Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the first round matchups hitting the ice this week

Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the first round matchups hitting the ice this week

Burlington, Ont. - Let the quest for the Queen's Cup begin. 16 teams are set to hit the ice as part of this year's postseason play, but only time will tell who will light the lamp on their way to the next round and who will have the door slammed shut on their championship aspirations. 

East Division | West Division

East Division

No. 8 Laurentian Voyageurs (9-18-1) v. No. 1 Ottawa Gee-Gees (22-2-4)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Ottawa @ Laurentian | Wednesday, February 13 @ 7:35pm
Game 2 | Laurentian @ Ottawa | Saturday, February 16 @ 7:30pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Laurentian @ Ottawa | Sunday, February 17 @7:30pm

Quick Hits: On paper, this is a David and Goliath type story, as the teams rank on opposite ends of the spectrum in many of the primary categories this season. The top-seeded Gee-Gees ranked second in both goals per game (4.18) and goals against (2.25), while Laurentian was among the bottom three in both. But with a clean slate heading into the quest for the Queen's Cup, anything can happen when the puck drops on the series later this week.

Players to Watch: The conference's regular season champions have been led up front by Cody Drover (Grand-Falls Windsor, NL) – fifth in league scoring – and Kevin Domingue (Laval, Que.), who have combined for 33 goals and 77 points on the year, while the dynamic duo of Anthony Brodeur (Morin Heights, Que.) and Graham Hunt (Concord, MA) have been a revelation between the pipes. The two have combined for a second-ranked 2.25 GAA and third-best .922 SV% on the year and have been a tremendous complement to the division's top-ranked offence. It's tough to find an area of weakness for a team that was ranked among the top-three in several key statistical category this year, and the combined effort will aim for continued success heading into the second season.

Laurentian has seen the bulk of their goal-scoring glory come from Nicolas Dionne (Amos, Que.), who has accounted for 17 of the team's 70 goals on the year (24%). His 28 points paced the club this season, but a combined 18 goals from Richard Therrien (Hearst, Ont.) and Jacob Smith (Sudbury, Ont.), not to mention a team-high 15 helpers from the former, shows that there is some depth up front for the No. 8 seed. Like it has in their previous two meetings this season, however, they'll need to see their secondary scoring step up in a big way to contend with the high-flying Gee-Gees, while also needing a brick-wall effort between the pipes from Michael Giugovaz (Brampton, Ont.).

Season Series: Like they did all season for the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the goals came fast and furious in their two meetings with the Voyageurs this season. The Garnet and Grey netted half a dozen tallies in each contest, but their first-round opponents were no slouches on the scoreboard either. The Voyageurs greatly outpaced their season marks to average four goals a game in their two meetings with Ottawa this year, finding some holes in the armor of their premier puck-stoppers.

Ottawa's Drover notched a four-point night in the team's first matchup – one of four multi-point efforts for the Gee-Gees in the team's 6-5 win – while Brendan Jacome (Caledon, Ont.) led the way for the Gee-Gees with a pair of goals and an assist in their second and final meeting; a 6-3 victory for the nation's capital squad. Laurentian, meanwhile, got a goal and an assist from Smith, Dionne, and Gavin Apperson (New Hamburg, Ont.) in their five-goal output before Smith potted a pair in their latter meeting.

November 10, 2018 | Ottawa 6 Laurentian 5
February 8, 2019 | Laurentian 3 Ottawa 6

 

No. 7 UQTR Patriotes (14-11-3) v. No. 2 Carleton Ravens (18-5-5)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Carleton @ UQTR | Thursday, February 14 @ 7:00pm
Game 2 | UQTR @ Carleton | Saturday, February 16 @ 8:00pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | UQTR @ Carleton | Sunday, February 17 @ 7:00pm

Quick Hits: Despite this being a matchup between the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds, it certainly won't be a cake-walk for the higher-ranked Ravens. The two teams have played their way to three closely-contested, low-scoring affairs on the year, and even though Carleton swept the season series, the offensive potential of both sides, ranked fourth and fifth in goals per game, means that the story is anything but written in this one.  

