Lions to honour 50 years of men’s hockey on Saturday

The York University Lions men’s hockey team will honour 50 years of the program’s history on Saturday, Jan. 21 as part of its game against the visiting UOIT Ridgebacks.

Puck drop is set for 7pm at Canlan Ice Sports and the game can also be seen live at SSN Canada.

In honour of the 50th anniversary, a special invitation was extended to all York alumni and there will be several giveaways, contests and prizes for all fans in attendance. Many former members of the program have also come together to create the Arthur John Boynton Bursary in honour of former player and coach Art Boynton. Boynton passed away in March 2011, but his wife Marilyn will be on-hand on Saturday for a ceremonial puck drop.

Prior to Saturday’s game, the Lions will also be in action on Friday night against the Brock Badgers in St. Catharines, Ontario, in a contest that begins at 7:15pm at the Seymour-Hannah Centre.

Heading into this weekend’s games the Lions are one of the hottest teams in the OUA with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games and a run of three wins in four games to start 2012. The only blip on their record so far this year was a 4-2 loss to the Western Mustangs, who are ranked No. 4 in the CIS, two weeks ago.

Last weekend, the Lions went 2-0 thanks to tremendous goaltending by rookie Andrew Perugini (King City, Ontario). He posted his first career shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks on Thursday and one night later made 23 saves in a 3-2 win over the Waterloo Warriors, who are now just two points ahead of the Lions in the standings.

The team’s recent surge has cemented its place among the OUA West’s top four and the Lions (10-8-3) have already surpassed last year’s points total with seven games still remaining on the schedule. With 23 points they hold down fourth place in the division, two points up on the Badgers.

Perugini is not the only rookie making noise this season as the Lions have benefited greatly from the stellar offensive output of a talented group of first-year players. Tyler McGee (Timmins, Ontario) and Troy Barss (Barrie, Ontario) are both on the OUA’s top-10 rookie scoring list with 22 and 18 points, respectively, Evan Gravenor (Winnipeg, Manitoba) is just behind them with 16, and Bryan Weinberg (Thornhill, Ontario) is coming off a two-goal performance last weekend.

The Ridgebacks finished a program-best seventh in the OUA West last season with 12 wins but have struggled this year and are 4-16-1, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the division. They are coming off a mixed weekend at home against the nationally ranked Lakehead Thunderwolves that resulted in a pair of high-scoring contests, as the two teams combined for 26 goals in two games. The Ridgebacks lost the first game 8-5 but rebounded the following night to win by the same 8-5 score, a victory that snapped a seven-game winless skid.

The Ridgebacks are being carried on offence by forward Tony Rizzi (Kingston, Ontario), who leads the team in scoring with 18 points in 21 games, and defender Mike Noyes (Lucan, Ontario), who is tied for eighth in OUA scoring by defencemen with 16 points.

Saturday’s game is the third and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Lions won the previous two, both on the road in Oshawa, Ontario, defeating the Ridgebacks 5-2 on opening weekend and then by a 4-3 score in early November.

The Lions will return to the ice next weekend for a home-and-home series with the Guelph Gryphons, who have a 5-12-4 record for seventh place in the OUA West standings. The first game is set for Thursday, Jan. 26, at Canlan Ice Sports with a 7pm puck drop before the series shifts to Guelph, Ontario, for the second on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7:30pm.