Michigan, North Dakota among U SPORTS NCAA preseason opponents

VANCOUVER, BC – There hasn’t been a full U SPORTS hockey season since 2018-19, and no regular preseason since 2019. However, in 2022, the usual repertoire returns, including several Canadian university programs making their way to the United States for games against NCAA opponents. 

In 2022, there are several intricacies to the preseason. The Windsor Lancers travel west to face the UBC Thunderbirds, and UNB heads to Ontario to play Toronto Metropolitan. Meanwhile, several teams, including Windsor, head south of the border for NCAA clashes. 

OCT.1 | Bisons head to North Dakota

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

The Manitoba Bisons offer one of the more intriguing games on Oct.1, heading just across the brother to play the highly-touted North Dakota Fighting Hawks, who ranked 9th in the NCAA standings in 2021-22. While Manitoba offers a strong program, the Fighting Hawks will provide a tough test, with a roster flush with NHL prospects and a program that has developed NHL stars, including Vancouver Canuck Brock Boeser. 

Manitoba opens their Canada West campaign on Oct. 7 against UBC at their temporary home at the RINK Training Centre in Oak Bluffs, Manitoba. 

OCT. 1 | UPEI to play out of conference, head to Maine

(UPEI Athletics)

The UPEI Panthers have a significant season on the horizon. Hosting the 2023 U CUP, they have an automatic berth at the national tournament, and they’re starting their year with some extravagance as well. 

Head Coach Forbes MacPherson and the Panther will welcome the OUA’s McGill Redbirds for a pair of games on Sept 23 and 24, but their main preseason feature is a trip to the University of Maine to take on the Maine Black Bears of Hockey East. 

While Maine hasn’t made it far in the NCAA tournament the last several seasons, they will provide a strong preseason test to UPEI and give the Panthers players a chance to play in front of a raucous American college crowd. 

UPEI begins the regular season against Moncton on Oct. 5

OCT.1 | Ottawa visits Clarkson Golden Knights

(Clarkson Golden Knights)

The uOttawa Gee-Gees began to show some bright signs near the end of the season last year, and head coach Patrick Grandmaitre is prepared to push his team even further this season. While the Gee-Gees men’s basketball program welcomes NCAA schools to Canada’s capital, the hockey team heads south to face the Clarkson Golden Knights. 

Clarkson ranked 17th in the NCAA per U.S. College Hockey and will provide a strong opponent as the Gee-Gees prepare for the OUA East season, which begins on October 13 against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. 

OCT. 1 | Toronto pays a visit to Quinnipiac, then R.P.I

(Toronto Varsity Blues Athletics)

The Toronto Varsity Blues welcome a sizeable recruiting class this fall, and they’ve put together a preseason trip worthy of team bonding. One of Canada’s oldest hockey programs, the Varsity Blues head south to face Quinnipiac and R.P.I, two competitive NCAA schools.

Quinnipiac ranked 7th in the U.S. College Hockey rankings at the end of the year and will no doubt force Ryan Medel’s team into some difficult situations. Still, with a younger roster missing a lot of veterans from previous years, the challenge will prove worthwhile. 

On the more winnable side, Toronto faces R.P.I on Oct. 2, giving them another shot at  NCAA competition. Toronto will also play TMU, Ottawa, Carleton and Concordia in the preseason, ahead of their opening game on Oct. 14 against Laurier. 

OCT. 1 | Windsor faces Michigan

(Michigan Wolverines Athletics)

After a trip to Vancouver to face UBC, the Windsor Lancers set themselves up with a game against one of college hockey’s best programs — the Michigan Wolverines. While the Wolverines won’t have top NHL draft picks Matty Beniers and Owen Power, they will still likely feature prospects from the Chicago Blackhawks (Frank Nazar), and  New Jersey Devils (Seamus Casey), among others. 

Playing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Lancers could be playing in front of the most fervorous crowds in college hockey. While the game result may not favour the Lancers, the experience of playing one of the world’s best college programs will be invaluable. 

With a trip to BC and a game with the Wolverines, the Lancers’ preseason is one of the most exciting ahead of their Oct. 14 season opener against the Lakehead Thunderwolves. 

OCT. 1/2 | Western head to Providence, then Sacred Heart

(Western Mustangs Athletics)

The Western Mustangs were the U SPORTS heartthrob of the 2020 post-season, and it looks like they’re trying to rekindle a bit of that with a visit to Sacred Heart, in addition to a game against the highly-rated Providence Friars. 

Clarke Singer has a relatively young group this season, and the U.S. trip will test them, but not to the extent of some other NCAA opponents that will face U SPORTS teams. Western has plans to contend in the OUA this season, and the trip will undoubtedly help them prepare for their season opener against Guelph on Oct. 14.  

Oct. 8 | Waterloo at Boston University

(Boston University Athletics)

The Waterloo Warriors are a group on the cusp of becoming something great — they were extremely close to knocking out TMU last season in the playoffs. They consistently looked like a team with significant potential. 

In hopes of launching themselves into the next stage of their team’s development, head coach Brian Borque is bringing his team south to face the Boston University Terriers, an ever-competitive NCAA side that will push the Warriors to their limits. 

The Terriers boast a roster that could have upwards of 10 players drafted by NHL teams this season, including highly touted goaltender and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso. With their elite-level talent, the Terriers present one of the toughest tests any U SPORTS team will see this season. 

The Waterloo Warriors begin their OUA regular season on Oct. 14 when they host the Brock Badgers.

Guelph’s extravagant IVY League trip

(Guelph Gryphons Athletics)

OCT 1. – Guelph visit Colgate

Oct 20 Guelph at Cornell

Oct 21 Guelph at Dartmouth,

Oct 22 Guelph at Harvard

The Guelph Gryphons finished last season in stellar form, but a points penalty from earlier in the season proved too much to overcome. However, they’re coming into 2022-23 with some of the most intriguing U SPORTS v NCAA plans. 

For the preseason, they travel south to face Colgate on Oct. 1. Then, they open their OUA regular season on Oct. 14 against Western, followed by their home opener on Oct. 15 against Waterloo. However, they return to exhibition play after that. 

(Harvard Men’s Hockey)

The Gryphons will travel south for a trio of games after their OUA regular-season opener, facing top-tier NCAA programs Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard. Not only are their opponents some of the best academic institutions in the world, but they also feature hockey teams that regularly funnel players into the NHL. 

While the early/mid-season tour can come off a bit odd, it could be an advantage for the Gryphons. In their first two OUA games, they can figure out what needs to be adjusted and make those adjustments against challenging NCAA opponents before returning to the OUA. 

Either way, Guelph’s double-dip of NCAA trips is the most intriguing early season plan and one that could pay dividends with a run towards the Queen’s Cup. 

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