There was not much in the way of university sports action in Toronto on Sunday, meaning all of the attention was on the Toronto Varsity Blues home game against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
The game was one of the few cross-conference ones of the season, matching up the second-best team in the west with the seventh in the east, fair to say not an entirely even matchup.
Ontario Tech did not start the game how they would have wished. Thirty seconds into the game, two of their players collided with one of them having the leave the ice after. Fortunately, both ended up being fine, but it was certainly an unneeded scare early in the game.
As for actual gameplay, that start was much better for the Ridgebacks who got the first goal of the game four minutes into the game thanks to Roy Brennan who finished off a threatening attack for the visitors.
The lead was short-lived though as Toronto found their opening goal on the man advantage from Justin Brand’s blueline slapshot. The power play has been a problem for the Varsity Blues, operating at a 22% success rate through their first eight games, however, that stat was improved as their tying goal came on the man advantage.
Power plays have been consistently low across all of the OUA so far this season, especially in the Toronto area with none of Toronto, Ryerson or York boasting an efficiency above 25%.
The first period was also very rough. That is a theme that I have noticed in my first season covering OUA. I have been around Canada West for many years and have not noticed this amount of pushing after the whistle. This observation coincides with the style of play in the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, two conferences within the Canadian Hockey League. Canada west gets the majority of their players from the NHL, a league which hit an all-time low for penalty minutes in 2015. The OHL, on the other hand, has the highest amount of any league in the CHL and it sends the most players to the OUA. There is more to the equation, but this observation is crucial to understanding the roughness between U Sports conferences.
As action resumed in the second period, the game continued to be fought tough in the corners, but neither team was able to assert their dominance on the scoresheet with the period ending as it started at 1-1.
Having outshot their opponents for most of the night, it was inevitable that Toronto was going to restore their lead. Ridgeback goalie Michael Bullion could not stand on his head all game. On their 25th shot of the night, Toronto’s Chase Olson flicked the puck over the pad of the Ridgebacks netminder.
Just four shots later, the home side extended their lead with David Thompon’s seventh goal of the season. The offensive onslaught of a third period continued as Toronto made their lead three.
The third and fourth goals proved to be unneeded as the Blues finished off the game as 4-1 victors, moving themselves to the top of their conference.
Toronto now heads up to Kingston to take on the defending OUA champions Queen’s University as well as the struggling RMC Paladin.