Monday, December 31, 2007
Stephen, from Turner Fenton Secondary in Brampton, looks like the type of prospect that the recruiting mags and websites list as an AT -- as in athlete -- instead of a formal football position. I can't fake a knowledge of what makes a football player and am fully aware Stephen's team didn't play in the top tier of Toronto high school ball, but he looks like he could be something once he fills out a bit.
High school standouts Stateside having clips on YouTube is nothing new (if you're a serious football nut, go look up Reggie Bush from his Helix High days), but it seems new to Canada.
It certainly can't hurt Stephen's prospects. Someone else who could get a scholarship out of this is Turner Fenton's fullback, who should be accepted into Juilliard on the strength of the acting job he did convincing the defence that Stephen might actually hand off on those triple option plays.
Here's hoping Stephen finds what he needs in Canada, but if he goes to the NCAA, all the best to him.
Stephen turning heads with punishing brand of football (David Grossman, Toronto Star, Dec. 21)
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The best way to handle this seems to be a quick summary of who is up and who is down. Take it all with a grain of salt, though. The games don't count in the standings, everyone
- Brock: Taking out No. 7 Calgary and No. 5 Brandon (who are also ranking 2-3 in the RPI) at the MTS Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg did wonders for the Badgers' reputation, especially since they did it away from home.
The gunners from the Garden City have added a rebounder, Mike Muir, to a group that has three fifth-year seniors. Fifth-year guards Brad Rootes' and Scott Murray's shooting percentages are each down from last season, so the glass-half-full prediction is that they're likely to find their form in the new year.
The name that also seems to pop up time and again is 6-foot-7 forward Owen White, who had 20 points Friday vs. Brandon. White is a third-year guy, and it's often in the third year that the light goes on for a player.
The Badgers enter the second half a game behind OUA West-leading Guelph, whom they face Jan. 12.
- Islam Luiz de Toledo/St. Francis Xavier: St. FX's Brazilian rookie has been covered here previously, but it bears noting: 30 points and 12 rebounds vs. Dalhousie en route to helping the X-Men capture the Rod Shoveller tournament in Halifax. The young X-Men beat Ottawa 84-72 in the final on Sunday, which is about a 30-point turnaround from their previous meeting in the nation's capital.
- Western: Keenan who? The Mustangs went deep into their bench in winning the Ed DeArmon tourney in Toronto, where Brad Campbell's team beat Toronto (now 15-5 on the year) in the championship game.
- Victoria: The Vikes, who are considered the surprise team in Canada West, delivered a surprise in the American Southwest by knocking off Trevecca (Ariz.) Nazarene, the No. 7-ranked team in the NAIA on Saturday. Forward Mike Hull had an 18-point outing in the 74-72 win.
- cishoops.ca: The Halifax Daily News actually referred to "ninth-ranked" Ottawa on Sunday. Of course, the Gee-Gees aren't ranked in the official CIS poll, but Mark Wacyk has them at No. 9. So does this mean his rankings should be treated as official?
- Ottawa: Losing to St. FX on Sunday sort of puts the Gee-Gees' wins over Concordia and Saint Mary's in a new light; they could have closed out either team much sooner. Chad Lucas of the Halifax Herald took in the Ottawa-Saint Mary's game and noted the Gee-Gees, who were up 11 by with 2:45 left and won by just a point, "don't handle pressure well." Carleton and U of T in the OUA East know something about bringing defensive pressure. Bottom line: It was a good weekend for Ottawa, but it could have been great.
- Acadia: The Axemen showed something with a bounce-back win over Brandon on Saturday. Then Les Berry's team had a minor meltdown in the fifth-place game of the MTS Wesmen Classic, throwing the ball away twice late in the regulation in an eventual overtime loss to Manitoba Bisons. No offence to the Bisons, who came into the tournament 2-13 (albeit with several close losses), but that was totally unexpected.
- Calgary: One game never proves a whole lot, especially since Calgary had a look at a tying three-pointer in the final seconds of its loss to Brock. Let's write this off to the fact the Dinos, as a group playing together, still have to do some growing. When they are together, look out.
- Brandon: The lads from The Scrum have the full post-mortem on the Bobcats losing back-to-back games out in Winnipeg; apparently there was a 76-minute post-game meeting after the Acadia game. Yikes. The good news: It's almost two months to the post-season.