Players to Watch: UQTR will bring a pair of the conference's top scorers into the first-round matchup, with the likes of Mathieu Lemay (Hawksbury, Ont.) and Christophe Boivin (Québec City, Que.) headlining the No. 7 seed's roster. The pair ranked third and fourth, respectively, in league scoring, and are among the most lethal duos hitting the ice this postseason. But while these point-producers, along with the rest of the UQTR roster, haven't had much trouble finding the back of the net this season, it will be their ability to keep the puck out that may be the key to them advancing. With an 11th-ranked goals-against average (3.09) as a team this year, the Patriotes will need goaltender Sebastien Auger (St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que.) to be at the top of his game to cool down Carleton.

Among those who Auger will be looking to slow down are Jacob Smith (Oshawa, Ont.) and Alexandre Boivin (Ottawa, Ont.). The two leading-scorers for the Ravens have been among the more consistent scorers in the conference, and along with Brogan O'Brien (Prince George, B.C.), their combined 11 game-winning goals also show that they can give their team a boost when needed. Francois Brassard (Gatineau, Que.), meanwhile, has also been among the OUA's best at his craft, ranking fifth with a stingy 2.33 GAA on the year, helping the team to a fourth-best goals against average overall (2.53) to match their fourth-ranked offence (3.50 goals per game).

Season Series: Despite the offensive prowess of both sides, it was the defence that stood tall in their three meetings this year. In the first outing, a pair of goals from O'Brien was enough to secure the comeback win for the Ravens and they matched that 2-1 score in their next meeting thanks to goals from Boivin and Smith. The following night, Carleton did one better with a 3-1 victory, with O'Brien once again providing the winning goal. Brassard led the way in net in all three wins, allowing just one goal in each.

It wasn't often that the Patriotes were kept in check on the scoreboard this year, but the Ravens managed to do so in their outings, only surrendering goals to Lemay, Boivin, and Olivier Caouette (Victoriaville, Que.). The team's top tender, Auger, stood tall in each of those contests, but was unable to add to his nine-win total in any of the outings against Carleton this year.

November 24, 2018 | UQTR 1 Carleton 2
February 1, 2019 | Carleton 2 UQTR 1
February 2, 2019 | Carleton 3 UQTR 1

 

No. 6 Concordia Stingers (15-11-2) v. No. 3 Queen's Gaels (19-9-0)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Concordia @ Queen's | Wednesday, February 13 @ 7:30pm
Game 2 | Queen's @ Concordia | Friday, February 15 @ 7:30pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Concordia @ Queen's | Saturday, February 16 @ 7:30pm

Quick Hits: Queen's boasts some of the best in the business in all facets of the games, which have helped them to a No. 3 rank in the division this year, but their opponents, the Concordia Stingers, are ready for the challenge. Neither team was able to earn much of an edge when they met last month, but an edge is exactly what will be needed to find a winner in the opening round. The pedigree is there on both sides for the heroics to happen, but it will be a tough matchup for both sides to kick off their quest for the Queen's Cup.

Players to Watch: With a pair of young goalies protecting the blue paint, one might have thought the Queen's Gaels were destined for a step back this season, but the dynamic duo has been at the forefront of the puck-stopping brigade all season long. Justin Fazio (Sarnia, Ont.) and Jack Flinn (Halifax, N.S.) have combined to notch a 2.70 GAA and second-ranked .928 SV% – with both goalies ranking in the top-five in the latter – but they also have one of the conference's top defenders in front of them. Spencer Abraham (Campbellville, Ont.) recently set the record for points by a Gaels defenceman, solidifying his mark as one of the premier two-way players in the country. The multi-faceted Tricolour can do more than just keep the puck out; however, as Slater Doggett (Oakville, Ont.) – who ranks third in the OUA in goals – leads a dynamic offence that had Queen's finish sixth in team offence this season (3.39 goals per game).

