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SEASON PREVIEW: Men’s hockey starts with big weekend

Wednesday October 11, 2017
Sweeney skating backward.
Photo: 
Greg Mason

The OUA men’s hockey regular season begins this week and for the Ottawa Gee-Gees it starts at the Raven’s Nest at Carleton on Thursday night before Home Opener night on Saturday against Concordia. The Gee-Gees have added several key pieces to the mix this year as the majority of the team enters its second season of OUA play.

A strong 2016-17 campaign highlighted by a seven-game win streak in January ended in a tight playoff series with Queen’s in the fourth-fifth matchup in the East. Conference re-alignment will challenge the emerging Gee-Gees, whose depth is improved this season with seven new skaters.

“I think our depth is better, and our schedule is going to require it. It’s comforting that our roster allows us to replace guys if needed,” says head coach Patrick Grandmaître who guided his new-look squad through a six-game exhibition schedule which included tilts with AHL and NCAA teams as well as a 2-1 record against U SPORTS teams.

“We know our team much better now and we know our base, but we’re still going to be countering other team’s strengths, it’s not just our one game plan against everyone. We’re proactive and that’s our philosophy which worked well for us last year. We won’t just sit back, we’re a pressure team but everything has a structured approach,” continues Grandmaître. “We have strong team communication - what stands out is that our guys that were here last year are helping and teaching what we’re trying to do.”

Ottawa will become familiar with the Carleton Ravens early in the regular season, facing the cross-town rivals four times before the December exam break including one game at TD Place on November 17 for the second annual Colonel By Classic. The Gee-Gees earned two wins against Concordia in 2016-17 against a Stingers team that finished 19-7-2.

“We’ve seen a lot of good things and we’ll have good internal competition for spots if everyone is healthy. We have a good mix of a variety of types of players too, so it should be interesting.”

Tickets are available online for Saturday’s Home Opener at tickets.geegees.ca. For tickets to the game at Carleton, visit https://goravens.ca/tickets/

All OUA regular season games are webcast live and free of charge at OUA.tv

KEY RETURNERS:

Forwards: Kevin Domingue, Marc Beckstead, Mathieu Newcomb, Cody Drover

Domingue led the Gee-Gees offensively in 2016, ranking fifth in the OUA conference with 16 goals in 28 games. The Laval, Que., product added 15 assists and earned a place on the OUA All-Rookie team. His speed and finesse gives the Gee-Gees an instant sparkplug, particularly when at even strength as just one of Domingue’s goals came with the man advantage in 2016 despite Ottawa’s powerplay operating at 19.5 per cent success rate (ranked seventh out of 20 in OUA).

Beckstead a Morrisburg, Ont. native who played for the Gatineau Olympiques for two seasons as well as one with Victoriaville in the QMJHL before joining the Gee-Gees, brings the grittier style to the Ottawa attack. His willingness to mix things up in front of the net and finish his hits didn’t limit his production in 2016; his eight goals was tied for second on the team but he was limited to just 20 games due to an injury early in the year. He is a day-to-day right now and did not dress in the opening two exhibition games.

Cody Drover was the ultimate set up man for uOttawa, quietly racking up a team-high 17 assists which, along with his six goals made him the team’s overall points leader. He also played his entire 27-game regular season without taking a penalty. A smooth, fluid skater with great vision, Drover hails from Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and played for the Dieppe Commandos with Mathieu Newcomb before coming to uOttawa.

Newcomb was Ottawa’s biggest power play threat in 2016, potting four of his eight goals while on the man advantage. His memorable playoff goal in double-overtime to extend Ottawa’s first round series was one of the highlights of 2016. Newcomb, from Grande-Digue, N.B., is a key leader off the ice for Ottawa, and is studying Economics.

Defence: Jacob Sweeney, Michael Poirier, Matt Dunlop

Sweeney, a 6-foot-4 tower on the Ottawa blueline was on the top defensive pair for Grandmaître in 2016 after five seasons in the QMJHL including four with Moncton. Originally from Quebec City, Sweeney also contributed two goals and ten assists in 2016 for Ottawa. He was named to the OUA All-Rookie team.

Poirier is the third former member of the Dieppe Commandos trio on the uOttawa squad and lined up alongside Sweeney last season. His steady play also included 12 points and he was the second-least penalized Gee-Gee spending just four minutes in the box in 26 games. Poirier leads the Gee-Gees power play from the blue line and netted two PPG of his own.

Dunlop was the first Gee-Gee player to commit to Patrick Grandmaître and was a vital part of the defence corps which allowed 2.73 goals against to rank 8th in the conference (of 20). His positioning and hockey IQ stand out, and the Stouffville, Ont., product is a leader off the ice as well. Dunlop is studying Finance.

Goalkeepers: Graham Hunt, Anthony Brodeur

Hunt and Brodeur split the goaltending duties in 2016 with Hunt starting 18 games and Brodeur 10 and Hunt’s overall minutes accounting for 62 per cent of the time. The pair combined for a team save percentage of .913 which ranked 7th in OUA, with Hunt posting a .917 mark and Brodeur at .910. Hunt, from Concord, Massachusetts, studies Management while Brodeur is a Human Kinetics student from Morin Heights, Que.

KEY ADDITIONS:

D - Médric Mercier, a 6-foot-3 Ottawa native and five-year OHL-er with the Sault Greyhounds and Oshawa Generals. Mercier attended rookie camp with the Columbus Blue Jackets this fall. He was admitted to uOttawa in Criminology.

F - Eric Locke comes to uOttawa after three seasons at St. Francis-Xavier where he helped lead the X-Men to a U SPORTS University Cup tournament appearance in each of his three seasons, and was named the Atlantic University Sport conference’s Most Valuable Player following the 2015-16 season. Locke, who hails from Toronto and was a five-year OHL-er, is studying medicine at uOttawa, and recorded 28 points in 30 games last season.

F - Patrick White scored 49 points for the Ottawa 67s in 2016-17, following three seasons with the Sarnia Sting for the Orleans, Ont. native.