With three losses in their last four games, the Ridgebacks men hockey team is looking very different from the team we saw go 5-0 in October. Currently, the Ridgebacks sit sixth in Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) Eastern conference and have pretty much secured a playoff spot with only six games left in the regular season. Arguably, the Ridgebacks are set up for their second post-season run in program history, and the record doesn’t matter if they make the playoffs. The Ridgebacks do have a monkey on their back, and it’s their penalty issues.
While nine wins and three losses at home isn’t bad, only five wins in fourteen games on the road are concerning. The problem that is plaguing the Ridgebacks bench is not goal scoring, it’s not washy goaltending, and it’s not fatigue. It’s penalties. More specifically penalties on the road.
You cannot win games playing a man down, especially in a league as competitive as the Canadian Interuniversity Sports league (CIS). A win in this league is never secured, until the game is over, and the Ridgebacks have learned this lesson multiple times, like in their back to back games against Lakehead. While the team managed to hold down a 3-2 win in overtime on their first game, the following was met with 18 minutes of penalties, and a 2-7 loss. This has been the trend in the 2016-17 season for the Ridgebacks.
To ensure they do not run themselves out of the playoffs, the team needs stop taking so many penalties on their last two games. The team doesn’t have an easy run to the playoffs now either, with games against the Eastern No. 2 Queens, and the team that swept them last year in the playoffs – UQTR.
It’s not all rainclouds though, this is one of the best teams the Ridgebacks men’s hockey program has seen. But if the team wants to carry the early success of the season into the playoffs they need to eliminate penalty minutes on the road.