For the Stingers to find success, they will certainly be looking to keep up their top-ranked power play production that saw them tally 32 goals with the man advantage this season. This special teams play has been a key contributor to their seventh-ranked goal output (3.29 goals per game) and has helped to limit the damage done by a struggling penalty kill and overall defensive dip. Among those who contribute most on the power play are, unsurprisingly, two of the team's top-three scorers – Hugo Roy (Cookshire, Que.; 10 PPG) and Philippe Sanche (Mercier, Que.; 6 PPG). Along with the likes of Carl Neill (Lachute, Que.), who led the team with 33 points on the year (from the blue line, no less) and Philippe Hudon (Hudson, Que.), Concordia will certainly like to sting the Gaels on the scoreboard with any of the capable offensive weapons at their disposal.

Season Series: Two back-and-forth affairs took place when these teams met during the season, both within the past few weeks, as neither side was able to pull away from the other. Queen's put home the opening pair in their first meeting, only to see Concordia respond with two of their own. Queen's would regain the lead with a marker from Liam Dunda (Grimsby, Ont.), but another two goals from the Stingers, including the game-winner from Hudon helped the home side secure the 4-3 win.

The second meeting, just over a week later, was similar in its evolution. Jared Bethune (Fort Frances, Ont.) and Doggett opened the scoring for the Gaels, before the teams alternated goals thereafter. Trailing by two heading into the final frame, Concordia once again completed the comeback to send this one to the shootout, wherein Francesco Vilardi (Kingston, Ont.) lit the lamp for the decisive goal to give Queen's the 4-3 edge and end the season series tied at one-apiece.

January 18, 2019 | Queen's 3 Concordia 4
January 26, 2019 | Concordia 3 Queen's 4 (SO)

 

No. 5 UOIT Ridgebacks (14-9-5) v. No. 4 McGill Redmen (16-8-4)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | McGill @ UOIT | Wednesday, February 13 @ 7:30pm
Game 2 | UOIT @ McGill | Saturday, February 16 @ 7:00pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | UOIT @ McGill | Sunday, February 17 @ 7:00pm

Quick Hits: They may be entering as the division's No. 4 seed this season, but make no mistake that the McGill Redmen know what it takes to stand out in the second season, which is exactly what they'll be looking to do as they begin their quest for a repeat title. But when you come in with the moniker of champion, the target on your back gets a little bigger, and the first club going for the early knockout punch is the UOIT Ridgebacks. While the Oshawa squad may not have the same postseason pedigree as the 2018 champs, they finished just three points back in the regular season and are on the prowl for more once the puck drops on their playoff push.

Players to Watch: One of the conference's top goaltenders has made his mark more than once throughout his career, but he'll be looking to stand tall between the pipes for a second straight championship run for the Redmen. Louis-Philip Guindon (St. Joseph du Lac, Que.) registered a 2.45 GAA and .912 SV% on the season to pace the Québec squad, and with plenty of offensive firepower across the league, the reigning East Division Goalie of the Year will need to do much of the same this postseason. Up front, the talented tender will have a front row seat to watch the OUA's third-ranked offence (3.54 goals per game) do what they do best when they roll out seven 20+ point-getters, including the likes of top point-producer Jerome Verrier (Drummondville, Que.; 24 points) and top goal-scorer Nikolas Brouillard (St. Hilaire, Que.; 12 goals).

Like McGill, one player who will need to maintain his high level of play is the one protecting the blue paint, as Michael Bullion (Anchoridge, AK) brings his stingy stats to his first look at OUA playoff hockey. The first-year goaltender has been lights out for the Ridgebacks, and in splitting playing time evenly this year, has put up a 2.15 GAA (2nd in the OUA) and.927 SV% (3rd in the OUA) en route to a 10-4 record. UOIT will turn to another freshman to chip in offensively, meanwhile, as Jake Bricknell (Port Perry, Ont.) has proven to be one of the more consistent weapons the Ridgebacks have rolled out this season, especially after losing their top scorer midway through the season to the ECHL. Bricknell's 21 points are good enough for third on the team, trailing only Danny Elser (Hopewell Junction, NY) and Malik Johnson (Montréal, Que.), who will also be relied on to produce points after their combined 50 during the regular season.

