BURLINGTON, Ont. – With the quest for the 106th Queen's Cup scheduled to begin Wednesday night, here's a quick look at the OUA West Division playoff matchups. Fans can catch all the action streaming live throughout the postseason on OUA.tv.
No. 1 Ryerson Rams (22-4-2) vs. No. 8 Waterloo Warriors (12-12-4)
Coming off one of the most dominant regular season performances in program history, the Rams hope they can keep it going as they chase that elusive first Queen's Cup in program history.
The Rams proved they can score and score in a hurry as they led the conference with 136 goals in the regular season, 34 more than their next closest divisional opponent. Ryerson peppered the opposition with everything they had, firing 35.8 shots per game at the opposing goalie which is the second highest mark in OUA. Special teams was a game-changer this year for the Rams as they converted on the power-play at a success rate of 24%, while their penalty-kill scored six short-handed goals.
For the Warriors to start thinking upset, they'll need to find a way to shut down the Rams power-play unit. Waterloo struggled killing penalties this season and with only a 79 percent success rate during the regular season, they'll need to make some adjustments quickly if Ryerson starts clicking. Like the Rams, the Warriors also like to take a ton of shots, but with an average of just 2.36 goals per game this year, Waterloo will need to start converting on their opportunities.
The Rams swept their two-game regular series with the Warriors, outscoring them 12-3 in the process.
Rams to Watch: F Aaron Armstrong – 27 GP, 17 G, 29 A, 46 PTS
Warriors to Watch: F Riley Sonnenburg– 28 GP, 11 G, 4 A, 15 PTS
No. 2 York Lions (18-6-4) vs. No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves (13-13-2)
If there's an opening round matchup that could come down to whoever scores the last goal of Game 3, it might just be this series between the Lions and Thunderwolves.
A major reason for the Lions success this season was their strong defensive play which begins in net. As a team, York led the conference with 2.00 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. However, they didn't exactly face a lot of rubber either. As a team, the Lions only allowed 746 shots on net this year, the fourth lowest mark in OUA. York is a disciplined team that excels on the penalty kill and if the old adage "defence wins championships" holds true, the Lions could be destined for a deep run in the Queen's Cup playoffs.
Much like their opening round opponents, the Thunderwolves play a fairly clean game as they only found themselves down a man 112 times this season, sixth fewest in OUA. However, when the Lions find themselves in penalty trouble, Lakehead will surely look to make them pay as the Thunderwolves ranked 7th with 20 power play goals during the regular season.
The Lions prevailed in both of their regular season meetings with the Thunderwolves. However, only one goal separated the teams in both of their matchups.
Lions to Watch: D Derek Sheppard – 28 GP, 12 G, 20 A, 32 PTS
Thunderwolves to Watch: D Patrick Murphy – 28 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 PTS
No. 3 Laurier Golden Hawks (15-9-4) vs. No. 6 Windsor Lancers (13-13-2)
Just a season removed from finishing 7th in the West, the Golden Hawks soar into their opening round matchup looking to make some serious noise.
Winners of five straight games, Laurier is chasing its first Queen's Cup since 1990. The Golden Hawks are a gritty team that just finds a way to win as five of their last six victories have been decided by just one goal. Despite a league low 82 power-play opportunities this season, Laurier will look to take control when on the man advantage, after averaging 22 percent on the power-play this season.
The Lancers will have to clean up their play if they hope to hang with the Hawks as Windsor took 149 penalties this season, the most of any team in the conference. Penalty trouble plagued the Lancers for much of the year and with any overworked penalty killing unit, the puck usually finds a way into the back of the net. During the regular season, the opposition scored a league-high 33 power-play goals against the Lancers.
Laurier swept their regular season series with the Lancers but both games were decided by just one goal, including a 2-1 shootout victory for the Golden Hawks.
Golden Hawks to Watch: F Andrew Fritsch – 28 GP, 11 G, 16 A, 27 PTS
Lancers to Watch: F Dylan Denomme – 25 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 14 PTS
No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (15-12-1) vs. No. 5 Brock Badgers (14-13-1)
Looking to make it three straight appearances in the OUA West Division finals, the 2015 Queen's Cup champion Guelph Gryphons will matchup with the feisty Brock Badgers in the opening round.
Guelph enters Thursday's game looking to end a mini three-game skid to end the regular season and it begins with doing what they do best: scoring goals. The Gryphons found the back of the net 102 times this season, the fifth highest mark in the conference, trailing only the previously mentioned Rams in the West division. However, recently it's been more so keeping the puck out of their net that has been the problem. Over the course of their losing streak, the Gryphs were outscored 22-9, including an 11-4 drubbing in their regular season finale against Ryerson.
After missing the postseason with a 6-15-7 record last year, the Badgers are back and their quest for the Queen's Cup begins Thursday in Guelph. After being penalized 134 times during the regular season, Brock will need to play a much more disciplined game if they hope to take down the Gryphons in the opening round. Especially facing a shot heavy offence like the Gryphons, the Badgers will need to find a way to limit their chances as Brock goalies made 984 saves this season, the most by any team in the league.
After a 7-2 stomping on the road by the Gryphons, the Badgers beat Guelph at home 3-2 to even their regular season series.
Gryphons to Watch: F Rob Lepine – 27 GP, 15 G, 16 A, 31 PTS
Badgers to Watch: F Andrew Radjenovic – 25 GP, 12 G, 19 A, 31 PTS