For the 13th time in the last 14 years, either the McGill Redmen or the UQTR Patriotes are going to nationals.
Tonight we’ll find out which of the perennial powerhouses it will be.
Game three of the best-of-three OUA East Final is tonight at 7 p.m. at McConnell Arena (available on SSN Canada). The Redmen won game one of the series 5-3, before getting shellacked 6-1 on Friday in Trois-Rivières. Friday’s win was the first for the Patriotes in the last 10 playoff games against McGill.
Below I’ll take a quick look at some of the key storylines for tonight’s game.
The home/away split for the Patriotes is absurd:
Home: 5-0, +16 goal differential, 89.5% PK, 6.2% PP
Away: 0-3, -7 goal differential, 64.3% PK, 20% PP
Disregarding the anomalous powerplay numbers, which are actually pretty close (1-for-16 vs. 3-for-15), the Patriotes have been abysmal outside of Trois-Rivières in the playoffs.
McGill’s McConnell Arena will be a tough venue in which to attempt a turnaround. The Redmen were the best home team in the CIS this year, outscoring their opposition by 60 goals while cruising to a 15-0 home record.
GOALS, GOALS, GOALS:
Expect a high-scoring game, as these are two of the most dangerous offensive units in the CIS:
McGill: 4.7 GPG (playoffs) / 5.0 GPG (regular season)
UQTR: 3.9 GPG (playoffs) / 3.8 GPG (regular season)
UQTR’s Pierre-Alexandre Joncas surprisingly leads the OUA in playoff points with 14 in eight games. He had just 16 points in 28 regular season games. Joncas is one of five UQTR players averaging at least a point per game (Felix Petit, Olivier Donovan, Etienne Bellavance-Martin, and Jean-Sebastien Breton are the others), as the Patriotes’ top two lines have been excellent in the playoffs thus far.
McGill has had excellent production from their top line of Alex Picard-Hooper, Francis Verreault-Paul, and Andrew Wright, who have combined for 35 points in six games. But some of their typical scoring depth has been MIA in the playoffs. Captain Evan Vossen has just two points, after averaging a point-per-game during the regular season, and McGill’s offensive-minded defencemen have gone cold. Blueliners Marc-Andre Dorion, Hubert Genest, and Ryan McKiernan combined for 20 goals during the regular season, but all have yet to score in the playoffs.
McGill netminder Hubert Morin was not very good on Friday night. The winner of the OUA East Top Goaltender award allowed five goals on 21 shots, and was thoroughly outplayed by UQTR’s Jean-Christophe Blanchard, who stopped 29 of 30 shots.
Blanchard’s success and Morin’s struggles have been two of the more intriguing stories of the playoffs thus far.
Morin: .915 SV% (regular season) / .871 SV% (playoffs)
Blanchard: .897 SV% (regular season) / .923 SV% (playoffs)
A former OUA East First Team All-Star, Blanchard’s revival has been key to UQTR’s playoff drive. The Patriotes have been outshot 76-44 in the OUA East Final, yet have remained competitive thanks to their 6-foot-4 goaltender.
Neither goaltender has to be outstanding tonight. As discussed above, both can rely on “run support” from their potent offences to help them out.
(I don’t expect McGill to start backup netminder Antoine Tardif tonight, but he’s a solid option if head coach Kelly Nobes wants to shake up his team. Tardif was 8-2 in the regular season with a .908 save percentage.)
BOLD AND FOOLISH PREDICTION: McGill wins 4-2. If one disregards Friday, McGill has outscored UQTR 24-12 this season. Plus I'm a homer.