Sunday, March 30, 2008
This isn't an isolated burst of praise for CIS hockey: such influential people as Bob McCown and Gare Joyce have come out in strong support of the quality of play. It may not have the highest-level stars that major junior boasts, but there's a tremendous amount of skilled former junior stars plying their trade in CIS competition. My coworker Mike Woods wrote an interesting feature comparing junior and CIS hockey a while back, and one of the most intriguing parts was the thoughts of Queen's head coach Brett Gibson. Gibson's had a significant amount of experience in major junior, the ECHL and CIS play, and said CIS hockey is pretty comparable to some of the pro minor leagues. Obviously, he's somewhat biased by his current job, but it doesn't diminish the point that there's some good hockey going on at the university level. There have been several players who have made the jump from playing at the CIS level to NHL careers, like Randy Gregg, Steve Rucchin and Mathieu Darche. There's quite a few high-calibre current players as well, like Jared Aulin, Jordan Smith, Rob Hennigar and Ian McDonald. It seems people are starting to catch on to the quality of CIS hockey: it would be great for the league if that trend continues.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Both the Windsor Star and Halifax Herald had articles on the Lancers landing the talented Nova Scotia point guard, who led his high school team to a 64-game win streak across the past two seasons. That says something.
So does an OUA West school landing a highly sought after player out of the Maritimes. People used to be accustomed to seeing Ontario kids head down East to play hoops and plenty still do, but it's not often you saw many coming the other way. Elliot Thompson from Fredericton opted for Carleton last season. That's the byproduct of the OUA catching up to the rest of the country on the scholarship issue.
Lancers point guard Ryan Steer is graduating, so Ffrench could get a chance right away. He and Western sophomore-to-be Ryan Barbeau should have some pretty good duels in a couple seasons.
To be honest, I'm split on this whole business of announcing recruits in the spring. It's never going to reach NCAA levels of hype, it's media-friendly and it looks professional, but how meaningful is it? The players still have to get an offer of admission and the CIS is very much a league for fourth- and fifth-year guys; how many key contributors at the Final 8 two weeks in Ottawa were in high school 12 months ago? Barbeau might have been the only one.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The path to the University Cup was no cakewalk, though: Alberta started the tournament with a shocking double-overtime loss to the sixth-seeded Moncton Aigles Bleus Thursday night. They rebounded with a decisive 7-3 thumping of McGill Friday, but wouldn't even have made the final if McGill had lost to Moncton Saturday afternoon. Fortunately for the Golden Bears, the Redmen came through, punching their ticket to the final and a date with the Varsity Reds.
The Varsity Reds were on a high heading in: they'd won 21 straight games in CIS competition, and had scored 10 goals in their two tournament games while only allowing one. With a balanced lineup featuring CIS Player of the Year Rob Dennigar and AUS Rookie of the Year Hunter Tremblay up front, plus second-team All-Canadian Michael Ouzas between the pipes, UNB looked like a good bet to become just the third No.1 seed to win a national championship this year.
Alberta had just the thing to stifle the Varsity Reds' offense, though: a hot goalie. Aaron Sorochan stopped 40 of 42 UNB shots and made several great saves, while the Golden Bears capitalized on their own scoring opportunities and put three pucks behind Ouzas. It was close all the way through, but Alberta centre Ian McDonald's power-play marker midway through the third proved the eventual difference between the sides. McDonald had a strong game overall, setting up Tim Krymusa's tying goal in the second period. His four goals and two assists throughout the three games were enough to give him the tournament MVP title.
UNB came incredibly close to forcing overtime on several occasions, particularly when Tremblay rang a one-timer off the iron inside the last two minutes. They couldn't find a way to force the puck home, though, and Alberta claimed their record 13th national title as a result. The victory wasn't without controversy, as there was one puck that may or may not have snuck across the line behind Sorochan: hopefully, that part will make the highlight shows so viewers can decide for themselves. As any sports fan knows, sometimes you get those breaks and sometimes you don't.
