The OUA season is just 96 days away as the 2017-18 schedule has been officially released for all 20 competing OUA men’s hockey teams. The entertainment gets underway on October 5th, as the RMC Paladins drop the puck on a new season at home against the McGill Redmen in the lone game on the opening Thursday. The season concludes on February 10th, with eight games on the schedule before playoffs get underway the following week.
Over the 128 days that the season runs, there is more than enough hockey action to tickle your fancy, but among all the matchups, here are a few to keep circled on your calendar.
1) UQTR @ McGill
Saturday, October 7th | 7:00 PM
Although very early in the season, there’s going to be a lot on the line everytime McGill and UQTR meet this season. They’re sandwiched into the ‘division of death’ with Ottawa, Carleton, and Concordia, so wins early in the season will be more important than ever. Perhaps even more so for UQTR, who found out last year what a couple of bad weeks can do to your season. The Patriotes have totally overhauled their roster over the offseason, and October 7th will be the first game we’ll get to have a look at what the new-look Patriotes can really do. Having McGill as their first opponent will also be a great gauge of how good UQTR’s recruits really are.
2) Queen’s @ Ryerson
Saturday, October 21st | 7:15 PM
Last year’s meeting between Ryerson and Queen’s pitted two conference powerhouses against each other, but fell well short of expectations with the Gaels’ core of players and head coach away at the 2017 FISU games in Kazakstan. This time, it looks like we’ll finally get the Gaels and Rams matchup we hoped for last year. Early in the season, both teams should have all of their guns in the lineup. Ryerson’s notoriously lethal offence will take on one of the country’s best goaltenders in Kevin Bailie, and will probably serve as their biggest test to that point in the season. Queen’s proved last year that they are the real deal. Despite a great regular season, the Rams failed when it mattered most. Showing up well against a fully-stocked Gaels squad could certainly turn a few heads again.
3) Lakehead @ Waterloo
Friday, October 27th | 7:00 PM
This is an early season matchup of two teams who might find themselves in a fight for the postseason much like last year. An early test against each other in October can give us a great sense of where both programs are at in the infancy of the season. Down the stretch, Waterloo had some fantastic games, and were one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the country, while Lakehead is still struggling to find the success that made them so prominent for over a decade. These two square-off again in the final week of the season in Thunder Bay, which could be a massively important game, or potentially totally meaningless. So there’s a much stronger chance that October’s contest will be a real indication of how well both teams can play. Although, it is an early-season matchup, it can have a real effect on the playoff picture with just 28 games in the OUA regular season.
4) York @ Western
Friday, November 10th | 7:00 PM
The 2016-17 season was a total disaster for the Western Mustangs, who missed the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade. But the way their 2017 recruit class is shaping up, they’ll be in contention once again in 2017-18. On the other hand, York had a magical Queen’s Cup-winning 2016-17 season, but are now without perhaps their most instrumental component: coach Chris Dennis. Many of the same faces are returning for York, but what they’ll really look like under interim head coach Russ Herrington remains a mystery. There is a strong chance York stays competitive for the division title, so this matchup will be particularly key for Western. They absolutely need to win big games this season, something they never did past the second week of the season in 2016-17.
5) Guelph @ Brock
Saturday, November 18th | 7:15 PM
The Brock Badgers have one of the best fanbases for sports in the OUA, and they seem to be getting better and better every year. Although the Ryerson rivalry is red hot in basketball, when it comes to hockey, it is the Gryphons who are Brock’s arch-nemesis. It began last year at the 2016 SteelBlade tournament (the world’s most entertaining preseason game) when Josh McFadden steamrolled Brock’s Mack Lemmon in front of 4,000+ Badger fans at the Meridian Centre. Moments later, gloves and bodies were flying all over the ice. These two would go on to meet again in the playoffs, where Guelph knocked out the Badgers in two games. Brock’s memory won’t be a short one this season knowing Guelph got the better of them last year. In front of a home campus Brock crowd in mid-November, the Badgers will have extra motivation to take this game, even if it means taking a bite out of Guelph. Of all the games on the OUA schedule, this one packs the most combustable elements.
