“Puck Luck” has often been critical to winning hockey games, and this was evident throughout the last season of U SPORTS hockey. In his latest project, Rich Coffey examines some of the biggest wins in U SPORTS this season, and how advanced analytics and puck luck affected their possibilities.
Toronto,ON- For the second part of this series we flip to the men’s side of the OUA and take a look at the Western Mustangs. For anyone just joining us I recommend you go read Part 1 of this series (here) but we are taking a look at PDO, also known as the advanced statistic version of “Puck Luck” to see if it had an impact on some of the biggest stories in U SPORTS hockey in the 2020 playoffs.
The Western Mustangs 2020 Playoff Run
The Western Mustang’s playoff run made them the darlings of U SPORTS hockey in February 2020. Heading into the final weekend they were forced to battle with the Waterloo Warriors for the 8th spot in OUA West but they won and set up a date with the best team in the league, the Toronto Varsity Blues.
Queen’s Cup West QuarterFinal
#1 Toronto vs #8 Western
This matchup still shocks me that it went the way it did. Ryan Medel’s Varsity Blues had mopped the floor with the OUA for most of the season finishing 18 points up on the Mustangs and picking up five of six points vs Western in three matchups this season. It looked like an easy two game sweep but as we know in the playoffs, things aren’t always what they seem.
Game 1: Toronto win 6-2
Toronto PDO: 113.7 (18.75 SH% + .949 SV%)
Western PDO: 86.4 (5.1 SH% + .813 SV%)
From the outside, this game looked like it was the start of the end for the Mustangs, as Toronto, off the back of a Scott Kirton hat-trick picked up what was an empathic Game One victory. You can see in the numbers though, and also looking back at the tapes that Western was getting chances, the would finish with 39 on the night and pot two but it was a lot of Alex Bishop in net holding up Toronto. Especially in a 3rd Period where Western outshot Toronto 15 to 5. All night it was plays like Joey Manchurek’s goal midway through the third that made it look like this series would be a cakewalk, but that would be far from the case.
Game 2: Western win 3-1
Toronto PDO: 89.8 (2.3 SH% + .875 SV%)
Western PDO: 110.2 (12.5 SH% + .977 SV%)
I almost got whiplash with the dramatic swing that those numbers took. Western was on home ice for Game Two and were finally able to get the shots they needed past Alex Bishop and Toronto’s vaunted offence unfortunately would dry up at the worst possible moment. Not for lack of trying though, they would stick 43 shots on Luke Perissini but he would stop all but one. A two point night from Ethan Szypula would be the offence that Western needed to get to Game Three.
Game 3: Western win 3-1
Toronto PDO: 92.0 (3.1 SH% + .889 SV%)
Western PDO: 108.0 (11.1 SH% + .969 SV%)
Another game, another high shooting percentage, high save percentage combo for the Western Mustangs. It would be a three goal third period with rookie Reed Morison potting the winner midway through that would seal the series for the 8th seed and send a stunned Toronto team home in round one.
Toronto Series PDO: 97.8 (7.4 SH% + .904 SV%)
Western Series PDO: 100.7 (8.8 SH% + .919 SV%)
There are a couple takeaways from this first round series that make it easier to understand how it happened. The biggest for Toronto is that there vaunted offence that ranked second in Goals per game and was strong in round one looks more and more like it was the product of puck luck. The Blues shot 13.9% in the Regular season which is high and was due for a regression in the playoffs. When you couple that with Alex Bishop struggling in Game Two and Three you have a recipe for disaster that doomed the Varsity Blues chances at a Queen’s Cup.
Queen’s Cup West SemiFinal
#2 Ryerson vs #8 Western
After stunning the U SPORTS hockey world by upsetting the Toronto Varsity Blues, the Mustangs were rewarded with another great challenge in Round Two, a trip to Mattamy Athletic Centre to face the Ryerson Rams. Ryerson had yet to make the West Finals so with the Varsity Blues out of the way the Rams had to be feeling like this would finally be their year right?
Game 1: Ryerson win 4-1
Ryerson PDO: 113.7 (17.3 SH% + .964 SV%)
Western PDO: 86.1 (3.5 SH% + .826 SV%)
Just like the opener against Toronto, Game One against Ryerson gave some people pause about Western as their offence evaporated once again. Only getting 28 shots on Garrett Forrest including just five shots in a third period they were down two goals caused some people to question whether the luck was turning in Round Two against Western. David Miller jamming home the rebound midway through the third only served to emphasize that it looked as though Western might get toppled in Round Two.
Game 2: Western win 5-2
Ryerson PDO: 90.6 (4.4 SH% + .865 SV%)
Western PDO: 109.1 (13.5 SH% + .956 SV%)
Just like Game Two in the previous series, Western found the shots they needed to get past Garrett Forrest and extend the series to a third game. It was a three for six Western powerplay unit that sparked the damage as seven different Rams would find the penalty box on the night. A two goal night from Sean Montgomery would be enough to keep Western alive for one more night.
