MONTREAL -- What started with 16 teams is now down to four as the OUA men's hockey conference finals are set to begin on Wednesday night. In the East Division, two familiar foes from "la belle province" meet in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons when the division-winning McGill Redmen (4-1), ranked sixth in the CIS Top 10, meet the No.8-UQTR Patriotes (4-0) in a best-of-three series.
Game 1 of the series will be hosted by McGill on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at McConnell Arena (3883 University). Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. The second contest is scheduled for Saturday night (7 pm) at Le Colisee in Trois-Rivieres. Should a rubber match be needed, it is slated for Sunday, 7 pm at McConnell Arena. All three games will be streamed live, with McGil's home games on SSN Canada and UQTR's home game on Patriotes TV. Live statistics will be available for all three games online at LeagueStat.
In the OUA West, the CIS No. 7-ranked Windsor Lancers are in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season and will be facing this year's Cinderella story, the Guelph Gryphons, who entered the playoffs as the sixth seed in the division but are now just two games away from reaching the league's Queen's Cup championship. Each game in this series will be streamed on OUA TV.
The full OUA men's hockey playoff schedule is available here.
For the 11th consecutive season either McGill or UQTR will be the East representative in the Queen's Cup. The two Quebec schools have dominated the past decade, winning a combined six Queen's Cups in that time, and will be meeting each other in the playoffs for the 19th time, including four of the past five seasons. The Patriotes won the first 11 series but McGill has taken the last seven. In 44 total post-season meetings, UQTR has a 25-19 record against the Redmen but McGill has won five in a row and 14 of the last 15 confrontations.
UQTR's last victory was in Game 2 of the 2011 OUA semifinals when they defeated McGill 6-1, before falling in the deciding Game 3 by an identical score.
This season, the teams split their regular season series, with the road team prevailing in each game. Both feature offences capable of lighting up the scoreboard. UQTR won the first game 3-1 at McConnell Arena (Jan. 3) and McGill took the rematch 5-2 at Le Colisee (Jan. 28). The Pats also blanked McGill 3-0 at home in preseason play.
UQTR led all OUA teams in the regular season with 4.54 goals per game, while the Redmen ranked fifth at 3.92. McGill also led the nation with a stingy 1.96 goals-against average. In the playoffs, UQTR is once again at the top averaging 5.50 goals through four games, while McGill sits second, scoring 4.0 goals per game through five playoff contests.
Redmen forwards Cedric McNicoll and Jonathan Brunelle are tied for the playoff lead in points with 11 apiece, while McGill defenceman Samuel Labrecque led all OUA blueliners with 13 goals in 26 games and now leads all playoff marksmen with five playoff goals, four of which have come on the power-play.
For the Patriotes, forward Marc-Olivier Mimar, the OUA's third-leading scorer in regular season play, is currently tied for fifth with seven playoff points in four games, while forwardBilly Lacasse is tied for third with four goals in the postseason, one of which was an overtime winner in Game 1 of UQTR's second-round matchup with Carleton.
The last lines of defence for shutting down these high-flying offences will be two of the top goaltenders in the OUA.
Jacob Gervais-Chouinard of McGill is fourth in both playoff goals against average (1.81) and save percentage (.944) and has started all five of McGill's games. He also led the nation in both statistical categories during the regular season.
In net for UQTR, veteran Guillaume Nadeau (11-5) had the bulk of the work during the regular season, but rookie Francis Desrosiers (8-2) has started all four playoff games and is a big reason the Patriotes are the only undefeated team remaining in the OUA playoffs. He backstopped the team to two overtime wins against Carleton last week, saving 39 of 40 shots in a 2-1 overtime win in Game 1 and 29 of 32 in Game 2. His 2.37 playoff goals against average and .932 save percentage ranks him fifth and sixth, respectively, in the conference.
Both series winners will meet in the Queen's Cup the weekend of March 6-8 (date and time TBD) in a one-game winner-take-all showdown, hosted by the remaining Ontario school. The two finalists will also qualify for the CIS championships, along with the OUA bronze medal winner between the two losing teams, in a game that will be hosted by the loser of the McGill-UQTR series.
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