Playoff Preview: Can the Lions roar once again as kings of the Queen’s Cup jungle?

Playoff Preview: Can the Lions roar once again as kings of the Queen’s Cup jungle?

BURLINGTON, Ont. – Playoffs are here and fans will be treated to eight compelling matchups to determine would will move on in their quest for the Queen's Cup. Learn more about the four first round series in both the wild West and exhilarating East divisions below.

The full schedule of Queen's Cup, presented by CCM, first round action can be found HERE.

West Division


No 1. Guelph Gryphons (21-6-1) vs. No. 8 Windsor Lancers (10-11-7)

The Gryphons earned the division's top seed for a reason, and will be looking to turn that regular season success into a lengthy run in the quest for the Queen's Cup.

Offense was the name of the game for Guelph this season, as they peppered the league with an average of 4.36 goals per game. While the team sat middle of the pack in the majority of defensive stats, it will surely be a game of goals for the Gryphons, led by team leader in scoring Todd Winder (18 goals, 34 points), and fellow 30+ point-getters Cody Thompson (33) and Scott Simmonds (32). Making these skilled skaters even more impressive is their ability to find success regardless of their on-ice personnel, as the team found success 5-on-5, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.

For the Windsor Lancers to dethrone their top-seeded opponents, they'll need to repeat the formula that earned them two head-to-head wins during the season. Therefore, they'll need to not only play to their strengths, but find an additional gear in further aspects of the game. To take advantage of the Gryphons 10th ranked goals against, the Lancers must find ways to put the puck in the net more so than their current 12th ranked total. Similarly, they'll need a stellar performance in goal to try to limit the conference-leading offense, which means Jonathan Reinhart (2.69 GAA, .926 SV%) will need to put in a brick wall type performance to build on their middle-of-the-pack goals against average.

Season Series:

Oct. 28: Windsor 3 Guelph 5
Dec 2: Guelph 1 Windsor 4


No. 2 York Lions (17-10-1) vs. No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves (12-11-5)

The reigning champion Lions will begin their quest for repeat glory as the West Division's second seed, and will do so against the same first round foe as last year – the Lakehead Thunderwolves.

For the Lions to repeat their winning formula to open last year's playoffs, they'll need to rely on their impressive defensive ability. They rank 7th in goals against and 4th in save percentage; numbers that goaltender Mack Shields will look to maintain come playoff time. Much of this defensive prowess comes from their proficiency on the penalty kill. By limiting their adversaries' man advantage at a rate of 89.1%, the Lions are able to keep the opposition largely at bay. And while their offensive stats don't jump of the page, their balanced scoring attack combined with their defensive skill makes them one of the most well-rounded teams in the postseason.

Looking to flip the script on last year's first round, meanwhile, the Thunderwolves will need to find a scoring touch they weren't able to grasp in the regular season. The 17th ranked offense (2.46 goals per game) will be in tough against a stout defensive club, but will look to continue their February offensive injection – 3.20 goals per game in five games. To do so, Lakehead will rely on their top freshmen talent – Scott Gall (19 points) and Daniel Del Paggio (18 points) – to take their team-leading scoring touch up another notch in their first postseason action.

Season Series:

Nov. 11: Lakehead 2 York 4
Jan. 12: Lakehead 4 York 5
Jan. 26: York 5 Lakehead 4
Jan. 27: York 4 Lakehead 0


No. 3 Ryerson Rams (16-9-3) vs. No. 6 Western Mustangs (14-11-3)

While the Rams weren't able to secure the same regular season success they found last year, they will certainly be looking to make another push for the OUA title as the postseason kicks up.

Ryerson, like the Gryphons, thrive in an offensive setting, and will be looking to take advantage of Western's 16th ranked goals against average to control the series. The Rams ranked fourth in the OUA in goals scored this season, averaging over 3.8 per contest, with a great deal of that success coming via the powerplay. Ryerson sits 2nd in powerplay goals, checking in at a success rate of 22%, and a key contributor to those impressive numbers is senior Alex Basso. The Rams leading goal-scorer not only notched 14 markers on the season, but secured seven of them with the man advantage. Basso, along with Matt Mistele (14 goals, 33 points), and five additional 20-plus point men will look to keep their offensive game on point to advance to Round 2.  

Western will fire back with a strong offensive unit themselves, and are able to do so with a healthy dose of shots on net. The teams ranks 4th in their ability to put pucks towards the goalie, and will need more than a few to go in if they want to reel in the relentless Rams. The purple ponies will need to take advantage of their top-ranked powerplay if they want to help secure the edge, as the Rams' penalty kill puts them in the bottom quarter of the conference. And while the Mustangs have only two players who earned point totals north of 20 – Rob Polesello (21 points) and Trevor Warnaar (21 points) – the overall balance will do well to keep their higher ranked opposition on their toes.

