Blues eliminated in first round of OUA playoff

Toronto win first game against Western, but drop final two for a disappointing end to an otherwise strong season

Blues eliminated in first round of OUA playoff

Game one

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team trounced the Western University Western Mustangs 6–2 on February 12 at the Varsity Arena. The victory saw Toronto take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinal series. Four different Blues scored in the game, led by Scott Kirton, who scored a penalty shot and notched his first career hat trick. Toronto goalie Alex Bishop got the start in net and notched 37 saves in the win.

The first period saw end-to-end action right off of the opening whistle. Western, which barely snuck into the playoffs after ending the regular season in eighth place — the last playoff spot — showed their usual aggression and tenacity. Toronto head coach Ryan Medel described them as an “opportunistic team.”

The Blues knew they would have to be sharp, since their last matchup with the Mustangs saw a narrow 4–3 Toronto victory. Ross Krieger and Joey Manchurek each had brilliant opportunities of their own, but it was Kirton who opened the scoring off a Justin Brand rebound with less than two minutes to go in the first period.

Toronto came out strong in the second period as they looked to widen their lead. Kevin Lavoie was particularly dangerous for the Blues on the counter, and captain Willy Paul was a rock on defense. Despite Bishop’s standout goalkeeping, Western managed to sneak in a tying goal halfway through the second period. However, the Blues were undeterred, and stuck to their game plan; this move was rewarding, as Chase Olsen smashed home a rebound from defender Riley Bruce.

Soon after, Kirton was fouled on a goal scoring opportunity, and was awarded a penalty shot. Kirton said he was “pretty nervous” going into the shot, but he showed absolutely no nerves as he faked a shot before drawing and smashing the puck into the net. The Toronto bench and Blues fans both erupted in cheers, and from then on it was all Toronto.

It was evident that Western was growing frustrated as they became more chippy in the third period. Penalties piled up for both teams, with Western taking three and Toronto taking four for the game. Toronto used their power plays well, though, and Manchurek’s efforts were finally rewarded with a top-shelf goal to widen the Blues’ lead to 4–1.

Western tried pulling their goalie in an attempt to get back into the game, but Krieger calmly notched an open net goal for the fifth goal. Western managed to scrape back a goal, but Kirton completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal, giving the Blues a 6–2 victory.

Game three

After losing on the road at Western, the Blues came back to the Varsity Arena for a third and final do-or-die match up between the two teams.

The first and second periods were quiet in terms of offense, as the score was 0–0 after 40 minutes of play. Western slightly outshot Toronto by a margin of 20–16, but chances were had at both ends, and each goalie was able to keep their shutout intact.

Western finally opened the scoring in the third period, when Western’s Kyle Pettit snuck a shot from the far corner of the field, finding the net behind Bishop. With around 12 minutes left of the game, Toronto gave up a turnover at their own blue line, leading to a two-on-one for Western. Reed Morison was able to snipe it into the back of the net to give his team the 2–0 lead.

Looking for offense, Toronto needed their goal scorers to come up big, and leading scorer David Thompson delivered, with a great give-and-go goal to cut the lead in half. Unfortunately for Toronto, this was the only goal they got in the game, and Western put away the game with an empty-net goal.

With this loss, the Blues are eliminated from the OUA playoffs. Despite finishing first in the OUA West standings, they were knocked out of the playoffs much earlier than they had hoped.

Women’s hockey wins game one of playoffs

Blues take down the defending champions in overtime period

Women’s hockey wins game one of playoffs

This past Wednesday, the U of T Varsity Blues women’s hockey team secured the first win of their conference playoffs against the University of Guelph Gryphons. The intense game ended in overtime with a score of 3–2.

The Blues and the Gryphons’ conference opener was an evenly matched, aggressive game that promised an exciting series to come. In the first period, Toronto controlled the ice: defender Gabrielle De Serres opened the scoring when she found the back of the Gryphons’ net with an assist from Mathilde De Serres. The Blues followed up on this with a tip-in goal from fellow defender Christine Chao, assisted by Jana Headrick. However, the Gryphons cut the Blues’ lead in half when forward Lauren Ianni took advantage of Toronto’s double penalty and scored Guelph’s first goal of the game.

