TORONTO, ON – The OUA men’s hockey playoffs are fast approaching, with teams just starting to dream of what could be in early March, with the hopes of hosting and hoisting the Queen’s Cup.
With the top players all back from Canada’s gold medals at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, there’s added pressure on every team chasing, with races for playoff spots and seeding heating up across the conference.
MHKY: Ottawa needs points in a tough UQTR test
The uOttawa Gee-Gees haven’t had the easiest time since qualifying for the Queen’s Cup final back in 2020, where they fell to the Guelph Gryphons. They’ve taken steps forward this season, but it could all be for not if they don’t make the reaming weeks of the season count.
The Gee-Gees take on the OUA East first-place UQTR Patriotes this weekend in Trois Riviers and sit just inside the playoff picture, but only by a pair of points in an incredibly tight race for the final seeds.
Although the Gee-Gees have been on and off this season and let an opportunity slip in last week’s 8-7 loss in the Colonel By Classic, they get a boost this week, welcoming back head coach Patrick Grandmaitre, who won gold with Team Canada at the World University Games.
Grandmaitre will lead the Gee-Gees on Friday, taking on three of his Team Canada players, including Simon LaFrance, Justin Bergeron and Zachary Lavigne. The trio returned to the lineup in a 3-2 win over Carleton midweek but will be looking to impact the scoresheet against the Gee-Gees.
While taking points off the UQTR Patriotes at home won’t be easy, a couple of points away from Minto Sports Complex could help uOttawa and their hopes of pushing into a playoff spot. For now, there may be worries about missing the playoffs, but a couple of wins could have them contending for a first-round bye, with the second seed currently held by the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, just four points ahead.
MHKY: It’s a critical weekend for the Toronto Varsity Blues
(Toronto Varsity Blues)
The Toronto Varsity Blues are looking like a playoff team, but cracking the top six of the OUA West is a challenge as the schedule reaches its final few weeks. This weekend, however, presents Toronto with a chance to vault themselves into relative safety while invigorating their playoff push against a rival team.
Sitting fifth at 24 points, just one point within the playoff picture ahead of York and Laurier, Toronto takes on the third-place Brock Badgers before clashing with downtown rivals and the OUA West first-place TMU Bold.
A couple of wins, even OT losses, could do the Varsity Blues wonders. Similar to uOttawa, they’re also getting their head coach back after Ryan Medel assisted with Team Canada’s FISU gold medal.
Former Badger Owen Guy, who co-leads Toronto in scoring with four goals and 16 points, will want to make his mark against his former team on Friday night, while Eddie Yan will hope to build on his two-goal performance against the Waterloo Warriors. Meanwhile, Cole Purboo has scored in three of his last four games.
It’s not just a night for the Varsity Blues to focus on, however, as Brock, led by Jacob Roach and Adam Berg, are striving to overtake Windsor and TMU for the top two spots and a first-round bye in the Queen’s Cup Playoffs.
After taking on Brock, Toronto face TMU, which will be a tough test but critical as it could preview a playoff matchup should Toronto push past the opening round.
It’s not quite a make-or-break weekend for the Varsity Blues, but if they come away empty, it could be catastrophic for their campaign.