Lions men’s hockey take on sixth-place Waterloo Warriors Thursday evening

4 male York hockey players

The York University Lions men’s hockey team will wrap up a five-game homestand this weekend with games against the Waterloo Warriors and Brock Badgers at Canlan Ice Sports.

The Lions, who currently sit in fourth place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West standings, will face the sixth-place Waterloo Warriors on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7pm, and will return to Canlan two days later for a game against the eighth-place Brock Badgers, also at 7pm.

The Lions saw their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night with a 5-3 loss to the Lakehead Thunderwolves, but 4 male York hockey playersthe team remains one of the hottest in the division with six wins in its last eight games and the other loss coming against the division-leading Western Mustangs, who are in the midst of a 15-game winning streak.

Prior to the loss to the Thunderwolves, the Lions had won four in a row dating back to the beginning of December, including wins over Laurier, Waterloo, then-No. 8 Windsor and Lakehead. That run has moved the squad into the upper half of the division standings and the Lions are now in position to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Lions’ top two scorers are at the opposite end of their careers with the squad, with fourth-year forward Jesse Messier of Keswick and rookie forward Michael Santini of Woodbridge leading the rest of the team.

Messier, the team captain, leads the Lions in points (24), goals (12), assists (12) and power play goals (four), and his 24 points puts him in a tie for 10th in OUA scoring. Santini is second on the Lions with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 16 games this season. His point total ranks among the OUA’s top 10 in scoring by first-year players and he is one of only eight rookies in the conference with a point-per-game average.

On the back end, the team’s defence has been led by John de Gray of Markham, who has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and is tied for 15th in the OUA in scoring by defenders.

The Warriors wrapped up the first half of the season with a solid 9-5-2 record but they have struggled since the new year began, losing all four of their games thus far and earning just two points in a pair of shootout losses to Brock and York. The team did, however, come within one goal of an upset win over the Mustangs, who now sit at No. 2 in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and have lost all four games in 2013 by just a single goal.

Like the Lions, the Warriors also have a veteran and a rookie topping its team’s scoring list. Justin Larson of Buckhorn is the team’s leader in points (30), goals (13), assists (17) and power play goals (five), and he has already surpassed his previous career high in points (19) and is tied for fourth in OUA scoring. Rookie forward Colin Behenna of Waterloo is the team’s top rookie scorer with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 20 games this season and he is tied for fourth in OUA scoring among first-year players.

The Badgers earned their first win of 2013 in their most recent outing last Saturday, topping the Warriors 3-2 in a shootout. Prior to that, the team was defeated by Windsor, Laurier and Western twice dating back to early December. The Badgers, who hold the final playoff spot in the OUA West with just a two-point cushion over University of Ontario Institute of Technlogy, have yet to string together back-to-back wins this season.

Brock’s top scorer this season is Kaine Geldart of Kingston, who has recorded 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 20 games. He is two points shy of equaling his previous career best and his 14 assists are the best mark on the team. The squad is also getting a lot of production from rookie forward Andrew Radjanovic of Hamilton, who has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) and is also the Badgers leader with five power-play goals.

The Lions split the first two games with the Warriors this season, with each team taking a 4-3 victory at Columbia Ice Field. Waterloo won the first contest in mid-October, a game in which the Lions built a 3-0 lead after the first period, but the Warriors came all the way back and scored the winner with 51 seconds left on the clock. The Lions nearly blew another lead in the second contest as they took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission only to see the Warriors erase it with three straight goals. But the Lions tied the game midway through the third and then won in a shootout for the important second point.

The Lions also own a 2-0 record against the Badgers this season, winning 4-2 on home ice in mid-October and then earning a 5-4 shootout victory in St. Catharines two weeks later. The first contest was never really in doubt as the Lions took the lead for good early in the second period, but the Badgers nearly stole the second with two late goals to tie the game in the third period. However, Messier came up big in the shootout to seal the victory.

After this weekend the Lions will hit the road again to play four of their final six games of the season away from Canlan. Up first is a game against the Guelph Gryphons at Gryphon Centre Arena on Thursday, Jan. 24 beginning at 7:30pm, followed by a trip to London to face the Mustangs at Thompson Arena Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7pm.