Kingston, Ont. – A flock of field hockey action will hit the Queen’s University campus this weekend, as seven schools will be in Kingston for regular season play. Among those hitting the field are the back-to-back champions and finalists, who will come together for the first time this season in this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup. Both the York Lions and Guelph Gryphons have shown time and time again to be the crème of the conference’s crop and while both are expected to be in contention for the coveted banner season title as the year presses on, their early season courses will first collide this Sunday.
When talking about field hockey in Ontario, or even across Canada, Guelph and York must be part of the conversation, with both putting up consistently impressive results. For the former, among the many impressive accolades on their jam-packed résumé, they have played their way to 12 straight trips to the OUA championship match, with titles in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2013. Not to be outdone, however, the Lions have achieved the most recent success among conference contenders, with a sparkling record of 27-1-2 over the last two years – both championship campaigns – and have outscored their opponents by a 133-17 margin over those 30 games.
Within those 30 games were three head-to-head meetings with Guelph a year ago and there wasn’t much separating the two sides. All in all, York outscored the Gryphons 4-1 in these games, including a slight 1-0 edge in their most recent championship clash. The teams did, however, play to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting a year ago, so both will have their sights set on the extra early-season points this time around to further buoy their eventual championship aspirations.
Neither team would be able to achieve such lofty results if not for the top-tier talent that don their respective school colours. For the Gryphons, one such player is Katherine MacMillan (Kitchener, Ont.), a fifth-year player who finished second in league scoring a year ago with 16 goals in 12 games. The All-Canadian will be joined by numerous fellow returnees, including a key figure lining up at midfield – Mackenzie Janzen (St. Catharines, Ont.). The member of the Canadian Junior National team in 2018 possesses excellent distribution skills and tough defence in the middle of the pitch; all of which will prove critical for Guelph’s ultimate success. This impressive crop of returning players will also be joined by seven rookies hoping to make an immediate impact on the university scene.
While the Gryphs rely on MacMillan to anchor their offence – something she did to the tune of four goals in her team’s 8-1 win a week ago against Western – the Lions will turn to their team captain to help not only contain their opponents from the back end, but also ignite their attack as an offensive defender. Frankie St. Louis (Toronto, Ont.) has been a key cog in the Lions machine since her five-goal rookie campaign two years ago, and after getting on the scoreboard early this season with a goal in York’s 4-0 opening win over McGill, she will be ready for more this weekend.
St. Louis won’t be the only one aiming to counter the Guelph attack; however, as they’ll also turn to a veteran between the pipes to help tame the Gryphons. The fifth-year goalie, Alycia Gray (Port Moody, B.C.), started seven regular season games a year ago and picked up plenty of high-pressure experience while backstopping the Lions in four OUA playoff games and U SPORTS games as well.
If recent history repeats itself, it will be the defensive side of the game that proves most important, given the low-scoring results of late, so Gray and Guelph goalie Amanda Hodgert (Woodham, Ont.), who turned aside all but one of Western’s shots in their season opening win, will need to be as sharp as ever to give their team the edge.
While this particular meeting – their first of two during the regular season – comes with another six weeks of play still to follow, it will be an important test nonetheless, especially with their next game, and a potential OUA championship encounter, coming on home soil for Guelph. Victors of the last two OUA championships, York will be eyeing continued success against their OUA foes, while the Gryphons will be looking to turn the tables on the reigning champs on neutral territory before lining up later in front of their home crowd.
Fans hoping for a front row seat to this first chapter of their 2019 collision course can head to Queen’s University in Kingston, where the match will serve as the second of the day on Sunday, September 15, starting at 10:45am.