TORONTO, ON – With the second month of the OUA men’s hockey season winding down, it is becoming clear which teams are genuine contenders heading into the sprint toward the holiday break and moreso in the new year.
Yet, in both the OUA East and West, the top of the standings are incredibly tight, and this weekend’s matchups could influence the final seedings come season’s end.
UQTR and Ontario Tech battle for top spot in OUA East
There may not be a more anticipated matchup in the OUA this week than the Ontario Tech Ridgeback’s visit to the UQTR Patriotes. At the beginning of the month, the two split-lopsided affairs each way in Oshawa, with the Patriotes prevailing 6-2, before the Ridgebacks flipped the script with a 5-2 win the next day.
Both teams, ranked #1 and #2 in the OUA East, have had hot and cold moments this season, with the Patriotes continuing their form from last season’s double trophy year and the Ridgebacks establishing themselves among Queen’s Cup contenders through the early season.
Looking at UQTR, there is a clear element that proves they may be luckier than their OUA-leading 64-goal offence shows. Per InStat, the Patriotes have an expected goals (xG) of 57, seven less than their actual goals scored.
xG is a metric used to isolate the evaluation of play-driving and chance-creation/suppression ability from things a player cannot control, such as bounces and quality of goalies.
However, what this does show, is that the Patriotes have yet to generate as many high-quality scoring opportunities in comparison to their actual goals scored. Therefore, highlighting a “luck” element to their success.
Yet, even though there may be an element of luck, the Patriotes are one of the top teams in Canada and will be pushed to their limits against an Ontario Tech team that has seemingly improved in each game this season.
However, a difference this weekend from early November is the return of goaltender Alexis Gravel, who missed the two games in Oshawa. Yet, his inclusion isn’t the most important from an Ontario Tech perspective, but moreso how they will close down Simon LaFrance and Julien Tessier, both within the top five of OUA scoring.
Meanwhile, for UQTR, the focus will be on how to push their depth to greater scoring levels, while a stingy defence focuses on star players while also at the same time staying focused on James White, who leads the Ridgebacks in scoring.
There are many intriguing factors between the UQTR Patriots and Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, and all will be on showcase this weekend in Trois-Rivières, beginning on Friday at 7:00 pm ET.
Toronto is heating up and could overtake first place in OUA West
It took a little while for the Toronto Varsity Blues to get rolling this season, but things have come together in November, as they sit in third in the OUA West, just one game behind TMU and Windsor, who hold the top two spots.
Yet, while Toronto started their weekend with a 5-1 win over Guelph on Thursday, they have a crucial matchup on the horizon for Sunday, clashing with the Windsor Lancers.
Back in 2019-20, the Varsity Blues were constantly in the top teams in the OUA, yet, with that core primarily gone, the younger players have taken the reigns while being led by a veteran group.
Taking on Windsor, the Varsity Blues will look to former Lancer Ryan Barbosa to patrol the blueline while also needing second-year forward Cole Purboo to continue the hot streak that has seen him score in four of the last five games, including three multi-point nights.
Although the Lancers Friday night game in Thunder Bay against Lakehead had to be cancelled due to travel difficulty, it gives them more time off and an easier travel weekend before taking on Toronto, where they’ll hope the stellar goaltending of Nathan Torchia can grab their a win away from home to snap their two-game skid.
Games to watch:
Nov. 25 – Ontario Tech Ridgebacks at UQTR Patriotes (7:00 pm ET)
Nov. 27 – Windsor Lancers at Toronto Varsity Blues (3:00 pm ET)