The York University Lions women’s hockey team resumes its quest for a berth into the national championship Thursday night in northern Ontario. The Lions will travel to the North Bay Memorial Gardens to take on the Nipissing Lakers in Game One of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal.
The winner of this series earns a spot in the McCaw Cup final for the OUA title, and automatic entry into U SPORTS women’s hockey nationals.
The pivotal opening game of this best-of-three series will begin at 7 p.m. Lions faithful can catch the game on OUA.tv.
If the season series between York (14-8-0-2) and Nipissing (14-7-2-1) was any indication, this playoff series should go down to the wire. In two games this season, the two teams each took a win. York had the first one, scoring four third period goals en route to a 6-3 decision on home ice. Kelsey McHolm had two goals.
Nipissing took the second and most recent contest between the two squads on Jan. 31 – that one played in North Bay. The score was 4-3, with the Lakers’ game-winner standing as the only goal of the third period.
York had a tremendous season in 2019-20, making the playoffs for the first time in eight years. They did it in decisive fashion – posting a record six games above .500. It’s the first time above .500 for head coach Dan Church’s squad since the 2011-12 season, and their first time with less than 10 losses since 2019-10.
A breakout season from a standout on the blue line helped them get there. Taylor Davison improved her point production by 14 this year, going from six points in 2018-19 to a team lead of 20 in the current season. She added a goal and an assist to her point total over two games in the first round against the Waterloo Warriors.
Additionally, an unlikely face between the pipes starred for the Lions in the first round – Serena Vilde allowed just one goal on 40 shots in her two starts versus Waterloo. She made four starts during the regular season.
For the Lakers, they too have been near the top of the standings for the duration of the season. Their Jan. 31 win over the Lions solidified their positioning in the standings and aided them eventually get a three-point cushion on second place heading into the playoffs.
Third-year player Maria Dominico and rookie Malory Dominico led Nipissing on the stat sheets during the regular season. They topped Lakers point totals with 20 and 16 respectively. Younger players lead the Nipissing offence – the top scoring senior Jetta Derenoski is sixth in team scoring with 11 points.
Look for above average goaltending from the Lakers tandem of Danika Ranger and Chantelle Sandquist. Their .934 save percentage was third in the OUA during the regular season, only trailing Toronto and Brock.
The winners of this series will play the other McCaw Cup semifinal, featuring the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, and the Ryerson University Rams. These two series winners will also head to Charlottetown, P.E.I. for the national tournament, beginning Mar. 12.