Some say the best defence is a good offence. That was certainly the case for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men's hockey team on Friday night as three defencemen chipped in goals en route to a 3-0 shutout over the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Médric Mercier's second of the season just four minutes into the game stood as the game winner, while Michael Poirier and Jacob Sweeney scored their first goals of the regular season later in the contest.
"We match-up well with them, our team speed is pretty good and we used our depth - everyone is fresh and ready to go," Head Coach Patrick Grandmaître said following the game. "We're hard to play against and the proof is we've allowed two goals, then one goal, and no goals today. We're playing well as a team."
Graham Hunt stopped just 15 shots on goal to earn the shutout in goal. The Concord, MA., native has been stellar through his first two starts, ranking among the best in the OUA with a 0.50 goals against average and a 0.983 save percentage.
Ottawa hosting Laurier marked the first time the teams met since Nov. 12, 2016, when Anthony Brodeur posted his first career shutout in a 4-0 win. The unfamiliarity with the opponent led the coaching staff to emphasize video analysis while preparing through the week, and adjusting systems accordingly.
Grandmaître said the coaching staff quickly keyed in on Laurier's strengths on the power play, and looked to diffuse that by emphasizing a disciplined game to his players.
"They only had one power play [on the night], so team discipline was really important. We wanted to stay out of the box and were able to do that, it allowed for some good team defence," he said.
Heading into the contest, the Ottawa defence had some challenges looming. Only five of eight defencemen were available to play, forcing third-year forward Antoine Pouliot to slide into a depth defenceman role. While the Lévis, Que., native has played defence previously in his career, he has never been employed as a defender with the Gee-Gees.
"We gradually integrated him into the game and we gave him more and more when we saw he could play well," Grandmaître said.
Through the first three games, Gee-Gees defenders have chipped in four of the goals scored, with Grandmaître attributing this to the structure the team employs on the ice. "The goals from our defencemen [tonight], two of them were shots from the point with net presence, and then Jacob Sweeney jumping up into the play which we want our defencemen to do, and be aggressive," he explained. "Our guys like playing the way we're allowing them to play and it shows from the way they're buying in across the board."
The undefeated Gee-Gees return to the ice tomorrow night to host the Waterloo Warriors. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m., purchase tickets ahead of the game at tickets.geegees.ca.