Can the York Lions crash the party at the top of the OUA?
Head coach: Tom Oliveri
Record in 2014: 10-9 (Second in OUA East division)
Playoffs: OUA preliminary round
Points scored per game: 75.7
Points allowed per game: 79.1
Key players: Daniel Tulloch, Raheem Isaac, Nathan Culbreath
Key losses: Nick Tufegdzich, Richard Iheadindu
Any team in the OUA will say that, but the York Lions really have a tough schedule, with home dates against McMaster and Windsor and away trips to Ottawa and Carleton. January may be the month when Tom Oliveri’s team plays its season, with four of five games away in Toronto and Ottawa. “I believe this year in particular,” Oliveri says, “we have a loaded, loaded OUA.” That’s saying a lot: in 2014-15, the top five teams in the CIS were from Ontario. Still, the head coach believes in his team. “We have pretty lofty goals,” Oliveri says. “We definitely think we’re a better team than we were last year.” And they should be so long as they prove that they can stay healthy, unlike previous York teams—more on that below.
Key games: at Toronto, Jan. 8; VS Toronto, Feb. 26
at Ryerson, Jan. 13; VS Ryerson, Feb. 27
York Lions head coach Tom Oliveri is a confident man. To start our interview, he says that, “We think we have a chance to have a good year.” Later on, he will add that, “We want to win multiple playoff games.”
In part he says so because the Lions’ depth is remarkable. “We’re very, very deep,” he says, “if we can stay healthy—and that’s been our Achilles heel for three years.” Indeed, Daniel Tulloch, Raheem Isaac and Tristan Newman have missed long periods of time. “The top four, five teams in the province,” he says, “manage to stay healthy. They manage to play with their key guys night in, night out.”
The proverbial cream of the OUA crop is a group York aspires to join after a season in the tier of teams just below. “Every time we play,” Oliveri says, “different guys step up.” But some players stand out. In praising the fourth-year Tulloch, the head coach says that, “There are very few people who physically can do what he does.”
With him and Nathan Culbreath, and the return of Isaac, Oliveri says there’s “no doubt” he has a versatile and athletic roster. “We want to get up and down as much as humanly possible,” Oliveri tells NPH. “We want to be playing in March.”
FYI: the regular season ends in February.