Season Series:

Nov. 30: Ryerson 5 Western 2
Jan. 6: Western 4 Ryerson 3


No. 4 Laurier Golden Hawks (15-10-3) vs. No. 5 Brock Badgers (14-9-5)

In what should be the most defense-oriented series in the West, the Laurier Golden Hawks will battle the Brock Badgers to see which club will continue their quest for the Queen's Cup beyond the opening round.

The Golden Hawks, despite stumbling down the stretch, will look to soar above the Badgers with their shutdown style of play. Surrendering just 2.64 goals per game, Laurier will be tough to beat. Not only can the purple and gold shut the door 5-on-5, but also on the penalty kill, as they sit in the top half of the conference in that regard (83.3%). And while the team ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of goals scored, they are especially adept at bulging the twine on the powerplay, as the Hawks find success with the man advantage 21.5% of the time (4th in OUA). For Laurier to find continued success in front of the dynamic duo – Chris Festarini (2.89 GAA, .911 SV%) and Colin Furlong (2.32 GAA, .927 SV%) – in net, they'll surely be looking toward leading scorer Brandon Robinson to lead the charge.

Hoping to halt the Hawks will be a Brock squad that finds similar success in a low-scoring setting. The team has struggled to put the puck in the net this season, scoring just 77 times in 28 games, but that hasn't stopped the St. Catharines squad from racking up the wins. One of the key contributors to this defensive giant rests between the pipes, as veteran Clint Windsor, who started in 25 games this season, tallied an impressive 2.51 GAA and .930 SV% on the season. The team has been especially stingy in the new year, surrendering just over 2.20 goals per game since the calendar turned, and will surely rely on Windsor, along with key defenders Dexter Weber, Jeff Corbett, and co. to keep up this impressive pace in their opening round tilt.  

Season Series:

Nov. 10: Brock 4 Laurier 5
Nov. 17: Laurier 2 Brock 3

 

East Division


No 1. McGill Redmen (22-4-2) vs. No. 8 Laurentian Voyageurs (10-17-1)

There's no doubt that the Redmen have one goal in mind after their strong regular season, and they'll be looking to make the Laurentian Voyageurs the first domino to fall in their quest for the Queen's Cup, just as they did in last year's first round tilt.

McGill came out on a mission this season and played their way to a dominant 22-win campaign. To understand how the Redmen earned such a lopsided record, look no further than the numbers. The Quebec-squad ranked second in the OUA in goals per game while peppering their opposition with a conference high 40 shots per contest. They scored the third most markers with the man advantage and limited teams on the PK with a mark of 88.4%. Finally, not only do they score – thanks in large part to the OUA's second leading point-getter Jerome Verrier (41 points), who along with Christophe Lalonde (13 goals) and Samuel Tremblay (11 goals), were able to eclipse double-digit totals in scoring – but they stop the puck too. Led by Louis-Philip Guindon's 2.22 GAA in 24 starts, the Redmen rank first in goals against in the OUA, which should contribute to a tough time for any postseason opponent.

The first such opponent is the eighth ranked Laurentian squad, who earned their postseason berth with their regular season finale defeat of the RMC Paladins. The northern schools shouldn't expect an easy voyage against their first round foes; however, and they'll need to find a way to improve upon their regular season ranks to move on to round 2. Both on the offensive and defensive side, the Voyageurs rank in the bottom quarter of the conference. The team has seen a lot of shots against this season, and against a team that likes to shoot the puck, Laurentian will need to be sharp on the defensive end to limit the damage and keep the Redmen at bay. The will head into the playoffs with some momentum; however, tallying 3.50 goals per game and surrendering under three in February. And this development will need to continue for Laurentian to achieve a different result than a season ago.

Season Series:

Nov. 10: McGill 8 Laurentian 3
Dec. 1: Laurentian 3 McGill 6


No. 2 Queen's Gaels (19-6-3) vs. No. 7 Nipissing Lakers (9-15-4)

The reigning East Division champs will suit up for another lengthy quest for the cup run – a run that starts against the Nipissing Lakers – and will do so on the back of a 19-win regular season.

While the Gaels rank solidly across the board, one of their standout points of emphasis comes in their ability to limit the opposition, as evidenced by their 3rd ranked goals against average (2.59). Goaltenders Jacob Brennan and Kevin Bailie have done well to close the door on the opposition while splitting time in net this year, but the skill of the Tricolour stretches beyond the blue paint. The Gaels offer strengths all over the ice, as the Spencer Abraham led defense not only limits squads from scoring, but can also find the scoresheet themselves. Moving further along still, the offense, led by recent OUA Athlete of the Week Slater Doggett (33 points) has been consistent all year – scoring at least three goals per contest each month – and will combine to make Queen's a realistic choice for another lengthy playoff push.

