Playoffs? We’re talkin’ ‘bout playoffs

The Journal’s sports editors pick Gaels men’s and women’s hockey to skate deep into OUA post-season

Men’s basketball sits well behind Carleton, Ottawa and Ryerson, but they’re within striking distance of the playoffs.
Men’s basketball sits well behind Carleton, Ottawa and Ryerson, but they’re within striking distance of the playoffs.
Assistant captain Mary Coughlin and the women’s hockey team are seeking a repeat OUA championship.
Assistant captain Mary Coughlin and the women’s hockey team are seeking a repeat OUA championship.

Men’s basketball

They’re a casualty of the OUA’s skewed divisional set-up, but the Gaels could do more to help their playoff chances.

Grouped in the OUA East with three of the country’s top five teams, Queen’s results reflect this disparity. At 7-7, they’re well behind Carleton (14-0), Ottawa (12-2) and Ryerson (11-3).

Those clubs are the class of Canadian basketball, but the Gaels have faltered against lesser competition. Losses to Laurentian (10-4) and York (8-6) propelled both of those teams up the standings, while lowly Algoma (4-10) pulled a massive upset up north last Saturday.

The road ahead is rigorous. Five of Queen’s final eight regular season games come against the division’s top trio, though Laurentian and York face similarly brutal stretches.

Winning three of eight could be enough to jump York for fifth place. Limited offensive production beyond the starting lineup has been an issue, but there’s time to fix it before the first round.

Nick Faris

Women’s basketball

Only two points behind OUA East co-leaders Ottawa and Carleton, Queen’s is gunning for a first-round bye.

Boasting the only trio in the East this season to each average 10 points per game in Jenny Wright, Gemma Bullard and Liz Boag, the Gaels have an ability to spread the ball around, which will make them dangerous come playoff time.

Though their defence sits fifth in the division, the team is one of only three in the OUA East to score more than they concede, due in part to their ability to create turnovers.

This weekend’s games against Ottawa and Carleton will indicate where the Gaels truly sit. One or more wins could vault the club into a top-two position, which could eventually mean a playoff bye.

When they meet up with one of these two schools in the playoffs, the results will be in Queen’s opponent’s favour. Still, the Gaels have a shot to go one round further than their East semi-final exit last season.

Sean Sutherland

Men’s hockey

Three losses is nothing to fret over, especially in the midst of a revelatory campaign.

Even after suffering consecutive defeats to Carleton and McGill (twice), men’s hockey is knotted atop the OUA East ladder with the rival Redmen. Three of their six remaining games should be easy wins; at this rate, anything below a third-place finish would be disappointing.

In front of a dynamic pair of rookie netminders, the Gaels’ defence leads the league with just 44 goals against. Their offence is producing at a similar rate to past years, but Queen’s is now grinding out victories, rather than narrow losses.

Two straight tilts with third-place Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) will provide a formidable test to end the year. The Gaels will split those games, roll through the first playoff round and unseat UQTR in a second-round rematch.

McGill will prove to be too strong in the OUA championship, but with an unusually capable core of first- and second-years, the Gaels will only build from here.

Nick Faris

Women’s hockey

Though Queen’s currently sits third in the OUA at 13-2-3, only the Laurier Golden Hawks truly stand between the Gaels and a second straight OUA title.

Queen’s still has critical matchups with not only top-seeded Laurier, but also the Guelph Gryphons and Toronto Varsity Blues, who sit second and fourth in the province, respectively.

If the Gaels can hold on to a top-four spot and the home-ice advantage that comes with it, a semi-final series against one of Laurier, Guelph or Toronto is a given.

The Gryphons boast the OUA’s best defence and have three of the league’s top five scorers, but Queen’s strong two-way game will be enough to negate that if the two squads meet up.

Likewise, the presence of veterans Morgan McHaffie, Shawna Griffin and Mel Dodd-Moher should drive the Gaels past a Toronto team lacking in playoff experience.

Laurier proves a more difficult test, as their 3-2 shootout victory over Queen’s earlier in the year attests. If the two teams meet up in the finals, Laurier will probably hold the extra home game and prevail in a three-game series.

Sean Sutherland

Men’s volleyball

Delightfully ordinary results have left the Gaels in OUA no man’s land.

So far, Queen’s (6-8) has played seven games against teams above them in the standings, and lost them all. They’ve played seven games against teams below them, and won six. (The lone anomaly: a 3-1 loss to ninth-place Toronto in late November.)

Now, they’re smack in the middle of 11 Ontario teams, virtually assuring the Gaels a playoff berth and a practically simultaneous first-round exit.

That represents a downswing for the rebuilding club, who were upset at home in last year’s first round after clinching fourth place. The return of outside hitter Mike Tomlinson from injury has injected a recent spark, but this year’s squad no longer has a shot at cracking the league’s upper echelon.

Three games apiece remain against better and lesser teams. True to form, the Gaels will finish 9-11, lose in four sets in their playoff opener and set their sights to next year.

Nick Faris

Women’s volleyball

The switch to division play in the OUA has the Gaels on the outside looking in for this year’s playoffs.

The top five teams in the province last season all are members of the OUA East, and with only four playoff spots available, it looks like Queen’s will be the odd team out.

The Gaels currently trail Ryerson for the final playoff spot by only four points, but have been hindered by an inability to string wins together this season. Coupled with injuries to libero Becky Wilson and outside hitter Shannon Neville, the Gaels’ road to the playoffs is perilous.

In York, Toronto and Ryerson, Queen’s still has to face three of the four teams currently ahead of them in the standings, as well as OUA West third seed McMaster.

While their other two games against RMC and Nipissing are winnable, the tough competition will be too much for the Gaels to overcome and they’ll fall short on their playoff bid this season.

Sean Sutherland

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