Was the victory due to great goaltending, the curse of the top seed, the effort and determination of an underdog Alberta team, or merely the angle that saw Tremblay's shot ring off the iron instead of finding the mesh? It could have been any of the above. The Golden Bears deserve a lot of credit, though: they rebounded from a crushing first loss to the bottom seed in pure style, demolishing a very good McGill squad to improve their chances of making the finals. Once in the finals, they didn't appear intimidated by UNB's impressive record and all-star lineup. They played their game to perfection, and came away with the University Cup as a result.
For the Varsity Reds, it's got to be a bitter end to a fantastic season: one small comfort might be that they're anything but alone in the pile of favorites who couldn't win the last game. It really makes one wonder if it's worth it to give it your all in the regular season and take the high seed (and the subsequent target on your back), or if it's better to finish moderately well, turn it up in the playoffs and use underdog status to your advantage? CIS results this year would certainly seem to favour the good teams who find another gear in the post-season over the great teams that dominate all year long.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Redmen, who earlier this month recorded a decisive 4-1 victory over the Brock Badgers to claim the Queen's Cup as the OUA champions, hadn't been particularly impressive at the nationals until tonight: they were outshot 50-24 in the opener against Alberta, and trailed for the last 39 minutes of the game. However, they came out with a terrific effort to beat Moncton in a game that really didn't mean all that much to them, apart from pride: they would have needed to win by an almost unthinkable eight-goal margin to advance to the finals. Good for McGill for refusing to roll over and play dead: it would have been a shame if they'd coasted to a loss, dictating the final matchup in the process. Their performance also speaks well for OUA hockey: Brock lost both of their matches, so McGill pulling off a win kept the league from going 0 for 4.
For the Redmen, it was again goalie Mathieu Poitras who came up big, stopping 39 shots from the Aigles Bleus. Poitras had an excellent year for McGill, putting up a .917 save percentage and a 2.24 goals-against-average: however, his contributions may have flown below the radar a bit due to the tremendous all-around strength of his team. He got dinged for seven goals against the Golden Bears yesterday, but also made 43 saves: the 12 penalties taken by the Redmen were a larger part of the problem than any goaltending deficiency. Poitras was rightfully selected as McGill's player of the game.
McGill only put 31 shots on the Moncton net, but a lot of those were excellent scoring chances. The Redmen also got plenty of offense from their blueline, with defencemen Yan Turcotte and Ben Gadzic contributing goals (forward Guillame Demers scored the remaining McGill goal). They played a much better all-around game tonight than they did yesterday, and the scoresheet reflected it.
An interesting aspect of this win is how it reflects the parity across the country. In Pool B, all three teams finished with a win and a loss, requiring goal differentials to break the tie (which meant that Alberta's creaming of McGill yesterday put them through). Moreover, they pulled off the rock-paper-scissors model, with Alberta losing to Moncton but beating McGill, while McGill couldn't handle Alberta but knocked out the team that beat the Golden Bears. If these teams are that even, that speaks well for the state of CIS hockey, and also implies that the right teams made it this far.
Tomorrow night's final should be a good contest. It will be the first time in any of the big CIS championships this year that the No.1 and No.2 seeds have met in the final, so even if Alberta wins, it's not as big of an upset. The other two sports where the No.1 seed eventually claimed the championship saw lower-ranked teams taking on the top seed in the final (No.3 Laurier in women's hockey, No.7 Winnipeg in men's volleyball). Perhaps men's hockey is the exception that proves the rule about upsets in CIS competition.
Perhaps most impressive was the intensity UNB continued to bring on the forecheck even after they'd piled up a three-goal lead partway through the second: they trapped the Huskies in their own zone for extended amounts of time, created quality scoring chances and played like the game was still tied. As the CIS game recap points out, they recorded 14 of the last 16 shots in the second and outshot the Huskies 9-4 in the third, part of their 40-23 shot advantage overall. Shots don't always mean a lot, but a lot of these were good chances and, more importantly, came after the game was well in hand. Many teams would have taken their foot off the gas, relaxed, and casually played out the game: UNB never seemed to let up, which speaks well of their drive and desire to repeat as national champions.
UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall summed his team's consistent effort up pretty nicely in his post-game comments. "You always ask your players for a 60-minute effort," he said. "You rarely get to 60, but today we came pretty close." Indeed they did: that sort of killer instinct should serve them well in the final.
