Toronto – When looking at the OUA men’s hockey standings, it’s no surprise to see the likes of Ryerson and York contending not only for playoff positions, but for top spot in the division. The two programs consistently offer up some of the best talent in the province, and this year is no exception, with both squads looking to make lengthy runs in the postseason. But before turning the page to the playoffs, the Rams and Lions will hook up for this week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters Canada.
Entering play this weekend, Ryerson checks in with a 14-5-2 record through their first 21 games, amassing 30 points during that span to sit second in the West. York, who has one game in hand on their cross-town rivals, sports a record of 11-7-2, good for 24 points on the year and the fourth spot in the division. Both teams are primed for a postseason push, but a win against their fellow contender this weekend would certainly offer a big boost to their Queen’s Cup aspirations.
One of the trademarks of the Rams team this season has been their electrifying offence, which has carried them to several lopsided victories thus far. One such offensive explosion came against the Lions earlier in the year, when the Rams grabbed an 8-3 win over York. York’s Morgan Messenger (Cape Sable Island, N.S.) opened the scoring in that one, with Josh LaFrance (Barrie, Ont.) and Stefano Pezzetta (North York, Ont.) contributing to what was a 3-3 game at the time, but it wasn’t enough to combat the Rams’ five third-period markers. Ryerson was led by Matt Mistele (Whitby, Ont.), who poured in a hat trick, to go along with one assist, for the Rams, along with three-point performances from Marcus Hinds (Toronto, Ont.) and Hayden McCool (Whitby, Ont.).
Mistele’s four-point effort has been the third-year player’s season in a nutshell, as he continues to pace the conference in both goals (17) and assists (25). His 42 points leads the OUA and has him at the forefront of a potent Rams attack. Not to be outdone, teammate Mathew Santos (Toronto, Ont.) sits second with 34 points (3rd in goals; 5th in assists), while Alex Basso (Toronto, Ont.) has chipped in with a third-ranked total of 20 assists on the year. All of this firepower has led to the Rams ranking first in the conference in goals (101), goals per game (4.81), powerplay percentage (28.0%), and assists (175), which should make them a formidable foe for the Lions on Saturday.
Despite their loss to Ryerson earlier in the season, York has the pedigree to avenge the result, especially with their capable puck-stopper between the pipes. Mack Shields (Saskatoon, Sask.) has once again been among the best in the business for York, backstopping his team to nine of their wins to go along with a 2.66 GAA and .924 SV%. Shields faces his fair share of shots, ranking third with a total of 521 saves on the year, but his stout play is one of the many reasons York remains a threat come playoff time.
In front of Shields, York is led by a trio of 20+ point producers. Forwards Scott Feser (Red Deer, Alta.) and Reid Jackman (Etobicoke, Ont.) have posted identical lines of 10 goals and 11 assists on the year, while fellow forward LaFrance has showcased his pristine pacing en route to a team-high 16 helpers for the Lions. While the team may not blow anyone out of the water offensively on a regular basis, ranking eighth in goals per game (3.25), they are able to compete in every facet of the game to give teams headaches on a regular basis.
While these Lions weren’t able to capture victory in their first meeting with Ryerson this year, they were able to complete the feat in last year’s Queen’s Cup playoffs. The two GTA squads went head-to-head in the second round and in that best-of-three series, Saturday’s visitors claimed a 2-0 sweep of Ryerson thanks to 6-3 and 3-2 wins, respectively. But while York claimed victory in that series, it will be the Rams who have their eyes on winning the 2018-19 regular season series this time around.
To see these two perennial contenders faceoff in the marquee matchup on Saturday, January 19 at 2:00pm from the Mattamy Athletic Centre, fans can tune in LIVE to oua.tv or download the corresponding app via Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, or Roku.