TORONTO, ON – The OUA Playoffs are here, and for the first time since the 2019-20 season, so are full-length playoff series.
After the shortened and COVID-impacted 2021-22 season, which featured single-game knockout playoffs, the best-of-three series return to the OUA this season, running all the way through to a one-game knockoff final for the Queen’s Cup.
The structure has also changed, with the top six from the OUA West and OUA East earning their way to the playoffs, with the top two in each conference earning byes through to the second round.
With the puck set to drop on the playoffs, 49 Sports gets you prepped for the opening round of the Queen’s Cup postseason. OUA West preview to follow.
All stats provided by HockeyTech and InStat.
The OUA East matchups:
OUA East Byes: UQTR, Concordia
OUA East first round: Carleton v Ontario Tech, McGill v Ottawa
OUA EAST: Carleton Ravens vs Ontario Tech Ridgebacks
There may not be a more evenly matched series in the opening round than the Carleton Ravens and Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, two teams that battled their way through an incredibly tight OUA East through 26 regular season games.
Ontario Tech won two of three matchups between the two this season, but Carleton enters the series as a favourite.
The big difference that may eventually determine the series winner is just how hot the Carleton offence can get compared to Ontario Tech’s. The Ridgebacks enter the playoffs with a -6 goal differential, the worst among OUA East playoff teams, and only scored 70 goals, the least among any OUA playoff teams.
Meanwhile, Carleton, led by OUA goalscoring leader Parker Aucoin, scored 97 goals and finished with a goal differential of 14. Aucoin scored 24 goals and recorded 33 points, contributing to 34 percent of Carleton’s total offence this season.
Although Carleton has had some luck in scoring, overachieving their expected goals per game by 0.4 goals, they’ve consistently ranked within Canada’s top 10 of chance generation per game, miles ahead of Ontario Tech.
For the Ridgebacks to stand a chance, they’ll have to find a way of shutting down Aucoin, and his linemates, including Nick McCarry and Kieran Craig, while also ensuring that Carleton’s depth doesn’t test their defence.
Goaltender Leif Hertz, who finished the season with a .919 save percentage, will have to be at his best.
“Really hard working, trapping type of team, it’s gonna be really physical,” Carleton head coach Shaun Van Allen told 49 Sports. “We’re gonna have to be careful with the puck in the neutral zone, get it behind their defence and get a forecheck going.”
The Ravens may be the slight favourite against the Ridgebacks, but the series could go either way. The first round gets underway on Wednesday night, with Ontario Tech hosting the opening game in Oshawa, while Carleton welcomes the series to Ottawa for Game 2 and a potential Game 3.
OUA EAST: McGill Redbirds v Ottawa Gee-Gees
The McGill Redbiords narrowly missed out on qualifying for the University Cup in 2021-22, losing to the TMU Bold in the OUA third-place game. However, they’re back for more this year, and they’ve progressed under second-year head coach David Uruqhart.
In the opening round, the Redbirds take on a challenging yet inexperienced uOttawa Gee-Gees team, which, although doesn’t have much veteran presence, is riding a high of momentum, entering the playoffs.
The Redbirds are the top seed in the opening round, and McConnel Arena will likely have a decent burnout for their home games. But, they’ve also got depth across the ice, led by stalwart two-way defenceman Scott Walford, who has proven to be one of the best in U SPORTS.
Walford, a former Montreal Canadiens third-round pick, has already tasted victory this year too, winning gold with Team Canada at the FISU Games alongside uOttawa head coach Patrick Grandmaitre who was on Canada’s coaching staff.
McGill features a highly versatile game, combining physical play and lots of shots while making sure to make the most of their time on the powerplay. They finished the regular season with 3.4 goals per game while averaging over 34 shots per game, the third most in the OUA. Meanwhile, they feature the second-best powerplay in the OUA at 26.2 percent and hit the third most often out of all OUA programs.
To find success, McGill doesn’t rely on top players either, with a team effort highlighting their game, albeit led by William Rouleau and Brandon Frattaroli, who scored a point per game, and Walford on the backend.
Ottawa, on the other hand, is extremely young. So while this may not be their year, they’ll look for an upset with hopes of building towards U CUP contention when they host the U SPORTS men’s hockey championship in 2025.
If Ottawa is to pull off a game or two as an upset, they’ll likely lean on the momentum they picked up from qualifying for playoffs in an OT win over the same Redbirds and the winning-clinching goal scored by Charles-Antoine Roy.
McGill hosts Game 1 on Wednesday night, with Game 2 heading to Ottawa and a potential game three heading back to Montreal.