Thu Mar 03 11:58am EST
May we retire the slang term epic once and for all? The Queen's Golden Gaels and Guelph Gryphons had long buried it by the time the Gaels' Morgan McHaffie buried the winner early Thursday morning to end the longest college hockey game ever played.
The 167-minute, 14-second marathon in Game 1 of the Ontario University Athletics women's final, which the Gaels took 2-1, is the second-longest game ever played in North America. The only NHL marathon that surpasses it is the the Detroit Red Wings' 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons in the 1936 Stanley Cup final, which lasted 176:30. When you're referencing a game played 75 years ago, you know you've witnessed something that happens once, maybe twice in a lifetime. McHaffie scored in the sixth overtime at 12:52 a.m. ET after some five hours and 15 minutes had elapsed since the opening facoff, after a combined 113 shots on goal, after a waved-off goal in the fourth extra session and after her Gaels came within five seconds of defeat before tying the game off a scramble in the dying seconds of regulation.
Oh, by the way, Queen's, had a road to the series that included three 2-1 double-OT wins, during which they eliminated the Laurier Golden Hawks, the seven-time conference champions. (McHaffie's twin, Brittany, got the golden goal in each of those games.) How did a team that has nearly played the equivalent of seven full games in the past 12 days, find it in their hearts, minds and legs? As the woman of the (witching) hour, a breathless Morgan McHaffie, told Queen's Athletics:
"At one point we were on our backs, feet in the air, trying to get some blood flow to our legs. We tried everything. We tried singing. A great team bonding. That took us out on the ice and gave us great motivation."
(Apparently the songs included some Katy Perry.)
This goes to show the best games are not always found on a digital cable package. As a diehard CIS aficionado, it was trippy to see big-time hockey pundits such as Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek tweeting about a university game. There were missed chances (Guelph had a shot at the vacated net just moments before Becky Conroy tied it with 4.2 seconds left in regulation), fine goaltending (66 saves by Queen's Mel Dodd-Moher, 45 by Guelph's Danielle Skoufranis) and self-sacrifice by all involved.
First it surpassed the mark for the longest CIS game (125:07). In terms of minutes played, it surpassed a 10-overtime marathon from an Ontario midget girls final in 2006 that was declared a tie by mutual consent. It topped the year-old North American college mark of 150:22, set in an ECAC men's tournament game last season between Quinnipiac and Union College.
The Gaels and Gryphons were within 10 minutes of the NHL mark late in the sixth OT when a Queen's defender dove headlong to break up a 2-on-1 and keep the puck in the Guelph zone. That created a chance for Queen's Alex Cieslowski, whose shot was tipped in by McHaffie. It's probably best it did not go any longer, especially for the sake of Streaming Sports Network Canada play-by-play man Justin Dunk. Dunk, a former star quarterback for the football Gryphons, was working without a colour commentator.
For practical purposes, all it gives Queen's a series lead in the best-of-three OUA final, with Game 2 in the old Kingston Memorial Centre on Friday. It's easily the biggest win ever for one of the oldest women's varsity teams in Canada, which is usually nationally ranked but has never been to the CIS tournament. It also attests to the drive of a Gaels program which has stayed competitive without benefit of having an on-campus rink since the old Jock Harty Arena was torn down in 2007. (Imagine being a busy university student who doesn't have a car and playing a game in Napanee, a 45-minute drive from campus, on a weeknight.)
That second game faces off at 8:30 p.m., a hour after the Kitchener Rangers-Kingston Frontenacs game begins a few blocks to the east. It's tough to pass on seeing Gabriel Landeskog, but maybe a few people will just do that. Or they could attend the OHL game and then burn rubber to get to the university game.
The Gryphons and Gaels will still be playing; who knows, maybe they'll make it seven.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.