- Concordia: This isn't a comment on the Stingers' merits. It should be noted that Dwayne Buckley, who by all accounts is a big part of their team, might have re-aggravated an injury in the overtime loss to Ottawa on Saturday.
- A certain someone's alma mater: Actually, Queen's (10-6) losing to Western and Laval at the Ed DeArmon tournament in Toronto can be rationalized. Both games were close. The Gaels were playing a good Western team for the third time in less than two months. Laval's big man, J.P. Morin, who had 40 points in the Rouge et Or's 93-86 win on Saturday, is a beast. Queen's is young and doesn't have a lot of size.
Again, that's just a cursory look... would love to be out at some games.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
No. 1 McGill, which has looked pretty invincible all season, faces No. 3 Laurier and No. 2 Alberta today and tomorrow. Coach Rick Osborne's Golden Hawks, for their part, downed the defending national champion Pandas 3-2 yesterday.
McGill had eight players score on Friday in an 8-0 rout of the host Gryphons, who are ranked No. 8. Guelph tried to make a game of it, as Charline Labonte had to make 14 of her 21 saves in the second period, but during that frame the Martlets scored three times in a 60-second span to open a huge lead.
There have been questions about the legitimacy of McGill's record since they play in a four-team league, which not incidentally is getting two berths into the nationals (Ottawa is in as the host team). The 10-team OUA will only have one. The Martlets could quiet some people if they defeat Laurier and Alberta this weekend.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Two of the three games -- No. 7 Calgary's decisive 79-69 win over Acadia (who judging by the stats, kept it within 10 thanks mostly to their big man, Leonel Saintil) out in Winnipeg and Ottawa's one-point, 82-81 victory over hometown Saint Mary's at the Rod Shoveller tournament down in Halifax -- turned out exactly as the RPI would have predicted. (Seriously, is it too much to ask for the CIS to post this on their website, along with overall records vs. CIS teams, not just league records?)
Calgary, led by brothers Henry and Ross Bekkering up front, is second in RPI, so their beating the Axemen is no shock. For what it's worth, it says here if the Final 8 was held next weekend, a Calgary-Carleton final would be fairly plausible. (If there is a such a matchup come the middle of March, who would Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who's such a big sports nut, cheer for -- the city he represents in Parliament or the one he lives in?)
Ottawa's win over Saint Mary's was sweet validation for everyone who's been on the Gee-Gees bandwagon. Coach Dave DeAveiro's team will get a shot at No. 3 Concordia tomorrow in a tournament semi-final. The Gee-Gees won't have shooting guard Donnie Gibson (cishoops.ca is reporting that he tweaked his back in practice) to match up with the Stingers' Dwayne Buckley, which is going to make the task at hand that much tougher.
Meantime, what to make of the Brock Badgers, without shooting guard Rohan Steen, coming back in the fourth quarter to beat Brandon at the MTS Classic in Winnipeg? Brad Rootes shook free for a 16-point, 10-assist double-double to lead Brock, who were cold for three quarters before rallying with a 31-17 fourth quarter. It seems best to chalk this up as a case of Brandon failing to bury a team and veteran Brock coach Ken Murray getting his team to pull together in the final minutes.
Something of note: Brock has added 6-foot-6, 260-lb. big man Mike Muir, who should provide some beef under the boards for a team that's 11th in the 16-team OUA in rebounding margin.
Again, Mark Wacyk at cishoops.ca is tracking results from across the country. The fellas at The Scrum are liveblogging from the 'Peg, and Guelph's Big Man on Campus is keeping a close watch on everything.
The upshot from today is we will have some movement in the CIS men's basketball rankings once everyone's back on campus in about 10 days.
No word of a lie of all the topics available, the first caller (Trevor from Brampton) choose to makea this fearless prediction: "The U of T will end its losing streak against York next season. It took a miracle for York to win that game last season."
Lajoie was quick to clarify that the caller doesn't play for U of T, but it would be worth betting on. The Lions, who seem to be in a perpetual uproar, barely beat the Blues 21-20 last season on a last-minute field goal by Stephen Grochot, and the program might have a new coach next season. (The job has been posted.)
So there you have it, recorded for posterity, exactly 10 months in advance. The Red and Blue Bowl is typically played in Week 5 of the season, so it would fall on Sept. 28. Has anything historic in Canadian sport ever happened on that day?
