For years, the OUA East has been a two-team conference.
Either the McGill Redmen, or UQTR Patriotes have represented the OUA East at nationals 13 of the last 14 years. Competitiveness has not been the conference’s strong point.
However, the OUA East’s lopsidedness might be slowly changing. Carleton emerged as a legitimate national top-10 team last season, while Nipissing has built a strong program in just two years. With young teams like Ottawa looking to make the leap, the Redmen and Patriotes might have competition atop the conference this season.
Our CIS men's hockey season preview continues with a look at the OUA East. Games started last week, so each team's record this season is noted beside their name.
CARLETON RAVENS (0-2-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 18-8-2 (3rd)
Playoff result: Lost in OUA East semi-final to UQTR, after defeating U of T in the first round
Powerplay: 21.1% (6th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 86.7% (T-2nd in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: A breakthrough season for the Ravens, in which they handed the Redmen their only two losses and then almost upset UQTR in the playoffs.
Key departures: D Brad Good
Key arrivals: D Michael Folkes, LW Andrew Glass (a Boston University transfer who’s not eligible until mid-season), D Matt Stanisz, LW Mike Lomas
(Matt Tanski, the Ravens’ best recruit, recently signed with the Connecticut Whale of the AHL, where he’ll be a teammate of Sean Avery.)
Key player: Forward Joe Pleckaitis notched 29 points in his rookie season despite missing six games. He’s a serious candidate to lead the league in scoring this year.
2011-12 outlook: Coach Marty Johnston has assembled a dark horse contender for nationals in the nation’s capital. The defence is unheralded, but gave up only 67 goals last season, second best in the OUA. However, the loss of captain Brad Good does leave a significant hole on the blueline.
Carleton’s offence has an elite array of top-six talent, as Pleckaitis, Brandon MacLean, Joey Manley, Ryan Berard, and Jeff Hayes all averaged more than a point-per-game last season. When Andrew Glass joins the mix in January, Carleton will have three extremely dangerous scoring lines.
The Ravens might be a better team this year than last, but they’ll finish a spot lower than Nipissing due to a more challenging schedule.
Predicted conference finish: 4th
CONCORDIA STINGERS (0-2-1)
2010-11 regular season record: 12-14-2 (7th)
Playoff result: First-round loss to UQTR
Powerplay: 21.4% (T-4th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 77.2% (16th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: Concordia could score with the best of them, averaging 3.82 goals per game last year, but allowed more goals against per game (4.54) than any other CIS playoff team.
Key departures: D Jesse Goodsell, G Maxime Joyal, RW Marc-André Element
Key arrivals: LW Samuel Morneau, D Etienne St. Germain, G Nicholas Champion, G Peter Karvouniaris
Key players: Nicholas Champion and Peter Karvouniaris comprise the strongest goaltending tandem recruited in recent memory. Champion is the star, having spent two weeks at the Canadiens’ main camp this summer, but Karvouniaris had a great season last year in the CJHL and should be a competent backup.
2011-12 outlook: A slow, ineffective defence limited the Stingers last year, and the team did little to address their biggest flaw in the offseason. With the departure of Jesse Goodsell, their best blueliner, Concordia is poised for a slide back down the conference standings.
The Stingers offence is still dangerous, however. Charles-Antoine Messier, George Lovatsis, Alex Monahan, and Mike Stinziani all put up more than a point-per-game last season. If they can maintain their production, and Concordia can stop taking unnecessary penalties (they led the conference in PIM last season), then the Stingers should still make the playoffs.
Predicted conference finish: 8th
MCGILL REDMEN (2-0-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 24-2-2 (1st)
Playoff result: OUA champion; 2nd place at nationals (4-0 loss in the tournament final to UNB Varsity Reds)
Powerplay: 22% (T-2nd in OUA)
Penalty kill: 86.7% (T-2nd in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: After a dominant regular season, a Queen’s Cup, and impressive wins against StFX and Alberta at nationals, the Redmen ran into a bigger, deeper UNB in the CIS Championship game.
