What would the end of the OUA men’s hockey season be without a little bit of drama?
Of the 19-team conference, only three teams have been mathematically eliminated ahead of the final weekend, leaving the door wide open for several programs to make a run toward the OUA playoffs and a potential chance at the Queen’s Cup.
The post-season returns to best-of-three series this season, outside of the Queen’s Cup Final. The top six in each division punch their ticket to the knockout rounds, with the top two earning byes to the second round.
By Sunday, the matchups in the first round will be confirmed, with the 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 matchups set to be secured in the coming days.
With drama set to reign supreme over the weekend, we take a look at a couple of the exciting playoff races.
Heating up at the right time, Gaels look to hold off Ottawa in Montreal
The Queen’s Gaels have been dancing on the brink of OUA playoff elimination for a few weeks now, but they’ve managed to make it to the final week of the season, still in contention for the coveted final playoff spot in the OUA East.
After starting the season with three straight losses, the Gaels have picked up their form down the final stretch and could very well find themselves in the postseason come the end of this weekend.
Sitting seventh for now, tied on points with the Ottawa Gee-Gees at 26, the Gaels have a tough test, but one that if they conquer it, could push them deep into the OUA playoffs. Led by head coach Brett Gibson, the Gaels face the second-place Concordia Stingers on Friday, looking to claim a third straight win.
If the Gaels do find a victory against the Stingers, they’ll need the Gee-Gees to do them a favour just down the street at McConnell Arena against the McGill Redbirds. It’s simple, if the Gee-Gees lose and Queen’s win, the Gaels head into the postseason riding a wave of momentum. Yet neither team can rise higher than sixth place.
Look for Jonathan Yantsis and Jacob Paquette to play a significant role for the Gaels this weekend, especially in physical battles against players such as Concordia’s Tyler Hylland and Isaiah Campbell.
The intensity at both games in Montreal will be something special, making a truly unique final weekend of the OUA men’s hockey regular season.
OUA West playoff battle coming down to the wire
If you could draw up a perfect playoff battle, the OUA West would fit that definition. With just one weekend left, all but the Waterloo Warriors are in contention to make the postseason, with four teams striving for the final spot at the same time as top teams look for first-round byes.
Looking at the teams on the playoff bubble, the Western Mustangs and Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks didn’t make anything more straightforward with a Western 5-2 win mid-week. Yet, it brings us to a weekend with Western at 25 points, currently holding the final spot, with Laurier, York, and Guelph all just in behind with 23, looking to sneak into the postseason.
Each team vying for the final spot has two games left.
Looking at this weekend’s schedule, the Mustangs could put the decision to bed quickly with two wins over the Hawks and first-place Windsor Lancers. Yet, if they drop any points, things get interesting if another team can go 2-0-0.
Should the Golden Hawks beat Western, they would overtake the final playoff spot for that night and have the best chance to secure their playoff berth when they cap their regular season off against last-place Waterloo.
If Western wins against Laurier, but drops their game to Windsor, meanwhile, things get even murkier in the playoff race.
For York to make the playoffs, they’ll want Laurier to beat Western while they go and take full points from games against Toronto and Guelph. For Guelph, they’ll also hope for a Laurier victory while needing to beat York and Brock, a similar level of competition to the Lions.
It’s going to be a playoff-like weekend for all the teams involved, with Laurier, Guelph and York all needing at least one win and likely more in their two remaining games. Yet, the level of intensity and excitement should make for the best weekend of OUA hockey this season.