Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the divisional finals hitting the ice this week

Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the divisional finals hitting the ice this week

Burlington, Ont. - After one of the more unpredictable rounds in recent memory sent four more teams home, the final four remain with a chance at playing for the Queen's Cup on the line. The divisional finals are set to hit the ice this week, but before the puck drops, see how these semifinal showdowns stack up.

No. 4 Queen’s Gaels (18-10-0) v. No. 2 Carleton Ravens (18-5-5)

Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Queen’s @ Carleton | Thursday, February 28 @ 7:00pm
Game 2 | Carleton @ Queen’s | Friday, March 1 @ 7:30pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Queen’s @ Carleton | Sunday, March 3 @7:0pm

Quick Hits: One team took down the division’s top seed and the other scored the series win over the reigning champions, but only one of these semifinal squads will earn a chance at claiming this year’s Queen’s Cup. After a flurry of action in the second round, the Carleton Ravens now find themselves as the highest ranked squad remaining, and while they’ll look to show exactly why they deserve such a title, the Queen’s Gaels will have their eyes on another upset over a nation’s capital inhabitant to secure their spot in the provincial finale.

Last Round: It was smooth sailing for Queen’s in Round 1, but their encore pitted them against the division’s top-ranked team. And while the Gee-Gees gave the Gaels everything they could handle, the Tricolour had that little bit extra to give in what ended as a Round 2 upset over No. 1 Ottawa.

The Gaels shocked the Gee-Gees in the opener to halt the top team’s momentum in its tracks. Despite falling behind 2-1 early in the second period, a pair of tallies from Mason Kohn (Hollywood, FL), including one on the powerplay, secured the comeback win for Queen’s and sent them back to Kingston for a chance at the sweep. Unfortunately for Queen’s, Ottawa had every intention of returning to the Minto Sports Complex, and despite goals from Spencer Abraham (Campbellville, Ont.) and Alex Row (Elizabethtown, Ont.), the Gee-Gees’ five-goal output helped them do just that.

Left with a win-or-go-home game, defence went out the window and had both teams scoring left, right, and centre. Queen’s came out flying with three goals in the opening frame, including two from Slater Doggett (Oakville, Ont.). Like they had all season, however, Ottawa responded on the offensive end with three of their own to tie things up just a minute into the third and final period. Kohn netted his third of the series to give Queen’s the lead once more, but once again, the Gee-Gees responded. Just 32 seconds later, however, Jared Bethune (Fort Frances, Ont.) scored the Gaels’ fifth goal, which he followed up less than a minute after that to produce a two-goal cushion. And even though Ottawa got one back within mere seconds, that’s as close as they’d get, as Queen’s shut the door on the East Division powerhouse.

It was a similar script for the Carleton Ravens, who despite entering as the higher seed, were faced with knocking off one of the toughest opponents across the OUA. And while Queen’s got the edge in their opening game, Carleton wasn’t quite as lucky. The Ravens got down early in Game 1, and even with a powerplay marker from Brogan O’Brien (Prince George, B.C.) cutting the lead in half with just over 13 minutes left to play, an insurance goal from McGill put it out of reach and left Carleton in a do-or-die position on the road in Game 2.

While the offence couldn’t muster much against the Redmen in Game 1, they came alive in their next encounter, finding the back of the net early and often to get the black birds soaring out of the gates. By the 12-minute mark of the first period, Carleton piled up a 4-0 lead, thanks in part to a flurry of scoring sandwiched by Matthew Forchuk (Okotoks, Alta.). The opening 20 minutes was far from over; however, as that lead quickly dwindled to just one before the first intermission. A scoreless second set the table for Jared Steege (Cobden, Ont.) to put home the insurance marker in the third and ensure that the teams would head back to the CU Ice House for a deciding Game 3.

In that decisive contest, the teams were ready to go tit-for-tat right down to the wire. McGill opened the scoring, but less than a minute later, Carleton responded with a goal from Josh Burnside (Brampton, Ont.). That was the first of three consecutive goals for the Ravens to give them a two-goal lead with just 20 minutes to play. McGill threw everything they had at the No. 2 seed; however, and managed to tie the game and force the extra frame. Like he did the game prior, the final goal came off the stick of Steege, whose overtime heroics ensured that Carleton would stake their claim as one of just four squads still playing.

Season Series: Each team secured a high-scoring win during their two-game regular season series and each side pulled off the feat on their home ice. If that pattern holds true, the higher-ranked Ravens may be set up for success, but as recent history would suggest, nothing is set in stone until the final buzzer sounds.

To kick off the month of November, Carleton welcomed Queen’s to Ottawa, but thanks to a goal from the hosts less than one minute in, it certainly wasn’t the warmest of welcomes. Queen’s was able to respond and knot things up at one, but from there, Carleton was firmly in the driver’s seat. Cody Caron (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) got the lead back for the black birds, while also starting a string of five straight goals for the home side from five different goals scorers.

Almost a month later, the tables turned, and it was Queen’s who was hoping to return the favour to their East Division foes. Row got the festivities started for the Gaels, but the teams took turns bulging the twine until the nine-minute mark of the third. With the score tied at two, Doggett notched his first of two on the night, bookending a Duncan Campbell (Brandon, Man.) tally, that helped Queen’s sprint to the finish line and come away with the series split.