Season Series: The Redmen swept the season series with the Ridgebacks, but in their most recent out – coming just under two weeks ago – the Oshawa squad was able to push the fourth-seeded squad to an extra frame. In that one, it was Samuel Tremblay that came through in the clutch for McGill, putting home the winner with just under two minutes to go in overtime, but if not for a late marker from Verrier in the final period, the game would have gone to the Ridgebacks. Kyle Locke (Aurora, Ont.) and Brett Harasymuk (Yorkton, Sask.) provided the offence for UOIT in the 3-2 loss; both coming in the second period.

Despite the loss, the game was a nice step forward for UOIT compared to their first meeting with McGill. Earlier in the season, it was Guindon who stole the show for the Redmen, turning aside all 36 shots he faced to secure the shutout. While the team potted three goals in front of him, only the first ended up a requirement, and the opening goal came via a shorthanded effort from Frederic Gamelin (St. Polycarpe, Que.) just over six minutes into the game.

January 20, 2019 | McGill 3 UOIT 0
February 3, 2019 | UOIT 2 McGill 3 (OT)

 

West Division

No. 8 Toronto Varsity Blues (11-13-4) v. No. 1 Ryerson Rams (22-2-4)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Toronto @ Ryerson | Thursday, February 14 @ 7:15pm
Game 2 | Ryerson @ Toronto | Saturday, February 16 @ 7:00pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Toronto @ Ryerson | Sunday, February 17 @7:15pm

Quick Hits: These two first-round combatants aren't separated by much geographically, but there is a fair amount of separation in the standings, with the Ryerson Rams claiming the division's top spot behind the league's far-and-away top offence. Like any good rivalry, however, both the Rams and the Toronto Varsity Blues tend to bring their A-game to their head-to-head meetings. So whether talking about the favourite or the underdog, the chance to win is very much on the table, just like their season series would suggest.

Players to Watch: Unsurprisingly, the league's top offence (4.75 goals per game) needs a driving force behind their production. The Ryerson Rams, however, have multiple. The talented group of forwards starts with the conference's top point-producer, Matt Mistele (Whitby, Ont.), who compiled 50 points for the year (20 G, 30 A), and it continues from there. They also boast the league's leading goal-scorer, and including Mistele, the co-leaders in passing. Mathew Santos' (Toronto, Ont.) 23 goals and Alex Basso's (Toronto, Ont.) 30 helpers show the offensive proficiency of the team, whether that is up front or on the back end, and this vaunted attack will be a tough matchup regardless of who they line up against. While they have shown the ability to outscore their opponents, they have also given up their fair share of goals, so there should be no shortage of excitement when they take on Toronto this week.

While the Rams top the league's offence, Toronto was ranked among the lower-scoring bunches, collecting under 2.5 goals per contest for the year. While a mix of freshmen and seniors – including David Thomson (Vaughan, Ont.) and Matt Campagna (Mississauga, Ont.) – provide a spark up front, a lot of the team's success this season came from their stellar play defensively. A big piece to that puzzle was between the pipes, as Alex Bishop (Richmond Hill, Ont.) took on the lion's share of the work in his first year with the team. The freshman started 20 games for the Blues and picked up nine wins along the way thanks to a stellar 2.35 GAA and .917 SV%. Bishop and the Blues have a tall task in front of them to shut down the Rams, so they'll need a total team effort from the net out to get the job done.

Season Series: The Blues may not have been an offensive juggernaut this season, but they had no trouble finding the back of the net in their win against Ryerson. And even though the Rams notched 14 tallies across the two meetings, it was Toronto that ultimately earned the 2-1 edge in their season series.