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I was aware Nahan had played professional hockey (there's a reference to it in one of Magic Johnson's autobiographies), but didn't know about his ties to Canada, much less McGill, until reading it in his AP obituary. Between Mike Babcock coaching the Detroit Red Wings, former hoops coach Kevin O'Neill now coaching a top NCAA D-1 team at Arizona and Mathieu Darche getting a regular shift with the Tampa Bay Lightning, McGill alums are ending up in high places in the sports world.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
With goaltender Dwayne Roloson sidelined due to the flu, the Edmonton Oilers have signed University of Alberta Golden Bears goaltender Aaron Sorochan to an NHL amateur try-out agreement. The 6'0", 180-pound native of Edmonton will dress as back-up to Mathieu Garon for tonight's Oilers game versus the New Jersey Devils at Rexall Place.>> team release
What would be really interesting is if Sorochan gets a chance in goal tonight to showcase what one of the better university 'tenders can do against top flight competition. He was an all-Canadian last season and has a 59-17-2 (.769) career record with the Golden Bears.
Sorochan also played five years in the WHL, where he put up a few pretty decent seasons with Vancouver and Lethbridge.
A similar callup situation took place in Vancouver a few years back when University of British Columbia netminder Chris Levesque was Johan Hedberg's backup in an emergency callup situation.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Coach Bill Self's Jayhawks are 11-0 this season and have risen to a No. 3 ranking in the NCAA. Their top four scorers so far this season could all potentially return next season, including 6-foot-9, 225-lb. sophomore forward Darrell Arthur, who is generating some NBA buzz. Going off his averages of 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, Arthur sounds like the type of big man who would need another year of work on his game before he declares for the draft.
Granted, for NCAA schools the foreign trips are mostly for their freshmen and sophomores or to try a player out at another position in a game environment. Self stressed that his 2008-09 team will "be as young as a team can be." Still, it's a kick for Canadian hoopophiles to learn that such a storied program is coming north, especially if the Jayhawks end up making a run in the NCAA Tournament come March.
A little bit of trivia: If the Jayhawks play Carleton, it would be the second year in a row the Ravens host a team with a past winner of the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player on its coaching staff. Danny Manning, the 1988 MOP, is an assistant at Kansas. Ed Pinckney, who won in '85, coaches with the Villanova Wildcats, who visited the nation's capital this year.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I've always thought it was sort of amusing that Mac didn't have hockey teams, though not in any mean way. Mac is one of the largest universities in the entire country. It enjoys a strong alumni base and the Marauders seem to be viewed as more of a home team than many other CIS schools are in their respective cities. Both Marauders basketball teams have achieved national prominence (and yes, paraphrasing a Mordecai Richler character, their football team was world-famous all over Southern Ontario), but the lack of a campus arena has put the kibosh on having hockey teams.
Former McMaster chancellor Mel Hawkrigg is one of the movers and shakers. The Hamilton Spectator also noted the owner of the AHL's Bulldogs, Michael Andlauer, is at least intrigued by the possibility. By most accounts, Andlauer is a true Hamilton guy and he can make this happen.
This is way down the road with respect to McMaster, but men's hockey does offer a fast track to success and the good publicity that brings to the school brand. Carleton has been competitive in its first season and Lakehead was a near-instant success a few years ago.
(And who knows? Perhaps Frank D'Angelo would try to enrol at Mac as a mature student so he can try out as a goaltender.)
Link via Guelph Mercury scribe Greg Layson's Big Man on Campus, a new addition to the blogroll.
"Management (at The Score) is seeking an edgier, in-your-face attitude to its on-air product. One insider called it a MuchMusic style for sports."
-- William Houston, globesports.com
There's the Houston article from Tuesday's Globe & Mail referenced in the comments down below for anyone who hasn't seen it. Again, it's very early in the game to know what this means with regard to The Score's CIS coverage, but the question should be kept out there.
Personal opinion is that The Score will be chasing a demographic it's never going to catch if it goes through with these changes. Sports viewers want to be entertained, but also have an element of just-the-facts-ma'am. The Score always has more information than the other two networks, and you can usually get it quicker than on the other networks, especially if your horizons as a fan extend beyond the NHL.