What's still to be decided is their opponent. If Moncton beats McGill tonight, they'll face the Reds in a rematch of last year's final. If they lose, it will be the Alberta Golden Bears with a chance to dethrone the champions. Due to their crushing loss to Alberta last night, McGill can only qualify if they win by eight, which seems unlikely against a good Moncton team that upset Alberta in their opener. McGill's currently up 1-0, so it would be the Golden Bears in the final if the score remains the same.
As a side note, Sportsnet should be commended for the strong job they've done on the telecasts so far. Peter Loubardias and Sam Cosentino are delivering a solid performance on the game call, while Rob Faulds has brought some interesting interviews to the mix. All of them seem to have done their homework on the CIS teams and players, which is good to see: their junior experience probably helps due to the large crossover in players.
Not to cornball it up, but talk about a story of overcoming pain and loss. Smith, if he hadn't suffered his injury and been unable to continue playing pro hockey, probably would have had a chance to take a regular shift with the Ducks' 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship team, but apparently he hasn't let that twist of fate defeat him nor define him.
(Incidentally, speaking of that part of North America, a Thunder Bay girl, Haley Irwin, got the first goal in Minnesota-Duluth's 4-0 win over Wisconsin in the NCAA women's championship game today. A tip of the cap is due to the four Canadian goal scorers and the Swedish goalie, Kim Martin, who led the Bulldogs to U.S. hockey supremacy.
Emmanuelle Blais of Lasalle, Que., Sara O’Toole of Burton, N.B., and Karine Demeule of Montreal scored the other goals.)
Friday, March 21, 2008
All of the above would point to a UNB repeat as a sure thing. Sure things haven't happened much this year in sports, though: consider the Giants and Patriots, or perhaps Appalachian State and Michigan. Upsets have been even more common in CIS play. Of the eight championships from this year I looked at, only two of the top-ranked teams going into the championships actually won (Alberta in men's volleyball and McGill in women's hockey). UNB could very well be the third, but upsets have been pretty frequent this year. The breakdown is below.
Who won: Brock
Their rank: 7th in the last coaches' poll, seventh-seeded in tournament, 16-6 regular season, 2-1 playoffs, entered as OUA third-place team
Who was #1: Carleton
What happened to them: The five-time defending national champion Ravens were upset by Acadia in the semifinals.
Who won: UBC
Their rank: 2nd in the last coaches' poll, second-seeded in tournament, 21-2 regular season, 4-3 playoffs, entered as Canada West champions
Who was #1: Simon Fraser
What happened to them: The defending national champions lost their first game to the eighth-seeded Laval Rouge et Or but rebounded to claim fifth place.
Who won: McGill
Their rank: Top-ranked in tournament poll and seeding. Finished season undefeated.
Notes: This is the first exception to the rule: however, Laurier managed to knock off the two-time defending champion Alberta Pandas to get into the finals against McGill, and the final could have gone either way. By the way, the Pandas finished fourth after losing the bronze-medal game to fifth-seeded Manitoba, so the tournament wasn't without upsets.
Who won: UBC
Their rank:6-5-3 regular season, 1-1 playoffs, 9th in the last coaches' poll, entered as Canada West semifinalists and tournament hosts
Who was #1: Carleton
What happened to them: The Ravens failed to make it out of OUA play, losing to Western in the semifinals and Queen's in the bronze-medal game.
Who won: Cape Breton
Their rank: 5th in the last coaches' poll, 11-1-1 regular season, 2-0 in playoffs, entered as AUS champions and tournament hosts
Who was #1: UBC
What happened to them: The Thunderbirds lost to Cape Breton in the semifinals, but rebounded to win the bronze
Who won: University of Alberta
Their rank: 1st
Notes: Alberta is obviously the other exception to the rule here. However, this tournament wasn't without upsets: second-seeded McMaster had their undefeated season blown to shreds when they lost their opening game to the seventh-seeded Winnipeg Wesmen.
