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
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
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
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
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.