When the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s hockey team was trailing late in their opening playoff game against the McGill Redmen, they refused to back down. Their tenacity was rewarded, as Marco Azzano and Médric Mercier tallied late power play goals to push the Gee-Gees over the top and take the series lead heading back to Ottawa.
Following the game, Head Coach Patrick Grandmaître cited special teams and starting goaltender Graham Hunt as keys to success.
“Our power play and penalty came up big and [Hunt] was nice and steady,” Grandmaître said. “That was the difference at the end of the day.”
The Gee-Gees opened the game with a hot start. Jacob Hanlon celebrated his 22nd birthday by deflecting Ottawa’s first shot of the game into the back of the net.
The momentum appeared to continue into the second, with the Gee-Gees tallying 40 seconds into the period before the call was rescinded.
“I was really happy with our first and our third, after that goal that was disallowed we fell into a lull and bad habits,” Grandmaître said. “They're a good team, when you give them chances they’ll pounce on them. Our players regrouped well between periods. We took it to them in the third.”
After falling behind heading into the third, the Gee-Gees drew a penalty midway through the frame. Just seconds into the power play, Azzano directed a puck through the five hole to tie the game.
The game appeared destined for overtime before Mercier was hauled down along the half-wall. While McGill fans voiced their displeasure with the call, the power play regrouped for Ottawa, and Mercier unloaded a trademarked blast from the point to tally the winner.
Hunt, starting in place of the injured Anthony Brodeur, stopped 28 of 30 shots he faced to earn the win in goal.
The Gee-Gees will look to complete the sweep on Friday when they host the Redmen for game two at the Minto Sports Complex. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m.
“I’m feeling happy with the first game here, but McGill is a huge beast,” Grandmaître said. “I think with their first round match-up maybe they weren’t fully in playoff mode and we’ll need to be even better next game.”