Toronto, ON – One team looking for redemption after losing in a pair of OUA and U SPORTS championship games a season ago. One team looking to cement their incredible season with a title at their home rink. A rematch of the 2022 McCaw Cup semifinal that saw Nipissing spoil a near-perfect season for Toronto a year ago.
Whatever way you look at it, the 2023 McCaw Cup looks to be a game that can serve as a fitting end to what has been a wild 2022-2023 OUA season. The season is not done yet, though, and with 60 minutes (or potentially even more) yet to be played, let’s break down the last two teams that remain standing in Ontario.
Toronto Varsity Blues
Rarely does it feel like a team is pre-determined to reach this point, but one might be able to make that case for the 2022-2023 Toronto Varsity Blues. The Blues paced the OUA with a 23-2-2 record for 70 points and punctuated their season with a 16-game winning streak between November and February.
It’s hard to say where the Blues struggled in 2022-2023. They ended the year with the lowest goals-allowed at 34 and both goalies in the top three in goals-against-average and save percentage. On special teams, Toronto’s 22.5% power-play paced the league along with their 93.2% success rate on the penalty. Even on offence, despite one skater being in the top ten in goals, ten skaters finished with at least four goals on the year leading Toronto to the second-best result at 84 goals.
The only place Toronto has had trouble this season is against the Lakers. After a 6-2 win over Nipissing on Jan 8, in the middle of their 16-game winning streak, it was a little over a month later, on Feb 10, that Katie Chomiak scored and snapped Toronto’s streak at 16 games with a 2-1 overtime win. Nipissing followed it up a night later with another Katie Chomiak overtime-winning goal for a second straight 2-1 win. The Blues picked up a point in both games and finished the season on a 20-game point streak, but the result was that the Lakers were a team that could solve them.
“I think those last two games [against Nipissing] were good for us,” Varsity Blues coach Vicky Sunohara said following their semifinal-clinching win over Guelph. That was the adversity, maybe, that we needed. These guys are ready to go and would love to play tomorrow.”
If any team knows how fickle one game can be, it’s the Nipissing Lakers. The programreached the summit of the OUA precisely one year ago, taking on the Brock Badgers in the 2022 McCaw Cup but losing 2-1. In the 2022 U SPORTS Women’s National Championship, the sixth-seed Lakers upset the UBC Thunderbirds and the UNB Reds to reach their first national title game against Concordia. It was the Stingers, though, who took the 4-0 win, meaning for the second time in a week, the Lakers left with silver and without a banner.
The Lakers returned in 2022-2023 clearing, looking for redemption and similar to how it has been for much of the last half-decade, they were led by the Dominico Sisters, Mallory and Maria. For each of the previous three seasons, at least one of the Dominico’s have led the Lakers in scoring, and in 2019-2020 they went first and second, respectively.
As the Lakers fought their way to their first McCaw Cup game a year ago, it was Maria Dominico who led the OUA with ten goals and 18 points in 14 games and a year later, Mallory Dominico found herself in the top three in scoring with 15 goals and 26 points in 26 games. Maria followed with 16 points in 20 games but spent time away from North Bay helping Canada to a gold medal at the 2023 FISU World University Games.
That absence though allowed the Lakers’ depth to take a massive step forward in 2023. From veterans Maggie McKee and Madison Laberge reaching the top-15 in OUA scoring to sophomore Katie Chomiak finishing seventh and improving her points-per-game from 0.50 to 0.92, the pieces beyond the Dominico sisters have been one of the biggest reasons why the Lakers find themselves back in the OUA title game.
The OUA McCaw Cup Breakdown
The history between these two teams is not limited to the regular season. It was a year ago that a 14-0-2 Toronto team looked to be cruising to back-to-back championships before a pair of goals from Nipissing’s Jetta Derenoski, including the winner halfway through the second sent the Varsity Blues careening out of the playoffs with a 3-2 loss in the McCaw Cup semifinal.
So then, this year’s McCaw Cup is truly an opportunity for revenge. For Toronto, revenge to ensure they don’t see a second straight near-perfect year go for naught, and for Nipissing, revenge to ensure they finally get over the hump.