This fast-paced and physical playing style continued into the second period, as the Gryphons managed to tie the score in the first 10 minutes with a goal from Stephanie Gava. Toronto remained scoreless throughout the second period, but the Blues’ defensive line and goalie Erica Fryer were successful in holding off any further goals from Guelph.

The third period began with several great shots on the net by Blues players Chao and Laura Ellis, who really challenged Gryphons’ goalie Aurore Beaulieu. On the other end of the ice, Guelph forwards Gabriele Underwood and Karli Shell had the opportunity to go ahead with a two-on-one play in the Toronto zone, but Beaulieu held them off. The period continued with rapid back-and-forth plays between the two teams, but both goalies rose to the challenge with some great saves. The period ended in a 2–2 deadlock, in spite of Toronto having 11 shots on goal and Guelph having 10.

With the score tied, intensity ramped up dramatically as the already high-pressure game entered a 20-minute sudden-death period. This high-speed period consisted of a major struggle for control of the rink, as the Blues would not give up. The game seemed to turn in the Blues’ favour, with about 10 minutes left in overtime when Guelph received a two-minute penalty for tripping. Despite the extra player advantage, the Blues were not able to capitalize on the penalty with a goal.

With just over three minutes left in the game, Guelph called a timeout that allowed the Blues to regroup. Madelyn Walsh delivered a blistering shot on net that almost ended the game, but it wasn’t over until Lauren MacDonnell and Chao set up Gabrielle De Serres for the winning tip-in with under three minutes remaining.

Toronto emerged victorious against the defending 2019 champions with a great finish. The Blues will play their second game of the conference when they travel to Guelph on Saturday, February 22.

Women’s hockey defeat Ryerson, men lose overtime affair against Western

Both teams gave up two-goal leads, but women held off Ryerson’s momentum

Women’s hockey defeat Ryerson, men lose overtime affair against Western

Women’s game

The Varsity Blues women’s team won in a high-scoring affair against the Ryerson University Rams this Thursday with an early 11:00 am start time.

Toronto opened the scoring with a little over six minutes left in the first period, after captain Stephanie Ayres was tied up in the faceoff circle. They managed to regain possession, deke past the Ryerson defender, and backhand it into the back of the net. Shortly after, Taylor Trussler picked the pocket of the Ryerson defender attempting to break out of the zone, skated to the high slot, and let go a shot that would deflect off the pants of Cristine Chao for the 2–0 goal.

However, Ryerson would respond with two quick goals of their own. The first was a powerplay goal from Lauren Nicholson, and soon after, Nicholson found herself alone on a breakaway, and made a nice forehand-to-backhand move to put it past Blues goalie Erica Fryer.

Toronto stayed composed, and after a great forecheck to keep the puck in the Ryerson zone, they were able to create a chance in front of the net, which was put home after Laura Ellis shot a puck that trickled past the Rams’ goalie. The Blues’ excellent forechecking would pay off again, as Gabrielle De Serres created a turnover right in front of the Rams’ net and found her sister Mathilde De Serres, who sniped it into the back of the net to give Toronto another two-goal lead.

Keeping their momentum going in the third period, Toronto scored just eight seconds in, with Ayres scoring her second goal of the game. Ryerson wasn’t ready to give up, and only a few minutes later they were able to score off a rather innocent-looking shot that was tipped in front of the net.

Afterward, Nicholson again found herself with tons of space in front of the net and put it past Fryer to cut Toronto’s lead to just one and give herself the hat trick.

However, Ryerson was not able to channel this momentum into another goal, and the De Serres sisters scored Toronto’s final goal, with Gabrielle making some nice moves to get the puck on net, and Mathilde picking up the rebound, giving her sister a no-look pass to ice the game for the Blues.

Toronto’s next home game will be against Western on Friday, January 31 at 7:00 pm.

SEYRAN MAMMADOV/VARSITY BLUES

Men’s game

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team lost in a 3–2 decision in overtime on Wednesday to the University of Western Ontario Western Mustangs.

The Blues opened up the scoring when a turnover from the Western defense found the stick of Kevin Lavoie behind the net, who then passed to Ross Krieger for the 1–0 goal at the 9:55-minute mark of the first period.

