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UQTR players huddle together
2024 U Cup All Sports

UQTR and McGill set to clash in ‘Battle of Québec’

By Mitchell Fox

After two days of the national tournament, the field has been narrowed to four for the semi-finals. 

The Université du Québec à Trois Rivières (UQTR) Patriotes will take on McGill Redbirds in the second matchup on Saturday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC)—a repeat of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East final from two weeks ago where UQTR won.

Redbirds third-year goaltender Alexis Shank said it feels good to get a rematch. 

“I think everybody here is a little mad that we lost in the semi-final, so there’s going to be a great opportunity to get them back,” he said.

Third-year defenceman Scott Walford said it is “pretty crazy” that the Redbirds get to play UQTR again and both teams are anticipating the matchup.

“We’re looking forward to it. They’re looking forward to it. It’s a big rivalry game,” he said. 

The Queen’s Cup champion Patriotes defeated the seventh-seed Moncton Aigles Bleus 5-1 on Friday afternoon. They now seek their third-straight finals appearance, a year after losing to the University of New Brunswick Reds in the big game. 

  • The McGill hockey team celebrates in a huddle on the ice
  • A UQTR player high fives his bench
  • A McGill goalie saves a goal
  • Hockey players from UQTR hug each other while others celebrate
  • McGill hockey players raise their sticks in celebration of a win
  • The McGill goaltender chats with his teammate while skating on the ice
  • Five UQTR players fist bump in celebration of a goal

Meanwhile, the Redbirds upset the third-seed University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 3-2 in their quarterfinal. The last time McGill made the national tournament was in 2018, while the last time they won a game at the tournament prior to Friday was in 2014. 

Redbirds head coach David Urquhart, who played at the U Cup as a player, said it was “really special” for his squad full of players who had never been to the national tournament to get the win and keep going in the tournament.

“You don’t know what it’s like to play at nationals until you’re here. You’re here with all the best teams in the counxtry. Every single team is good,” he said. There’s no opportunity to take your foot off the gas, and you learn that pretty fast,” he said.

The match will see the two top teams from the OUA East face off for the seventh time this season.

The Patriotes win on Friday was led by the Lafrance brothers, fourth-year forward Simon and second-year forward Felix, who combined for nine points in Friday’s win—including three goals. 

“We’re looking forward to it. They’re looking forward to it. It’s a big rivalry game”

Simon Lafrance led the OUA in points with 45 in 26 games in the regular season, which he followed up with six points in the OUA playoffs. Felix Lafrance had 29 points in the regular season and six in the playoffs.

The brothers played together on last year’s Patriotes, who lost in the U Cup semi-finals to the Reds. Simon Lafrance, who also won the championship with UQTR in 2022, said it is “the best feeling” for their family to have the brothers play together at another U Cup. 

“Two more games with him, I’m going to enjoy it. And you know, you never know what will happen,” he said.

UQTR head coach Marc-Etienne Hubert said the brothers were up to the challenge on Friday and are important leaders for the team.

“They already won earlier in their university career, so the young group are looking for them a lot in the locker room,” he said. “They are doing a great job.”

The Redbirds’ quarterfinal win featured a committee approach, reflecting a season where five players have averaged at least a point per game. They had goals from three different sources on Friday and the team was happy with their defensive game as a unit.

First-year Redbirds forward Stephane Huard said the team has good chemistry and everyone knows their role.

“We were ready every shift and we proved it on the ice,” he said. “That’s the result that we deserve.”

Goaltending could also factor into the game, as it did in each of the two teams’ quarterfinals. UQTR third-year netminder Alexis Gravel has allowed just three goals in his last three games and is coming off of a 36-save performance against Moncton, while Shank made 35 saves in his win over UBC. 

Huard said the Redbirds have confidence in their goaltender, who has played well all year long. Urquhart said Shank “came up big in the big moment” on Friday.

“He’s a guy that battles hard every single day and on nights like tonight when he’s focused, he’s amongst the best,” he said.

For UQTR, Gravel said the players on the team who have already been to the U Cup Finals are trying to share as much as they can with the team’s 12 rookies. But, he knows they are already “really good.”

Felix Lafrance said when he joined the team for the 2022-23 season, the team was coming off of a U Cup and Queen’s Cup win, so there was a championship mentality built in. Now, with the young players from that era—such as Gravel and Simon Lafrance—the team is trying to pass something similar on to their many rookies. 

“You just want to win for them and for you too,” he said. “It’s just a culture.”

Gravel said the team has to take every game, and every shift—and in his case every shot—one at a time.

“The Queen’s Cup was a week ago,” said Gravel. “It was great to win the three-peat, but our mindset is we reset because we want to win.” 

Walford echoed a similar sentiment for the Redbirds. 

“[Friday] was about living to fight another day.” 

With files from Blake Talabis

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