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Photo: York Althetics/OUA

#3 | York Lions

Photo: York Athletics

Reg. Season Record: 18-6-4 (2nd in OUA West)
U Cup Appearances: 11 (last in ’03-04)
National Championships: 3 (last in ’88-89)
First Round Matchup: Saskatchewan Huskies (Never played)
Coach: Chris Dennis (2nd season)
Top 3 Scorers:
Derek Sheppard (28-12-20-32)
Trevor Petersen (28-11-20-31)
Greg Milner (28-15-6-21)

Tournament History:
The York Lions enjoyed their most successful run in program history during the mid 80’s under coaches Dave Chambers and Graham Wise. York first qualified for nationals in 1970, won their first title in ’85, and won back-to-back titles in ’88 and ’89. The Lions would advance to the national stage again in 2003 and 2004 after winning back-to-back Queen’s Cups, although they failed to advance to the national finals. The Lions are 12-11-0 all-time at the U Cup, and have never lost a game in a national final.

Offence:
York’s 2.86 GPG in the regular season ranks them 23rd in the country, not exactly a national-standard level of scoring. But what the Lions don’t have in quantity, they do have in quality. Look no further than Trevor Petersen and Greg Milner to be York’s top offensive threats. Petersen and Milner have combined for 53 goals in the last two seasons, while the rest of York’s offensive unit has 71 in that time span. Scott Feser has turned heads as the season has worn on, and he finishes his Queen’s Cup playoff run with nine points after scoring just four times in the regular season. Steven Janes returns to familiar surroundings as an STU transfer who can score, and Colton Vannucci has proven his play-making ability in the past. But it’s players like Daniel Nikandrov and Reid Jackman that don’t score much, but play responsible defensive games that have allowed York to go far.

Defence:
York’s defensive forwards feature prominently in their own zone, but no single player stands above the rest quite like Derek Sheppard. Recently named the OUA West MVP, Sheppard had a career year with York, scoring 12 times and racking up 32 points, not to mention he’s one of the most fearsome hitters in the league. Shayne Rover is a wily veteran on the blueline who puts his nose to the grindstone and is counted on to do the dirty work for York. Mikhel Poldma also fits that bill, as York’s defence is rounded out by Tyler MortConnor Hale, and rookie Nick Zottl. The Lions don’t have much star power past Sheppard, but when they play their system well, which they often do, they can give the best offensive teams fits.

Goaltending:
When it comes to keeping the puck out of the net, nobody in the OUA did that better than the York Lions this season, who’s 2.00 Team GAA was best in the OUA and second to only UNB (1.90) in the country. Alex Fotinos showed he can get the job done as a rookie, but former WHLer Mack Shields has stolen the show. Shields posted a 1.78 GAA for York, with a .930 SV% which was good enough to earn OUA West rookie of the year honours. Shields may have one of the OUA’s best defences in front of him, but how much better can those numbers really be?

X-Factor:
We know Trevor Petersen can score against OUA teams, but if he can’t do that in the U Cup, York could be in some hot water. As good as Feser has been lately, relying on a rookie who scored four times in the regular season to take down the giants of the Canada West and AUS conferences isn’t ideal. If York really wants to go far in this tournament, it will be in part to a big-time performance from Trevor Petersen.

Verdict:
The York Lions certainly aren’t the most talented team in this tournament, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking down opponents in the OUA all season long. York will grind you down and out and win by any means necessary, as ugly or lucky as it may be. It’s not secret, they’re one of the best coached programs in the country, and clearly Chris Dennis has a terrific sense of what he can do with his team. To beat a team like Saskatchewan, York absolutely needs to be firing on all cylinders.

