Lions host Brock team in provincial women’s hockey quarter-final

The York Lions women’s hockey team will host the Brock University Badgers tonight at 7pm in an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-final contest at Canlan Ice Sports arena. The Lions are making their second straight appearance in the post-season after a five-year absence.

This playoff game promises to be exciting as the No. 4-seeded Lions and No. 5 Badgers are closely matched and the outcome could go either way. Both teams finished with the same number of points this season at 30, but York secured home ice advantage on the strength of its 15 league wins compared to only 13 by Brock.

In spite of its higher seeding, the Lions will be in tough against the Badgers, who defeated the Lions in three regular-season meetings this year. All three games were won by just a single goal as Brock won 1-0 and 4-3 on home ice and 3-2 on York’s home turf. Home ice advantage may be the difference in this game. The Lions are a stellar 9-4 in conference games at Canlan Ice Sports arena this season, while the Badgers are just 5-8 on the road.

The Lions come into this contest on a high note after a thrilling final weekend of regular-season play. In the second-to-last game on the schedule, York beat the previously undefeated and No. 2-ranked Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks 3-2, ending their run at 26 consecutive victories and denying the Hawks a chance to finish the regular season with a perfect record. Overall, the Lions have won eight of their past 10 games.

The Lions will also get a boost in the lineup from the return of head coach Dan Church, forward Courtney Unruh and defenceman Kelsey Webster, who spent the last two weeks representing Canada at the 24th International University Sports Federation (FISU) Winter Universiade in Harbin, China. Unruh scored the winning goal in the championship game to secure the gold medal for the Canadian team. 

Right: Dan Church behind the Lions’ bench

The Badgers also knocked out a contender in the final weekend by defeating the No. 9-ranked University of Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1 on the road to close out the regular season. Even with the big win, the Badgers have encountered trouble down the stretch and the team has a 5-3-2 record in its past 10 games.

York has two scorers among the OUA’s top 20 and Brock has one. Lions fourth-year forward Mandy Cole is fifth in league scoring with 27 points and Autumn Mills is 17th with 18 points while the Badgers’ Kelly Walker is 10th with 24 points.

The winner of the game will advance to a best-of-three OUA semifinal series against either the top-seeded Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks or the No. 2 University of Guelph Gryphons. In the other OUA quarter-final taking place on Tuesday night, the No. 3 University of Toronto Varsity Blues welcome the No. 6 Queen’s University Gaels to town.