OUA West Hockey: Right on Watt, wrong on Lakehead

It’s nice to know that, for the most part, I can make pretty accurate predictions. But as with all predictions, mine fall nicely into those familiar categories: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good: I called Jim Watt having a good series, yet Western prevailing in two. I definitely called Laurier fighting tooth and nail to get by the Ridgebacks.

The Bad: At least I picked the Guelph-Brock series to go to three games. But Kurt Jory definitely failed me in the deciding game, allowing six goals to the sudden offensive juggernaut that is the Gryphons.

The Ugly: Let’s say I’d like to take a mulligan on the Lakehead vs. Waterloo series.

And I’ll take a mulligan on my first post for this very blog. I just happened to call Lakehead a sleeping giant that was about to wake and take the OUA West by storm. That was back in November. I now feel like an idiot.

Lakehead may not be the best defensive team with great goaltending. That showed as they gave up eight goals in the two game series against the Warriors (though one of those goals was into an empty net).

But what Lakehead always has is top notch goal-scorers. They did score 118 goals during the regular season. For his efforts, sophomore Matt Caria was chosen to represent Canada at the Universiade earlier in the month.

Yet they were nowhere to be found in the first round. They were totally shut out by Warriors goaltender Keaton Hartigan, who struggled at times this season after a great campaign last year.

This is the first time in over 10 years that Lakehead has been knocked out of the first round. And when was the last time that any OUA team has been knocked out without scoring a single goal? I personally couldn’t find even one instance (Toronto came close only scoring one goal in a two-game sweep at the hands of Ryerson a few years back).

All I know is that there is at least one team left in Southwestern Ontario that will be pretty happy that they won’t have to see the Thunderwolves in the playoffs this year.

Speaking of which, let’s have a look at the second round.

#1 Western vs. #6 Waterloo
Season series: Western 3-0-0-0

At the very least, this will be a tougher series for both teams. They both came into the playoffs on a bit of a cold streak, but clearly showed they could get the job done when it counts. In convincing fashion too.

Chris Ray continued to perform at a high level for the Warriors, amassing 5 points in the first round, including the goal that put game two out of reach for Lakehead. They showed they have a pretty balanced attack too, getting goals from seven different sources.

But that is Western’s strength as well. The Mustangs showed they didn’t need Keaton Turkiewicz, Kevin Baker and Aaron Snow to carry them offensively in the last month (a big change from last year). That continued in the first round, with Steve Reese and Kyle Lamb doing a large amount of damage, scoring two goals and four points respectively.

Despite Waterloo’s performance against Lakehead, they haven’t shown they have enough depth during the season to make a big push in the playoffs. Western, on the other hand, has.

Western in 2
Western 3-2 Waterloo
Western 5-3 Waterloo

#2 Laurier vs. #4 Guelph
Season series: Guelph 2-1-0-0

Both of these teams struggled with their first round opponents. Not really a surprise though. And we should probably see more of the same in this series.

Laurier continued to struggle offensively, only putting up five goals in the three-game series. Guelph on the other hand, continues to struggle to keep pucks out of their net, allowing the Badgers to put up 11 goals, including five in the decider.

Likewise, Laurier’s strength is their defence and goaltending, while Guelph’s, at the moment, is their offence. Justin Gvora, in particular, was superb, leading the entire OUA with four goals and three assists.

One side has to give, making this series so wide open. I know the saying is defence wins championships, but Guelph seems to have woken up late in the season and they had to beat another hot team to get here.

Guelph in 3
Laurier 3-2 Guelph
Guelph 4-2 Laurier
Guelph 4-1 Laurier
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