TORONTO, ON – There’s always an element of magic surrounding the OUA Queen’s Cup Final, and 2023 is no different.
After over a century of championships, the trophy makes its way to Windsor as the Windsor Lancers host the UQTR Patriotes in a battle for OUA supremacy and the chance to hoist the 111th awarding of the Queen’s Cup.
To say there’s a special opportunity on the line in the OUA men’s hockey final would be an understatement. It’s a chance to enshrine a team in the history books of one of the world’s oldest hockey trophies, adding to a list that began with the McGill Redbirds winning the first edition in 1903.
The UQTR Patriotes come into Saturday’s matchup amid a dominant spell in Canadian university hockey. In 2022, they won the Queen’s Cup with a final victory over the Brock Badgers before going on to win the U SPORTS National Championship in a thrilling finale against the Alberta Golden Bears in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
This season, they’ve not slowed down, topping the OUA East Division with a 21-4-1 record, good for an OUA leading 43 points. Should they capture the 2023 Queen’s Cup, the Patriotes would become the first team to win back-to-back since McGill’s three straight from 2009-2012. It would also be UQTR’s 12th championship in the competition’s history.
To get here, the Patriotes downed the Carleton Ravens in the quarter-final with a two game sweep featuring wins of 3-1, and 6-2. Yet, the semi-final against the Concordia Stingers pushed them to the brink.
Concordia dominated Game 1, 5-1, before UQTR earned a 5-3, Game 2 win. In the final game of the series, the Stingers went up 4-0, only for UQTR to battle back and win the game 5-4 in overtime, giving them an energizing victory heading into the Queen’s Cup and national tournament.
Meanwhile, the Windsor Lancers finally got over the hump and into the final in 2022-23 and have a golden opportunity to raise the trophy in Windsor in front of their home crowd. In their history, they’ve won it twice, their first in 1998 against the same UQTR Patriotes, and second in 2014 against McGill.
The also enjoyed a successful regular season, finishing second in the OUA West, only behind the Lakehead Thunderwolves, with a 6-3-0 record and 39 points.
Led by head coach Kevin Hamelin, Windsor’s cohesive depth is their strength, as is their goaltending. To start the season, they took a trip out to British Columbia to help out Indegenous communities while also playing exhibition games against the UBC Thunderbirds in a trip that brought them together as a group and pushed them onto the OUA season.
In the playoffs, the Lancers had a first-round bye, before sweeping the 2022 OUA finalist Brock Badgers in the quarter-final with 3-1 and 6-4 victories.
Moving to the semifinal, the Lancers needed three games to get past the Lakehead Thunderwolves, winning Game 1 at home before dropping Game 2 and silencing the raucous Thunder Bay crowd of over 4,000. In the decisive matchup, Windsor scored three goals in less than five minutes to open the second period en route to an eventual series-clinching 4-2 victory.
Throughout the year, Windsor’s star has been goaltender, Nathan Torchia. The second-year netminder finished the OUA regular season with a .936 save percentage in 23 games for the Lancers, and he’s continued his hot form through the playoffs with a .944 through five post-season matchups.
Offensively, there’s immense depth, with veteran forward Anthony Stefano leading regular season scoring with nine goals and 27 points in 27 games and adding another goal and seven points through the playoffs so far.
Outside of Stefano, keep an eye on Mason Kohn who has four playoff goals so far, as well as defenceman Jaydon Fedder, whose seven points lead OUA defenceman in the post-season. However, every Lancers player has played a beneficial role this season.
On the UQTR side, head coach Marc-Ettiene Hubert relies on a star-studded lineup featuring some of the conference’s top scorers. Still, the one to watch is no doubt Simon LaFrance, whose electric shot release helped him to 16 goals and 38 points in just 23 regular season games.
In January, LaFrance, alongside UQTR teammates Justin Bergeron and Zachary Lavigne, won gold for Team Canada at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games. That experience, in addition to the OUA and U SPORTS wins of 2022, will benefit them in Windsor.
Duelling Windsor’s Torchia between UQTR’s posts will likely be Alexis Gravel, who has been one of the league’s most consistent goalies over the last two seasons. Although his regular season save percentage of .932 trails Torchia, he’s prone to have strong performances when the moments shine under the spotlight.
Gravel made over 40 saves in UQTR’s wins against Concordia in Games 2 and 3 of the OUA East Final.
The 111th Queen’s Cup will no doubt offer some of the best hockey in Canada as the Windsor Lancers and UQTR Patriotes look to add their 2022-23 rosters to the trophy’s rich history. After Saturday’s game, the two sides will also head to Charlottetown, PEI, alongside the winner of Lakehead v Concordia to compete for the 2023 University Cup.