Maria Dominico brings FISU confidence back to Nipissing and OUA

TORONTO, ON – As the playoffs creep closer, things are getting tense for OUA women’s hockey teams in their search for the 2022-23 edition of the McCaw Cup.

With just weeks remaining in the season, and the top-four teams from each division qualifying, it’s crunch time not only for those programs looking to get into the playoff picture, but those battling for seeding in their search for an OUA title and a berth at the U SPORTS women’s hockey championships in Montreal.

As FISU gold medalists and a silver medalist (Guelph’s Chihiro Suzuki) return, 49 Sports looks at the weekend to come.

WHKY: Maria Dominico bringing golden confidence back to Nipissing

With a FISU Gold Medal around her neck, Maria Dominco heads back to the Nipissing Lakers, who will receive their star back in North Bay not a moment too soon. 

At 2-1-2, the Lakers were okay in the five games without their veteran leader, but with the top spot in the OUA potentially still in reach but starting to fade, having Dominico back is a significant addition to the already highly potent Nipissing offence. 

‘I’m definitely gonna try to bring the speed and skill that I was trying to showcase here back to Nipissing,” Dominico said following Team Canada’s 5-0 gold medal win over Japan on Jan 21. With 11 points in seven games, good for second in the tournament, the Lakers have to hope that Dominico will be able to slide back into the point-per-game form she left North Bay in.

For the weekend, Nipissing takes on a pair of OUA West teams, one fighting for position and the other for their playoff life. The Guelph Gryphons come into town on Friday night sitting in second place in the OUA West division at 37 points but have the Windsor Lancers nipping at their heels just one point back. 

The first meeting between the Lakers and Gryphons on Dec 3, in Guelph, saw a 2-0 Nipissing win off the back of a 21-save Chantelle Sandquist shutout and a Nipissing penalty kill that went a perfect eight for eight (And fittingly, a game-winning goal scored by Maria Dominico). 

The Brock Badgers downed the TMU Bold on Friday, yet the defending McCaw Cup champion suffered run of seven straight losses at their new home in the fall semester to put them in a massive hole. With six games remaining on their schedule, they find themselves two points outside the final playoff spot held by the Western Mustangs. 

The Lakers served as one of the seven home losses in the fall semester for Brock as Nipissing travelled to Canada Games Park on Dec 2 and took a 3-1 win thanks to multi-point games from Madison Laberge and Maggie McKee.

WHKY: Western is in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the OUA West Division

(Western Mustangs)

The top three spots in the OUA West Division have essentially been decided since the start of 2023, with Waterloo, Guelph, and Windsor crisscrossing with each other for positioning but with no real threat from the other half of the division. 

There is one more playoff spot in the division up for grabs, though, and if the Western Mustangs can pick up points this weekend, it would do wonders for solidifying their hold on it.

After a 2-0 win over York on Jan 23, the Mustangs find themselves with 25 points, four points up on the defending McCaw Cup champion Brock Badgers. Both teams face a challenging set of games, though, as the season reaches its final stretch. 

For Western, a pair of Toronto-based teams come to town as first the lightning-hot Toronto Varsity Blues head to London on Friday night. There is no hotter team in the country right now than the Varsity Blues, who last lost on Nov 12, 2022, against the Guelph Gryphons, 12 games ago. 

The Mustangs already fell to Toronto earlier in the Blues’ winning streak as Western travelled to Varsity Arena on Jan 20 and lost 4-1 in a penalty-filled game that saw 15 powerplays handed out. To take down the top team in the country right now is easier said than done, but if Western can take at least a point off Toronto and continue their streak of five straight home games with a point, that would still be a success.

After Toronto, the TMU Bold make the trip to Thompson Arena on Saturday afternoon, and they find themselves in a similar situation to the Mustangs except on the outside. Starting with a school-day 11 am start on Friday at home against the Brock Badgers, the Bold head into the weekend just one point out of third in the OUA East division with 24 points to Queen’s and Ontario Tech’s 25 points. 

The Mustangs made their trip to Mattamy Athletic Centre in November and took a 5-0 beating in which TMU goalie Lauren Griffin recorded her first OUA win and shutout. 

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