OUA WHKY Weekend Watch: Brock Badgers begin their title defence

Toronto, ON – The 2022-2023 OUA Women’s hockey season got underway in earnest on Thursday Oct. 19, with a 3-1 win for the newly named TMU Bold over the Laurier Golden Hawks and a 6-1 win for the Waterloo Warriors over the Guelph Gryphons.

The season truly gets underway this weekend though as ten games come up the schedule and each OUA side kicks off their season, trying to find their way to the ultimate prize of the McCaw Cup.

Can Toronto find their way back to the top of the OUA?

Seyran Mammadov/Varsity Blues Athletics

It’s hard to win once; it’s a lot harder to win twice. The Varsity Blues entered last season as the defending McCaw Cup champions and rolled through the regular season, winning the OUA East Division and leading the conference with 45 points while finishing with the most goals for (45) and the lowest goals-against average (1.18).

In the playoffs, the Blues took down Queen’s 2-0 in their semifinal matchup but fell to the Nipissing Lakers 3-2 in the OUA East Final, denying themselves a chance to defend their title. 

The 2022-2023 Varsity Blues come with a lot of firepower, but lose some of their depth that carried them a year ago. 

Taylor Trussler returns for a fifth season with the Varsity Blues after finishing third in the OUA in points (16) and goals (9) and she’s joined by Céline Frappier, who had a breakout rookie season for the Blues a year ago, finishing with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 16 games. At the same time, Toronto loses a stalwart on the backend as veteran defender Gabrielle De Serres graduates after five years with the Varsity Blues and joins the PHF’s Montreal Force.

A two-time OUA all-star, De Serres led the OUA with ten assists last season, and if there is a hole that Varsity Blues head coach Vicky Sunohara will have a challenge to fill this year, it will be on the blueline.

In net, similar to Trussler, Erica Fryer is back for one more ride as a fifth year with the Varsity Blues, and her resume speaks for itself. OUA East Goalie of the Year a season ago, a two-time OUA all-star and member of the OUA all-rookie team, Fryer has been the backbone of the Blues the last two seasons especially and will be leaned on heavily once again for Toronto to try and get back on top.

The Blues get their first taste of OUA hockey on Saturday afternoon when they head to Columbia Ice Field to take on the team that most underperformed their expectations last year in the Waterloo Warriors. 

A juggernaut in the regular season, Waterloo rolled into the 2022 McCaw Cup playoffs first in the OUA West, a top-three team offensively and leading the league on the penalty kill (96.2%). 

In their OUA West semifinal against the Western Mustangs, though, the Warriors came out flat and fell 2-1, ending their drive for their first McCaw Cup title before it had even really begun. 

This season the Warriors lose some pieces upfront in Krystin Lawrence and Megan Fergusson but see Leah Herrfort, who finished tied for sixth in OUA scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), return. On the backend, Carley Olivier, who led the OUA in goals and points from a defender with 15 (six goals, nine assists) returns, while Mikayla Schnarr is back in the Warriors net after finishing in the top five in the OUA in wins (12), goals-against-average (1.18) and save percentage (.947). 

It shouldn’t be a question of whether this version of the Warriors can compete in the regular season; rather, it’s in February and March that the Warriors are looking to make the most noise. They opened the 2022-2023 OUA season with a 6-1 win over the Guelph Gryphons thanks to a goal and two assists from Kassidy McCarthy will look to ride the wave into their matchup against Toronto.

Brock begins their title defence against Guelph

Brock Badgers Athletics

The Brock Badgers entered the 2022 playoffs in third in the OUA West Division but rolled to their first McCaw Cup in program history thanks in part to Tiffany Hsu allowing just two goals in three games, while up front, Cassidy Maplethorpe lead the OUA with five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in three games. 

As they enter 2022-2023 trying to defend their title, the Badgers see Hsu return to tend the crease but now have to contend with losing a major piece to their offence in Maplethorpe. After four years at Brock, Maplethorpe transferred to the University of Alberta for her final year of eligibility, now forcing the Badgers to replace the OUA’s top goal-scorer from 2021-2022.

The first crack at that job likely falls to Emma Irwin. Irwin finished second on the Badgers in scoring last season with 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists), and after improving her points-per-game from 0.375 in her first season to 0.875 a year ago, Irwin will likely be looked at to try to lead the Badgers’ title defence. 

Their first test comes in a season-opening matchup with the Guelph Gryphons. The Gryphons saw their 2021-2022 season end in a 2-1 OUA West semifinal loss to the Badgers, giving their season-opening matchup a possible redemptive quality.

The Gryphons’ biggest asset a season ago was in goal as they finished with the lowest goals-against (16) and the second lowest goals-against-average (1.20) in the OUA. Guelph employed a true three-headed-monster in net in 2021-2022 of Martina Fedel, Ally Davidson, and Kathryn Raymond. All three goalies return for the Gryphons this season, providing a nearly unprecedented level of stability in the Guelph net. 

The question for Head Coach Rachel Flanagan, though, will be if they will be able to continue to run a three-way tandem this season or will one of the three goaltenders need to take firm control of the crease. The Gryphons gave Fedel first crack at the crease in their opening night matchup with the Waterloo Warriors, but after a 6-1 loss, it seems likely that it will be either Raymond or Davidson in the net when the Gryphons take the ice at Canada Games Park on Saturday. 

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