The Dalhousie University Tigers men’s hockey team clinched their first playoff spot in seven years yesterday at the Halifax Forum.
It was down to Dalhousie and L’Université de Moncton Aigles Bleus for the final playoff spot. The Tigers squeaked out a 2-1 win over UdeM, sending them to the playoffs.
“It’s awesome for me, it feels great but I can’t imagine what it feels for guys like Luke Madill who’s been here for five years and even guys in their fourth year. Those guys put in the most work so it feels great for them for sure,” said a Tigers’ first-year forward, Jonathan Cyr, who scored the game-winning goal.
Tigers’ captain, Luke Madill has played in a lot of games to finally make the playoffs. Yesterday’s game was Madill’s 140th, breaking the record for the most amount of games played in Dal men’s hockey history. He is excited to be in the playoffs.
“It’s huge. It is something we have been working towards as a program for the last five years and every year we have been trending in the right direction and it is finally resulting in making the playoffs in my fifth year here,” said Madill. “It is truly exciting for the team and the school, so I’m really looking forward to see what we can do in the post-season.”
The Wednesday night game started out with Madill receiving a framed photo from Tigers’ Head Coach, Chris Donnelly for breaking the record.
“It’s awesome, he deserves it and he is honestly probably the best captain I have ever played for,” said Cyr. “He’s in law school and has a lot going on but he still comes to the rink with a smile on his face and keeping school off his back. Everybody learns from him.”
Madill is proud of the accomplishment:
“It’s a pretty cool record to have. I have been here for five years and enjoyed every minute of hockey. It had its ups and downs, at the end of the day I consider myself pretty fortunate to play hockey and go to school, especially at Dalhousie, so I love it.”
The Tigers opened the scoring eight minutes into the first period. On a power-play, forward Jackson Playfair had the puck at the point and slap-passed it across the attacking zone to Colton Heffley. Heffley snapped the puck past Aigles Bleus’ goaltender Brandon Thibeau. Cyr got the other assist.
UdeM came back and scored a power-play goal of their own in the second period. Eight seconds into the power-play, Vincent Deslauries had the puck to the side of the net. He backhanded a pass over to teammate Robbie Graham in front and he shot the puck past Tigers’ goaltender Corbin Boes.
The game remained tied and it was looking like it would go into overtime.
With four minutes left in the third period, Dalhousie had a 5-on-3 power play. Thirty-five seconds later, just as UdeM’s first penalty expired, Playfair took a wrist shot from the point but Thibeau made the save. Jonathan Cyr followed up on the rebound and put the puck into the back of the net.
“It was awesome, scoring a goal like that for the older guys feels great,” said Cyr.
In the last minute, Dal had to kill off a penalty and UdeM pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage. With five seconds left, UdeM’s Jean–Francois Plante took a shot from the point, the rebound went to Robbie Graham who had a wide-open net but he was forced to miss because defenceman, Zachary Taylor got his legs in front of Graham’s stick making it impossible for Graham to shoot at an angle required to aim the puck at the net.
The Tigers managed to survive the final push by UdeM and punch their ticket into the playoffs.
Moncton played like the more desperate team in this game but the Tigers’ star goaltender Corbin Boes was fantastic.
The Tigers were outshot 42-26 but Boes stopped 41 of those shots.
Heading into the Christmas break it didn’t look like the Tigers were going to be playoff bound. They were out of a playoff spot and were on an eleven game losing streak. They won their first game in the new year over the University of Prince Edward Island and won six out of nine games in January, with only losing to St. Francis Xavier University and the University of New Brunswick, who are ranked first and second in the country.
“It’s a tough league and unfortunately we were finding ways to lose hockey games by some big mistakes,” said Donnelly.
He followed up by saying his team was playing good hockey leading into the Christmas break but they couldn’t find ways to win. “And we didn’t have the fire-power – and we still don’t – to get ourselves out of those come-from-behind situations often,” said Donnelly.
“In the second half, often times we were able to get a lead early, we’ve been scoring goals that our particular skill set of guys are capable of scoring. A lot of them are in and around the net and are able to bang in some rebounds like the winner here tonight.”
This game was played for Bell Let’s Talk Day, an initiative by Bell to raise money and awareness for mental health in Canada. There were 415 people in attendance, which is about 250 more people than usual.
“Mental health is a big issue and I think this initiative and this game has done a lot to help raise awareness and Bell has done a great job promoting these issues and putting it into the minds of everybody,” said Madill, who was featured in an article for this event. “I think it’s really important to keep the conversations going throughout the year, just not around this game and this time of year but throughout the entire year, so that we can take care of mental health issues…”
The Tigers have three games remaining in the regular season and have a chance to separate themselves from UPEI in the standings. They want to make sure they don’t relax now that they’re in the playoffs.
“We want to keep that winning feeling and keep that dressing room feeling the way it feels right now,” says Donnelly. “It’s a very addictive feeling you want to maintain and it’s easier to maintain it than it is to try to get it back again.”