TORONTO, ON – While the OUA Fall seasons wind down, the hockey seasons are hitting the midway point of their campaign, with several teams proving themselves as early-season contenders given their hot streaks.
With the latest round of OUA hockey featuring surprising results and hot goaltending performances, there was a lot to take on in this week’s roundup.
Toronto Varsity Blues rising in close games
The Toronto Varsity Blues found themselves back in the weekly U SPORTS Top 10 this week after pulling off an underdog 2-1 victory over the UQTR Patriotes, who had recently rediscovered their goalscoring swagger.
UQTR, coming off an 11-5 win against the McGill Redbirds, struggled to develop offensive talents in their weekend matchup, as the Varsity Blues held them to 34 shots, hovering around the OUA average for shots per game.
Meanwhile, the Varsity Blues grabbed late goals with five seconds remaining in the second period and less than two minutes in the game to win the rare cross-division matchup.
UQTR scored first, as Zach Gravel beat Toronto’s Jett Alexander just past the midway mark of the second, only for Billy Moskal and Cole Purboo to score two unanswered goals against the Patriotes’ Alexis Gravel, leading Toronto to the victory.
Jett Alexander made 33 saves in the effort, leading Toronto to their fifth straight win, building off a midweek School Day 4-2 win away at the York Lions.
Through their run, the Varsity Blues have maintained the second-best penalty kill in the OUA, clicking along at 93.5 percent, having only conceded three times on 46 shorthanded opportunities.
Although the Varsity Blues have had worrying moments this season, with somewhat flat efforts in losses to the Concordia Stingers and Lakehead Thunderwolves, head coach Ryan Medel’s team has been one of the hottest in U SPORTS of late, pushing them higher in the OUA West.
Toronto currently sits second in their division, trailing only the Brock Badgers’ division-leading record of 11-1-0. Now, the focus turns to this weekend’s matchups against the Guelph Gryphons and pesky Brock Badgers, as Toronto looks to extend their win streak to seven, while chasing the top of the standings.
Western Mustangs struggle after first win
The Western Mustangs finally got themselves a win in the 2023-24 OUA season after starting their campaign 0-0-8, being one of the last teams in all of U SPORTS still winless as the calendar flipped to November.
Yet, things haven’t improved much since then. While the Mustangs beat a strong Lakehead Thunderwolves team 4-1 two weeks ago, with goals from Josh LeBlanc, Shane Bulitka, Jack Tucker and Andrew Bruder, they followed it up with a 6-1 loss to the Concordia Stingers and a 9-0 loss to the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks.
Head coach Clarke Singer’s team has had issues all around the rink this season and is struggling to keep scores tight and competitive as the season reaches the middle mark of the campaign.
While winning over Lakehead in front of an intimidating atmosphere is positive, they’ve been unable to build from that result. They have slipped to 1-10-0, a record that perils among the worst starts in recent OUA history.
Still, there was a positive start in the first period against Concordia, scoring the opening goal. Still, the group couldn’t maintain themselves in the contest, eventually falling to a five-goal loss.
“I thought we carried the momentum over from our Lakehead weekend,” head coach Clarke Singer said to Western Athletics post-game. “[We] had a really good first period, but after that, Concordia was much better than us in all areas.”
With six games remaining before the holiday break, stringing together a few more positive results and moments will be vital for the Mustangs if they wish to fight for meaningful games through to the later stages of the season.