The beauty of Canadian university hockey is it's played in such small rinks that you get to bask in hockey's gritty splendor. The cosy campus rinks have the effect of drawing you in, making you feel the reverb from every heavy collision along the boards. In the NHL, even major junior, there's always this distancing effect that makes you feel like you're watching on TV, that it's not real. Gibbons' early injury, which caused a 35-minute delay and sent him to the hospital for, probably set both teams back, but it also stirred up the bad blood a good hockey game needs. Most of these guys don't have the carrot of a NHL career, but they still go at it tooth and nail and then go to class on Monday.
"It's pretty intense hockey and it's probably going to get worse and worse," was how Ravens coach Fred Parker put it after the winning their regular-season debut as a full-fledged CIS program. What's not to like?
Prior to the game, Gee-Gees coach Dave Leger recalled growing up in Ottawa when the Panda Bowl football game (when Carleton had a team) "galvanized school pride." One game in, men's hockey and the cross-town rivalry between the schools already seems like a perfect match. The U of O rink was fairly loud, considering it's Thanksgiving weekend and the fans were into as much as they have been at many basketball games at the downtown campus.
Gibbons' injury set both teams back. "We were little bit stunned," Parker said. "He's a big part of our team and our guys were out in la-la land for a little while... we kicked 'er back in the second and came out strong in the third."
Carleton looked lost early on, giving up two breakaways during the five-minute power play that came out of Gibbons' injury (Gee-Gees defenceman Mark Runions was ejected), but former NCAA D-1 goalie Jordan Wakefield was there both times. He ended up making 26 saves, including a lunging stop with about 45 seconds left to preserve the one-goal lead. He was probably reason No. 1 the Ravens pulled it off, with No. 2 being a parade to the penalty box by the Gee-Gees in the latter half of the game.
Ottawa got five straight penalties in the third. Jared Cipparone's tying goal came after 3-plus minutes of 5-on-3 hockey. Ottawa, which lost a second defenceman when Rob Jarvis was banished for a check from behind, never got resettled and Tony Manitta, from Manotick, buried the winner with 3:48 to play after former 67's defenceman Brodie Beard (who had helpers on both Ravens goals) stepped up smartly to cut off a bad first pass.
Bottom line, it was entertaining and hopefully it means more people taking an interest what Leger calls "the best-kept secret in Canada." The irony is it might means playing games at a larger arena such as the Civic Centre and some of that essence of CIS hockey would be diffused.
- How Carleton looked: Wakefield should steal a few games; it's a young team, but Beard and Brad Good seemed to be stabilizers on the back end.
- How Ottawa looked: Leger's initial prognosis of riding with the defence and goaltending seems spot on. Martin Bricault was good in goal for the most part and their third line got the goal (by Dan McDonald).
- It was lump-in-the-mouth stuff when Gibbons got hurt; he was a big recruit for the Ravens, as much for his willingness to put a face on a new program as much for his background as the captain last season with Belleville in the OHL.
Talking to him Wednesday on the cuff of the Sun, he mentioned how he'd been sure to check out a Ravens basketball game when the U.S. teams were visiting, noted that the school "has a great athletic program, you can see it in the basketball team, you can see it in the soccer team ... we want to make sure we represent the bird on the front of the jersey the way it should be represented."
It really left the impression that here's someone who isn't viewing the CIS as a post-script to his OHL days; for Gibbons it's a continuance of his hockey C.V.
- For one night at least, the young Ravens were a disciplined team: "I know I was spending a little too much time in the box," was wing Andrew Self's assessement of the pre-season adjustment from OHL to CIS officating.
- One nice touch of CIS hockey is that there's a place for late bloomers: Jay Higgins, who's played mostly rec hockey for the past couple years, was one of Carleton's best men on the ice. "He's like the Rudy story from Notre Dame there," Parker said. "He hasn't played organized hockey in four-five years, just decided to pick it up and said, 'give me a chance.' I promised I would and he worked hard over the summer. He had an opportunity (to score) tonight almost every time he was out there."
- Gee-Gees hoops note: Dax Dessureault put up a career-high 26 points in a 93-74 exhibition win over Champlain-St. Lambert in pre-season action last night; cishoops.ca has more.
(UPDATE, 6:30 p.m. Saturday: The Gee-Gees pulled out a 3-2 win in the return game — Keven Gagné and Dan McDonald scored last-minute power-play goals to beat the Ravens. So two one-goal games, the road team winning each time... that's a rivalry.)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.