It was a cold, brisk evening in the city of Montréal on Saturday night, but inside McConnell Arena things better resembled the Wild West, as an all-out barnburner took place between the #5 McGill Redmen and #7 Western Mustangs.
Western was entering the game coming off of a tough loss in Ottawa against the Gee-Gees the night before where they were held off of the scoresheet until over midway through the second. In this one, they got started quickly to try to remedy that as Steven Reese scored just three and a half minutes in to get the Mustangs out in front early.
Following the goal, both teams started a long and lengthy parade to the penalty box that endured throughout the entire game, as special teams became a crucial part of both sides’ strategies.
And just under seven minutes after Reese gave Western the lead, McGill’s Neal Prokop scored on the powerplay to even things up. The goal came after Julian Cimadamore took a cross-checking penalty, the first of three straight calls against Western.
As the period began to draw to a close, it was McGill making two straight trips to the sin bin, giving Western’s Zach Harnden the opportunity to deflect a Matt Clarke point shot past Andrew Flemming and into the McGill cage, giving the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
It looked like Western scored again just seconds later, but the goal was called back for a hand pass, much to the ire of the Mustangs bench. With that, the period came to an end with Western ahead 2-1, but not before some extracurricular activity saw Shaun Furlong head to the box for a roughing minor.
That late penalty turned out to be a big advantage for McGill, as they came out on the offensive to start the second. The post came to the rescue early as David McKiernan rocked a slapshot off the iron and over the glass, but shortly afterwards, David Rose was able to bang home the rebound off a Hugo Laporte point shot to tie things up at two.
Less than three minutes later, McKiernan got some redemption, as he floated in a knucklepuck from the point that handcuffed Western’s Josh Unice and found twine, putting the Redmen up 3-2.
The period began as a disaster for Western, not only because of the two goals but just sloppy play in general.
A mad goalmouth scramble at the other end finally gave Western some momentum, as Daniel Erlich had Flemming sprawling on the ice trying to stack his pads, and was able to get the puck over Flemming and into the net, tying the game up at 3-3.
McGill kept the pressure up, but Unice was able to keep Western in the game, making save after save, and stopping 15 of 17 shots in the period.
His play resulted in late momentum for the Stangs, and on the powerplay Clarke was able to tee up another blast from the point and put it just under the crossbar, giving Western a 4-3 lead with just eight seconds remaining.
They’d take that score into the intermission, but again the period ended with some rough stuff. All ten players on the ice got involved in pushing and shoving, with a few gloves-on punches thrown. By all accounts, it was the CIS version of a line brawl, and ended with two minors and a ten-minute misconduct to each team as they prepared for the third.
Entering the third, McGill pulled Flemming from the game, and Jacob Gervais-Chouinard came into hold down the Redmen net for the final twenty minutes.
Again, penalties played a key part of the game, and McGill capitalized on an early powerplay. Carl Gelinas tapped the puck home on a goalmouth scramble, and just like that things were tied up.
McGill were then able to kill off a big penalty kill midway through the period, and just thirty-five seconds after the penalty expired, Cedric McNicoll scored the go-ahead marker, putting the Redmen ahead 5-4.
The game took an ugly turn from there, with McGill’s Patrick Delisle-Houde sent to the dressing room with a checking to the head misconduct. McGill were able to kill off the minor penalty that accompanied it, and then Western took some undisciplined penalties as they scrambled to get back into the game.
Kyle de Coste took an interference penalty, but Clarke was able to speed in on a shorthanded breakaway with a great chance to tie things up. He was hooked lightly, causing a weak shot, and Western became enraged that there was no call. Cimadamore took matters into his own hands, as he ran Laporte into the boards from behind, and received a minor and ten-minute misconduct of his own.
With that, McGill looked poised to simply walk away with a win, as they held a brief two-man advantage and then a powerplay to end the game. However, after the first penalty expired, some bizarre action took place on the ice. Max le Sieur made contact with Unice during play, and after the whistle Unice gave le Sieur a bit of a face wash. After the ensuing scrum was broken up, le Sieur chased Unice into the corner, sharing some words, and was called for a potentially-disastrous unsportsmanlike misconduct penalty, giving Western a 5-on-4 advantage with the net empty and 35 seconds to go.
Ultimately, though, Western was unable to put together any type of challenging attack, and McGill were able to survive and escape with a 5-4 victory, in a wild game that saw 84 total penalty minutes, and the Redmen outshooting the Mustangs 49-38.
With the win, McGill moves to 7-1-1 on the season and sit atop the top of the OUA East, and Western fall to 8-3-0, and after the two losses on the road trip now find themselves in the middle of the pack of the OUA West.
Join us for next week’s matchup as the 6-3-0 UQTR Patriotes travel to Windsor to face the OUA-leading 8-1-0 Lancers.