points guy [and] goal scorer, but he forechecked really well, and he was throwing some big hits.”
–Captain Taylor Ford on which teammates’ play stood out most to him
Stat Corner: William Rouleau led the team in points with one goal and two assists.