In the opener, it was the Rams that did what they do best – score. Toronto's Nathan Hudgin (Scarborough, Ont.) opened the scoring, but it was all Ryerson the rest of the way. The top-ranked Rams scored the next five goals, before the two teams alternated with one each to close things out in a 6-2 final. Six Rams had multi-point efforts, highlighted by a hat trick from Devon Paliani (LaSalle, Ont.), as well as two goals and a helper from Steven Harland (Toronto, Ont.). The rematch saw a bit of a flipped script when it took to the ice. The Rams got off to the hot start in that one, building a 3-0 lead halfway through the first, before Toronto then took over. Five different Blue reeled off five straight goals, including the eventual game-winner from Matt Heffernan (London, Ont.), and ultimately gave the team just enough of a boost to come away with the 5-4 win.

The two teams may have saved the best for last, however, as their rubber match had a little bit of everything. The Blues opened the game with the first two goals, including another from Hudgin, who continued to shine against the Rams this year. Ryerson would get one back before the Blues picked up another pair to push their lead to three. That lead wouldn't make it the end of the period; however, as the Rams reeled off three goals in the final half of the third, including Basso's game-tying mark with just 2:18 remaining to give the fans a little extra hockey on the night. Overtime solved nothing, but in the shootout, it was Campagna and, you guessed it, Hudgin, that bulged the twine and capped off the thrilling 5-4 win to give Toronto the bragging rights in their regular season head-to-heads.

October 12, 2018 | Ryerson 6 Toronto 2
November 29, 2018 | Toronto 5 Ryerson 4
February 2, 2019 | Toronto 5 Ryerson 4 (SO)

 

No. 7 York Lions (12-14-2) v. No. 2 Brock Badgers (19-5-4)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | York @ Brock | Wednesday, February 13 @ 7:15pm
Game 2 | Brock @ York | Friday, February 15 @ 7:00pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | York @ Brock | Sunday, February 17 @3:15pm

Quick Hits: From the fifth-seed a season ago, the Brock Badgers proved they had what it takes to make a push for the Queen's Cup. And after a record-setting regular season for the program has them entering as the No. 2 seed, they'll look to finish what they started a season ago. A championship-calibre squad awaits them to open their postseason push; however, and it is one they know well. The two teams met a season ago in the division finals – a series in which Brock ultimately prevailed – and also crossed paths four more times during the regular season, but as this first-round clash pits these familiar foes against each other once again, the outcome will be based on which squad is able to showcase that top-tier pedigree more.

Players to Watch: Brock lost a key piece of their roster after their run last season, leaving a void in net that needed to be filled, given the importance of position to their 2018 success. But the Badgers have turned the loss into a big win with Logan Thomson (Calgary, Alta.) not only taking the reins, but running with them full speed ahead. The rookie goaltender has played his way to a third-ranked 2.22 GAA and second-ranked .934 SV% in helping the Badgers boast a league-low 2.19 goals-against per game. The team, while ranking in the top-10 offensively, does not have a 20-point player on the roster, so as the games get a little tighter and the playoffs progress, the team's defensive prowess may prove to be a difference-maker for another championship run.

York, while slipping in record from past seasons, still boasts an experienced lineup to roll out in the postseason. Up front, the team's top scorers – both of whom eclipsed the 30-point plateau – are Scott Feser (Red Deer, Alta.) and Reid Jackman (Etobicoke, Ont.). The duo are more than capable of leading an offence and did so at a clip just below their first-round combatants (3.07 goals per game), but they aren't the only experienced Lions hoping to lead their team to a first-round win. Mack Shields (Saskatoon, Sask.) is another veteran that has been a key part of the Lions' success, and the third-year goalie will need to be on top of his game against Brock, especially given that he has had to turn away some of the most shots throughout the season. A young defensive corps will also be called upon to lessen the load on Shields and company, but as is the case for several championship squads, it will be about the team as a whole if York wants to hoist the Queen's Cup once again.

Season Series: Four times these teams met during the season, including two this month alone. From their second game of the season to their second last, a trend developed over this season series, and it is one that has greatly favoured the No. 2 Badgers. The St. Catharines squad proved victorious in all four of their meetings, which should give them a boost of confidence heading into their best-of-three series.

