Women’s puck top playoff contender

With three winter teams already in the post-season, the Journal’s Sports Editor predicts how all six will do

Men’s hockey topped the RMC Paladins 5-1 last Thursday in the Carr-Harris Cup. They’re down 1-0 in their first-round playoff series with the Laurentian Voyageurs.
Men’s hockey topped the RMC Paladins 5-1 last Thursday in the Carr-Harris Cup. They’re down 1-0 in their first-round playoff series with the Laurentian Voyageurs.

Men’s basketball

Any hope for men’s basketball going further than one-and-done in the playoffs doesn’t exist.

The Gaels (5-10) have recovered from a brutal five-loss stretch start to the season, but their hold on the OUA East’s final playoff spot is incredibly flimsy. With four games left on their schedule, Queen’s holds a one-win lead over the Toronto Varsity Blues (4-11) in their division.

It will be a tight race with Queen’s facing the top three teams in the CIS over the next two weeks. They host the Carleton Ravens (13-2) and Ottawa Gee-Gees (14-1) this weekend, before travelling to take on the Ryerson Rams (15-2) on Feb. 20.

The post-season race will come to a head one day later, when the Gaels and Varsity Blues battle in the season finale. Queen’s will make the post-season if they can come away with a win there.

After that, it should be an early exit. The Gaels will most likely be OUA’s 12th and final playoff seed, and facing the province’s fifth-best team will prove too much for them this year.

Women’s basketball

It’s still up in the air as to whether Queen’s can recapture last year’s magic.

The Gaels (9-6) have had an up-and-down season, after winning the OUA East title in 2013-14. Coming into the year with high expectations, they’ve been slightly disappointing, especially in last Saturday’s 74-45 blowout loss to the McMaster Marauders (12-4).

Still, Queen’s is guaranteed a playoff spot, and other than a loss to the Brock Badgers (7-9), all of their defeats have come against the OUA’s top five clubs. They’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and, until the McMaster loss, played some of their best basketball of the season over the last few weeks.

If they can beat both the Carleton Ravens (7-8) and Ottawa Gee-Gees (10-5) this weekend, they’ll make a good case for the province’s sixth seed and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

With a trio of battle-tested veterans in Liz Boag, Jenny Wright and Gemma Bullard, last year’s championship run gives the Gaels the experience necessary to upset a top-four team in the second round. That will be as far as they go in 2015.

Men’s hockey

Head coach Brett Gibson and his players should be able to win a playoff series for the second straight season.

The Gaels (13-12-1) didn’t snag home-ice advantage in the first round like they did last season, but they finished fifth in the OUA East, setting up a matchup with the Laurentian Voyageurs (14-9-3). They lost the series opener 2-1 last night, but still have the talent to move on to the second round.

The two teams were virtually identical offensively during the regular season — Queen’s racked up 88 goals, while Laurentian scored 89 times. It will be the Gaels’ superior defence that powers them past the Voyageurs.

Second-year netminder Kevin Bailie hasn’t played at the same level he reached when he was named the 2013-14 CIS Rookie of Year, but he’s been more than dependable.

Bailie’s .922 save percentage was tied for fourth in the OUA, and he ranked seventh in goals against average.

Last weekend’s 4-3 shootout victory over the third-seeded UQTR Patriotes (19-4-3) proved the Gaels can hang with the conference’s big dogs. Still, it won’t be enough to carry them past the OUA’s best and into the division final.

Women’s hockey

If there’s one Queen’s team that can capture OUA gold this winter, it’s women’s hockey.

They boast a roster strong in both depth and experience, with scoring able to come from anywhere on the ice. Eight Gaels already have an OUA championship to their name; centres Shawna Griffin and Fiona Lester have both captured a pair.

Experience will pay off mightily in the first round, where the Gaels (15-4-3) and the Windsor Lancers (13-5-4) will likely square off for the third consecutive season. If that’s the case, Queen’s should be able to best the Lancers once again.

The greatest threats to another provincial championship are the Western Mustangs (18-1-3) and Guelph Gryphons (16-3-3). Both teams have post-season experience, though they lack the consistency Queen’s has.

While the Gaels can get by Western — as they showed in a 2-1 overtime victory on Nov. 30 — Guelph might be too much in a potential semi-final. The Gryphons beat Queen’s twice this year, and the Gaels will have to play near-perfect hockey to reverse that trend.

That, of course, is something they’re always a threat to do come playoff time. A third straight OUA finals appearance and a trip to the CIS championships should be in the cards — and the provincial title is theirs for the taking.

Men’s volleyball

If results from earlier this season are any indication, Queen’s ticket to the OUA Final Four has already been punched.

The Gaels (12-8) have met their first playoff opponent — the York Lions (13-7) — twice this year, and came away with wins in both matches.

Their post-season meeting takes place on Saturday, but the outcome might not duplicate the regular season.

The teams have headed in opposite directions over the last couple weeks. Queen’s snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Guelph Gryphons in their season finale, while York ended the year by winning five straight matches.

The Gaels will need to find the form they had in their four-set victory over the Lions on Nov. 29. Outside hitter Philippe Goyer will be the key, having totalled 32 kills against York this year.

Queen’s has already shown they can win in York’s gym, and if Goyer can halt his late-season slump, the Gaels will be able to do it again.

From there, a match with the top-ranked McMaster Marauders (19-1) likely awaits. As well as they can play, the Gaels aren’t on the same level as a McMaster squad that swept them twice this year, and won’t be able to snag OUA gold.

Women’s volleyball

If Queen’s played in the OUA West division, a trip to the OUA Final Four would be all but guaranteed.

Unfortunately for women’s volleyball, the conference’s power imbalance means they finished fourth in the hotly contested OUA East. It will be a near-impossible task to best the Toronto Varsity Blues (18-1) on Saturday, forcing the Gaels (12-7) into an early off-season.

The Gaels only won a single set against Toronto in their two meetings this season, and saw their passing game struggle in their second matchup, on Jan. 24.

If Queen’s has any hopes of beating the Blues, they’ll need their defensive game to be on point. Both Becky Wilson and Brett Hagarty rank among the OUA’s top 10 in digs, while Niki Slikboer sat tied for fifth in blocks.

Toronto showed chinks in their armour by losing to the Ottawa Gee-Gees (16-3) last weekend, but they’re still on a tier the Gaels haven’t reached just yet. Expect a first-round exit for Queen’s this season.

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