#4 | Queen’s Gaels

Photo: Jason Scourse

Reg. Season Record: 18-7-3 (3rd in OUA East)
U Cup Appearances: 2 (last in ’80-81)
National Championships: 0
First Round Matchup: UNB Varsity Reds (Never played)
Coach: Brett Gibson (11th season)
Top 3 Scorers:
Slater Doggett (22-13-20-33)
Eric Ming (22-13-15-28)
Ryan Bloom (25-10-14-24)

Tournament History:
The Queen’s Gaels are the most inexperienced program at nationals amongst teams competing at the 2017 U Cup. The Gaels qualified for the 1981 University Cup after winning the OUA Queen’s Cup that same season. The Gaels defeated Concordia for their only win at the national level, and lost to Saskatchewan in 1981 en route to a third place finish.

Offence:
Although the Queen’s Gaels prevailed in an OUA East division jam packed with offensive talent, Queen’s isn’t on the same offensive level as their adversaries at Carleton, UQTR, Concordia, etc. But what Queen’s does have is a couple stars who need very little space to create offence. Eric Ming and Slater Doggett are special players at this level who have both surpassed the 30 point plateau in their OUA careers. Ryan Bloom has blossomed into a great piece out of the AJHL after scoring 10 goals for Queen’s this year with 24 points. Acadia transfer Dylan Anderson didn’t make much noise offensively in the regular season, but exploded for a hat-trick against McGill in an elimination game, and wound up leading the Gaels in postseason goals. Peter Angelopoulos is another example of a player who had a quiet regular season, but burst out for six points in the playoffs. Queen’s always seems to find a way to get just enough offence to win, which is how they won an astounding 13 games by two goals or less in the season.

Defensively:
Spencer Abraham jumps off the page as a player with national acclaim as a former CIS rookie of the year who is a difference maker in all zones, and one of the best offensive defenceman in the OUA. Warren Steele scored five times for Queen’s this season, and had substantial impact as a top-four d-man, while Abraham’s pairing-partner Patrick Downe returns to his hometown as the Gaels’ best defensive d-man. Cory Genovese and Graeme Brown both offer physicality and shutdown capability, while Nevin Guy offers assistance offensively and defensively. Queen’s has one of the most diverse defensive groups in the OUA, which makes them a dangerously versatile team from the backend.

Goaltending:
Kevin Bailie is quite frankly the best goaltender the Queen’s Gaels have ever had. If his OUA East MVP or CIS rookie of the year honours don’t tell you that, his 1.39 GAA and .960 SV% in the 2017 postseason will. When Bailie is on his game, it takes a perfect shot or a fortuitous bounce to beat him. Let’s not forget, back-up Jacob Brennan had a terrific season splitting time with Bailie and filling in for him during the FISU games. As far as the goaltending conversation goes, there are zero questions when it comes to Queen’s.

X-Factor:
Darcy Greenaway continues to be one of the biggest enigmas in the OUA. Formerly a big-time point getter with the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL, Greenaway burst onto the OUA scene with all-rookie honours in 2014-15. Ever since that season, Greenaway has been searching for consistency. His 13 points this year are a career low, but he can still be dangerous for Queen’s on any given night, while on others, he’s silent. If the Gaels get Greenaway while he’s hot at the U Cup, it’s a game changer.

Verdict:
Queen’s may have more talent on their roster than York, but they’re still not in the conversation with UNB, Alberta, StFX, etc. in that regard. Fortunately for them, a disparity in talent hasn’t stopped the Gaels from finding a way to win all season. They have the right mindset, and they have the ability to steal games with lockdown goaltending. They draw UNB in the first round, and travel nightmares aren’t helping, but maybe it’s the adversity that makes Queen’s the perfect sleeper.

#7 | McGill Redmen

Photo: McGill Athletics

Reg. Season Record: 21-4-3 (1st in OUA East)
U Cup Appearances: 8 (last in ’13-14)
National Championships: 1 (last in ’11-12)
First Round Matchup: StFX (1-1 all-time)
Coach: Kelly Nobes (7th season)
Top 3 Scorers:
Mathieu Pompei (23-9-24-33)
Dominic Talbot-Tassi (28-4-26-30)
Patrick Delisle-Houde (27-13-12-25)

Tournament History:
The McGill Redmen are set to make their eighth appearance at the U Cup since making their first trip to nationals in 2005-06, the McGill Redmen are searching for their second national title in program history. Overall, the Redmen are 8-8 at the national tournament and have four bronze medal finishes and one silver medal in addition to their 2012 championship.

