KINGSTON, Ont. (from Queen’s Gaels) – The latest chapter from the storied rivalry between the Queen’s Gaels and RMC Paladins men’s hockey teams is set to be written in what promises to be another must-see Carr-Harris Challenge Cup. The two Kingston-based squads will square off to open the February schedule Thursday as the Rogers K-Rock Centre will serve as the backdrop for another high-octane instant classic.
Despite sitting on opposite ends of the spectrum in the OUA East Division, the Gaels (16-5-3) and Paladins (6-14-4) are well-matched on the ice, and when it comes to rivalries, nothing is certain in the eventual outcome; something fans witnessed in last year’s contest.
After all, while No. 9 Queen’s has come out on top overall in this storied rivalry – to the tune of a 19-10-2 record – and hold a 132-85 edge in the game’s scoring numbers since its inaugural 1986 affair, it’s the Paladins who earned the last laugh in the series thanks to a 3-2 win in 2017.
Queen’s, as a team, ranks largely in the middle of the pack across several statistical categories this season. From the power play to the penalty kill to their overall scoring, the Gaels have been steady in every aspect – ranking anywhere from eighth to 11th, respectively – but one area in which the Tricolour have found standout success is between the pipes.
Queen’s has allowed just 61 goals against this season, good enough for second in the OUA, while their 2.53 GAA ranks them third. Leading the way in net is Kevin Bailie, who recently earned his 50th career victory, as his 2.19 GAA ranks second in the conference. Not to be outdone, fellow netminder Jacob Brennan is not far behind, ranking fifth with a mark of 2.53. Combined, the pair give the Gaels one of the most feared duos in all of the OUA, and will certainly need to be a point of differentiation for Queen’s against the Paladins.
Providing the support in front of these potent puck stoppers is the impressive play of Slater Doggett, the team leader in goals (13) and points (28). Along with Doggett, fellow forwards Ryan Bloom and Darcy Greenaway have brought an offensive punch to the squad, while U Sports All-Star Spencer Abraham has led the blueliners – offensively and defensively – in helping the Gaels to reach their current second place position in the division.
Not only has this gifted quartet provided a spark in general for the Gaels, but they’ve also done damage against the Paladins specifically. Each of the aforementioned individuals has found the back of the net in either one or both of the teams’ 2017-18 matchups, helping Queen’s earn a pair of head-to-head wins this season. But while Queen’s has come out on top thus far in the season series – a series that included a high-scoring overtime affair – both squads will surely come to the rink ready to rock.
The trio of Seamus Maguire, Deric Boudreau, and Mitchell Hewson lit the lamp in last year’s RMC victory, while goaltender Matt Murphy notched 26 big saves for red nation. And while two of those three remain with the club, the Paladins will be looking beyond last year’s goal-scorers to one who has taken the nation by storm so far this season.
Riley Brandt has been a point per game player for the Paladins this season, and has thrived so much that he is even tied for the U Sports lead in goals with 17 tallies. Brandt’s ability to score is well-documented, and it can happen quickly, as the freshman has two hat tricks to his name as well this year. And just as teams have come to realize all season long, the Gaels will need to be aware of Brandt’s presence on the ice if they want to keep him off the scoreboard.
Outside of Brandt, however, RMC has struggled to find the back of the net this season, ranking at the bottom of the conference in goals scored. When the team has been able to score, the results speak for themselves, as the Paladins’ victories have seen them tally well more than three goals per game, while also rolling out a power play that is four times more successful and a goals against difference of more than two per game. These winning performances have shown several bright spots for RMC, but outside of a stretch of five wins in six games, the team hasn’t been able to string these successes together.
In a rivalry that has seen a little bit of everything – from shutouts to shootouts, from one-goal games to lopsided victories – this latest edition of the marquee matchup isn’t one to be missed. Fans who want to catch the action in person can do so at 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday at the Rogers K-Rock Centre. Those who can’t make it to the arena can see the latest Carr-Harris Cup unfold live on OUA.tv.