Who won: UBC
Their rank: 3rd in the last coaches' poll, 4th in tournament seeding, 17-3 regular season, 3-1 playoffs, entered as Canada West bronze medalists
Who was #1: Alberta
What happened to them: The Pandas lost to UBC in a hard-fought five-set semifinal, and finished fourth.
Update: I didn't originally include football in this due to the different structure of its championship games, but there were some big upsets there as well, notably No.4 St. Mary's knocking off No.1 Laval in the Uteck Bowl and the Western Mustangs (who had been out of the national rankings for most of the season, but cracked the final coaches' poll at No.10) winning the Yates Cup as OUA champions. The No.3 Manitoba Bisons eventually claimed the Vanier Cup.
Sorry, but it's impossible to give UNB its due for the success of its men's hockey program when it makes a statement like the one when women's hockey was busted down to club status earlier this week. No doubt it was a tough decision and it gets into the whole debate over what the CIS is about, but it was the wrong one. It's 2008. Let's not go backwards.
They can cry about costs all they want, but UNB's actions basically state that only men get to play competitive hockey as part of a well-rounded education. Don Davis, the coach, points out that's exceedingly hypocritical considering the university's educational mission.
"My bone of contention with that philosophy is that, when you are a kinesiology school...when your kinesiology program is noted as one of the top programs in Canada...when your raison d'être is to promote healthy lifestyle, to promote sport, to promote participation, to promote kids being active...you cut, not because you don't have the money but because you think you have a better chance of competing for national titles with eight teams as opposed to 14." — Fredericton Daily GleanerOther schools have cut sports in order with the aim of raising their athletic profile. The buzzword is "optimization." Former Carleton AD Drew Love did so in the late '90s, but managed to add women's hockey in the process.
The other point to be made in this is that it's not just about winning games. As much as the CIS is emulating some elements of the NCAA, sports to some extent are still part of the educational mission. It's about raising leaders.
Here's hoping it's not too late to get UNB to see the light; there's a Facebook group with 650 members at this writing, but it's going to take a little more to save the team. (If it's happening to save money for a revived football program, UNB is a loser both ways. If that they're that cheap, how can they swing football?)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Long story short, the campus Internet-only radio station at UCLA was barred from calling the Bruins' NCAA Tournament games after Westwood One
"We're talking about a student activity -- a case where it's the students who are competing on the court, and you're taking an element of student participation out of the college athletic experience? How absurd. I find it utterly atrocious that money has taken the front seat over the student experience for the tournament."Shame on them.
Contrast this with the Final 8. There was The Score calling the action right down press row from webcaster Streaming Sports Network Canada with Carleton student Mark Masters and (expectant father) Mark Wacyk of cishoops.ca calling most of the games, while Carleton's CKCU 93.1 had the radio call. It meant people had options and there were different voices involved. What's the harm in that?
Goodness knows there's about a millionth of the dollars tied up in collegiate sports in the U.S. in Canada. However, covering the Final 8 without the student journalists there wouldn't have been near as much fun. It meant having people around who could share insights and information on the teams they'd covered all season with the pros who were just there for the championship.
The lack of formality was great; instead of seeing that thousand-yard stare from coaches and players when they were herded in front of a media scrum, the journalists often got one-on-ones, which presumably made for better quotes. So Michael Grange from globesports.com and Austin Kent from the Brock student paper could each have a one-on-one with one of the Badgers players. (A lot of credit should go to Carleton SID David Kent, who made sure things were formal, but not to the point it felt rigid.)
It's understandable that there are lot of questions about how to build a business model in the Internet age. Trying to restrict the access students have to a supposed student activity just seems short-sighted. The information is free; it's all in how you present your take. What's it say about Westwood One's work that they looked at an Internet broadcast as competition?
It's a hard lesson for UCLA student broadcaster (Tom Hoffarth, L.A. Daily News)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
That ought to hype the game a little bit. Glavic is apparantly still recovering from knee surgery, so who knows if he'll be 100% by the start of the season. It would be something if that's his first game back against the Gaiters.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
- RMC hockey coach Adam Shell will coach Serbia at the Division II world championship in Brasov, Romania next month. Neat.
- The Canadian Press had an update yesterday on former Laurentian hoops star Sue Stewart's long road back from a brain aneurysm three years ago.