Early in the year, Brock tallied five goals to earn a high-scoring win, with Ryan Burton (Thunder Bay, Ont.) leading the way with a four-point performance. From there, York came to within one goal of Brock thanks to a late tally from Morgan Messenger (Cape Sable Island, N.S.), but it wasn't enough to top their opposition, as the Lions fell 4-3. Two third-period goals, including the game-winner from Tyler Rollo (Burlington, Ont.) helped the Badgers skate by York 3-1 in their third meeting and they closed their head-to-head matchups with an even more convincing effort. The teams were tied at one after the first period, but two more goals for Brock took them late into the game when they tallied another two empty-netters to finish off their penultimate game with a 5-1 victory.

October 12, 2018 | York 3 Brock 5
January 5, 2019 | Brock 4 York 3
February 3, 2019 | Brock 3 York 1
February 9, 2019 | York 1 Brock 5

 

No. 6 Laurier Golden Hawks (13-14-1) v. No. 3 Western Mustangs (15-12-1)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Laurier @ Western | Thursday, February 14 @ 7:00pm
Game 2 | Western @ Laurier | Friday, February 15 @ 7:07pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Laurier @ Western | Sunday, February 17 @7:00pm

Quick Hits: Another two teams that are quite familiar with each other are also starting their respective quests for the Queen's Cup in head-to-head fashion. The Laurier Golden Hawks and Western Mustangs, while neither jump off the page either offensively or defensively, have both been able to string together successful campaigns. With four in-season meetings already under their belts, these squads will surely be familiar with other by now, and as they prepare for up to three more games going toe-to-toe, the team that can capitalize on this familiarity may very well be the one who prevails.

Players to Watch: Laurier finished their season right around the .500 mark, didn't really surpass the middle of the pack in any key statistical categories outside of their strong penalty kill, and didn't have a 20-point player on the roster. But that doesn't mean they aren't a threat each time they take to the ice. And they compiled their postseason-bound play thanks to their unit as a whole. They may not have a go-to scoring threat, but a total of 12 Golden Hawks registered double-digit points on the year, led by Christian Mroczkowski (Kitchener, Ont.; 19 points), Will Cook (Port Stanley, Ont.; 18 points), and Jeremy Pullara (; 17 points). They'll need to unfurl this dynamic depth at a similar clip if they want to see their playoff push go beyond their first-round foes, but as their season series suggests, it can do just that.

The third-seeded 'Stangs put together a similar formula for success this season as the Hawks, not relying on any one go-to player, but rather racking up the wins with a total team effort. Trevor Warnaar (Brampton, Ont.) and Ethan Szypula (London, Ont.) have combined for 42 points on the year, with the latter representing the team's lone double-digit goal-scorer (10), but it is the ability for multiple players to impact the offence that has made them so successful this season. Eight players have at least 12 points for Western, with all but one checking in as either a freshman or sophomore. Providing support of another kind, meanwhile, is one of the league's top goalies – Luke Peresinni (Nobleton, Ont.). The third-year puck-stopper registered a 2.34 GAA and .925 SV% to rank sixth in both categories and will surely be relied upon to help his side ride on into the sunset (a.k.a. the second round).

Season Series: These two teams all but spanned the gambit in their four meetings, with the first resulting in a low-scoring shootout and the last in a goal-scoring frenzy. Laurier earned the edge to open the season series, as Warnaar and Pullara traded goals in regulation before Laurier notched two more in the shootout to earn the slim win. The purple and gold would follow that up with a similar result in their next meeting, albeit it in a more offence-driven affair this time around. A pair of goals from Mack Graham (Toronto, Ont.) and three assists from Kyle Jenkins (Brampton, Ont.) highlighted the 5-1 win.

Western added a tally in their win column in the third meeting, with even more offence coming from both sides. With the score tied at 3-apiece heading into the final frame, it was the Mustangs who galloped to the win behind third period tallies from Szypula and Ray Huether (Londesbourgh, Ont.). In the finale, the results ratcheted up to an offensive onslaught for both sides, with the two teams combining for four goals in each of the three periods. The teams traded goals at the outset – a pattern that took them all the way to the 3-3 mark – before Alex Black (Kitchener, Ont.) and Ethan Wiseman (Mississauga, Ont.) gave Laurier the two-goal edge. A late shorthanded tally from Western's Trent Ouellette (Castor, Alta.) brought the purple ponies back to within one, but an empty-netter sealed the deal on Laurier's 7-5 win and season-series win.

