TORONTO, ON – The homestretch of the OUA Women’s Hockey season is finally here.
Some things may already be set, and the Toronto Varsity Blues have essentially been entrenched in the top seed since December. Still, with between three to five games remaining for each team, playoff seeding, and playoff positioning undecided for as many as seven different teams, there is still much to learn ahead of the 2023 McCaw Cup Playoffs.
We break down a couple of things to watch for this weekend.
Every OUA point matters as Brock hosts TMU
The Brock Badgers are in crunch time, trying to avoid the wrong type of history. The defending McCaw Cup champion has not missed the following years playoffs in OUA Women’s Hockey in over 15 seasons, but with three games remaining on their schedule, the Badgers sit tied with the Western Mustangs at 28 points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the OUA West division.
With only one game on the schedule for the Badgers compared to two for the Mustangs, picking up points at Canada Games Park on Saturday is critical for Brock’s chances to stave off infamous history.
The challenge for the Badgers will be whether or not they have enough left offensively to carry them into the playoffs. Brock has only put the puck in the back of the net more than once in two of their last five games, but the key to that is one of those games was against the team they’ll square off against at 2:00 pm at Canada Games Park on Saturday, the TMU Bold.
It was back on Jan 27 that the Badgers spoiled the Bolds’ school day game, picking up the 4-2 win with a late goal from Mishayla Christensen serving as the winner. Brock will have to hope the offence will come alive for them again when the Bold take the ice.
For TMU, their playoff spot is more secure than Brock but points are still critical for the Bold for two reasons. First, they find themselves just a single point back of the Queen’s Gaels for third in the OUA East Division. Slipping into that third spot would mean that TMU would move from a date with the 16-straight win Varsity Blues and instead take on the Nipissing Lakers. Still a formidable challenge but a much different story.
Conversely, TMU still has yet to lock up their playoff as the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, although they have lost six straight games, still sit five points back with three games to play. With the Brock Badgers turning into Ontario Tech fans on Friday night as the Ridgebacks take on the Western Mustangs, it only makes it more critical for the TMU Bold to pick up points in their game against Brock.
It’s the last chance for the OUA’s York Lions
Depending on your perspective, it could be the best or worst feeling, but the York Lions have officially run out of runway. Sitting at 19 points, eleven points back of the TMU Bold with four games remaining, the Lions are not technically eliminated from the McCaw Cup playoffs. Still, they officially do not have a margin for error.
The only way that the side from northern Toronto could qualify for this year’s OUA Women’s Hockey playoffs would be to win all four of their remaining games in regulation, have the TMU Bold lose all four of their remaining games in regulation and have the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks pick up a combination of just four points over their final four games.
The first hurdle for the Lions, which could also simplify things quickly, comes on Friday night when the TMU Bold head to Canlan Sports for the final meeting between the cross-town rivals. The results between the Lions and Bold were mixed in 2022-2023, as both sides took one of the previous two meetings between the teams this season.
In November, the TMU Bold took the 4-2 win at Mattamy Athletic Centre thanks to a goal and an assist from sophomore Brooke Michaud. Fast forward three months to January at Canlan Sports, and the York Lions took a win themselves as they came back from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before Ava Ricker-Singh slotted in her first of the season for the overtime winner.
If the Lions want to survive, they’ll have to find more of that magic, and they’ll need to do it before overtime to pick up three points. Should York pass stage one (they’ll immediately become Brock Badgers fans on Saturday), but beyond that, they’ll head to Guelph to take on the Gryphons.
The Gryphons made their annual trip up to Canlan Sports on Jan 28 amid a lifeless stretch for York that saw them shutout three times in four games, punctuated by a 1-0 shutout by Guelph on Jan 28. Martina Fedel picked up 24 saves in the shutout for the Gryphons and presents a difficult challenge for the Lions as at 7-1-1 in 2023, Fedel has taken over in the second half.