Monday, March 17, 2008
"Good for the Score to provide full coverage of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men's basketball tournament last weekend. A year ago, the CIS games conflicted with the Score's coverage of the U.S. college men's basketball tournament and ended up streamed on the Internet. The Score's tournament average audience of 77,000 is a record." (Emphasis mine.)
A lot went into the improved ratings -- the double-overtime drama between Acadia and Carleton, was definitely a big factor; so was having a school with the alumni base of Western reach the semi-final and not having the tournament go up against the first round of the NCAAs.
The biggest factor might be the in-depth coverage that cishoops.ca and Streaming Sports Network Canada, provide on the web. Their service to a niche audience probably seems to have had an effect on bringing a few more average fans, and it certainly motivates newspapers to write more about the leagues and stimulate interest. People are more likely to tune in when they actually know a little about the teams and when there's a chance that they might run into someone the next day who's also versed.
Last, but not least, credit The Score. Both the behind-the-scenes people and the on-air talent (Tim Micallef, Sherm Hamilton and Arash Madani) got it right. Obviously, it's expensive to stage a CIS telecast for a niche audience, but they always treat what they're doing like a big-time property, not as something they air as an act of charity, which is often the vibe that you'd get in the past with TSN.
This isn't a total shock. Raimbault, who's in his mid-20s, had the interim tag after Barnaby Craddock left for the Fraser Valley job last spring; perhaps there was an understanding. The knee-jerk impulse would be to believe they'd keep him, but BU is bringing in Thom Gillespie, who had some good seasons at New Brunswick, and former Bobcats player Keith Vassell, who like Craddock, cut his coaching teeth in Europe.
We'll see what Swatter and Larks over The Scrum have to say in the days to come.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
- First word should go to Guelph Merc's Big Man, Greg Layson, who lets us in on a little something: Brock coach Ken Murray knew all along about his team's potential.
- Brock, as you know, got back into it with a game-tying 14-6 run in the third quarter, right after Brad Rootes drew an offensive foul.
Rootes not only scored all eight of his points in that stretch, but he got to the rim a couple times to score over Acadia's Leonel Saintil by going lefty. In the first half, he'd tried to drive the right side and was blocked.
It's quite likely someone from Brock noticed that Carleton's Rob Saunders, in the semi-final vs. Acadia, got to the rim a couple times by going left. The Badgers certainly picked a good spot to go to the well.
- There's a hundred factors that could have tipped the outcome to the other guys a 64-61 final. Acadia's Shawn Berry had foul trouble; he could have helped out on tournament MVP Owen White and given the Axemen another big body on the boards.
- Brock grabbed four straight offensive boards at one point in the first half. When that happens, it's hard not to believe something special is unfolding.
- Dusty Bianchin was tabbed as Brock's X factor in the preview that Mark Wacyk collaborated on for the Sun. Lo and behold, he hits the final two baskets of the game from his sweet spot, the right elbow.
Bianchin, who grew up on Rosseau Place in Niagara Falls, one street over from Rootes and Mike Kemp, related how he joined his first basketball team at Rootes' behest. "We all played hockey and baseball together. When we were 12, Brad switched to basketball. I held out for one more year and then he called me and said, 'Look, we need a big guy.' "
That's really the best way to overdramatize what Brock did; a bunch of guys who played together from an early age got together and got it done. Rootes made big plays at both ends of the floor; Bianchin and Mike Muir got rebounds; Kemp and Scott Murray were solid on the perimeter. Rohan Steen's line-drive three midway through the fourth was also a big, big shot. Last, but not least, there was White, who went toe-to-toe with Western's Colin LaForme and Acadia's Saintil over the final two games.
- Sun Media colleague Chris Stevenson's take, Ravens tumble with grace, pretty much nails it. They just got beat, they didn't shoot well or get good looks in three endgame situations. There's nothing dishonourable in that; it was telling when Ryan Bell said afterwards; "I was godawful in the first half. I couldn't get it done for the guys." (Emphasis mine.)
