Breaking down the OUA WHKY playoff matchups

OTTAWA, ON – Now the fun truly begins. 

After just one playoff game on Wednesday night that saw the Queen’s Gaels double up the  Ontario Tech Ridgebacks 4-2, on Saturday, all eight remaining teams in the hunt for the McCaw  Cup playoffs will square off in the semifinals of the OUA East and OUA West divisions. 

Western vs Waterloo 

(Christian Bender/Waterloo Warriors Athletics)

On the Season 

Western: 3-7-2-3 | 5th in OUA West 

Waterloo: 11-1-2-1 | 1st in OUA West 

The Western Mustangs had been set to face the Windsor Lancers in a first-round matchup on  Wednesday night, but a forfeit allowed them to advance to a Saturday afternoon trip to the  Columbia Ice Field. Heading into Waterloo, they will face a Warriors team that has run  roughshod over the OUA West for most of the season, finishing with a .844 point percentage, a  clear leader over Guelph’s .667 point percentage in second place. 


Nov. 26 – Waterloo 3-0 win 

Nov. 27 – Western 3-2 OT win 

Feb. 25 – Waterloo 4-0 win 

Feb. 26 Waterloo 5-1 win 

The Mustangs and the Warriors played four times in the 2021-2022 season, with Western  winning three. The Mustang’s one win came at home on Nov. 27, where after giving up a 2-0  lead, Hannah Irwin rescued Western in overtime to give them the win. 


The most significant difference between these two sides is in special teams. The Warriors, led by  three powerplay goals from Megan Fergusson, finished third in the OUA on the PP. At the same  time, on the other side, their penalty kill was nearly perfect, allowing just two goals on fifty-two  times shorthanded for a 96.2% success rate. 

For the Mustangs, special teams have been a different story. While an 85.5% PK rate puts them  in the middle of the pack in the OUA, their powerplay was anemic in 2021-2022, finishing as  league-worst. At just a 3.9% conversion rate, it tied them with the 2019-2020 Laurentian  Voyageurs for the lowest conversion rate in the OUA since 2014. 


The Mustangs will put up a fight, but Western is outmatched in this game, and Waterloo will  win.

Queen’s vs Toronto 

(Tiffany Luke/Varsity Blues Athletics)

On the Season 

Queen’s: 2-8-1-0 | 5th in OUA East 

Toronto: 12-0-2-2 | 1st in OUA East 

The Queen’s Gaels took a win over Ontario Tech on Wednesday night, which earned them a trip  to Varsity Arena in downtown Toronto. Their reward, a chance to face a Varsity Blues squad  seemingly bent on not only defending their McCaw Cup title from 2020 but steamrolling their  way straight to the U SPORTS National Gold Medal. 


Nov. 12 – Toronto 4-1 win 

Nov. 13 – Queen’s 2-1 Shootout win 

Incredibly, Queen’s handed Toronto one of their two total losses on the season with a 2-1  shootout wins back on Nov. 13. Aili McKeown gave the Blues the early lead, but Sydney Wilson  tied it early in the third and thanks to 26 saves from veteran Mackenzy Arsenault the Gaels took  the win in the shootout. 


Perhaps the largest X-factor for Toronto in this game is in between the pipes. Erica Fryer was  dominant during the Toronto run to the McCaw Cup in 2020, and after chalking up a season  where she finished second in the OUA with a 0.99 GAA and third with a .954 save percentage, if  she is on her game on Saturday, the Blues should be looking at a spot in the OUA East Final. 


The Gaels had their upset win over Toronto, but you cannot bet against the defending champs in  a one-game knockout. Toronto should take this one relatively quickly. 

