TORONTO, ON – Through a year off, a pandemic cancelled season, and a shortened 2021 campaign, it all comes down to one match on what looks to be a chilly November Friday night in London.
Kingston’s Queen’s Gaels, one of the most attacking teams in the country, make their way south to take on a Western Mustangs, a team few thought would be at this point. Still, while the Gaels may come in as the favourites, anything can happen in a one-game showdown.
Despite being the lower-seeded teams in their semi-final matchups, both sides upset the favourites to qualify for the OUA Final. However, the Gaels enter the final as a favourite. Both programs have already punched their ticket to Cape Breton, but they’ll want to add a trophy to their season as well.
Can Queen’s attack power them to a title?
If the Queen’s Gaels become OUA Champions, there is a very good chance that it could come down to their attacking trio of Christie Gray, Jenna Mastukubo and Cecilia Way. The front three of Dave McDowell’s side scored a combined 23 goals this season, more than every OUA program outside of uOttawa and Nipissing.
While the Gaels have attacked up the wings in the last several seasons, McDowell shifted tactics this season to harness his athletes’ abilities in a more central system. As a result, gray and Way have moved into more central roles this season, and it has paid off.
Facing a Western side that has not faced a potent attack yet this season, the Gaels are in an excellent spot to score their way to an OUA title.
Western comes in on a high
While the Gaels enter the Championship Match coming off a win against the 2019 FISU World Cup Champion uOttawa Gee-Gees, the Western Mustangs go into the final after a dramatic penalty shootout against the higher-seeded Nipissing Lakers.
Goalkeeper Samantha St. Croix is on a role with stingy defence in front of her, picking up two clean sheets in two playoff matches. As a team, Western finished the regular season with five shutouts, tied with the Gaels and only behind the Lakers.
Western will once again rely on forward Natalie Abbate to power their scoring. With six goals in 2021, she has scored nearly a third of the Mustang’s 21 goals this season, including their 1-0 goal in the quarterfinal win against Toronto.
A win on penalties unites a team at whatever point of the season, whether a midseason Cup match or a playoff bout. So, with a dramatic win to get them to the OUA Final, the Mustangs will hope they can take home the title.
Who is going to win?
This match has the potential to be a very high-scoring affair. While Western has been stellar defensively all season, they have not faced an offensive threat like the Gaels. For Queen’s adjusting to a solid defence will take some time, but they should push through with some of Canada’s best-attacking talent.
Despite being the lower seed in the match, the Gaels come to London as favourites, with the attacking trident leading the way. However, anything goes in a championship match, and it all comes down to who is better for just an hour and a half of soccer… or maybe more.
How can you watch?
The OUA announced a partnership with CBC Sports for the 2021-22 OUA season. With the new deal, fans will be able to watch the OUA Championship Match across Canada for free on CBC’s digital platforms, including cbcsports.ca.
Friday night’s showdown kicks off at 7:00 pm ET.