Bottom line: If people wanted MuchMusic, they'd watch MuchMusic, and I can't remember the last time I did.
Monday, December 17, 2007
A big part of the Bears' plunge from Super Bowl representative to also-ran has been injuries along the defensive line, which has given the versatile Idonjie a chance to step in. Of course, Izzy's home province has more than a few Vikings fans, so suffice to say the best hoped for scenario is that he gets, oh, 1 1/2 quarterback sacks in a 24-17 Minnesota victory.
Friday, December 14, 2007
"Anthony Cicione is out as head of programming and production at The Score. Channel vice-president David Errington describes it as an amicable split, but sources say the highly regarded executive was at odds with the direction owner John Levy wanted to take." -- Chris Zelkovich, Toronto Star
It's worth noting that Cicione was apparently one of the movers behind the emphasis The Score has placed on its University Rush coverage, not only covering more games but promoting it well on the network. Any time you lose someone who's been an ally to CIS fans, it's worrisome.
- Coaches being fired at mid-season is really more commonplace in the NHL, but the Trinity Western Spartans have fired coach Stan Peters. It's curious, mainly for the timing, plus the fact the Spartans (4-8) had won three of five going into the break.
Peters, as cishoops.ca noted at the outset of the season, lost fifth-year seniors Brian Banman and Jon Schmidt to injuries before the season. Thing is, Peters was just 107-168 in 8 1/2 years at the Langley, B.C., school. None of TWU's wins this season have been over teams with winning records.
There might some realization on TWU's part that if it's going to get serious about basketball, now's the time to make a move. It's a tough division with the three urban schools -- UBC, UVic and Simon Fraser -- and Barnaby Craddock now being at Fraser Valley.
- David Larkins of the Brandon Sun and Jeremy Sawatzky, a radio and TV guy in western Manitoba, have started a CIS-themed blog, The Scrum Brandon. It looks promising, especially their podcast, which is a great development.
One small quibble is their contention that Carleton doesn't merit a host bid into the next three Final 8s. Who else has won five straight CIS basketball titles lately?
Consider it karmic payback for 2002. Dave Smart's Ravens, No. 2 in the country, were upset in the OUA East final by York, but had no shot at the wild card since it was designated to Canada West before the season even started. Alberta, the eventual national champion, also got upset in a game to go to nationals, but it had the wild card to fall back on without it going before a committee. They might have picked Alberta still, but we'll never know.
The OUA, minus Carleton, will have two spots for its 15 other teams, a lower percentage than for 14-team Canada West, which has plenty of teams this year who are going to have a good shot thge wild card.
The OUA East, meantime, is not assured of two berths for its eight teams, which the Atlantic conference was during all the years Halifax played host.
- cishoops.ca has a post on Brennan Jarrett, a freshman swingman for the Saskatchewan Huskies who's been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Wish him well.
UPDATE: The Vancouver Province has more on the TWU coaching change.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
York's Dan Church is coach, with Regina's Sarah Howald serving as an assistant coach.
The tournament begins Jan. 2. Canada typically has won with little difficulty -- it outscored opponents 32-1 at last year's event.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
McCown mentioned in passing on his show yesterday that in his new book, McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments (written with support from Mr. Mirtle's globesports.com colleague, David Naylor), he argues that university hockey is the best hockey to be found outside the NHL.
I'm paraphrasing here, but McCown said something like, "There is plenty of evidence that a university team would cream an OHL team... in many cases you have some very good players who are 27, 28, 29 years old ... and no one goes to see it in this country."
It's really a throwback to the old days of senior amateur hockey in the 1950s, when there was less opportunity to go pro, and many fairly talented players settled into working toward a career and playing hockey on the weekends. In this case, it meant taking a job in a small town like Belleville or Trail, B.C.; nowadays it means getting started on a degree, which is sort of the same thing. Players get to form a bond with a community.
Not to go all Long Tail on y'all, but here's hoping that some of the hockeypucks, to borrow one of the Bobcat's favourite terms of endearment, who pick up The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments are motivated to check out a CIS game in the New Year, or if they already do, go more often.
Coach Mike Katz's U of T Varsity Blues (13-4, 6-2 OUA) have been left out of the Top 10 in the final coaches' poll of the calendar year, even though according to the Cheers RPI rankings, they're the fifth-best team in the country. The U of T just beat Windsor, who was ranked No. 2 in the country not too long ago. Throw in their October win over the Calgary Dinos, who are playing as well as anyone, and Katz's crew has shown they probably merit being ranked.