Early in the second period, the Blues’ leading point-getter David Thomson had control of the puck at the half-wall of the Mustangs’ zone. He made an excellent stretch pass across the ice to find Oliver Benwell in the slot, who made a quick move and sniped the puck bottom corner to give the Blues a 2–0 lead.

The Blues would go into the third period with the lead, with goaltender Alex Bishop making some key saves to keep the Blues up a pair. However, the Blues were much less fortunate in the third period.

Midway through the frame, the Mustangs were able to create a great chance with three men entering the zone. The initial cross-ice one-timer was saved by Bishop, but Toronto’s back checkers were not able to get back in time to prevent Western’s Kenny Huether from tapping in the rebound.

Then, in the dying seconds of the period, and with their goalie pulled, Western created a scramble in front of the net. The Blues were unable to cover it or clear the puck out of the crease, as Stephen Desrocher tied the game with just eight seconds remaining.

Western carried this momentum into overtime, with Franco Sproviero ripping a shot from the high slot into the back of the net to give Western the come-from-behind victory. Alex Bishop made 37 saves, but it was ultimately not enough to prevent the Mustangs’ onslaught in the third period and overtime.

The Blues’ next home game will be against the University of Windsor Lancers on Saturday, February 1 at 7:00 pm.

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeats Windsor Lancers in a 5–2 decision

The Blues dominate the rink to earn the hefty three-point lead

Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeats Windsor Lancers in a 5–2 decision

The Blues defeated the University of Windsor Lancers this past Friday with a score of 5–2, notching the team’s 18th win and clinching their first-place spot in the Ontario University Athletics West division.

Toronto started the match off with a slew of aggressive offensive plays, leading the shots on goal throughout the first period. After a close shot from forward Joey Manchurek in the 12th minute and a series of aggressive breakaways by David Thomson, Ontario Hockey League veteran Kyle Potts found the back of the net, assisted by Nathan Hudgin and Hunter Atchison. The goal seemed to wake up the Lancer offense though, with a quick redemption goal scored by Windsor forward Brennan Feasey.

In the final minute of the first period, Windsor forward Connor Logan pulled the Lancers ahead. However, the Blues did not allow their opponents to stay comfortable for too long into the second period, with Thomson feeding the puck to Hudgin to score the tie-making goal. Keeping up the momentum, Chase Olsen scored a crowd-pleasing wrap-around to secure the lead, followed quickly with an assurance goal from Manchurek to start the third period with a 4–2 lead on the scoreboard.

Despite the Blues’ dominating offense, the final period found the Lancers deeper into the Toronto end as they fought for redemption, racking up shots on goal. However, goalkeeper Alex Bishop held his ground and stopped every Lancer shot. In the last few minutes of the match, Manchurek passed the puck to Kyle Clarke, who found the back of the Lancer net for the fifth Toronto goal of the evening. The crowd left the stands satisfied with a high-energy game and another Toronto win in the books.

The Blues will continue their effort to hold the top spot in their division when they face off against the University of Western Ontario Western Mustangs this Wednesday at the Varsity Arena.

Blues women’s hockey back to their winning ways

Toronto beats York 2–0 to snap losing streak, defeats Waterloo 2–1

Blues women’s hockey back to their winning ways

Blues vs Lions

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team downed the York University Lions 2–0 on Thursday, November 21. The Blues are now in second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings.

Eager to snuff out a two-game losing streak, Toronto found themselves struggling to contain the Lions early on. With powerhouse defender Cristine Chao in the box early for checking, the Lions kept Toronto firmly in their end. Despite the pressure, goaltender Erica Fryer was unfazed, calmly performing a couple tough saves early on.

As the Blues found their rhythm, they began seriously challenging their opponents, using the speed of forwards Breanna Berndsen and Juliette Blais-Savoie to pressure the York defense. After a hard hit on Blues Captain Stephanie Ayres, Toronto opened the scoring on the ensuing powerplay. Berndsen, alongside rookie sensation Natasha Athanasaskos, set up Jana Headrick, who smashed her shot low past York goaltender Serena Vilde for her first goal of the season. York looked to have evened up the match with barely a minute to go in the period, but their goal was overturned after an appeal to the referee.