Game 3: Western win 3-2 in Overtime
Ryerson PDO: 93.3 (4.8 SH% + .885 SV%)
Western PDO: 106.2 (11.5 SH% + .951 SV%)
The Ryerson Rams have had a pretty heartbreaking string of defeats in their multiple season run of hitting a wall in the OUA West Semifinal but this game probably hits the hardest. Probably since the luck hadn’t been on Ryerson’s side for over 120 minutes and they still very nearly pulled it out. With barely 2:30 left in regulation time, the Rams were holding on to a one goal lead before Franco Sproviero potted one to send the game to overtime.
In Overtime it would be Kolton Olynek who would get the chance to play hero for the Western Mustangs as he would sneak one past Garrett Forrest, send the Rams faithful home stunned and punch Western’s ticket to the OUA West Final.
Ryerson Series PDO: 97.7 (7.3 SH% + .904 SV%)
Western Series PDO: 101.0 (9.9 SH% + .911 SV%)
In their second round series it appears a little bit of “Puck Luck” played a factor for Western once again. They actually improved their percentages from the previous series by three tenths of a percent and over performed their regular season PDO of 98.5 for the second consecutive series. They also got some help from the Ryerson Rams which became the second team in a row to see their vaunted offence (4th in the OUA) unable to finish in the deciding games. Ryerson also just like Toronto managed to underperform their regular season PDO, (by just 3 percent though rather than Toronto’s incredible 8 percent drop), enough though to be able to push the Mustangs into the OUA West Final.
OUA West Final
#3 Guelph vs #8 Western
With the top two seeds incredibly both vanquished from the bracket as it reached the final four, the only team that stood between Western and the final was the Guelph Gryphons. These two teams faced off for the second consecutive season in the OUA West Final with Guelph taking the series in a 2OT thriller in Game Three of last season. With that it mind, momentum looked on the Mustangs side after their thrilling win over Ryerson. For the Gryphons, they had newfound vigour after losing top scorer, Mikel Aagard to the German pro league in the midst of their post-season campaign.
Guelph Wins 2-1 in OT
Guelph PDO: 100.3 (4 SH% + .963 SV%)
Western PDO 99.7 (3.7 SH% + .960 SV%)
In the 1st game of Round Three it was easily the tightest result of Western’s playoff run and it showed up on the ice. The largest factor was the great play of Luke Peresinni who stopped 48 shots including 23 in the 3rd period and overtime. In the end, a Scott Templeton winner gave Guelph the 1-0 advantage heading back to London.
Western win 4-3
Guelph PDO 96.0 (6.8 SH% + .892 SV%)
Western PDO 104.0 (10.8 SH% + .932 SV%)
Once again for the third straight Game Two, Western swung wildly back into the positive direction. Guelph would pound 44 shots on Peresinni and he would only allow three whilst four answered goals from the Mustangs in the 1st and 2nd period (including a PP clapper from Captain Rylan Bechtel to continue their strong power play) would be enough to extend the series to a Game Three.
Guelph win 4-3
Guelph PDO 96.1 (11.1 SH% + .850 SV%)
Western PDO 103.9 (15 SH% + .889 SV%)
This game is perhaps the epitome of how having a high PDO does not a championship make. The Guelph Gryphons came out flying in Game Three and outshot Western 17-5 after the 1st period of play. That would continue throughout the night as the Gryphons would pound Peresinni just enough times. Guelphs goaltending was not even that remarkable as Andrew Masters (starting in place of Brendan Cregan) would allow three goals on 20 shots. Three third period goals (including Matt Kenney’s winner) would be enough though for the Gryphons to stun the Mustangs and end their Cinderella run to the Queen’s Cup.
OUA Bronze Medal Game
Western win 5-2
Concordia PDO: 83.4 (4.2 SH% + .792 SV%)
Western PDO: 116.5 (20.8 SH% + .957 SV%)
Despite not making the final the Mustangs would be given another shot at Nationals via the OUA Bronze Medal in a match with Concordia and it was just like everything was back to normal. That difference is almost comical at 33.1 percentage points different. This was especially evident in the 3rd period when the Stingers outshot the Mustangs 19-8 but were outscored two to one. This helped give Western the Bronze medal and incredibly book their trip to Nationals.
So what did we learn?
So just like with the Toronto Varsity Blues Women’s Hockey Team we have to ask, what did we learn from this exercise? The Mustangs had a pretty fascinating 2020 playoff run as they seemed to start slow in their series but pick it up as the series went on. This would even be the case in their series vs Guelph as they would actually be the team to lose their margins having a positive PDO but losing the game. What can really be taken away from all this is “Puck Luck” as a reliant is a difficult to be able to control, as a lot of these games can attest to and all the best teams can really hope for is that the percentages fall in their favour.