- The one parallel with Acadia was Carleton's loss to York in January 2007, where they were down 61-22 at halftime. York had Jordan Foebel, a long defender in the post, plus couple GWSes (gunners without shame) out on the perimeter. That almost seems to be what you need to beat Carleton; a couple shooters who will throw up a contested three. There won't be as many open looks.
- Dave DeAveiro, the Ottawa coach, shared his thoughts on Sunday: "You almost had the perfect game last night from Acadia, they had some great bounces and got some great shots. They did a great job defensively. Achuil (Lual) really did a great job on Aaron (Doornekamp). That’s the first time in a long time that Carleton hasn't won in the rebounding aspect of the game. They get second shots, they have a chance to win.
"All that being said, Acadia shots 50% from the floor and they win by two in double overtime. That's how good Carleton is ... Every time it looked like, 'there goes Carleton on one of those runs,' they'd get a big three or a big score."
DeAveiro also commented on the loss of the uber-guard, Oz Jeanty.
"The question everyone asks was, was it difficult not having Osvaldo (Jeanty) on the floor? Carleton had a chance to win in regulation, a chance to win in the first overtime and a chance to tie in the second overtime and could not get a good shot off. That's the first time I've seen that. Credit goes to Acadia, but with Oz in there, there’s no doubt Oz is taking the ball and he's going to score. It was interesting to see that last night, who was going to be the go-to guy."
Talking on Wednesday, Doornekamp had said "nobody could fill" the hole left by Jeanty's graduation. Thing is, the Ravens had covered up for it well. That tells you what kind of job Dave Smart did going 32-1 this season. Thing is, people will remember the one.
Errata (and one erratic toss)
- Attention must be paid: The OUA West's second- and fourth-place teams in the regular season played in the national semi-final. Western, under Brad Campbell, will be back before long.
- So, a 16-team tournament? Part of the argument is that there are more good teams than there were even a decade ago and they should get a shot. Another is that three games in 48 hours might work against providing a good showcase for the sport. The final -- granted, this is partly Carleton's influence -- always tends to be a defensive struggle, with scores in the 60s. When was the last time there were more than 150 points scored in a championship game?
At the same time, the Final 8 is a nice, compact format. It's take in teams from all regions of the country. There's a law of diminishing returns.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The immediate question is, was it the greatest game in CIS history? Carleton shot in the 30s and, let's be honest, the officiating you could take issue with, so greatest game might be a stretch, but it was tense, that's for sure, and no one could remember off-hand a game that tiops it. There isn't the fan culture (or readily available Wikipedia entries) around university sports in Canada that there is in the States, so it's an impossible question to answer at 3:30 a.m. The frame of reference isn't quite the same.
What is known is that the Axemen and Ravens went two overtimes. The game seemed to have about a hundred climaxes. A 31-0 team's streak of five straight titles ended in front of a hometown crowd of 9,316 that they had hoped to continuing winning in front of straight through this year, 2009 and 2010, when they would have been poised to break Victoria's record of seven straight championships. (Ken Shields' record is safe for a good long time now.)
The parallels here are odd. Acadia also ended Victoria's run, also in a semi-final game, in 1987. Those Axemen lost the final to Brandon, and these guys will play another BU, Brock, in the final.
UCLA and John Wooden's seven-year streak also ended with a double-overtime defeat in a national semi-final vs. N.C. State in 1974. N.C. State, of course, is the Wolfpack; Acadia is in Wolfville. Weird. That year marked the last NCAA Tournament that only included conference champions. Now we're about to have a championship game between a 5 and a 7 seed which didn't win their conferences, which should fuel debate over whether it's time to go to 16 teams, or how much stock should be put in winning the league when it's time to do the seedings.
For the greatest game debate, among all sports, the 1994 Vanier Cup, Western over Saskatchewan in overtime, always bears mentioning. Hockey has Trois-Rivieres' double-overtime win in the 2001 final over St. Francis Xavier that denied that school the chances to rule hoops and hockey in the same season. (The basketball X-Men, a week earlier, beat Brandon in, wait for it, overtime.) Then there's all sorts of regular-season games that were big in their own way, like the 2003 McMaster-Queen's football game where the Gaels went up in the last minute on a 99-yard Tom Denison-to-Craig Spear scoring pass, only to have Jesse Lumsden run the ensuing kickoff all the way back to take it to overtime, where the Marauders won.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Berry to the line for two and he sinks both; he's perfect from the line tonight, so far. That's probably it right there, despite the effort from Laval. Player of the Game: Leonil Saintil, with a nod to Shawn Berry.
