Breaking down the OUA West in Women’s Hockey

TORONTO, ON – With COVID-19 factoring into decision-making in the OUA, the league was broken into an OUA East and OUA West Division. Go here for our link to previewing the OUA East Division, here is our preview for the OUA West Division.

Laurier Golden Hawks 

The Laurier Golden Hawks have fallen hard from their dynasty of the 2000s; a program that rattled off seven straight McCaw Cups and one CIS Gold Medal between 2004 and 2010 has missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons and not finished above 11th in any of them. One of the most significant factors has been the Golden Hawks’ struggles in their rink. Since 2016-2017 the Golden Hawks have had a record at home of 8-40, including going winless in twelve home games in 2019-2020. If they can’t turn that around them, it will be another season with the Hawks having their wings clipped. 

Player to Watch: Cohen Myers 

Cohen Myers kicks away a shot on goal. Photo Credit: Jothan Salfarlie
Laurier Athletics

It is unfair to expect anyone in the Hawks recruiting class to be a star right away, and the offence, which was already weakened, lost leading scorer Ansley Harrison so it will be in the net that will decide the Hawk’s fate in 2021-2022. Cohen Myers finished ninth in the OUA in save percentage and will be critical for the Hawks to get out of the OUA basement.

Guelph Gryphons 

It can not be overstated how much the loss of Valarie Lamenta meant to the Guelph Gryphons. The winner of U SPORTS Most Outstanding Player, OUA Goalie of the Year and multiple OUA all-star appearances left the Gryphons after 2019, and the impact was felt hard. The team that had only finished below second place once in the last decade finished eighth in the OUA. The departures of Kaitlyn Lowy and Claire Merrick upfront left a gaping offensive hole, and while she gamely tried, Aurore Beaulieu could not match the performance of her former teammate in the net. The Gryphons lost with a whimper in two games to the Varsity Blues in 2020 and, barring some surprises, don’t look like a team ready to get back to their peak of dominance just yet. 

Player to Watch: Gabi Underwood

Karyn Stepien

The Gryphons will need a new offensive core in 2021-2022 if they want to make a spark, and one name that could help is Underwood. Underwood led the team in 2019-2020 with eight goals and could be an exciting piece to help form a new veteran core for the Gryphons in 2021-2022.

Waterloo Warriors 

The Waterloo Warriors have been a consistent example of good but not quite remarkable for the last decade. The Warriors made the McCaw Cup playoffs in seven seasons during the 2010s but only one single playoff round in 2017. The 2019-2020 outfit of the Warriors was similar, led by the strong performance of Taytum Clairmont; the Warriors finished sixth but fell meekly in two games to the York Lions. With no Clairmont in 2021-2022, it will be up to a new face to step up offensively for the Warriors to have any hope in the OUA West division. 

Player to Watch – Brooklyn Cole 

Jon Halpenny

With Krysten Lawrence returning, half of the Warrior’s top offensive pair will still exist in 2021-22, but the door is now open for a new face, and one to watch will be Cole. Entering her third season with the Warriors, Cole quietly improved a lot in 2019-2020, doubling her point total from 9 to 16 and having a career-high three-point game (one goal, two assists) in a 5-0 win over Queen’s on Jan 31, 2020. If Cole can step up into the hole left by Clairmont the Warriors should at least be able to hold serve on their performance compared to the last decade.

Western Mustangs 

2019-2020 could best be described as an anomaly for the Western Mustangs. One of the OUA’s peak programs of the last decade, the 2015 and 2018 McCaw Cup champs missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The result could be blamed on a lot of factors, the offence lost 15 goals, meanwhile, in net, Carmen Lasis saw her GAA rise from 1.41 to 2.29 and her Save percentage fall from .941 to .925. There are many potential factors to what saw the Mustangs slump in 2019-2020, but they will be going for a do-over in 2021-2022.

Player to Watch: Elizabeth Gauthier

Women's Hockey Recruits Elizabeth G
Western Mustangs Athletics

The Mustangs will need some weapons up front with no April Clark, and Candice Moxley landed an interesting recruiting class for the new year. One recruit is Elizabeth Gauthier out of the Burlington Barracudas of the PWHL. In her hockey career, Gauthier won three provincial gold and two provincial bronze medals and added a 2018 Ontario Summer Games Bronze. Gauthier has a winning pedigree that a program like Western adores.

Brock Badgers

The Brock Badgers are a team that always has felt on the precipice of something but never achieved it. For a long time, that was on the back of Jensen Murphy. Murphy spent four years with the Badgers and stole the show for the team on a lot of nights. Murphy has moved on from Brock and left three rookie goalies in Kiara Stecko, Keelee Hollowell and Aline Hironaka in the net for the Badgers. Finding that new starter will be the biggest hurdle for the roster to clear if they want to be in the upper echelon of the OUA. On the offesive side of their game, the Badgers will have to adjust to life without star forward Annie Berg, who scored 19 points for them in 2019-20, before transferring to the Ryerson Rams, where she will play this season.

Player to Watch: Cassidy Maplethorpe 

Jayson Childs

Cassidy Maplethorpe exploded onto the scene for the Badgers in 2019-2020, leading the team and finishing eighth in the OUA with ten goals. After a strong pre-season, including a four-goal performance in a 5-0 win over Ontario Tech, Maplethorpe will have to look to be a top-five OUA Scorer for the Badgers to be competitive in the OUA this season. 

Windsor Lancers 

The Windsor Lancers women’s hockey program has struggled, only making the playoffs once since 2015. Led by coach Deanna Iwanicka, the Lancers struggled on both sides of the puck, with the league’s lowest offensive output and highest goals allowed. The Lancers started 2019-2020 with eight straight losses and were never able to turn things around. In net, Jaydlin Spooner returns after posting a 2-8-2 record in 12 games in 2019-2020. She will be challenged in the net, though, by rookie Holly Borrett. Borrett comes to the Lancers from the St. Albert Slash in Alberta, where she won three straight Esso Cups and represented Alberta at the 2019 Canada Games.

Player to Watch: Jessica Gribbon 

Kevin Jarrold

If the Lancers want to take a step forward in 2021-2022, they will lean heavily on Jessica Gribbon. The Forensic Science Major, who is in her senior year at Windsor but only her third year of OUA eligibility, led the Lancers in scoring in 2019-2020 with six goals and six assists. 

OUA WEST PREDICTIONS

  1. Western Mustangs
  2. Waterloo Warriors
  3. Brock Badgers
  4. Guelph Gryphons
  5. Laurier Golden Hawks
  6. Windsor Lancers

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