TORONTO, ON – The OUA men’s and women’s hockey seasons are starting to pull back the curtain.
Already into November, teams are approaching the quarter-mark of the campaign, with programs beginning to show whether they’re in a developmental season or eyeing a deep playoff run.
It’s moving quickly, and the first month is already in the books as 49 Sports looks ahead to this weekend’s action in OUA hockey.
WHKY: Can the York Lions rebound in a rematch vs Nipissing?
It was a tough second weekend for York. The Lions split their first two games of the season (picking up their first win of the year over the Laurier Golden Hawks) but fell 1-0 and 3-0 in back-to-back shutouts to Western and Toronto a week ago.
The challenge for York – perhaps made obvious by being shutout in back-to-back games – is on offence. York faced major losses on offence this season as they saw their top two scorers from a year ago in, Courtney Gardiner and Kelsey McHolm, move on. Still, several of their other top scorers from a year ago have struggled to find the scoresheet. Ava Ricker-Singh, who led all blueliners on the team last year with six points (three goals, three assists), is without a point so far, while Julia Cuccia, who finished third in team scoring with six points (four goals, two assists) has just one. The Lions aren’t going to keep getting shutout, but if they want to move up the East Division standings, they’ll need to find more ways to put the puck in the net.
Things are looking better on the other side of the ice, at least as freshman Emma Wedgewood has grabbed control of the crease early in the year for the Lions with her first three OUA starts in their last three games. Despite a 1-2-0 record, a 1.33 GAA and a .943 save percentage should give the Lions comfort that as they work out their offence, the stability should be there in the net.
To turn things around, though, York faces a pair of tough opponents, the first being the Nipissing Lakers. Last year’s McCaw Cup finalists, the Lakers, have already made one trip to Canlan this season as they opened the year against York with a 5-2 win on Oct. 21. Five different Lakers got on the scoresheet, including Maria Domenico, who picked up a goal and an assist while three different Lakers, (Maggie McKee, Emma Neff and Madison Laberge) picked up two assists each.
The Lakers have not slowed down since that win as they dispatched TMU 4-1 the next night before heading back to North Bay for a pair of tight wins over Windsor and Western to stand as the only remaining undefeated OUA East side at 4-0-0. The early breakout star for the Lakers is defender Madison Laberge who has almost matched her 2021 total of eight points (four goals, four assists) from a year ago in 14 games, with seven points (one goal, seven assists) in just four games.
In net, the Lakers have split the starts so far, with Chloe Marshall (2-0-0, 0.99 GAA, .951 SV%) and Chantelle Sandquist (2-0-0, 2.50 GAA, .878 SV%) sharing the crease with differing results. Whoever takes the crease, the Lions will be in tough as they try and get back on the scoresheet and into the win column.
WHKY: How long can the Waterloo Warriors keep rolling?
After five straight wins to open the new season, the Waterloo Warriors are the OUA West Division’s only remaining undefeated team, the top team in the conference. At this point, they are showing no signs of slowing down. The Warriors already took down one team this week as they defeated the TMU Bold 2-1 in overtime at the Columbia Ice Field on Thursday night.
In that 2-1 win over the Bold, Tatum James continued her dominant start to the season, picking up her second goal of the season before assisting on Leah Herrfort’s overtime winner to move into the top spot in the OUA with nine points (two goals, seven assists). Of course, the second spot on that list belongs to Herrfort (six goals, two assists), as the two have provided Waterloo with the league’s best one-two punch to open the season.
The news is just as good in the crease for Warriors as Mikayla Schnarr remains perfect through her first four starts (4-0-0, 1.25 GAA, .948 SV%), including making 19 saves in the 2-1 win over TMU on Thursday. At the same time backup Kara Mack made her OUA debut a week ago against the Laurier Golden Hawks, making 25 saves in the 3-1 Warriors win.
The Warriors remain at home this weekend as after their Friday night matchup with Nipissing, the York Lions travel to Waterloo for a Sunday afternoon matchup. These two teams have not seen each other since the 2019-2020 season, where they split their season series at one game a piece, with Waterloo taking the 4-1 win at Canlan in Nov. 2019 before York took a 2-0 win at Columbia in Jan. 2020. However, the Lions do in their Friday night matchup against the Lakers will likely tell a lot about this matchup. If the offence final arrives for York is one thing, but if the Lions continue to struggle to find the back of the net, Waterloo’s perfect start to the season should continue.
MHKY: Can UQTR take ahold of first place?
There are little doubts that the UQTR Patriotes are the best in the country, sitting atop the U SPORTS Top-10 rankings and winning all six of their OUA games so far this season. This weekend, with a trip to Oshawa to face the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, the Patriotes could put a stronghold on the top spot in the OUA East.
Led by Simon LaFrance’s six goals and 12 points, as well as Justin Bergeon’s contributions, the Patriotes could come away with a four-point weekend. Meanwhile, the teams on their heels, McGill, Ottawa and Concordia, could all drop points. For McGill and Ottawa, in particular, the best possible finish for both would be to go to overtime, as they look to drop as few points as possible.
Sitting atop the OUA isn’t new for UQTR, but as the nation’s only undefeated team, and a two-game set against a Ridgebacks team with only two wins, there is a golden opportunity for head coach Marc-Ettiene Hubert and his group.
Two games ago, the Ridgebacks downed the Concordia Stingers 5-4 in OT, and that gave them a good preview of UQTR’s skill and ferocity. Yet, the main takeaway from that game was how dependent the Ridgebacks were on goaltender Leif Hertz, stopping 33 of 37 shots. If the Ridgebacks are to beat UQTR, they will have to be purposeful in their opportunities and possession, and UQTR is likely to run the pace of play.
It’s not an impossible task for the Ridgebacks, for from it, really, but it will be a challenge to break down the nation’s top university hockey team.
MHKY: RMC looks for form ahead of another all-Kingston clash
The midweek game for the RMC Paladins didn’t go as planned, dropping a 4-1 loss at home to their Kingston rivals, the Queen’s Gaels. However, the two will face off again next week under the bright lights of the Memorial Centre, making RMC’s game against Nipissing the perfect chance to find some form.
The Paladins have been a pleasant surprise this season, already picking up three wins and keeping themselves in the playoff conversation as we reach the quarter mark of the schedule. Although they’ve often relied on goaltender Joey May to come up with world-shattering saves, the Paladins have played strong and intelligent hockey all season.
Hosting a winless Nipissing Lakers team, the Paladins will look for confidence from their top role players, including their co-leading goal-scorers, Christopher Paquette and Josh Spratt, as they look ahead to another Kingston clash on November 9.
Upcoming Games to Watch:
WHKY: Nov. 4 – Queen’s Gaels @ Brock Badgers – 6:00 pm ET
WHKY: Nov. 6 – York Lions @ Waterloo Warriors – 2:30 pm ET
MHKY: Nov. 4 – Concordia Stingers @ uOttawa Gee-Gees – 7:00 pm ET
MHKY: Nov. 5 – UQTR Patriotes @ Ontario Tech Ridgebacks – 3:00 pm ET