Women’s hockey team opens season at home this weekend

The York University Lions women’s hockey team will begin the 2009-2010 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) regular season this weekend with games against the Queen’s University Gaels on Saturday and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks on Sunday. Puck drop is scheduled for 2pm for both games.

Optimism is high among team members as they look ahead to a new campaign. After a second straight appearance in the post-season last year, the players are ready to take the next step and have targeted a playoff win as their next major goal.

In the five years since head coach Dan Church took over, the Lions have improved each season and qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two years. Last season, the Lions continued their ascension in the OUA standings with a fourth-place finish and entered the national rankings for the first time, ending the season at No. 8. A loss to Brock University in the OUA quarterfinals has left the team hungry for more and they will be gunning for a deep run in the post-season this year.

“We want to improve on our finish from last year,” said Church. “The OUA is very competitive but we want to move up and be a top-three team. We finished at No. 8 in the CIS and with that comes expectations. We want to go a lot deeper in the playoffs and challenge for the OUA title.”

Other than women’s hockey, the weekend home schedule is light for the Lions. The only other action will come from soccer as the men’s and women’s teams will be in action on Friday afternoon beginning at 1pm at York Stadium. 

The two soccer teams went a combined 4-0 last weekend with victories over the McMaster University Marauders and Brock University Badgers. The women are now second in the OUA West, tied with Brock with a 5-1-2 record, and are just three points behind the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks. The men moved up to third in their division with two shutout victories this past week and now sit at No. 4 in the national rankings.

Also beginning conference play this weekend is the men’s hockey team. The Lions will be in Thunder Bay to take on the Lakehead UniversityThunderwolves on Friday and Saturday night, with both games scheduled for 7:30pm. 

The Lions finished a respectable 14-11-3 in 2008-09 after a roller coaster season that included a coaching change after just eight games. The team pushed through the adversity and won the OUA Mid West division title. Head coach Jim Wells, who took over last year and will be behind the bench moving forward, built his team this season with the goal of winning a playoff game, something no active Lion has experienced. 

The divisions have been reshuffled this year with the addition of the Nipissing University Lakers to the OUA and as a result, the Lions now play in the OUA West. They’ll face some stiff competition this season but have the talent and experience to finish near the top, qualify for the playoffs and make a strong run through the post-season.