Ryerson vs Nipissing 

(Brian Doherty/Nipissing Lakers Athletics)

On the Season 

Ryerson: 6-7-0-1 | 3rd in OUA East 

Nipissing: 9-4-1-0 | 2nd in OUA East 

They come in as the underdogs, but something feels appropriate about this matchup for the  Ryerson Rams. A 2018 McCaw Cup Quarterfinal Matchup with the Nipissing Lakers kicked off  the most successful era of Ryerson Rams women’s hockey that saw them make the playoffs in  four consecutive seasons and take the Varsity Blues to the brink in the 2020 McCaw Cup  semifinals. Seven Rams have remained from that first team in 2018, so this matchup almost has a  “closing a chapter” feel to it.” The Lakers will not make it easy for Ryerson to have their  storybook ending. Nipissing fell to York in the McCaw Cup semifinals and spent 2021-2022  battling to second place in the OUA East, well behind the dominant Varsity Blues but firmly in  that number two slot.


Nov. 24 – Ryerson win 4-1 

Nov. 27 – Nipissing win 3-1 

Feb. 23 – Nipissing overtime win 5-4 

The Rams and the Lakers played three times during 2021-2022 to mixed results for each team. In  their first matchup, three third-period goals from Emily Baxter, Erika Crouse and Avery Horlock  helped Ryerson take the win. It was a different story three nights later, Chloe Marshall made 22  saves, and Emma Neff broke a 1-1 deadlock 4:38 into the third period to help Nipissing win 3-1. 

The final matchup between Ryerson and Nipissing in February was a rollercoaster. Ryerson went  up 2-0 early in the second, but four goals in a little over ten minutes gave the Lakers a 4-2 lead  heading into the third. After a Mallory Domenico hooking call with under two minutes left, with  1:24 to go, Lauren Nicholson cut the lead to 4-3. A Maggie McKee tripping call seconds later  gave Ryerson another powerplay and set up Savannah Bouzdie to be the hero with nine seconds  to play to tie the game at 4-4. In the end, though, Brianna Gaffney rescued the Lakers with a goal  midway through overtime to give Nipissing the win. 


The most significant question mark for this game is whether the Rams defence has what it takes  to hold off the best offence in the OUA. The two-headed monster of Brianna Gaffney and Maria  Domenico finished first and second in scoring in the OUA and helped push the Lakers to a  league-leading 3.36 GPG. Facing a Rams team that, even in their success of the last few years,  has always been a middle-of-the-pack defensive team, if Nipissing can get going offensively,  that could be curtains for this era of Rams hockey. 


If you want the logical choice, the Lakers are the favourite; if you believe in the underdog  narrative, this is perhaps the best chance for a genuine upset of the four games. 

Brock vs Guelph 

(Laurel Jarvis/Guelph Gryphons)

On the Season 

Brock: 5-5-2-4 | 3rd in OUA West 

Guelph: 5-2-5-1 | 2nd in OUA West 

The final match on Saturday presents an exciting setup. A Brock Badgers team that has faded  hard down the stretch losing eight of their last ten, vs a Guelph Gryphons side that has done the  opposite, winning eight of their last ten. 


Nov. 25 – Guelph 1-0 win 

Nov. 27 – Guelph 1-0 Shootout win 

Mar. 1 – Guelph 3-2 Overtime win

The Badgers and the Gryphons squared off three times in 2021-2022 with what amounted to two  goaltending duels and one nailbiter. On Nov. 25 in St Catherines, a 28 save performance from  Martina Fedel won out, as Rylee Davison managed to get the only goal past Tiffany Hsu, who  made 27 saves herself. Two nights later, it was similar, with Aline Hironaka making 31 saves for  Brock but falling in the shootout and Fedel picking up 24 saves for her second straight shutout. 

The final matchup between Brock and Guelph ended up being a thriller as Cassidy Maplethorpe  tied things up at 2-2 with just three seconds remaining in the game, but ultimately, Hannah Tait  won it in overtime for Guelph. 


The biggest X-factor for this game will likely be who can draw first blood. The Gryphons went  6-0-1 in the 2021-2022 season after scoring first, and the Badgers went 5-1-1 when they hit the  back of the net first. With goalies in Martina Fedel that has shown she can outright steal games  for the Gryphons, though, the pressure will be on the Badgers to light the lamp first. 


This feels like it will be the closest game of the day, but if Martina Fedel is on, it is hard to bet against her, and the Gryphons should pull this game out.

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