Excellent game after a shaky start. That's the third consecutive lower-seed win in the quarterfinals, but don't expect that to continue tonight. Too bad The Score has wrestling instead of Carleton-Alberta; I know what I'd prefer to see right now.
9:30 - It's now a seven point game. Acadia out-rebounded the Rouge et Or 13-4 on the offensive side through three.
8:30 - Now a five point lead for Acadia. Laval stops Saintil from sinking one down low; excellent D so far in this quarter.
8:14 - Saintil's so good, he can will the officials to call fouls when they probably shouldn't. He only sinks one and now it gets physical. No charge, instead a turnover by Laval.
7:11 - 65-59. Morin still on the bench while Laval's D keeps them close.
6:40 - Announcers are raving about the timing of Laval's timeout as they make it a four-point game. Don't know what game I was watching back then, but Laval has definitely turned it up.
5:44 - Acadia goes back on top, 70-61. Beaulieu Maheux immediately sinks a three and the Axemen are stopped inside yet again.
4:25 - Saintil isn't the first guy Laval wants to see at this point, but he checks back in.
3:37 - Laval transitions into a three-ball for Beaulieu-Maheux, but Shawn Berry picks up the basket and one. 74-67.
2:14 - 74-71. Here we go. Berry pushes off and makes it a five point lead.
1:48 - Saintil steals it, goes all the way for two more. Acadia by 7 on the huge play. Nearing the end here.
1:12 - Acadia by 6 as they run off the clock. Berry might have put on ice with the offensive rebound and layup. He's at 22 points on the night. The rest of the fourth quarter is at the top of this post.
9:06 remaining - Berry draws a foul--kind of a phantom call there; nothing's going Laval's way. 43-28 after another pair.
8:42 - Gagnon-Hebert checks in and takes one of two from the line. Second shot missed, but picked up by Laval.
8:10 - Morin with another good play and we're at 45-34.
7:15 - 49-34 after another Saintil special.
5:54 - Saintil grabbing boards left and right and Acadia's up 51-37.
5:34 - Turcotte-Routhier checks back in and man, Saintil's a player.
5:11 - Berry sinks both from the line. 55-37 and I think we know where this one's going to end up.
4:45 - Looks like Laval tried to pull a fast one. Cote fouled but a better FT man went to the line. Apparently Saintil picked up on it, even if the officials didn't.
3:18 - Laval's collapsed down inside and Acadia has plenty of time to work it around the perimeter. Four fouls for Morin and it's 59-42 Acadia.
2:30 - Laval dribbles it off a foot and out of play. Timeout called; the Rouge et Or seem like they're giving up, or at least drained.
2:06 - Baribeau tries to go coast-to-coast and doesn't bring it home. Acadia tries a court-length pass and it doesn't work.
1:18 - Beaulieu Maheux certainly has enough energy left. Doesn't draw the foul and it's 62-46. Not much progress from the Rouge et Or since the timeout.
0:30 - 62-51. Well, I'm happy to be wrong, if it means the fourth will be exciting.
0:00 - Laval picks up another at the end and it's a nine point lead for the Axemen after three.
9:25 - Saintil accidentally gives Laval a reset and it's 20-11.
8:14 - The Axemen taking advantage of some miscues, with Santana and Saintil closing the gap.
7:38 - 20-20 now. Laval still missing all over the place; Saintil's rebounds prove useful for the other side.
7:06 - Morin can play D, too. Laval can't convert, though, and we trade turnovers again.
6:15 - Saintil scraps out two more and Acadia takes the lead (11-2 run).
5:54 - Back to Saintil. He picks up the plus-one and it's 25-20.
5:11 - Bit of a collision but no nosebleed. Missed the name of the unlucky Laval player. 27-20. Another TV timeout.
4:23 - 27-23, actually. Kraus sinks two from the line and it's 28-23.