Going toe-to-toe with the Gaels will be the Nipissing Lakers – a matchup that didn't favour the No. 7 seed in their regular season finale – who have struggled to light the lamp this season. The northern school's 68 goals suggest they'll need to find more ways to tackle their Kingston foes, and one play they may look to do so in on the powerplay, where they've seen a little more success scoring goals. The Lakers drew the fifth most penalties this season, while potting the seventh most powerplay markers. Beyond that, the Lakers also boast a 4th ranked penalty kill (85%), showing that they can find ways to earn the edge with special teams play. That, combined with continued strong efforts from their netminders – Brent Moran and Domenic Graham – who face a flurry of action on a nightly basis, show that the Lakers will by no means be a walk in the park for the gold-seeking Gaels.

Season Series:

Nov. 18: Queen's 4 Nipissing 3
Jan. 19: Nipissing 3 Queen's 4
Feb. 10: Nipissing 0 Queen's 5


No. 3 Concordia Stingers (18-7-3) vs. No. 6 UOIT Ridgebacks (15-9-4)

Another Quebec squad will be looking to make their mark this postseason, and once again, they'll bring a talented offensive group to their opening round matchup with the defensively-gifted Ridgebacks.

Concordia checks in as the East Division's third seed, and they will do so against a familiar foe in a repeat of last year's opening round. While the Stingers are solid defensively, ranking in the top ten in goals against, their bread and butter is a potent offense that will surely be buzzing around the Ridgebacks all series long. Concordia finished the campaign with 110 goals – good enough for 3rd in the OUA – which included a conference-high 28 powerplay tallies. Their potent special teams play also extends to the penalty kill, where they managed to bulge the twine an additional five times. Certainly, this type of scoring success comes with an individual standout or two, and for the Stingers, it's the OUA's leader in points, Anthony Beauregard. His 60 point season (19 G, 41 A) was far and away the top mark and whether it's his four powerplay goals, three short-handed markers, or three game-winning tallies, it's clear that the forward is a game-changer for Concordia.

The Ridgebacks may not have found the same offensive success as their first round foes, but UOIT did eclipse their defensive performance; something that will need to come into play in this series. The Oshawa squad was a top five team in goals against this season, surrendering just 2.74 per game, and they'll need to be just as impressive against Concordia's nearly four goals per game average. Senior goaltender Brendan O'Neill played a strong part in the Ridgebacks defensive proficiency, earning a 2.42 GAA and .925 SV% on the year. In front of the net, rookie defenders Brennan Roy and Jesse Baird will need to continue to be leading figures on the blueline, while seniors Ben Blasko (35 points) and Mike Robinson (17 goals) will need to keep their productivity at a high level to matchup with their high-octane opponents.

Season Series:

Nov. 3: UOIT 2 Concordia 6
Jan. 27: Concordia 3 UOIT 5


No. 4 Carleton Ravens (17-7-4) vs. No. 5 Ottawa Gee-Gees (16-8-4)

The final East matchup will take place in the nation's capital, as a pair of Ottawa-based schools – separated by just one game in the regular season – will go toe-to-toe on the ice to see who will advance to round 2.

Carleton, much like last season, claimed the fourth seed for their playoff push, and a number of contributors led them in their 17-win campaign. They boast both a top six offense and defense, scoring 3.5 goals per game and surrendering just 2.76. They are a crisp passing team, ranking 4th in assists, and are able to use that ability to help light the lamp while 5-on-5, with the man advantage, or on the penalty kill. Leading the way offensively is U SPORTS All-Star Brett Welychka (31 points), but he is one of several Ravens flying high this year, as four other teammates eclipsed the 20-point plateau. In net, meanwhile, Francois Brassard has stood tall in his 23 starts (2.87 GAA), and will need to stand even taller against a shot-heavy Gee-Gees squad.

Ottawa did one win better than a year ago in the regular season, and one of the most noticeable contributors is their strong powerplay unit, which finished in the sixth spot across the OUA this season (20%). They managed middle of the road marks on the penalty kill, as well as defensively and offensively as a whole, but one thing the Gee-Gees can do is put the puck on the net. With their second ranked shot totals, there's no telling what can happen – especially in the playoffs – so you can bet Ottawa will continue to fire away against their cross-town rivals. Hoping to take some of those shots will be the team's leading goal-scorer, Kevin Domingue, who potted 19 tallies on the year, and along with fellow 20-point getters Eric Locke (22) and team-leader Cody Drover (27), will do all that they can to keep the Ravens on their heels in their own end.

Season Series:

Oct. 12: Ottawa 5 Carleton 6
Nov. 10: Carleton 4 Ottawa 2
Nov. 17: Ottawa 4 Carleton 3
Dec. 1 Carleton 7 Ottawa 2

Be sure to follow along with the first round action, as well as the entire Queen's Cup playoffs, on OUA.tv, which can also be streamed live using Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, or Amazon Fire.