Last updated: March 21, 2012 3:32 pm
CIS men's hockey finals preview: McGill Redmen
As the men's hockey national championship gets set to kick off in Fredericton, The Brunswickan staff tees up the competitors
FREDERICTON (CUP) — Four is a bittersweet number for the McGill Redmen.
Four is the number of goals that separated the Redmen from the championship title last year, when the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds claimed the Cavendish University Cup.
It’s also the number they won by this year during the Queen’s Cup, when they beat the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, for the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title, 4-1. As well, four is the number of Queen’s Cups they’ve won in the last five seasons.
Now, a year later, the Redmen are back for another Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship, and ready to play.
“You know, winning the Queen’s Cup was great for our program. It’s certainly a great trophy to win. It’s got a lot of history and tradition to it, but more importantly, it gives us some momentum coming into the [CIS] tournament,” said McGill head coach Kelly Nobes.
“It gives us a confidence-boost and it sort of indicates that we’re peaking at the right time, which you want to be peaking at this time of the season.”
Last year, McGill suffered a 4-0 loss against the Varsity Reds in the national final, but as Nobes said, it was a learning experience.
“[It] was a real good experience for us and it was part of our development. And despite the fact we didn’t win, we learned a lot of valuable lessons, and gained experience.”
Some of the experience the Redmen gained can be found in self-reflection from the previous game and applying it in the games this weekend. On top of that, McGill only has six new rookies on their roster, and the veterans on the team have the experience of nationals under their belts.
“With a lot of returning players, certainly there was a lot of growth there, so this year, we focused on the process through the season. But the lessons that you learned the year before make you better. So that’s kind of what we took from it all.”
The new rookies on the team have also helped contribute to the team’s success so far this season.
“Three of them will be in the lineup [this weekend], and we expect them to be instrumental, and they have been so far in our team’s success.”
The year has seen some high-quality performance from the program, and as Nobes said, it’s collective.
“Collectively, we’re playing well. We’ve had 15 different goal scorers in seven different playoff games. It’s very much a team this year and we’ve had good team wins through the course of the playoffs.”
But like any team, as the season gets underway, unforeseen circumstances and obstacles can come up. For McGill, it’s been a series of injuries throughout the roster.
Nobes sees the positivity that can come from these injuries, as it helps push players who have to step-up their game when someone else is injured.
“It’s good for the team and it’s good for the program because it gives the younger players, or the guys who may not have had an opportunity to play as much, opportunity to play and to step-up and to contribute.”
Nobes, who is no stranger to McGill hockey, as he’s a Redmen alumnus, is in his second year as head coach for the team, and is heading to his second national championship.
“To feel the same sort of pride that a lot of our alumni feel for the program now, and to feel it as a coach, it’s been a great experience.”
“In hockey you learn from everybody and that’s part of growing as a coach, and as a person, is learning from everybody you come in contact with,” Nobes said. “I’m sure there’s lots of stuff that I do that’s been influenced by different people that have coached me over the years.”
But the success of the team isn’t just physical, it’s mental, and the Redmen have a plethora of athletes who contribute not only on the ice, but in their studies.
“The thing that I’m always proud of, [with] my group, is that they’re all elite students. They’re just such great citizens and elite students and, to have the success on the ice that we have, certainly as an alum makes me proud and makes our alumni proud.”