The York University Lions men’s hockey team will battle the Windsor Lancers for a spot in the Queen’s Cup in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Division final best-of-three series this week.
The Lions are the home team in the series after their second-place finish in the OUA West Division standings but due to the distance between the two cities, Game 1 will be played in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday beginning at 7:30pm and the Lions will host Games 2 and 3 at Canlan Ice Sports this weekend. Game 2 is set for Friday night at 7pm and Game 3, if necessary, will go on Saturday at 7pm.
The Lions have been on a roll since the playoffs began, putting up four straight victories to earn series sweeps over the Lakehead Thunderwolves ?and Guelph Gryphons. After three straight narrow wins, two in which they came from behind, the Lions cruised in the series clincher over the Gryphons by scoring five unanswered goals in the second period as part of a 6-2 win.
Those six goals equaled the Lions’ highest offensive output this year and it was a rare outcome for a team that owes most of its success to a stellar defence that allowed fewer goals than every other OUA team in the regular season. Rookie goaltender Mack Shields was solid throughout the regular season, finishing first in save percentage (1.78) and second in goals against the average (.930), and has shown no first-year jitters now that the stakes are higher by leading the Lions to four straight wins.
The team’s regular-season scoring leader, third-year defenceman Derek Sheppard, has picked up right where he left off, putting up five points in four games, including three goals. Teammate Colton Vannucci is on the same pace with five assists, tied for the most in the OUA playoffs.
Like the Lions, the sixth-seeded Lancers earned a two-game sweep in their semifinal series, knocking off the top-seeded Ryerson Rams in back-to-back games to advance. Their first-round series was much tighter as they played three one-goal games against the Laurier Golden Hawks and needed an overtime winner from Tyson Ness in Game 3 to move on.
Ness is their overall scoring leader in the playoffs thus far with five points (three goals, two assists) in as many games.
The two squads split their regular-season series, with the home team winning each game by a single goal. The Lions earned a 3-2 double overtime victory at Canlan Ice Sports in late November, and the Lancers posted a 1-0 triumph in mid-January.
The Lions are looking to reach the Queen’s Cup for the first time since winning the OUA championship in 2004, while the Lancers were last in the contest in 2014 when they made a surprise run to the title as the seventh seeds. They were also bronze medallists the following year.
The Queen’s Cup will be played on Saturday, March 11 at the home of the highest remaining seed in Ontario, while the loser from this series will play for OUA bronze that same day. The victor will also earn a berth at the U SPORTS championships in Fredericton, with a third berth available to the team that wins the bronze medal.