Previewing each OUA West WHKY team for 2022-23

TORONTO, ONT – The Brock Badgers are coming off a McCaw Cup championship-winning season, the Waterloo Warriors are a dynamic team to watch, and the Guelph Gryphons are always in contention.

It’s 2022-23, and the OUA West is back, now featuring a full 27-game schedule featuring some of the top teams in U SPORTS. Although the division setup differs from pre-COVID-19, the OUA West is bound to offer thrilling action from October through to March.

With puck drop set for Oct. 20, let’s look at how the teams stack up ahead of the first games.

Waterloo Warriors

(Waterloo Warriors Athletics)

Let’s kick things off with the team that finished first in the OUA West last season; the Waterloo Warriors were the perfect mix of good offence with solid goaltending. Additionally, they conceded the second least goals in the conference. 

Throughout her career, Waterloo-native goaltender Mikayla Schnarr has been stellar. In 35 games, she has a 1.63 GAA, posting a .935SV%. So while many teams struggle with goaltending, the Warriors won’t need to worry about that anytime soon.

The Warriors got a lot of production from the back end, which is something they will look to continue to do moving forward. Carley Olivier led the team in points, and she’ll be primarily used in the leadership role, given the experience she brings to the team.

In addition, the Warriors were third in the OUA, with 45 goals scored last season. Megan Fergusson, Leah Herfort, and Keiara Raitt each had five goals in 2022-23, which is not expected to slow down. 

Paige Rynne is also someone who could be used in a veteran role. She’s a transfer from the University of New Hampshire, and head coach Shaun Reagan could use Rynne in a more prominent role to unlock her potential.

The one thing concerning the Waterloo Warriors is their balance of handedness on defence. Right now, they have four left shots and three right.. In a perfect world, you have the right balance of right and left shots.

Key Player: Andrea Murray

Guelph Gryphons

(Guelph Gryphons Athletics)

The Gryphons played the third-fewest games in the OUA in 2021-22 with just 13. Yet, they still finished second in the division. One exciting thing about this team is last year, they could’ve been called the “cardiac kids,” with six of their 13 games finished in overtime or shootout.

Hannah Tait and Tori Verbeek were the main contributors to the Gryphons’ success last year, as Tait scored eight points and Verbeek scored six points. Meanwhile, another strength for the Gryphons is their goaltending. All three goalies last season had a save percentage of .900 or higher, with a combined goals against average of less than 2.00.

With strong goaltending and a veteran group of offensive contributors, the Gryphons could very well be in McCaw Cup contention come season’s end. 

Key Player: Katherine Heard

Brock Badgers

The Badgers were very average last season, that is, until the playoffs. This season we should expect them to be much different.

Coming off their first-ever OUA McCaw Cup title, the Brock Badgers have high expectations for this season, even amid some key player departures. 

With offensive juggernaut Cassidy Maplethorpe transferring to the University of Alberta in Canada West, the Badgers will need to find new athletes to lead the attack. With that, the issue of scoring depth comes into the fray.

Last year it fell on the shoulders of Maplethorpe and Emma Irwin, with Maplethorpe scoring 16 points, only twice being held off the scoresheet. As for Irwin, she finished the season with 14. However, after that, the depth fell off quickly. Madison Cronkwright is third on the team with six. 

In the playoffs, however, the issue began evaporating, with 12 players recording a point en route to a berth at the U SPORTS National Championship. 

In goal, the Badgers will again turn to sophomore goaltender Tiffany Tsu, who is coming off a stellar postseason where she kept a .971 save percentage after finishing the regular season with .917 through eight regular season games. While she enters her second season as the starter, head coach Margot Page continues Brock’s trend of strong goaltending, as Hsu stepped in for Jensen Murphy. 

After reaching the pinnacle of OUA hockey in 2021-22, the expectations are sky-high for the Badgers this season, and it’s certainly an attainable goal, even without some of the key contributors from the title-winning campaign. 

Key Player: Emma Irwin

Windsor Lancers

(Windsor Lancers Athletics)

The Windsor Lancers did not have the year they were hoping for last season but could be poised for improvement in 2022-23, after scoring 30 goals and giving up 31 for a -1 goal differential. Through 10 games, they played .500 hockey, not bad, but also not perfect. 

Many of Windsor’s games last season were very close and could’ve gone either way. It just happened to be that they were on the wrong side of things, and that started very early on in the season, losing four straight games, only scoring five goals, with every game ending in a one-goal loss. 

For the Lancers to succeed this season, they’ll need to score at a higher clip after averaging 1.94 goals per game last season. Jessica Gribbon and Maggie Peterson led the team with eight  points each and will be looked to again, with Gribbon entering 2022-23 as a fourth-year veteran.

Head coach Deanna Iwanicka had a five-year plan when she began coaching the Lancers in 2018, and although they fell short last season, 2022-23 could be the year for the Lancers to contend. 

Key Player: Jessica Gribbon

Western Mustangs

(Western Mustangs Athletics)

The 2021-22 OUA season was a challenging one for the Western Mustangs, as it seemed like anything that could go wrong on the ice did. 

Offensively, the Mustangs were average at best, scoring 25 goals, tied for the second least in the conference, only ahead of the Laurier Golden Hawks. 

Grace Bellamy was one of the many players that led the team with 6 points. Before committing to the Mustangs, she scored 22 points in 37 with the Kitchener-Waterloo Jr Rangers of the PWHL. Now in her third year with the Mustangs, keep an eye on her to have a breakout season in London. 

While the Mustangs went through a year with several young players last season, a more veteran roster in 2022-23 should allow them to improve, especially with a stellar goaltender in Kaitlyn Booth, who had a .919 save percentage through 15 OUA games last season. 

Key Player: Grace Bellamy

Laurier Golden Hawks

(Laurier Golden Hawks)

The 2021-22 season was less than ideal for the Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey program, finishing last place with a measly three wins in 15 games.

Averaging less than a goal per game and just 21.1 shots per game, they struggled to keep pace in a tough OUA West with the top teams like the Waterloo Warriors, Guelph Gryphons and Brock Badgers. 

With last year’s starting goaltender Cohen Myers moving on, head coach Kelly Paton will turn to a largely inexperienced goaltending group, with Victoria Kelaiditis leading the potential starters with six games of U SPORTS experience. However, there is no certain decision in the crease, with Acadia Carlson, Kathryn Raitano and Kayla Renaud also starting preseason games.

One play to keep an eye on this season is Kenedy Choma, who will lead the team in her fourth year of OUA hockey. While the stats didn’t jump off the page, she scored five points, good for second on the team last season. A dynamic offensive talent, she’ll look to start at the pace she finished at when she recorded a point in the team’s final six games. 

Key Player: Kenedy Choma

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