It is still very early in the OUA men's hockey season; however, there has been a surprising lack of early-season surprises which usually accompanies the first few weeks. The names at the top of the standings are familiar for all the right reasons and the names at the bottom are familiar for all the wrong ones. Here's how week three of the OUA West season unfolded.
The premiere matchup of the week saw the No. 6-ranked Brock Badgers make the dreaded trip all the way up to Fort Williams Gardens and the veritable wolves den to visit No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves. The long travel seemed to wear down the Badgers and the Wolves thumped the previously undefeated squad 4-0 in game one thanks to a strong second period which saw the Wolves score three goals in a span of three minutes.
Rookie and USHL transfer Victor Anilane paced the Wolves with his first two tallies of the year and followed the strong performance with another one the next night. Anilane netted another two goals in a 4-3 victory for the Wolves in a game which saw them pelt rookie Badgers goalie Mark Yetman with 47 shots. The former Halifax Mooseheads starter acquitted himself admirably in making 43 saves but will need more help from his defense if the Badgers are keep pace in the OUA; with the depth in the division there's simply no excuse for a sixth-ranked squad to surrender that many shots and still expect to win. Last year it seemed the host Thunderwolves were undeserving of an automatic entry into the University Cup, this year however they appear to be the class of the OUA.
The Thunderwolves sit atop the standings in the OUA West and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are nipping at their heels despite ekeing out some less-than impressive wins this past weekend. A 4-3 shootout victory over the Guelph Gryphons and a 5-4 overtime victory against the York Lions have the Hawks at 5-0-1 on the season despite only playing one game, an overtime loss to Waterloo, against a team in the top-half of the standings. RMC transfer Paul Bradley scored the shootout winner against Guelph and followed it up with the OT winner against York. The real hero of the game was rookie netminder Ryan Daniels, who turned aside 53 of 57 shots vs. York. Daniels is splitting game time with Jeff MacDougald, an amazing feat consdering MacDougald is as experienced as any goaltender in the OUA and as successful to boot. This should be an intriguing storyline to follow throughout the year.
The Waterloo Warriors stumbled a bit. The No. 10-ranked team in the nation earned a 4-2 victory over the Guelph Gryphons despite being vastly outshot, 42-26, but then followed up with a 4-2 loss to the UOIT Ridgebacks who now have two victories over ranked opponents. UOIT rode the hot stick of Josh Vatri who netted his fifth and sixth goals of the year to pace the Ridgebacks to an early 2-0 lead. With the stingy trap that Waterloo employs, they had difficulty answering quickly and UOIT sat back for the remainder of the game, content to wait it out.
The West champion Western Mustangs have had perhaps the most disappointing start to the year; garnering just 5 votes in the first Top 10 ranking of the year must have stung. The 'Stangs had just one game this past weekend, a 4-1 victory over the Windsor Lancers. All five goals in the game came on the powerplay, and with a total of six roughing minors one has to wonder what got these two teams so hot and bothered this early in the season. Regardless, Western used this to their advantage with two goals from Kevin Baker and cruised from there on. The win likely won't garner them many more votes this week, but they are still a team to watch out for.