After a thrilling comeback that fell short in overtime against UOIT on Friday, the U of T Varsity Blues men’s hockey team looked for a second chance in a home game against the Queen’s Gaels on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the Blues’ offensive output had little to show that night. They fell 2-1 to the Gaels, dropping their record to 4-7-1 in the OUA West. A couple of wins from their last two games could have slingshot Toronto up the standings to tie for fourth with Waterloo.
“We were able to generate the offence, but we just couldn’t finish,” said head coach Darren Lowe. “I don’t know if we’re gripping the sticks a little tight, but we had tons of opportunities and just couldn’t find a way to put the puck in the net.”
The Blues opened the scoring with an early power play goal in the first period when forward Christian Finch stopped up in the offensive zone and wired a beautiful top-corner snipe to beat the goaltender. “I saw that [their defence] backed in a little too much, so I was able to cut into the middle to get a nice shot off,” says Finch.
Good goaltending from Michael Nishi and a solid two-way game from the Blues led them to carry a 1-0 lead after the first period. “The intensity was great, the atmosphere was contagious, and the Blues played really well,” says third-year student Shamsher Dhah.
Some early offensive pressure from Queen’s in the second period had Toronto playing on their heels a bit, as Gaels forward Andrew Wiebe evened the score 3:55 into the second frame with a power play marker. Both teams remained tied 1-1 heading into the final frame.
Just 41 seconds into the third period on an extended four-minute Toronto power play, Wiebe scored shorthanded to notch his second goal of the night and the eventual game-winner for Queen’s.
Toronto came close to tying in the final minute with a heavy shot from forward Michael Markovic coming down the wing, but Queen’s goaltender Kevin Bailie stood tall to preserve the 2-1 win.
“The guys worked hard,” said Lowe. “They played extremely well and they probably deserved a better fate. We just need to keep working hard and the bounces will eventually go our way.”
“We just got to keep battling,” said Finch when asked what Toronto has to do to bounce back. “We’re improving a little bit each time, we are getting more and more opportunities, and eventually we are going to break through.”
The Varsity Blues will be back in action Saturday, November 22 when they head to Montréal to take on the McGill Redmen.