Key departures: LW Guillaume Doucet, C Simon Marcotte-Légaré
Key arrivals: C Marc-Olivier Vachon, G Mark Segal, D Hugo Laporte, D Nicolas Therrien, C Guillaume Langelier-Parent
Key player: LW Francis Verreault-Paul has led the nation in goals in two consecutive seasons. While he may not be the best player on the Redmen — one can make a strong case for defenceman Marc-André Dorion or last year’s CIS Player of the Year Alex Picard-Hooper — Verreault-Paul must improve upon his poor showing at nationals (3 points in 7 career games) if the Redmen hope to capture the University Cup.
2011-12 outlook: It’s national championship or bust for the Redmen.
The dynamic offense that led the CIS in goals last season returns almost entirely intact, as do two of the best two-way forwards in the CIS: Evan Vossen and Max Langelier-Parent. The defence is deeper than last season, with the addition of promising rookies Laporte and Therrien, and the return of the best offensive defenceman in the nation, Marc-André Dorion. First-year goaltender Mark Segal, formerly of the Vancouver Giants, will push incumbent starter Hubert Morin, who was shaky during the playoffs last season.
The Redmen could be pushed around on the inside and kept to the periphery by bigger teams last season. It remains to be seen if they will be able to stand up to teams like UNB, but that won’t be a concern in the OUA East. Anything other than a first-place finish would be shocking.
Predicted conference finish: 1st.
NIPISSING LAKERS (2-1-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 17-8-3 (4th)
Playoff result: Lost to McGill in OUA East semi-final, after defeating Queen’s in the first round
Powerplay: 22% (T-2nd in OUA)
Penalty kill: 81.2% (13th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: The Lakers rode the third-easiest schedule in the CIS to a fourth-place finish and their first-ever playoff series win.
Key departures: C Ryan Maunu, G Matt Hache
Key arrivals: RW Marcus Watson, C Scott Restoule, RW Grant Toulmin
Key player: Goaltender Daniel Spence played in 201 CHL games and earned a training camp invitation from the Calgary Flames. Nipissing doesn’t have the firepower to run-and-gun with McGill or UQTR, so they’ll need solid goaltending if they hope to advance past the second round of the playoffs.
2011-12 outlook: The success of the Nipissing Lakers has been one of the best stories in the CIS. In just their third season of existence, Coach Mike McParland has built a strong squad that should hover around the Top-10 rankings all season.
The Lakers had only one player (Andrew Marcoux) in the top-40 in OUA scoring last season, but they have the luxury of four solid lines that match up favorably with the rest of the conference. They’re no weaker on defence either, as Brodie Beard, Jason Gray, and Paul Cianfrini headline a capable group of blueliners.
After Christmas, Nipissing plays Queen’s (4x), Ryerson (3x), RMC (2x), Toronto (1x), and Carleton (1x). That’s an extremely easy stretch that should propel the Lakers into a top-three finish.
Predicted conference finish: 3rd
OTTAWA GEE-GEES (2-1-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 11-14-3 (8th)
Playoff result: First-round loss to McGill
Powerplay: 19.6% (8th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 77.1% (17th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: Had three of the conference’s top five scorers, but couldn’t overcome defensive issues and a lack of depth at forward.
Key departures: No significant departures
Key arrivals: C Alexandre Touchette, G Russell Abbott, LW Maxime Chamberland
Key player: Dominic Jalbert. The smooth-skating sophomore defenceman is already in contention for the title of best offensive defenceman in the OUA East, alongside McGill’s Dorion and UQTR’s Lessard.
2011-12 outlook: Longtime QMJHL coach Réal Paiement replaced Dave Leger in the offseason, and inherited a young, talented Gee-Gees team.