The second period was another back and forth battle, as the Lions fought to score a goal. Time and time again Fryer was an absolute brick wall, as York was powerless to put anything past her. Toronto was tenacious in their defending as well, but repeated penalties made it difficult for them to get much offensive momentum going. Veteran Jessica Robichaud had a handful of good chances to score, including a shot that just barely missed as the buzzer went off, but the Blues weren’t able to notch another goal that period.

York’s frustration was palpable as the third period started, and their play began to break down as they became rougher. Using their skills to chop at the chippy York players, Toronto finally padded their lead thanks to a rocket of a shot by Gabrielle De Serres, made off of a Mathilde DeSerres and Chao assist. York pulled Vilde with two minutes left in a futile attempt to gain a goal back, but ended up taking a penalty soon after and having to return her to the ice. Gabrielle almost got a second goal on a brilliant breakaway in the dying seconds of the game, but her shot was well saved by Vilde.

Blues vs Warriors

Given the state of the game, you would have had no idea that their previous matchup had ended with Toronto suffering a 5–0 loss.

One week after the blowout, the Blues women’s hockey team stormed back to topple the Waterloo Warriors 2–1 on home ice. The November 30 win puts Toronto back in second place on the OUA leaderboard behind York by one point and with two games in hand, and with Waterloo in third behind by only a single point. Cristine Chao and Lauren MacDonnell were the heroes of the night, and rookie MacDonnell notched the first game-winning goal of her university career. Erica Fryer once again put on a goalkeeping clinic, stopping 24 shots on the way to the Blues’ narrow win.

Toronto started the game off with a literal bang, as captain Stephanie Ayres headed to the penalty box for an early hooking. This set the tone for the rest of the game, which was fraught with tension and aggression. Adrianna Noble was a thorn in the Warrior defenders sides, refusing to let them body her off the puck.

The sister duo of Mathilde and Gabrielle De Serres caused further headaches to Waterloo with their physicality and speed. Toronto’s scrappiness paid off when Chao smashed a Madelyn Walsh pass off a Waterloo player and into the net, leading the Blues into the second period with a 1–0 lead.

Waterloo’s frustration began showing, as the second period got off to a start. Only three penalties were called, but plenty more were apparently missed by the referee — if the Waterloo fans’ cries of anger were any indicator. One penalty was Toronto’s, coming off of a well-executed trip from Meagan Barry to prevent a one-on-one on Fryer. The Toronto defense was stellar throughout the game, as players were quick to recover from mistakes and prevent the Warriors from causing too much trouble. When shots did get past, Fryer was all but unstoppable, smothering anything that came near.

The Warriors were finally able to figure out Fryer in the third period, when they took advantage of a missed Toronto breakaway and capitalized on the counter attack. Undeterred, Toronto began to push heavily for the go-ahead goal, peppering the Waterloo net from all angles and jumping defenders. With just under five minutes to go, MacDonnell sent in a shot that looped over the Waterloo goaltenders shoulder, and she was promptly mobbed by her jubilant teammates. Toronto successfully defended the desperate Warriors attacks to hang on for the win.

The Blues won’t return home until the new year, when they will face the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks on January 10.

UTSG: Women’s Hockey Final — UTSC vs. OISE/SKULE

Come out and support the Women’s hockey teams in the Fall Semester finals between UTSC, OISE, and Skule! Free transportation will be provided from the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) to Varsity Arena and back. The bus will pick students up at TPASC at 5:30.

Blues men’s hockey win ninth straight game

Toronto defeats Western 6–3 to keep winning streak alive

Blues men’s hockey win ninth straight game

The Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeated the Western Mustangs on Saturday at the Varsity Arena. This win moved the Blues record to 11-2 and vaulted them into first place in the Ontario University Athletics West standings.

The Blues got off to a slow start, with Mustangs left winger Kolten Olynek getting on the board with an early powerplay goal. The Blues responded when newcomer Kyle Potts buried a rebound off a shot from Justin Brand. Toronto’s pressure continued, and they got another goal to end the first period with the lead when Ross Krieger shot home a one-timer off a two-on-one opportunity with only a minute left in the first period.

Toronto’s leading scorer, David Thomson, continued his hot start to the season, firing an innocent-looking shot on the Western goal, which found its way into the net, giving the Blues a 3–1 lead.