November 2, 2018 | Queen’s 3 Carleton 6
November 30, 2018 | Carleton 2 Queen’s 5


No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (13-11-4) v. No. 3 Western Mustangs (15-12-1)

Schedule (Best-of-Three):
Game 1 | Guelph @ Western | Thursday, February 28 @ 7:00pm
Game 2 | Western @ Guelph | Saturday, March 2 @ 7:30pm
Game 3 (if necessary) | Guelph @ Western | Sunday, March 3 @7:00pm

Quick Hits: Upsets were the fad of the round in the West Division, as both the Western Mustangs and Guelph Gryphons proved victorious over their higher-ranked combatants. Both teams will bring a sense of confidence to the table after knocking off the reigning Queen’s Cup finalists and West Division top seed, respectively, but both will need to offer up similar performances if they want to cool off their fellow streaking semifinalist.

Last Round: Western had a battle-tested Brock squad lining up against them in Round 2, not to mention one of the best goaltenders in the league standing in their way of a spot in the division finals. Spenser Cobbold (Ottawa, Ont.) put an early chink in Logan Thompson’s armor in Game 1, scoring just 3:31 into the game, but there was more work to be done. Brock took a one-goal lead into the final frame, which left Western in come-from-behind mentality. Kyle Petit (Komoka, Ont.) helped get the ball rolling on the comeback with the man advantage, and less than two minutes after that, Cordell James (Powassan, Ont.) sealed the deal to give Western the lead and the win.

Western once again found themselves trailing in Game 2, falling behind by an identical 2-1 score heading into the final frame for the second straight game. It looked like history would repeat itself in front of their home crowd, as Ray Huether (Londesbourgh, Ont.) tied things up early in the period, but it was not meant to be. Brock buried the game-winner with six minutes to play to ensure that they would not only score the win, but score a chance at the series victory on their home ice.

With how the rest of the series played out, a closely-contested rubber match seemed very much in the cards, but as was the theme of the entire Round 2 slate, expectations did not match reality. Trevor Warnaar (Brampton, Ont.) netted the game’s lone first period goal, but that proved to just be a drop in the bucket. Three goals in the second period, followed by another three in the third had Western racing toward the third round in dominant fashion. Five Mustangs recorded multi-point efforts, while Luke Peresinni (Nobleton, Ont.) turned away 31 shots in the series-deciding game.

Guelph also needed three games to slay the offensive juggernaut Rams in Round 2, but unlike the path of their upcoming combatants, their series got closer as it carried on. Guelph dominated much of their opening contest with Ryerson, thanks in large part to their ability to limit them in the offensive zone. The Rams recorded just 24 shots against Andrew Masters (Kitchener, Ont.), who turned away all but one, while a pair of goals from Mikkel Aagaard (Frederikshavn, Denmark) put a bow on a steady 4-1 win.

The Rams’ offence came alive in Game 2; however, just like one would expect from a top-seeded team on the ropes. Ryerson netted three straight goals after Guelph opened the scoring, but the production did not stop there. Seth Swenson (Parker, CO) and Todd Winder (Uxbridge, Ont.) each scored before the second period was out to tie things up with just 20 minutes to play. The Rams rebuilt their two-goal lead, but after the Gryphons cut it in half, they completed the comeback with under a minute to play on a goal from Connor Bramwell (Hamilton, Ont.). The final comeback was not meant to be, however, as the visiting Rams sent the series back to Toronto with the overtime winner in Game 2.

The winner-take-all finale was unfolding a lot like the opener at first. Guelph notched four of the first five goals to take a commanding lead halfway through Game 3. A pair of goals from captain Scott Simmonds (Uxbridge, Ont.) helped give the Gryphons that cushion, and when all was said and done, they needed every bit of it to secure the win. Ryerson responded with a pair before the second period was out, but a scoreless third period ensured that the No. 4 Gryphons would advance and meet Western for West Division glory.

Season Series: Much like the Mustangs did to wrap up their series with Brock, the Gryphons put their foot down in their final regular season meeting with Western. That definitive victory, however, served as a retort to the ‘Stangs earlier success against Guelph, which saw them get the better of the third-round foes by way of a victory on their home ice in London.

In that first matchup, Guelph got on the board first just two minutes in, but not only was that lead short-lived, it was the only time they’d find themselves ahead for the rest of the game. Mitchell Fitzsimmons (Ingersoll, Ont.) was quick to tie things up for the purple and white, while a powerplay goal from Ethan Szypula (London, Ont.) would give Western the lead for good. Two more goals would push the final to 4-1, which was backed by a 34-save performance from Peresinni.

Western turned to their back-up tender in the rematch; however, and despite turning away 38 shots on the night, Guelph was not going to be limited in this one. Justin Lemcke (Whitby, Ont.) put home the lone goal in the first, before the teams traded tallies in the second. The third period, though, was all Guelph, and the team did not let up. Thompson pushed Guelph’s lead back to two, before a pair from Marc Stevens (Turkey Point, Ont.) doubled that late cushion. A final two goals for the Gryphs’ left no doubt in this one, and while that result will have surely left a bad taste in Western’s mouth, their chance at revenge lies ahead with a spot in the Queen’s Cup final on the line.

January 4, 2019 | Guelph 1 Western 4
January 19, 2019 | Western 1 Guelph 7