Hockey: OUA West turned on its head

Calling the division "wild" just doesn't do it justice anymore.

The OUA playoffs opened tonight, only Laurier and Guelph didn't play Game 1 of their opening round best-of-three series, and playing against three giant programs in Western, Lakehead, and Waterloo, the UOIT Ridgebacks, York Lions, and Windsor Lancers, respectively, were all giant-killers.

The Ridgebacks frustrated the top teams in the OUA all year: two wins over the Thunderwolves and two wins over the Warriors and one win over the Mustangs proved to Canada that UOIT can play.

Did they ever play tonight.

Josh Vatri scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the second period and Jason Guy stopped 36 of 37 shots to lead UOIT to a shocking 2-1 victory over the defending OUA Champions from Western that were clearly far from championship material.

Not to be outdone, the York Lions hosted a Lakehead Thunderwolves team that is nigh-unbeatable at The Gardens, so if York wanted to have any chance at taking the series, they needed to take advantage of home-ice and go into Thunder Bay up 1-0.

And they will do exactly that after a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory.

The game almost didn't get to the first overtime however, trailing 2-1 late, Lakehead needed a miraculous goal from Kris Hogg with just 18 seconds remaining in the game to send it to the extra frame.

The seasoned veteran for Lakehead however, would be outdone by the most seasoned veteran on the Lions bench.

Fifth year forward Tyler Harrison, playing in his final games for the Lions, beat Kyle Moir mid-way through the second overtime period to send the Lions to Thunder Bay up one, with their confidence sky high.

Perhaps the least shocking of the night's shocking upsets came in Waterloo (shocking being a very relative term in this instance).

With the Warriors leading 2-1 going into the third, a very comfortable position for the stingy Waterloo team, Windsor scored three goals in the final frame, one at the start, one in the middle, and one in the final few seconds to pace themselves to a 4-2 victory.

You would think that up a goal with just 20 minutes remaining is exactly where the Warriors want to keep their competition, a big team with a mean streak and a strong defensive system should be able to close those games out. No doubt something's going to have to change in their game plan before their game in Windsor, otherwise they will have a great reason to be even meaner.

With just one game on tap for Thursday night, perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the entire first round, that will see the currently blazing hot Guelph Gryphons visit the perennially strong Laurier Golden Hawks, one has to wonder what kind of fireworks we'll see from this fiery matchup given the previous day's results.
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  1. This doesn't surprise me at all. I thought going in that any of the bottom four was capable of beating the top 4 - there isn't an awful team in the bunch - what you really have are some good teams and some pretty good teams in 1 thru 8. I would say there are no GREAT teams in the bunch.

    Excellent efforts and results by both UOIT and Windsor and, of course, these two series are not over yet. But, this is exactly why I dislike this new playoff format...Western and Waterloo, as the top two seeds, should be sitting at home watching Lakehead/York and Laurier/Guelph go at. Allowing 8 of 9 teams into the playoffs really does render the regular season rather meaningless when you are playing best-of-threes.

  2. Daniel Da Silva2/20/2010 12:36 am

    Absolutely true, the playoff format should be revised. But it would have been a shame for this UOIT team to not be around.

    Good to see the top teams respond with a game two victory, though. It would be a shame not to have Western, Waterloo, Lakehead and Laurier in the next round.

  3. The upside down OUA playoff series all levelled off on Friday (we'll see if Laurier continues the trend tonight), but if I'm a higher ranked team, I'm still nervous. Western scored late to tie and late again to win, and Waterloo just scraped by Windsor. Over at HF Boards, a Lakehead fan continues to say that he's not worried about York, but I'll bet he was sweating in the first period last night. Lakhead's Jekyll and Hyde show during the season would have me feeling nervous going into tonight's deciding game if I was one of their supporters.