The York University Lions men’s hockey team will be looking to continue advancing through the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs this week when the puck drops on second-round action against the Guelph Gryphons.
The second-seeded Lions will once again have home ice advantage against the fourth-seeded Gryphons, and will host Game 1 on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7pm at Canlan Ice Sports. Game 2 is set for the evening of Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Gryphon Centre, with Game 3 (if necessary) scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25 back at Canlan.
The Lions are coming off a sweep of the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the first round of the playoffs last week. The No. 9 nationally ranked squad won its first post-season series since 2004 by defeating the Thunderwolves 3-2 in Thunder Bay, Ont., in the first game of the series, and then 3-1 back on home ice in Game 2.
Guelph also needed just two games to dispatch the Brock Badgers in their first round series. After winning the first convincingly by a score of 5-1, they pulled off a 4-3 overtime win in Game 2 to eliminate the Badgers.
Under sophomore head coach Chris Dennis, the Lions put together a strong regular season, finishing with an 18-6-4 record and 40 points, nine points ahead of Guelph and its 15-12-1 record.
The two squads met twice this year, with the Lions posting 3-1 victories in each game. The first, on the road in mid October, was an upset over a Gryphons squad that was then ranked No. 10 in U SPORTS, and the second came on home ice in early January.
The Lions’ success this year can be largely attributed to their strong defensive play. They finished the regular season ranked first in the OUA with only two goals allowed per game, and they continued that trend in the first round by giving up only three goals in two games. Rookie goaltender Mack Shields (Saskatoon, Sask.) was in net for both playoff wins and in the regular season finished first in the OUA in save percentage (1.78) and second in goals against average (.930) and league wins (13).
Up front, rookie forward Scott Feser (Red Deer, Alta.) led all Lions with three points in the first round, including the series-clinching goal in Game 2 and the tying goal in Game 1 that erased a 2-0 deficit. Fellow first-year player Daniel Nikandrov (Richmond Hill, Ont.) scored the opening-game winner with 5.3 seconds remaining and had an assist in the series as well.
Guelph’s Marc Stevens and Cody Thompson both recorded three points in their series against the Badgers. Stevens scored in each game and added an assist in the second, while Thompson scored in Game 2 and also had two assists.
All three games can be watched live online on OUA.tv.