What to watch in the second half of OUA men’s hockey

TORONTO, ON – The holidays have wrapped up, school is back in session, and the second half of the OUA men’s hockey season is officially here. 

When the fall schedule wrapped up on Dec. 4, the defending national champion UQTR Patriotes held the lead in the OUA East Division while the Windsor Lancers sat on top of the OUA West Division. 

Between 10-12 games remaining for each team before the Queen’s Cup Playoffs and the top four spots in both divisions separated by just four points each, the second half of the season is loaded with intrigue.

Will Carleton’s Parker AuCoin stay hot?

Perhaps the most significant offensive surprise so far this year, after nine goals combined in his first two seasons, Parker AuCoin led the country with 17 goals for the Carleton Ravens in the first half of the season. 

The veteran Ravens forward developed almost instant chemistry with freshman Nick McCarry who led the OUA with 16 assists, including eight primary assists on goals from AuCoin. 

With two players in the top four OUA scorers, with AuCoin second with 17 goals and 21 points and McCarry fourth with five goals and 21 points, but no other players in the top 70 in points, it underscores that if the Ravens want to make noise in 2023, it will be off the backs of their dynamic duo.

Will Brock challenge for the division?

For most of the fall semester, the top seed in the OUA West Division has been a battle between the Windsor Lancers and the TMU Bold. With five wins in their final six games, the Brock Badgers now find themselves just a single point behind TMU for second and two points behind Windsor for the top seed.

The 2022 OUA silver medalists, the Badgers, have relied on a genuine team effort in 2022-23, with eight players hitting double-digits in points and Jacob Roach leading with six goals and 18 points. Brock’s depth has carried over to the power play, where they lead the OUA West at 23.0% with 14 goals from eight different names. 

Perhaps the most significant question mark to what Brock might accomplish in the winter comes in the net. Mario Peccia did have a reasonable first half with a .919 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average but took a slight step back after a pair of shutouts to open the year, recording an above .900 save percentage just once in his final five games. 

While Peccia is a strong netminder, the Badgers will be buoyed by the midseason addition of Roman Basran, a 6’2” goaltender that has been practicing with the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Canucks, after finishing off his junior career with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads last season. 

Can Windsor solve their one flaw?

Sitting in first in the OUA West after 15 games at 11-2-2, it’s hard to look at the Windsor Lancers and see anything that needs fixing. The primary reason for Windsor’s success comes in net, with Nathan Torchia dominating with a .946 save percentage and 1.66 goals against average. At the same time,  fifth-year Anthony Stefano leads an offence that dropped in 53 goals in the first half, with a respectable six goals and 18 points.

The Lancers’ one flaw in 2022-23? The powerplay. After seeing their unit connect on 22.7% of their chances in 2021-22, the Lancers watched their success rate on the man advantage dip to an OUA-low 10.9%. 

A lot of reasoning might be down to bad luck. Mason Kohn led the Lancers with three powerplay goals a season ago but has zero this year (surprisingly, three shorthanded goals). According to InStat, Kohn not only has more powerplay shots than he did a season ago, but already seven of his 14 shots on goal have also come from the hash marks or below compared to nine shots (and three goals) total from below the hash marks a year ago. So Kohn has gotten strong chances but has yet to have one hit the back of the net.

With the TMU Bold, who sit just a single point behind Windsor, holding the league’s strongest penalty kill at 91.9%, solving the puck luck that has kept them off the scoresheet with the extra man will be essential for the Lancers as the season gets tighter.

Top players with FISU Team Canada

While OUA hockey gets back underway this week, some of the conference’s top players won’t be with their school teams, instead representing Team Canada at the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, New York. 

Seven OUA players are heading to the Games, headlined by OUA and U SPORTS leading goalscorer Kyle Bollers of TMU, with his teammate and top OUA goaltender Kai Edmonds also joining. As well as Queen’s Jonathan Yantsis, McGill’s Scott Walford and UQTR’s Justin Bergon, Simon Lafrance and Zach Lavigne all head to Northern New York dreaming of Canada’s first men’s hockey gold since Trentino 2013.

While the players may be the most noticeable absences, Toronto head coach Ryan Medel joins Team Canada as a video coach. Meanwhile,  Queen’s Gaels bench boss Brett Gibson and uOttawa head coach Patrick Grandmaitre both join the staff as assistant coaches. 

Canada opens the FISU men’s hockey tournament against Ukraine on January 12.

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