Head coach Jim Wells and the York University men’s hockey team are now fully awake.
The team that is believed to be the best of the three Toronto-based CIS schools, closed out their pre-season schedule with a hard-fought 3-3 tie against the NCAA’s University of Connecticut.
That was on the heels of four straight wins over Ontario University Athletics clubs in exhibition.
To Wells, who watched his team outscore the opposition a combined 25-7 before the game south of the border, the experience of being pushed out of the dream-like daze caused by easy exhibition wins was just what his group needed.
“I think it scared [the players] a bit,” he said to the Toronto Observer on Tuesday.
“We had been on quite a roll, but this gave us a wake-up call. [UConn] didn’t give us an inch, and it was good to see how the guys reacted.”
York needed a goal with eight seconds left in regulation time from freshman John De Gray to finish their pre-tournament schedule undefeated.
Goaltender Andrew Perugini kept the Canadian school in the game as the Lions, unused to the speed that the Huskies played with, gave up nine power plays to the Americans, and were outshot 33-24.
“We definitely took more penalties than we wanted,” Wells said. “That being said, we did a real good job of killing [them] and that gave us the momentum.
“I also think they underestimated us a bit, if I’m honest.”
York will open their season with a two-game set on Oct. 12 and 13 in Thunder Bay to take on the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
Due to infamously poor refereeing, a strong attendance rate from the boisterous Thunderwolves faithful and the high-quality club that Lakehead perennially ices, the Fort William Gardens is always an extremely difficult place to play for visiting OUA teams.
Yet Wells is confident after his team overcame the long flight and hostile atmosphere in the States.
“Going down there provided us with the same logistical challenges [as going to Thunder Bay],” he said.
“[The Thunderwolves] are always a great team, but I loved our energy and our work ethic against [the Huskies], and it was a great test to get us ready to start the season at Lakehead.”
Meanwhile, forwards Paul Van De Velde and Michael Markovic both scored for the University of Toronto, but it was not enough as the Varsity Blues fell 5-2 on Oct. 6 to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in New England.
The next day, head coach Darren Lowe’s team were out-shot 50-17 and beaten 5-0 in Boston by the Boston University Terriers. Sophomore goaltender Brett Willows kept Toronto in the game with a 45-save performance.
Lowe and company completed the pre-season with a record of 1-4, and will open the season on Oct. 12 against the Royal Military College Paladins in Kingston.
As well, senior Ryerson forward Andrew Buck scored in the second period, but the Lake Superior State University Lakers beat the Rams 2-1 on Oct. 6 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
On Oct. 7, coach Graham Wise took his team to Big Rapids, Mich. to take on the Ferris State University Bulldogs, last season’s NCAA National Championship runner up.
The Bulldogs showed their quality, out-shooting the Rams 44-28, and emerging victorious by the score of 8-2.
Ryerson will begin their season against both Kingston-based squads, first on Oct. 12 against the Queen’s Golden Gaels, and then the next day versus the Paladins of RMC.