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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Big win secures playoff berth for L.U. hockey men
by Randy Pascal

Taking to the ice, last Tuesday, for their final OUA regular season game of 2018-2019, the Laurentian Voyageurs men's hockey team put themselves in great position to clinch a coveted playoff berth this past weekend.

The fact that it came at the expense of the northern rival Nipissing Lakers was merely an added bonus.

Continuing their very solid play over the course of the past month or so, the Voyageurs dominated the opening half of their head to head match-up with the Lakers, building up a 3-0 lead, plenty of cushion to sustain a pair of replies in the dying minutes in chalking up a 4-2 win over Nipissing at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex.

Paul-Antoine Deslauriers, Nicolas Dionne and Jacob Smith provided the initial margin for the homeside, with a short-handed marker from Gavin Apperson at 4:42 of the third period all but sealing the fate of this contest.

Clearly under the category of "too little, too late", a pair of Lakers' goals from Lucas Brown (18:22) and Colin Campbell (19:50) truthfully only managed to slightly besmirch what was otherwise an outstanding effort from L.U. netminder Michael Giugovaz, who turned aside 29 of the 31 shots that he faced in recording the win.

The triumph marked a third straight victory for the Laurentian lads, sweeping a key home doubleheader the previous weekend by edging both the RMC (Royal Military College) Paladins 3-2 in overtime, as well as the Queen's Gaels (6-4).

Nicolas Dionne provided the heroics on Friday night, netting the game-winner at 3:24 of the extra session, his second goal of the game. Haydn Hopkins added the remaining goal for the Voyageurs, who surrendered a 2-0 third period lead to RMC, forcing the teams to play a few additional minutes.

A three goal second period outburst made all of the difference against Queen's, as the blue and gold received a pair of markers from Derek Varrin and one goal each from Hopkins, Dionne, Kaden Ruest and Russell Nowry.

By the time play was completed on Tuesday, coach Craig Duncanson and company enjoyed a three point lead in the standings, with both Laurentian and Nipissing closing out their respective campaigns with a two-game set this past weekend.

That advantage would be crucial as Voyageur road setbacks to both the Ottawa Gee Gees (6-3) and Carleton Ravens (6-1) were academic when combined with Nipissing losses at the hands of both Ottawa (6-2) and RMC (3-2 in OT).

"It takes a long time for your play to get that good and consistent," noted Duncanson following the win over the Lakers. "Today, we just played more consistent, from start to finish. Quite frankly, since Christmas, the guys have been playing a very disciplined, hard working game."

"I think they are starting to buy in and we're starting to get results." In fact, since being beaten by Nipissing (5-1) in their first game of the new year, Laurentian has recorded a playoff worthy record of 4-7.

Perhaps more important is the fact that defeats from UOIT (3-2), McGill (2-0), Queen's (3-1) and RMC (4-2) have all been endured in highly competitive encounters, games in which the Voyageurs have at least given themselves a shot at victory.

"I am competitive and I feel like I try and bring that across, but I think it's our guys, since Christmas, recognizing how big the games are and being that much more focused. It's a real tough game to play, penalty free, given the changes in the rules, but we've gotten away from some of the careless, non-play penalties, which has helped."

"More importantly, we've been really disciplined in trying to succeed within a structure." That discipline will be put to the test again this week, as Laurentian opens the playoffs with an OUA East best of three quarter-final series with the Ottawa Gee Gees.

Sitting in first place with a record of 22-2-1-3 (48 pts), the Gee Gees will travel to Sudbury armed with the confidence of sweeping the home and home regular season series, though Laurentian (9-18-1-0 = 19 pts) did manage to battle the team from the nation's capital tooth and nail back on November 10th, surrendering a very late goal in a 6-5 loss.

Puck drop for Wednesday evening at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex is set for 7:35 p.m., with games two and three (if necessary) set for the weekend in Ottawa.

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