Another chapter in “the world’s oldest hockey rivalry” was written on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston as the Queen’s Gaels defeated the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Paladins 6-0 in the 36th edition of the Carr-Harris Challenge Cup.
It was a colourful affair in the downtown arena, as thousands of students, cadets, alumni, and other fans packed in to watch the historic rivals go at it one last time this season. Despite what appeared to be an even balance between Paladins and Gaels supporters, the RMC fans in the building made most of the noise throughout the game.
Unfortunately, fans of the Paladins weren’t given much to celebrate, as Queen’s controlled the contest from the outset. The Tricolour opened the scoring at the 11:23 mark in the first period, with a goal from Dharan Cap, assisted by Lucas Peric and Kolton Cousins.
The Gaels then added to their lead with 4:39 to go in the first, as Dalton Duhart netted his first goal of the night — his 16th of the season — with an assist from Hayden Fowler. The Gaels would hold a 2-0 lead over the Paladins heading into the first intermission.
While Queen’s dominated the scoreboard throughout the first period, RMC was able to hold their own in the second, letting in just a single goal as Duhart scored his second of the night and 17th of the season.
The Gaels added one more to their tally at the start of the third, as Jonathan Yantsis found the net just 00:27 into the period, with an assist from Jacob Paquette. Two more goals in the third, one by Daniel Michaud and a second by Yantsis, gave the Gaels a comfortable 6-0 victory.
The win was a crucial one for Queen’s. Not only was it the Gaels’ third straight Carr-Harris Challenge Cup victory, but with the win the Tricolour have now secured home ice advantage in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs, which begin next week.
Speaking with reporters after the game, Gaels head coach Brett Gibson reflected on the importance of the win. “There was a lot on the line tonight; with the trophy in play you always want to be in that picture. But also, with a win we clinched home ice [advantage],” he said.
The Gaels are now guaranteed to host an OUA East first-round home playoff on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at the Kingston Memorial Centre, facing the Concordia Stingers in a best-of-three series. Gibson noted, “I challenged the guys to just finish the season the right way, and they did that tonight.”
Before the playoffs begin on Wednesday, the Gaels will look to wrap up the 2023-24 OUA regular season on Saturday, February 10, as Queen’s welcomes the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks to the Memorial Centre tonight for a 7:30 p.m. contest. The team is chasing its 19th victory of the season, which, if achieved, would tie a school record. “So there’s still lots to play for,” said Gibson.
The rivalry between Queen’s and RMC is a long and storied one, considered the “world’s oldest hockey rivalry” according to Kingston’s Original Hockey Hall of Fame. The first recorded game between the two institutions came in 1886. While the two schools would meet regularly over the next century, it wasn’t until 1986 that the Carr-Harris Cup Challenge was established to celebrate the centennial of that first contest.
Since the Challenge was first introduced, the Gaels have won the majority of matchups, hoisting the “Lennie” trophy on 23 occasions. For Gaels goalie Christian Purboo, the annual contest carries a lot of added meaning. “Just to see all the alumni coming back that I used to play with… it means a lot. You can tell in the [locker] room how happy they were,” he remarked.
Purboo’s performance, stopping 16 shots on the night, was the championship game’s first shutout since 2010. Despite the impressive achievement, the goalie said he and his teammates intend to remain focused on the task at hand: “I know it’s a historic moment, but we’ve got another game on Saturday that hopefully we can win.”
In addition to the Challenge trophy, which went to the winning team, several other awards were handed out before and after the game, including the J.W. (Bill) Fitsell Memorial Award, which is presented annually to a graduating player from each team, as determined by the coaches. Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Queen’s forward Alex Robert was named this year’s recipient from the Gaels.
According to Robert, who is an assistant captain for Queen’s, the award was “a big honour.” He said, “I’ve worked as hard as I can for the past four years in this program, to kind of build myself as a person. I feel like I’ve fully grown as a person, and to get that award, it just made that work worth it.”
The assistant captain also reflected on the historical significance of the Carr-Harris Challenge Cup game and representing the Tricolour. “When you’re playing in this specific game, but [also] just every day, you’re not only representing yourself, you’re representing all the Queen’s alumni, all the Queen’s hockey alumni, and also our community. We always want to put in our best performance, on and off the ice, and this was a great way to showcase that,” he said.
Robert and his teammates will be looking to keep the momentum going in the Gaels’ final regular season home game tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Memorial Centre against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
Meanwhile, the Carr-Harris loss drops RMC to 6-19-2 on the season, as the Paladins get set to close out the 2023-2024 campaign on Saturday afternoon against the York Lions. Game time is 2 p.m. at the Constantine Arena.