There is something of a rooting interest on this end. The Blues were only a couple baskets here or there from going to the Final 8 last season, the CIS championship is about the only tournament Katz hasn't coached in, nd it would be great to see a U of T team enjoy a winning moment in a marquee sport after all the coverage of the football team's 49-game losing streak this fall. Leaving both the Blues and the Ottawa Gee-Gees (11-3, 7-1 OUA) out of the Top 10 seems odd, though. The fact two of U of T's four losses came against .500 teams probably doesn't boost their case.
The Blues, with a steady handle in fifth-year guard in Mike DeGiorgio, will get plenty of chances to prove themselves after Christmas.
The Ottawa Gee-Gees have the sixth-best RPI, but are also unranked. For the record, here's the new Top 10, with overall records vs. CIS competition:
- Carleton (14-0, 8-0)
- Acadia (10-2, 5-1)
- Concordia (7-2, 3-1)
- UBC (12-2, 10-2)
- Brandon (13-3, 9-1)
- Saint Mary's (13-4, 4-2)
- Calgary (11-2, 9-1)
- Windsor (9-4, 5-3)
- Alberta (12-4, 7-3)
- Guelph (11-4, 6-2)
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The league has made to the holiday break (save for a couple games to be played today) with only one double-digit score, an 11-1 win Moncton rang up over Mount Allison back in October.
That is noteworthy. As a developing sport, with a lot of programs that are less than 10 years old, lopsided scores have been a reality for the women's game. Two years ago, for instance, there were 15 games where a team scored 10 or more goals. So it's getting better -- or maybe the top teams have decided it's bad form to score 10 goals when six will do.
The operative words are look past the standings. The traditional way of following sports (albeit one developed by men) is that you watch a game since you don't know who's going to win.Coming from that perspective, it's hard to be interested in the regular season, especially living in Ottawa, as I do. Top-ranked McGill, which has Olympian Charline Labonté in goal and national women's team coach Peter Smith behind the bench, stands out as a team that's just that far removed from its league opponents. McGill has the means to invest well in women's hockey, and evidently, it has done so.
The Martlets (10-0-0) stand out since they have a 48-5 goal differential and, of course, play in a four-team Quebec conference where everyone else is below .500. They've won seven games by shutout, been given up two goals in a game only once and have trailed for all of 10 minutes 21 seconds in their league games.
How do you put time into following a league that lopsided, though? Unless you have family or friends playing right now, it's hard to muster an interest, and this is coming from someone who is curious about the women's game, what with having a mom and sister who are heavily into the game.
McGill will get a better indicator of where it stands at a holiday tournament at the end of this month where it faces No. 2 Alberta, No. 4 Laurier and No. 8 Guelph.
Martlets keep rolling over opponents (Randy Phillips, Montreal Gazette)
... specifically, the Manitoba Bisons. While there's no unbeatens in NCAA D-1 except for the Hawai'i Warriors (who can't be picked since their program wasn't a Top 10 team 40 years ago), the Bisons did run the table. They've also played more recently than Ohio State.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
It probably trivalizes it to say this was the Stanley Cup for the first-year the CIS team. Regardless, against the No. 6 Mustangs, the Ridgebacks (Blue Dogs? 'Backs? R-Backs?) came from 2-0 down to force overtime on goals by Derrick Bagshaw and Richard Power, and their goalie Matt Mateja, stopped 44-of-46 shots. Mateja, by the way, played for the Drumheller Dragons, whose name makes them sound like a team in Scotland, not Alberta.
So yes, that must have been pretty sweet, consider UOIT, coached by Marlin Muylaert, who made Guelph a national title contender in the '90s, had lost its three previous games by a combined 20-5, including a 7-2 shellacking against the same Mustangs the previous weekend.
(Actual photo caption from the Western student paper after that: "The Mustangs men's hockey team left the UOIT Ridgebacks under a pile of snow and a barrage of pucks this past weekend." Oh, to be that young again.)
(UPDATE: Maybe more mention should be made of UOIT -- The Ridgebacks got a point off Waterloo on Saturday, losing 4-3 in OT.)