6) Carleton @ Ottawa
Friday, December 1st | 7:30 PM
December 1st marks the final meeting of the season between the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees. Another key matchup within the ‘division of death,’ I don’t need to add much to the Ottawa vs Carleton rivalry for you to know how much these schools dislike each other. It’s always a good show when these two Parliament Hill rivals hit the ice, but in the final meeting of the season, and in the final weekend of the first semester, there is added incentive. By this point, the picture of the division will look much clearer for both squads and there’s a good chance one of these two teams will be close to the bottom, in hasty need of wins.
7) Laurier @ Guelph
Thursday, January 18th | 7:00 PM — The Frosty Mug
There’s still a lot we have yet to figure out about both teams at the midpoint of the offseason, but we know for sure this will provide one of the best atmospheres for an OUA sporting event that you’ll ever see. January 18th marks the 19th playing of the Frosty Mug game. Hosted by the University of Guelph, the Gryphons and Golden Hawks will invade the Sleeman Centre where over 4,500 raucous university students make quite the racket. The Frosty Mug is exactly what U SPORTS hockey is supposed to be. Last year’s game was a classic that came down to the wire, and with the game placed prominently in the second semester, you can bet there will be playoff implications at stake.
8) Concordia vs UQTR (in Drummondville)
Saturday, January 20th | 11:45 AM
Amidst speculation that UQTR was planning for an outdoor game this year, this contest on January 20th looks like it might be it. Scheduled to take place in Drummondville, it’s not a home game for either university, and would be a geographically viable spot to host an OUA outdoor game in January. Where exactly the game would take place is still a mystery, but it’s not difficult to picture a number of places amidst the frozen Québec winter that could be a suitable host. This game also marks the third and final meeting between the two opponents. Concordia is quickly emerging as a powerhouse, whose recent recruiting success is drawing attention from around the country. At this point in the season, we’ll know whether UQTR is the real deal or not, but at any rate, this should still be a very evenly-matched contest given how both rosters are shaping up.
9) Concordia @ UOIT
Saturday, January 27th | 7:30 PM
As the Concordia Stingers have quickly ascended the OUA ranks into legitimate contenders, the UOIT Ridgebacks have quietly put together two very solid regular seasons for themselves in what has been a stronger OUA Western Conference. But now with the division format in play, UOIT is bunched together with Queen’s, RMC, Nipissing, and Laurentian. Even though the competition schedule may not be as tough this year for UOIT, games like this against Concordia are ones they need to win if they want to win their division and be taken seriously. The Stingers knocked the Ridgebacks out of the playoffs in the first round last year in a series that most saw favouring Concordia. One of the most dangerous offensive teams in the whole country, Concordia will be a lot to handle for UOIT again, but the Ridgebacks have a nasty reputation as being one of the most physical teams to play against. They’ll have to play that way against Concordia if they want to grind out a key win in this late-season matchup.
10) RMC @ Queen’s
Thursday, February 1st | 7:30 PM
Still unofficial, but it looks as though the third and final meeting of the season will be the annual Carr-Harris Cup between Queen’s and RMC. No matter where both teams are in the standings, you’d be remiss to call this yearly contest a foregone conclusion. RMC took the crown last year in a season where the Queen’s Gaels made the national championship. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. The boys at the Royal Military College mark this date down on their calendars in big red sharpie every year. In the seasons where RMC doesn’t make the playoffs, the Carr-Harris Cup is their most important game of the season. Typically hosted at the K-Rock Centre in downtown Kingston, the Carr-Harris Cup offers another solid university hockey atmosphere, and should entertain everyone from the casual to hardcore hockey fan.
Although not officially announced by the OUA yet, the four division format will return to OUA hockey in 2017-18. This means teams will play 24 intra-conference games, and only four against out-of-conference opponents. It’s going to make the playoff picture a lot more intriguing, and will inevitably create for some more dramatic games down the stretch. The ten games listed are bound to bring terrific hockey, but there are guaranteed to be even more fantastic contests as the season wears on. With the new division format and schedules now in play, there’s anticipation for an exciting season of OUA hockey. But for certain, this one will be much different than the last.