Thursday, 3 November 2011
OUA Men's Final Four - preview
Yesterday we took a quick look at the women's Final Four, and today we are taking a look at the teams involved in the men's Final Four.
On the men's side, the Carleton Ravens are the host team due to their first place finish in the OUA East. Joining them from the OUA East are the University of Toronto Varsity blues. Coming in from the OUA West are the first place York Lions and the second place McMaster Marauders.
The first place in the OUA East gets to host the men's Final Four this year, and the Carleton Ravens claimed that honour with a win on the last day of the season over the Ryerson Rams. The Ravens started their season off well with wins over the two OUA East Toronto-based teams before dropping their home opener to Queen's by a 2-0 scoreline. They responded by racking up a ten goal haul against RMC before coughing up two second half goals to Laurentian for their second defeat of the season a week later. Seven wins on the trot after that put them atop the OUA East with the Varsity Blues, and the bye to the quarter-final round, which they won handily against Laurentian by a 4-1 score.
The Ravens ranked 4th in the CIS Top 10 with a final record of 11-3-0 and come into the OUA Final Four with an OUA best 41 goals scored on the season, and 14 against, the highest of any team involved in the Final Four this year. Like most OUA men's teams, their scoring was fairly well rounded with eleven different players scoring for them this season. At the top of their scoring ranks were strikers Caki Simrooglu with 9 and Andrew Latty with 8 and central midfielder Samuel McHugh with 7, a hat-trick of which came in the return game against the Queen's Gaels in Kingston. Carleton only managed five clean sheets on the season with their number one goalkeeper Mark Krocko claiming four of them.
Interestingly, two of Carleton's three losses came at home, and they were shut out in both: 2-0 against Queen's and 1-0 against the University of Toronto.
The top team on the OUA West side this season was the York Lions, the defending CIS Champions. York had a slow start with a draw in their first game, but rebounded well and stormed to the top of the OUA West and the CIS Top 10, finishing with a 12-1-3 record on the season and the number one ranking in Canada. Like Carleton, the Lions rallied 41 goals on the season and only surrendered an OUA leading 8.
The Lions are a strong defensive team under head coach Carmine Isacco, a goalkeeper when he played. They posted nine clean sheets on the season with Sotiri Varlokostas claiming all but one of them. At the other end of the pitch, their goalscoring comes primarily from two players, Alon Badat and Adrian Pena with 14 and 12 goals respectively. Badat finished third in the country in goal scoring, behind Robert Murphy of Guelph and Keishen Bean of Cape Breton, both of whom finished with 16 goals. The Lion featured six other goal scorers, none of whom had more than 5 goals on the season.
Not only did the York Lions win the CIS Championship in 2010, they also won in 2008. This season, their only loss to date has come against McMaster by a 2-0 scoreline in Hamilton.
The McMaster Marauders finished a close second in the OUA West with a 10-2-4 record, leaving them five points behind York and two up on Guelph. This was good enough to propel them to 7th in the CIS Top 10 rankings at the end of the season. Like the York Lions and Carleton Ravens, the Marauders tallied 41 goals on the season, and they gave up only 10 goals, good for third in the OUA.
McMaster was led by Mark Reilly's 12 goals, while eleven other players tallied for the team, including Gersi Xhuti with 7 and Paterson Farrell with 6. Defensively, the team collected eight clean sheets on the season, split between Matthew Grant (5) and rookie Angelo Cavalluzzo (3). McMaster missed the OUA Final Four last year by losing to Western in the quarter-finals, but were the OUA Champions in 2009 after defeating the University of Toronto in the final by a 1-0 scoreline. They did not fare so well at the CIS Championships, losing their first game in penalties by a 10-9 scoreline.
The final team involved is the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. The Blues finished 8th in the Top 10 rankings by the CIS with their 10-2-2 record, a point behind Carleton in the OUA East. Of all the teams involved in this year's Final Four, Toronto has scored the fewest goals with 38, but only conceded 9 on the season while tallying nine clean sheets along the way, split between Russell Moore and John Smits.
Toronto has the most rounded scoring of the teams at the OUA Final Four with Mario Kovacevic scoring 11 times and twelve other players scoring at least once. Where the Blues are most dangerous is in their defensive play and their strength in kicks from the mark. They are the defending OUA Champions after beating the York Lions in the final last year. The game ended 0-0, but John Smits stopped two York shots to give the Blues the win. Last week, Toronto and the Ryerson Rams went to penalties, and once again, Smits stopped a pair of shots to give Toronto the win.
The opening match of the tournament kicks off with a rematch of last year's final between the University of Toronto and the York Lions at noon on Saturday. Carleton hosts McMaster at 3pm. Most people following the OUA this year feel that the OUA West is a stronger division and see the Lions and McMaster making it through to the finals at 3pm on Sunday. The top two teams will play in the CIS Championships being held at the University of Victoria in BC next weekend.
Throw your predictions into the comments below and compare to what the end results are!
All of the games will be streamed live on SSNCanada.ca this weekend.