November 3, 2018 | Laurier 2 Western 1 (SO)
January 11, 2019 | Laurier 5 Western 1
January 26, 2019 | Western 5 Laurier 3
February 2, 2019 | Western 5 Laurier 7

 

No. 5 Windsor Lancers (13-14-1) v. No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (13-11-4)


Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Windsor @ Guelph | Thursday, February 14 @ 7:30pm
Game 2 | Guelph @ Windsor | Saturday, February 16 @ 7:30pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Windsor @ Guelph | Sunday, February 17 @7:30pm

Quick Hits: They went the distance in their first-round matchup a year ago, but it was the Guelph Gryphons that ultimately prevailed with a decisive Game 3 victory over the Windsor Lancers. They may have only met twice this season, but Guelph put a similar stamp on their head-to-head action to close out their respective seasons, which should give the No. 4 seed a big boost of confidence heading into the opening round. But with such a quick turnaround from their last meeting to their now best-of-three series, the Lancers will be looking to exact some immediate revenge on their upcoming combatants.

Players to Watch: They may only rank 10th in offence, but the Gryphons have done well to apply the pressure on the opposition this season thanks to their top-ranked 38.6 shots per game. They may not be going in at the clip they want, but what they do have going for them is the ability to turn shots away. The duo of Andrew Masters (Kitchener, Ont.) and Evan Cormier (Bowmanville, Ont.) split time very effectively this season and the terrific tandem compiled the league's third-best goals-against average (2.44) as well as a fourth-ranked .920 SV%. Some of their best success defensively this season has come when down a man, meanwhile, as the Gryphons have stood tall to the tune of just 10 power play goals against (a league-best total). So while veterans like Scott Simmonds (Uxbridge, Ont.) and Cody Thomspon (Mississauga, Ont.) will be among those carrying the offence, the team's true ace(s) up their sleeve may rest between the pipes.

Jonathan Reinhart (Cambridge, Ont.) will be tasking with matching Guelph save for save in this series, and he'll do so with 27 games under his belt this season. The Lancers goaltender took on the bulk of the workload this season, to say the least, and performed admirably en route to an 11-win output. Up front, the team will look to spark an offence that was snake-bitten against Guelph this season, and leading point-producer Kyle Hope (Blenheim, Ont.) – who led Windsor with 11 goals – will be a focal point therein. Alex Friesen (Essex, Ont.; 24 points), Ethan Skinner (Kincardine, Ont.; 21 points), and the remaining seven double-digit point-producers, however, will all need to be on their game to break down the barrier that is the Gryphons goaltending.

Season Series: In 120 minutes of hockey against each other this year, the Windsor Lancers were unable to bulge the twine against the Gryphons, which is obviously something that must change for them to move on in their quest for the cup. Despite the lack of scoring from the No. 5 seed, they still found themselves right in the thick of their first meeting, thanks to the play of Reinhart, who turned away 40 of 41 shots in the 1-0 loss. The lone blemish came early in the third off the stick of Matt Kenney (London, Ont.) to give the visiting Gryphons the win.

To close out their respective regular seasons, the two teams once again got acquainted in what has ultimately proven to be a teaser for their upcoming series. And if that game was any indication of what's to come, the Gryphons are in good hands. Despite a different goalie in net, Guelph still managed to keep the puck out all game long, but had no problem sealing the deal on the other end this time around. Connor Bramwell (Hamilton, Ont.) both opened and closed the scoring in this one as part of a three-point night, while multi-point efforts from four more of his teammates put an exclamation point on the 5-0 shutout.

November 24, 2018 | Guelph 1 Windsor 0
February 9, 2019 | Windsor 0 Guelph 5