The biggest problem for Ottawa last year was a lack of depth at forward. The Gee-Gees top-line of Kyle Ireland, Mathieu Methot, and Luc Blain combined for 136 points, whereas the remaining 16 players to dress at forward for Ottawa totaled only 53 points.
The Gee-Gees also struggled defensively, giving up the third most goals in the OUA last year. A greater commitment to defense under Paiement, as well as a new starting goaltender in Russell Abbott, should boost Ottawa up the standings and set them up as a serious threat in future years.
Predicted conference finish: 6th
QUEEN’S GOLDEN GAELS (1-1-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 14-11-3 (5th)
Playoff result: First-round loss to Nipissing
Powerplay: 20.2% (7th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 73.3% (Worst in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: A disappointing year, if we go by the preseason standard set by Coach Brett Gibson who told the Kingston Whig-Standard that “anything less than a top-four finish in the OUA East and at least one playoff series victory would be disappointing.”
Key departures: No significant departures
Key arrivals: F Corey Bureau, F Tyler Moore, G Riley Whitlock, D Steven Tresierra
Key player:Payton Liske missed significant time last season to injury, but the 6’5” forward can be dominant when healthy. He’s notched 57 points in 44 career games.
2011-12 outlook: Queen’s would be ranked higher if they were healthy. Injuries to the team’s leading scorer Jordan Mirwaldt (leg), utility forward Brock Ouellet (hamstring), and solid defence man Robert Stellick (hip), will keep all three players out until after Christmas.
In their absence the pressure will be on junior forward Payton Liske to replicate his 40-point rookie season. Around him is a promising group of sophomore and rookie talent, headlined by Kelly Jackson, who has 7 points in two games so far this season.
The arrival of goaltender Riley Whitlock, who had a .910 save percentage in three seasons with the Gee-Gees, should help stabilize things in the crease for the Gaels, but their defence is still questionable. If D Stephane Chabot can recover from his sophomore slump of a season ago and the team can fix its atrocious penalty kill, the Gaels could easily best the predicted finish.
Predicted conference finish: 7th
RMC PALADINS (0-2-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 5-22-1 (10th)
Playoff result: Did not qualify
Powerplay: 16% (16th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 78.2% (15th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: RMC iced a 16-man roster (including two goalies) for most of the season due to injuries and eligibility issues. They won three of their last five games to finish the year on a positive note.
Key departures: F Richard Lim, F Shawn Cox
Key arrivals: D Alex Pym, F Colin MacLean, F Scott Domenico
Key player: RW Landon Lavictoire was the only RMC player to post at least a point-per-game, finishing 17th in the OUA with 30 points. He was also one of only three Paladins to average less than 0.5 PIM per game (only five teams in the CIS took more penalties than RMC last year).
2011-12 outlook: Since 1999-00 the Paladins have a regular season record of 72-200-12 (.275) and they haven’t won a playoff game since 2001. And as Rob Pettapiece detailed in a severely depressing post last year, men’s hockey is the most successful of RMC’s varsity programs. (Obviously recruiting limitations place the Paladins at a huge disadvantage.)
RMC has been outshot 90-39 in two games so far this year, but have remained competitive thanks to excellent performances from goaltenders Matthew Beirnes and Andrew Flemming. Such lopsided shot totals will inevitably lead to blowout losses if not corrected soon.
Eight out of ten teams make the playoffs in the OUA East, so you never like to write a team off, but it would take a drastic turnaround for the Paladins to get back to the postseason for the first time in 6 years.
Predicted conference finish: 10th.
RYERSON RAMS (1-0-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 8-18-2 (9th)
Playoff result: Did not qualify
Powerplay: 11.2% (18th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 81.5% (12th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: A reminder not to overvalue early season results: the Rams won four of their first five games and were rewarded with the program’s first-ever top-10 ranking (placing 8th). They promptly lost ten straight games and finished eight points out of the playoffs.
