OUA MHKY Weekend Watch: Western and Toronto look to break slumps

TORONTO, ON – The first week of the OUA men’s hockey season is in the books and some of the contenders are already peeking out behind the curtains. Now, in the second week, top scorers look to continue their hot starts in the Capital City, while a rivalry is reignited in Toronto.

While the Brock Badgers, TMU Bold and Concordia Stingers won midweek, the weekend brings a slew of games to look foward to.

49 Sports takes a look at a few of the games and players to keep an eye on over the next few days.

A distance scent of an upset with Toronto and Western

(Toronto Varsity Blues)

Coming off two losses to the Brock Badgers, the Western Mustangs will be hoping to get back on the saddle when they host the Toronto Varsity Blues this weekend. It may be a few years back, but the 2022-23 season still features holdover players from when the #8 Mustangs took down the #1 Varsity Blues in the 2020 Queen’s Cup Playoffs, making Saturday night another dramatic affair. 

That 2020 upset, which sent ripples across Canadian university hockey, launched the Mustangs on a legendary underdog run to the semifinals of the U CUP, where they weren’t able to test themselves due to the tournament being cancelled midway as COVID-19 took hold of North America.

The last time Toronto and Western played (Toronto Varsity Blues)

The Mustangs have been solid this season, and improved midweek against the Badgers, getting two shots past goaltender Mario Peccia, something they failed to do in their previous meeting, a 4-0 loss in St. Catharines. 

Second-year Western Defenceman Jack Tucker has scored twice this season and has played significant minutes for head coach Clarke Singer as he takes on more responsibility. Meanwhile, he’ll match up against last season’s OUA West defenceman of the year, Ryan Barbosa, another offensive blueliner on Toronto. 

For the Varsity Blues, it’s not been any easier as they look to rebound from a 6-1 thrashing against the TMU Bold and a hard-fought 2-1 loss to their rivals on Thursday. The intriguing call, however, will be whether head coach Ryan Medel opts to start second-year Jett Alexander or freshman Rayce Ramsay in goal. 

Alexander played a calm, confident game against the Bold on Thursday, making 26 stops in his first start of the year after relieving Ramsay midway through the previous loss. 

(Western Mustangs Athletics)

While the blueline matchup of Barbosa and Tucker highlights the game, keep an eye on the centre matchup between Western’s Shane Bulitcka and Toronto’s Ross Krieger, both of whom play an intelligent, hard-forechecking style, and will go up each other for much of the night. 

With the holdover drama from 2020 and two teams looking to avoid three straight losses, the Varsity Blues and Muatanfs are bound to bring exciting hockey to London’s Thompson Arena. 

Can Parker AuCoin and Carleton’s top line keep rolling?

(Richard Coffey)

Carleton Ravens forward Parker AuCoin couldn’t have had a better OUA opening weekend, really, the entire Ravens top line couldn’t have dreamt up anything more perfect. 

AuCoin scored seven times in wins against Nipissing and Ontario Tech, while linemate Nick McCarry finished the weekend with a goal and six assists. The high-flying duo now enters the second week against the RMC Paladins and Queen’s Gaels. 

The Paladins won’t be much of a test defensively after conceding 14 goals in two games, but they could push the Ravens to a competitive game on the scoresheet, a fact that could drive the top-line to multi-point games again. 

RMC is a better team this season, beating McGill 7-6 in their season opener, but the Ravens remain heavily favoured. However, the big test will come against the Queen’s Gaels on Saturday, as the Ravens face a team coming off a toe-to-toe battle with the defending U SPORTS champion UQTR Patriotes. 

(Queen’s Gaels Athletics)

The Gaels put up a considerable challenge against the Patriotes, with Hayden Fowler and Jonathan Yantsis picking up where they left off in the 2021-22 rookie season, while Luke Richardson made 63 saves on 72 shots. 

After scoring seven goals on opening weekend, Parker AuCoin will hope to keep his goalscoring form up as the Ravens look to explicit defensive fragilities on both the Queen’s Gaels and RMC Paladins in Kingston.

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