3 things we’ve learned from the OUA McCaw Cup playoffs so far

Toronto, On – And then there were four. After four series that brought about drama, surprises, and a game that felt like it would never end, the OUA McCaw Cup playoffs are down to their final quartet. 

49 Sports reflects on the last few days and see what we learned.

Which Waterloo team will show up next

(Waterloo Warriors)

In the span of three games, the Waterloo Warriors somehow managed to be three different teams. On Wednesday in Game 1, the Warriors came out flying with three goals in the first eight minutes. The league’s top offence in the 2022-23 put six goals past Kenzie Harmison and the Brock Badgers and rode a 24-save Kara Mark shutout to a 6-0 win. 
Fast forward two nights later, and it was a completely different story. Madison Cronkwright bookended the scoring for the Badgers, with a pair of goals from Catriona Cormier in between, as Brock took a clean 4-1 victory to push the series to sudden death. 
Finally, on Sunday, the Warriors showed up as a third team, with the offence struggling to find the back of the net for a second straight game. Still, Carley Molnar made 17 saves, holding on long enough for Elizabeth Lenardon to pot the winning goal with 52 seconds left in the third to give Waterloo the 2-1 win in the game and the series. 
After being upset a season ago, the Badgers were the first test for the Warriors to prove that this year could be a different year and through one round, the results have been squarely mixed. If the team from Game 1 is the team from now on, Waterloo can beat anybody; if it’s the team from game two, Waterloo might be hard-pressed to advance. Perhaps the team they hope will most likely show up, though, will be the one from Game 3, where strong goaltending aligns with timely offence.
At this point, for the Warriors, though, it’s truly a matter of wait-and-see. 

TMU shows fight in OUA first round loss to Toronto

(Josh Kim)

The TMU Bold had to be in the most unenviable position in the 2023 OUA McCaw Cup playoffs, as a last-day loss to Queen’s gave them a date with their crosstown rivals (and the team who seemingly could not stop winning this season), the Toronto Varsity Blues. 
Yet despite being written off from essentially the second the puck dropped at Varsity Arena, the Bold were almost defiant in refusing to roll over. The Bold opened the scoring in Game 1 with a goal barely 150 seconds in from senior Olivia Giardetti. Outshooting the Varsity Blues 17-11 through two periods and seeing timely saves from first-year goalie Lauren Griffin, the Bold appeared set to do the impossible and stun the No. 2-ranked team in the country. 
But Kaitlyn McKnight scored 1:45 into the third, and Sophie Grawbarger got the winner with 15 seconds to play to give Toronto the 2-1 win. Two nights later, at Mattamy Athletic Centre, the fight carried over. The Blues opened the scoring from Caroline Eagles, but TMU tied it up thanks to Payton Kerr three minutes later. Lauren McDonnell put Toronto back on top halfway through the first, but with 15 seconds to play in the second, long-time veteran Brooklyn Gemmill tied it for the Bold at 2-2. Similar to Game 1, though, in the third, it was Emma Potter getting the winner with four and a half minutes to play before McKnight added the empty net goal for a 4-2 win.  
The easy takeaway from this series is that Toronto was simply a better hockey team up and down the lineup, which isn’t wrong. Even still, though, one of the biggest things this series showed was the fight in the TMU program. With veterans including Gemmill and Giardetti, who represent the first true era of success for TMU moving on, a culture of dedication and fight is a major piece to leave for the next generation who play at the Gardens.

Guelph and Windsor go the distance

(Laurel Jarvis/Guelph Gryphons)

Heading into last week, it was easy to look at the Guelph Gryphons and the Windsor Lancers and say they might have the closest series of the quarterfinals, but it’s doubtful anyone predicted the reason why it would be so close. 

For 87 minutes in game one, sixty in game two, and then another 135 minutes in game three, Martina Fedel and Kristin Swiatoschik put on what might be one of the most impressive goalie duels in OUA history.

Game 1 went 1-0 in double overtime to the Lancers, with Emily Eikelboom getting the winner for Windsor about seven minutes into the second extra period. That goal was the only one of Windsor’s 27 shots to get by Martina Fedel. Kristen Swiatoschik, though, led the Lancers with 38 saves for the shutout. Two nights later, Swiatoschik saw three goals go past, but Fedel stopped all 21 Lancer shots in a 3-0 Guelph win to even the series at 1-1.

Finally, on Sunday, in Game 3, the Lancers and Gryphons started to play hockey, and it felt like they would never stop. Alexie Olivier gave Guelph the early lead in the first period before Windsor added two in the second. However, Abby Davies tied the game up with 49 seconds to go, meaning the teams headed to overtime. And then another overtime, and then another and another. 

It took until there were under five minutes to play in the fourth overtime period for Hannah Tait to get the winner and send Guelph into the semifinals. The goalie numbers are eye-popping, as Martina Fedel stopped 44 of 46 Windsor shots in the win, while Kristen Swiatoschik stopped 70 of 73 Guelph shots in the loss. 

Perhaps the biggest question for the Gryphons is can the offence turn on? Only in Game 2 did it take less than seven periods of hockey for the Gryphons to score three goals in a game. A lot of that goes to the otherworldly play of Swiatoschik, but for the Gryphons to go deeper into the OUA postseason, they’ll need to find a way to get more pucks in the back of the net.


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