Toronto, ON- After a couple of days off, the OUA men’s hockey playoffs resume on Wednesday night with the second round. It’s a busy week for most of the hockey programs, as the women’s race to the McCaw Cup also hits the ice concurrently, however, in this piece we take a look at the two matchups that make up round two of the OUA West men’s hockey.
The Ryerson vs Western series gets underway on Wednesday night, while the Brock Badgers and Guelph Gryphons will wait until Wednesday to begin their battle. We are without the Western Conference’s top seed, the Varsity Blues, as the Western Mustangs toppled them in the first round.
Ryerson Rams (2) vs Western Mustangs (8)
With no Toronto, it leaves the highest seed as they Ryerson Rams. The Rams, who did not garner as much attention as the Varsity Blues only finished two points behind them in the final standings, while also heating up at the right time. Ryerson has been the hottest team in the league having won 11 of their past 13 games, a number which includes two playoff wins over Lakehead.
Ryerson will look to continue their recent dominance when they face the Western Mustangs in this round. The Rams won both of their games against the Mustangs this season, and there is one thing that stands out: Goals.
Ryerson scored 12 goals over their two games against the Mustangs, while also conceding seven. It is a major statement to score so much, and the team has not cooled down since those games. The Rams averaged 40+ shots in each game over in the first round, and with stars like Matt Mistele, Matt Santos and the newfound scoring touch of Steven Harland, it will be hard to slow down.
While Ryerson may be brimming with confidence, so are the Mustangs. They just took down one of the top-ranked teams in the nation (Toronto), how could they not be happy? While they finished the regular season with three straight losses, two wins over the Varsity Blues have certainly given them their mojo back. They are driven and are known to play a rough style of play if they are to win the series, it’s going to come down to that. I would not be surprised if they do scare Ryerson, especially since the Rams have some sort of allergy to making it past the second round, they have never made it past since revitalizing the programs and moving to the Mattamy Athletic Centre. However, despite Ryerson’s struggles, I do believe that Western is their dream drae and that skill will prevail, sending the Rams to the third round of the playoffs.
Ben’s pick: Ryerson wins in 3 games
Guelph Gryphons (3) vs Brock Badgers. (5)
While the 8th seed making the second round is one storyline, there are others when it comes between the Guelph Gryphons and Brock Badgers.
The Badgers were the earliest team to punch their ticket to the second round after securing a sweep over the Windsor Lancers, in games that happened closer than others in the schedule. Knocking out the Lancers may not be as big of an upset as the Mustangs pulled off, but is one none the less. Brock finished the season three points behind Windsor, yet still kicked them out in round one. That being said, round two presents a much tougher, albeit depleted side in the Guelph Gryphons.
Gulph faced some adversity this week as they lost their leading scorer Mikkel Aagaard after game one, as the former Danish international returned to professional hockey, this time in Germany. Despite his loss, the Gryphons stuck to their systems and found wins in games two and three to get by the Laurier Golden Hawks. There is not really a player to be wary of on the Gryphons any more, but the whole team is connecting better than ever before. Since it is difficult for opponents to pinpoint a defensive focus, it means that the Gryphons can utilize their multi-faceted attack to forecheck better than they ever have before.
It is the battle of two teams who are teams at the root of the term. Few players stand out, a fact which makes this series the toughest to call. Although it’s close, I am going to side with the Gryphons, no strong reason why, but just a hunch.
Ben’s Pick: Guelph wins in 3 games
Those are the two series in the OUA Western Conference and a couple of thoughts on how they may turn out when the final buzzer ends the series. Do you agree with my picks? Comment below the post or on social media!
Cover Photo: Christian Bender/Ryerson Rams