Offence:
McGill’s 103 goals in the regular season was good enough for third most in the OUA and ranked them sixth in the country. That’s an impressive stat, especially playing out of the OUA East, but goal-scoring may not come as naturally as you think with McGill. Players like Patrick Delisle-Houde have to work hard to score goals. Delisle-Houde lead the team with 13 of the this year, and although he can shoot, he’s still more of a power forward. Christophe Lalonde is McGill’s most natural goal-scorer, with 12 in the regular season, trailed closely by Daniel Milne‘s 9, but Milne is out with injury for the U Cup. Mathieu Pompei is a fantastic energy center with terrific skill and balance, and finishes his season with a team-leading 33 points in 23 games. Jerome VerrierSimon Tardiff-Richard, and Guillaume Gauthier are the other standout offensive players on McGill amongst a forward unit which contains a number of diverse players. McGill’s versatility up front is a big part of what makes their offence so good.

Defensively:
When it comes to offensive defenceman in the OUA Dominic Talbot-Tassi is one of the top three in the league, with his season finishing at 30 points, a year removed from a 38 point season. Talbot-Tassi factors largely into McGill’s offensive success even more so than he does defensively. Etienne Boutet missed the majority of the season with injury, but now that he’s healthy, is certainly one of the most effective shutdown defenders in the OUA. The former AUS defenceman of the year Nathan Chiarlitti returns to enemy territory at UNB, and serves a role at McGill just as impactful as he had with the X-Men. Redgie Bois and Gianluca Curcuruto are two solid defenders who can provide offensively too, and added together with the reliable Francis Lambert-Lemay and Nathanael Halbert, you have the deepest defensive group in the OUA.

Goaltending:
Fourth year veteran Jacob Gervais-Chouinard got off to a rough start during first semester with McGill, but has managed to turn around his troubles and salvage a very respectable season with a 2.28 GAA, and a .915 SV%. Rookie L.P. Guindon had the better numbers with a 1.95 GAA, and a .930 SV%, but McGill will opt to role with their veteran in Gervais-Chouinard who has a knack for winning. Gervais-Chouinard may not have the lockdown ability that some of the other goalies in this tournament do, but as long as he gives McGill a chance to win, he’s doing his job just fine.

X-Factor:
When Guillaume Gauthier was announced to be heading to the McGill Redmen, there was a lot of hype as there typically is when a player who scores 80+ points in a single season commits to a university. For Gauthier, he’s still got a ways to go if he wants to score at the same rate in the OUA, but his nine points in seven playoff games is a promising start. With Daniel Milne on the shelf, there’s room to step up offensively, and the rookie Gauthier could turn out to be a guy that pays big dividends in a single game elimination tournament.

Verdict:
McGill is the most talented team coming out of the OUA this season. But the fact they come in as the bronze-medal winning seven seed goes to show how much talent counts for in this league. If McGill is going to win at the U Cup, they’ll need to bring another top notch work ethic. Offensively, goals won’t come easy for them, but coupled with good goaltending and a stellar defence, McGill can certainly stop the best teams from scoring in this tournament.

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Victor Findlay is CUSN's premier men's hockey insider. Currently enrolled in his third year of Ryerson University's Radio and Television Arts, Sport Media program, Victor is the voice of the Ryerson Rams men's hockey team. He also serves as a rinkside reporter for Rogers TV OHL and OJHL broadcasts in Oshawa and Aurora. Victor hosts Double Shifting with Victor Findlay, Ryerson men’s hockey podcast.

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