With roughly five minutes left in the frame, Krieger entered the zone with a burst of speed, and tried to go wide on the Western defenseman, but was knocked down. Krieger then regained his footing, deked past two Western defenders, and found Kyle Clarke for the tap-in goal. Western was able to get another goal on the board before the period ended, but Toronto was feeling confident going into the third period, having doubled their lead from the previous intermission.

Toronto scored two more goals in the third period, the first a deflection from Chase Olsen, and the second a goal batted out of mid air by Oliver Benwell. Though Western was able to get one more goal, they weren’t close enough, as Toronto cruised to a 6–3 victory.

Toronto outshot Western 35–25, and goalie Alex Bishop had a 0.880 save percentage to earn the win.

Toronto’s next home game is against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday, November 30, at the Varsity Arena, where they will hopefully continue to be undefeated.

Blues men’s hockey team wins home opener

Toronto narrowly defeats Guelph with a 3–2 victory

Blues men’s hockey team wins home opener

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team won their first game of the season this Friday, with a tight 3–2 score over Guelph. The Blues played in front of a packed stadium at the Varsity Arena, the crowd excited to see the opening game in a season where the Blues hope to improve on their record from last season.

Blues head coach Ryan Medel started out with a line of Chase Olsen, David Thomson, and Joey Manchurek, with the latter getting on the board immediately with an early goal. Thompson shot the puck from the point, causing a scramble in front of the Gryphons net and giving Manchurek the opportunity to tap in the 1–0 goal.

For the rest of the first period, the Blues spent more time in their own zone than in Guelph’s, but Toronto goalie Alex Bishop stopped some key chances for the Gryphon’s to maintain the lead. Toronto also managed to kill off two penalties, with the defensive players clogging up the lanes and stopping some key passes to keep Guelph off the scoreboard.

The Blues heavily relied on the line of Olsen, Thomson, and Manchurek throughout the game, both at five-on-five and on the power-play. “I thought right from the first shift that [the line] showed a lot of jump,” Medel said in a post-game interview. “Obviously they scored early, and any time a line scores early, they kind of play with a little bit of extra confidence.”

He continued, “But I think for the most part they played two ways the entire night. I liked their shift length and they seem to be fresh every time. I called their name and they played more in the offensive zone. So they got rewarded for that.”

In the second period, there was a large scrum in front of the Toronto net, which resulted in only one holding penalty for Guelph’s Stephen Templeton. On the ensuing Toronto power-play, newcomer Kyle Potts won the draw back for his defenseman Justin Brand. Brand passed it across to his defensive partner Willy Paul, who teed up a quick slapshot under the glove of Guelph goalie Andrew Masters, giving Toronto a 2–0 lead.

Play was much less one-sided in the second period, as Toronto was able to trap Guelph in the neutral zone and prevent them from breaking into Toronto’s end with ease. However, Toronto was unable to stay out of the penalty box, and were penalized three times throughout the period.

Toronto’s penalty kill was relatively strong, but with Riley Bruce — one of Toronto’s top penalty killers — being assessed with an interference penalty at the 2:45 mark of the second period, Guelph was able to get on the board. Guelph defenseman Ryan DaSilva made an innocent-looking shot toward the Blues goal, which was redirected into the net by Gryphons’ forward Connor Bramwell.

Toronto was better at staying out of the box in the third period, with only one minor penalty committed. Their lone penalty kill saw excellent forechecking from forwards Curtis Harvey and Scott Kirton. “I thought our [penalty killers] did a decent job,” Medel said. “I thought we got better as the game went on.”

“We had a real good kill in the third. We were more aggressive and didn’t give them an opportunity to set up. They do have a real good power-play. They find seems, take a lot of shots. It’s an area we’re gonna continue to work on and improve.”

On a routine breakout at even strength, Manchurek was able to turn the puck over from a Guelph defenseman, and passed it over to David Thomson, who sniped it home for the 3–1 goal. Although this looked to be the insurance marker, the Gryphons were able to bring the game back within one goal, when a shot from defenseman Cole Cameron fluttered over Bishop’s right shoulder with 3:39 left on the clock.

That was, however, the last goal of the game, as the Blues were able to hold off the Gryphons’ last-ditch efforts to tie it up. The game ended 3–2 for Toronto, and Bishop ended the game with 29 saves on 31 shots.

The women’s hockey team is set to play their home opener on October 26 against Windsor.