Courtesy Martin Bazyl.

Men’s team

The men’s hockey team continued their inconsistent play, going 4–6 in 2016 to finish 11–15–2 for the season. While the team was frequently blown out down the stretch, they did show signs of improvement, by shutting down quality teams and winning a number of tight games.

An upset 4–1 victory over first-seed York capped off the regular season and set the tone for what would be a surprising playoff run. Despite their record, the Blues slipped into the final playoff spot and prepared to face that same York team in a best-of-three series.

At first the men looked like they were out of their league, dropping an embarrassing 5–0 result in York. In front of a raucous crowd at Varsity Arena though, the Blues earned a come-from-behind 3–2 victory to stave off elimination.

The Blues’ goalie Andrew Hunt, who began the season as the third-string option, continued to frustrate the Lions in game three, by making 32 saves and shutting down the league’s best offence. For the second year in a row, the Varsity Blues pulled off a shocking upset and moved on to the second round to face the second-ranked Western Mustangs.

This time, the men got off to a great start, silencing the London crowd and leaving with a 3–1 victory. Hunt turned in a legendary performance, making an incredible 53 saves.

The Blues’ porous defense let them down in game two at Varsity Arena. The Mustangs punished the Blues’ undisciplined play, which evened the series with a 7–3 victory.

Back in London for game three, an electric crowd was treated to a close game as the Blues came-from-behind and forced overtime. Unfortunately the Cinderella run ended there; the Mustangs scored an early goal, winning both the game and the series.

The men can be proud of their hard-fought playoff run and stunning first-round upset. While their reliance on remarkable goaltending may be unsustainable next season, the run demonstrated the team’s potential. The Blues still have a lot to work on defensively and will have to translate their hot streaks into consistent successes if they want to take the next step and become an OUA contender. 

Women’s team

The women’s season was a streaky one to say the least. They began the first half with a six-game winning streak followed by a four-game losing streak. The second half of their season saw the opposite; a four-game losing streak followed by an incredible eight-game undefeated stretch.

Throughout the season, the team had a 0.500 record in overtime, capped off by a tough streak-snapping shootout loss in the regular season finale.  Thanks to their 18–10 record, the second-seed Blues were heavily favoured entering their first-round series against the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks. This matchup, however, would prove to be remarkably even.

Game one at Varsity Arena was a tight, defensive affair. Laurier played smart, well-coached hockey, and the Blues had trouble hitting their stride offensively. Fifth-year Jacqueline Scheffel scored two goals in the first forty minutes and came inches away from a hat-trick late, but the Hawks held strong and kept the Blues from taking the lead. 

In the dying moments of overtime, veteran Taylor Day finally broke the deadlock and gave the Blues the series lead. Game two in Waterloo, an even stingier game than the first, also went into overtime after 60 scoreless minutes. It was the Golden Hawks who would strike, however, forcing a decisive game three at Varsity Arena.

If the first two games seemed even, game three blew them out of the water. Lauren Straatman broke a scoreless tie early in the third period, but Laurier swiftly tied the game and once again the Blues found themselves in a sudden death situation, this time with the season on the line. The Blues dominated the shot count, almost doubling their opponent, and rookie goalie Valencia Yordanov held down the fort through fifty scoreless minutes. Early in the third overtime, however, Golden Hawks forward Dollee Meigs finally broke the tie, completing the upset and ending the Blues’ season. 

After such a successful regular season and on the heels of a dominating winning streak, the Blues can’t help but be disappointed with this finish. The fact that they dropped two consecutive overtime games despite dominating offensively will be even more difficult to accept. Next season will be a crucial one for the women, as their offense will have to cope with the loss of veterans like Scheffel. With an excellent coaching staff and Yordanov in net, the team should expect another winning season.

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