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2024 U Cup All Recaps Sports

Late Frenette winner lifts UQTR over McGill, sets up gold medal game with UNB

By Alex Wauthy

The McGill Redbirds marching band trumpets are silent and the 2024 U Cup final is set—the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes will play for the U Sports men’s hockey national championship.

The UQTR Patriotes gutted out a gritty 5-4 win over McGill in the semi-final, netting a game-winning goal in the dying minutes of the third period over their Québec rivals Saturday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC). 

“I told the guys before the game it’s going to be about who wants it more,” said second-year Patriotes forward Conor Frenette. “At the end of the day, I think we wanted it more than them.”

The game remained a deadlock until Frenette came up clutch in the dying minutes. Third-year UQTR defenceman David Noel shot the puck wide of third-year goaltender Alexis Shank and it ricocheted off the end boards before and plopped onto Frenette’s stick. With Shank out of position, Frenette buried it and sniped it through the swarm of bodies in front of the net to give UQTR the win. 

“We want to keep the program standard really high,” said UQTR head coach Marc-Etienne Hubert. “That’s what we accomplished this year.”

During the first period, the McGill marching band sounded a saddening horn, watching their five Redbirds march to the penalty box. Just over a minute into the game, second-year Redbirds forward Mathieu Gagnon won a faceoff using his hand, drawing a delay of game penalty. 

“At the end of the day, I think we wanted it more than them”

McGill killed their first infraction, but penalties from first-year forwards Zachary Gallant and Charles-Antoine Dumont 51 seconds apart gave UQTR a lengthy five-on-three, and the Patriotes pounced on the opportunity. 

Like their quarterfinal victory over the Moncton Aigles Bleus, the Lafrance brothers connected on another goal. Second-year forward Felix Lafrance whipped a pass over to his brother and fourth-year forward Simon Lafrance. The older sibling blasted it past Shank to the whimper of McGill’s chorus of trombones. 

“We tried to battle until the end,” said third-year Redbirds forward Alexandre Gagnon. “They got the best of us, but let’s just get ready for tomorrow.”

First-year Redbirds forward Xavier Fortin netted the equalizer less than fifteen minutes into the first, tipping third-year defenceman Mitchell Prowse’s point shot for his second of the tournament. 

Prowse and second-year UQTR forward Jérémy Martin took off-setting roughing minors, giving the fans at the MAC some four-on-four action. 

UQTR capitalized on the open ice. First-year Patriotes defenceman Edouard Cornoyer danced with the puck at the blue line, walked toward the top of the hash marks and sniped a shot past Shank to put the Patriotes up 2-1. 

“We love winning, but we always find ways to win,” said Frenette. “Even in big games like that, we find a way to stick in it and at the end of the game get the big goals.” 

  • A UQTR hockey player celebrates a goal
  • A UQTR player celebrates after scoring a goal
  • UQTR celebrate in a huddle on the ice
  • A puck goes into the UQTR net
  • Two McGill Redbirds skate towards a group of three teammates celebrating a goal
  • A UQTR player celebrates on the ice by kneeling

In the second frame, McGill’s penalty woes persisted, but their recklessness didn’t cost them early. 

While their penalty kill stood firm, UQTR found a crack at five-on-five. First-year Patriotes forward William Dumoulin’s shot bounced off Shank’s shoulder, fluttered in the air and sank into the net while defenders and attackers swung at the puck to double the Patriotes’ lead. 

UQTR looked to be pulling away with their two-goal lead, but just 21 seconds after Dumoulin’s marker, McGill’s set of brothers connected to strike back. 

Alexandre Gagnon received a pass from his brother and second-year McGill forward Mathieu Gagnon. He drove to the net and flicked a backhander past Gravel to bring the Redbirds within one. 

Shortly after, Alexandre Gagnon double-dipped with less than five minutes remaining in the period. The older Gagnon jumped on Prowse’s rebound, tying the game at three to the sounds of tubas and saxophones.

“Having our group of alumni here, people from McGill, families, friends, that came from Montreal, it means a lot,” said Alexandre Gagnon. “We definitely have a special program.”

The dramatics continued with one minute remaining.

With 47.8 seconds left in the frame, third-year forward Eric Uba’s flubbed one-timer off a cross-crease pass coasted through Gravel to give the Redbirds their first lead of the night. 

Yet, McGill’s lead didn’t last long. 

First-year UQTR forward Charles Beaudoin chipped it off the draw to fourth-year forward Vincent Milot-Ouellet, who streaked in and snuck the puck past Shank to erase McGill’s lead before their marching band could cease their tunes. 

“We have bad habits of doing comebacks like that,” said Frenette. “I think we are getting used to it…We’re happy to have the chance to play UNB tomorrow and go for gold.” 

Gravel took a high-sticking penalty seven minutes into the third period. On the ensuing play, McGill got their chances, but Gravel more than made up for his infraction. 

“There is a reason we call him the wall,” said Frenette. “I think he always comes up big in big games. I’m proud to have him in my net, and he came up big today. We got the win because of him.” 

“We tried to battle until the end”

McGill’s empty-net opportunities came up short as UQTR bunkered down and secured a date with the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Reds in the U Cup Final on Sunday at 5 p.m. 

Perchance Sunday will yield a different result for the Redbirds. They enter the MAC one last time, hoping to end their season with a win and a bronze medal. But for some—like third-year McGill defenceman Scott Walford—it will be their last time playing with those they can call their best friends. 

“It’s actually funny—we even go back farther than that,” said Walford about his connection with his defence partner Prowse. “We both played at Okanagan Hockey Academy together—different years, played a couple of games together—on the same bus every day for an hour, from Kelowna to Penticton and back. Two hours every day we spent together.”

“The guy is my best friend. It’s tough that tomorrow’s my last game with him unless we play down the road together.”

As for the Patriotes, their U Cup duel with UNB features a team that has outshot their opponents 93-33 and outscored them 11-0 through two U Cup matches. Perfect is necessary to dethrone the reigning U Cup champions. 

“It’s one of the biggest challenges in the program’s history,” said Hubert. “This team seems to be unbeatable.”

UP NEXT: UQTR and UNB will face off in the gold medal match at the MAC on Sunday at 5 p.m.

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