Lions to face Badgers with a spot at U SPORTS championships on the line

The York University Lions men’s hockey team has a chance to qualify for the U SPORTS championships for the second straight year this week when they face off against the Brock Badgers in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal best-of-three series.

The second-seeded Lions, who are ranked No. 9 nationally this week, will have home ice in the series against the fifth-seeded and No. 10 Badgers and will host the opening game on Wednesday night at Canlan Ice Sports. Game 2 is set for the Seymour-Hannah Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday night, and if a third game is necessary it will take place back at Canlan on Saturday.

While the Lions are in familiar territory as OUA semifinalists following last year’s run to the Queen’s Cup championship, the Badgers are making a surprise appearance after a big upset victory over the top-seeded and nationally-ranked Guelph Gryphons in the quarter-finals last week. The Badgers swept that series, winning both contests in overtime, to eliminate the favourites and put themselves in position to compete for an OUA title.

The Lions are also coming off a series sweep, defeating the Ryerson Rams in back-to-back games by scores of 6-3 and 3-2. They needed three games to get through their opening round match-up against the Lakehead Thunderwolves after losing the first contest, while the Badgers are undefeated in the playoffs – they defeated Laurier in two games in the first round – and overall have won six straight dating back to the regular season.

The Lions got the best of the Badgers in the regular season in winning two of three games, including a 3-0 victory on home ice in their most recent meeting. They also won a 4-3 shootout decision on opening weekend and lost 4-2 in early January, with both of those games happening on the road.

The match-up promises to be a tight one as the two squads have very similar numbers to this point in the playoffs. The Lions lead the OUA in giving up only 1.89 goals per game and the Badgers are just behind them at 1.9. The Lions also rank second in scoring with four goals per game and the Badgers are fourth with 3.5 per game.

The Lions have five players averaging at least one point per game in the playoffs, led by forwards Trevor Petersen and Morgan Messenger with six points apiece. Petersen, a two-time OUA all-star, has three goals in the post-season and scored both game winners against Ryerson. The Badgers also have five players with the same point-per-game average and are led by Ayden MacDonald’s six points.

The winner of this best-of-three series will host the Queen’s Cup championship game on Saturday, March 10 and will also earn a spot at the U SPORTS national tournament taking place March 15-18 at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. The loser will get one more chance to qualify through the OUA bronze-medal game that will take place next week.