Key departures: RW Cory Konecny, LW Matt Schmermund, LW Marcus Booth
Key arrivals: G Troy Passingham, RW Jason Cassidy, D Brian Birkhoff, LW Kelly Geoffrey, C Jason Kelly
Key player: New recruit Troy Passingham is going to be busy in between the pipes, as the Rams gave up an average of 35 shots per game last season. Passingham started 101 games in the OHL over the last two years and won a Memorial Cup with Windsor in 2009-10 (albeit as the backup during the playoff run).
2011-12 outlook: The Rams dressed 10 rookies for their first game of the season (a 4-3 victory against RMC, in which Ryerson almost blew a four-goal lead). While there’s some major junior experience among the new recruits, they’ll struggle to compete against the top-half of the conference.
Simply put, the Rams need to score more in order to qualify for the playoffs. Their 77 goals last season were barely half of McGill’s league-leading total, and almost a goal-per-game worse than the conference average. Their putrid powerplay (11.2%) must be better.
With some luck, the Rams on-ice rebuilding project will be finished by the time the university’s other rebuilding project is complete.
Predicted conference finish: 9th
TORONTO VARSITY BLUES (2-0-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 10-11-7 (6th)
Playoff result: First-round loss to Carleton
Powerplay: 18.5% (10th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 82.5% (9th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: A maddeningly inconsistent season that saw the Varsity Blues beat Western, Laurier, Nipissing, and Carleton (all strong teams), yet lose twice to RMC.
Key departures: D Sean Kliewer
Key arrivals: G Brett Willows, RW Tyler Von Englebrechten, D Tim Halloran
Key player: LW Byron Elliott, the OUA East’s unheralded superstar, has quietly put up 108 points in the past three seasons.
2011-12 outlook: The OUA East was formerly split into two divisions: the OUA Far East and Mid East. While those divisions no longer exist in name, they do in practical terms, and the Mid East is the much weaker grouping (Nipissing, Toronto, Queen’s, Ryerson, RMC).
Toronto will take advantage of the quasi-divisional scheduling to finish in the top half of the conference. None of this is intended to slight the Varsity Blues, they’re a team that does everything fairly well, but doesn’t excel at anything. They have decent depth at forward and on the blueline, and with the addition of Brett Willows, working in tandem with Garrett Sheehan, their goaltending should be better than last year.
Predicted conference finish: 5th
UQTR PATRIOTES (2-1-0)
2010-11 regular season record: 19-8-1 (2nd)
Playoff result: OUA East runner-up; defeated Concordia and Carleton, lost to McGill in OUA East Final
Powerplay: 17.6% (12th in OUA)
Penalty kill: 77% (18th in OUA)
Last season in 50 words: An uncharacteristically inconsistent season for the perennial powerhouse, largely due to poor special teams.
Key departures: G Jean-Christophe Blanchard, RW Francis Charland, LW Etienne Bellavance-Martin, D Guillaume Chicoine
Key arrivals: C Felix Lefrancois, G Guillaume Nadeau, D Gabriel Lemieux, D Jonathan Parisien, C Charles Bety, LW Maxime Gravel, LW Tommy Tremblay, C Olivier Ouellet
Key player: Defenceman Pierre-Luc Lessard is already an elite offensive defenceman, posting 40 points in 40 career games, but he needs to improve defensively if the Patriotes hope to make it back to nationals.
2011-12 outlook: The Patriotes underwent a massive makeover in the offseason, bringing in 13 new recruits, at least eight of which (listed in the “key arrivals”) should play significant roles. Normally the arrival of so many first-year players would bode ill for a team’s chances, but almost all of the recruits have significant QMJHL experience.
As usual, UQTR is stacked at forward. Olivier Donovan and Pierre-Alexandre Joncas are the standouts, but the Patriotes could wind up with eight or nine players averaging a point-per-game by the end of the season.
With a return to form of their special teams (mediocre last year), and goaltending (.897 save percentage last season), the Patriotes should finish in one of the top two spots in the conference.
Predicted conference finish: 2nd