4:06 - Can someone at The Score please enlarge the box? Ticker at the bottom looks great, but I want to know the score without using a microscope.
3:47 - Well, everyone saw that. Verrault wth the big-time rejection.
3:27 - Morin picks up two more, 31-24.
2:07 - Things are picking up now. Acadia 35, Laval 29.
1:21 - Nine point lead becomes 11. Laval's not looking good lately.
0:00 - 28-10, Acadia outscored Laval in that quarter. 39-28 at the half.
And I can give my eyes a break from squinting. Seriously, the box is way too small.
7:54 remaining - Both teams are kind of shaky so far. Nerves? Laval's turned it over a few times and Acadia's missing more than you'd expect. 3-2 Acadia.
4:43 - Not the best basketball I've ever seen so far. Seems like both sides are just shooting once they reach the arc, and more balls have landed in the seats than in the basket. 10-8 Laval, somehow, as we take a TV timeout.
1:03 - Morin twinkle-toes his way to two more. Laval's taken advantage of the Morin double-team, though, and both teams are now connecting on passes if not any shots in the paint.
0:00 - 18-11 for the Rouge et Or after ten. Not seeing a lot inside from Acadia; Laval's big men are doing their jobs so far.
Brock and Western have already advanced, and having not seen those first two games, I'm nonetheless comfortable calling this the game of the day. Two good teams here. We'll see if the Axemen can one-up the Huskies after their tough loss last Sunday and advance to the final 4.
Looks like the winner plays Carleton, though...but still, after today, it will likely be three Ontario teams plus one of these two.
Neate's right about deferring to CISHoops.ca, but there aren't any "ant overlords" from where I sit, so settle back for some 5-on-5 once The Score finishes their not-quite-Prime Time Sports radio/TV mashup.
14:00 Quarterfinal #2: No. 2 UBC vs. No. 7 Brock (Video Webcast)
18:00 Quarterfinal #3: No. 4 Laval vs. No. 5 Acadia (The Score / Video Webcast)
20:00 Quarterfinal #4: No. 1 Carleton vs. No. 8 Alberta (The Score / tape delay: 22:00 / Video Webcast)
I caught up with him yesterday to talk a little bit about the event in the lead up.
"I think you’re going to see it with it being in Ottawa, you’ll see the excitement build a bit more," Oliver said while he was himself in transit from Windsor to the tournament. "It’s the right time, obviously with Carleton on a roll and with the success they’ve had over the years, you know bringing it to Ottawa, it’s the right time. I think everyone enjoyed Halifax and loved what they did for it, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a great product and we’ve got to bring it to the whole country."
He also talked about the possibility of expanding the tournament from eight to 16 teams.
"I’m not sure that’s the right thing. When you think about it, there’s only  teams playing right now and to think that almost half the teams go onto the next step — the percentage in the States is 65 of 300-some teams. I mean that’s a little bit different percentage. I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it, but somehow we’ve got to build the excitement of those playoff play-ins."
Earlier this month, Oliver was named OUA West coach of the year for the second season in a row, and he's going to be someone to watch in the future.
- Streaming Sports Network Canada (ssncanada.ca) got some major pub today with a mention in the Toronto Star.
- Colleague Chris Stevenson, as he always does, lends some perspective on Carleton's success, putting against a backdrop of parity-happy pro sports. (Who would have known, if not for Chris, that Senators coach Bryan Murray coached a little basketball in his day?)
My contributions to the Sun's coverage consist of a feature on the newly minted Mike Moser Memorial Trophy winner, Aaron Doornekamp of Carleton (in both tabloid and broadsheet form), plus a feature on the "glue" of the Ravens, point guard Ryan Bell.
I'll check in from time to time here and at Out of Left Field, but duty to the ant overlords come first. And hobknobbing. Lots and lots of hobknobbing.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Lengyel, who is now a software executive living in Arizona, was so moved by the Bathurst tragedy and its similarities to Marshall that he volunteered his time and is paying his own way to visit the northern New Brunswick city.
Here's hoping Lengyel's efforts have some impact in the right places.
Ex-Marshall coach calls for ban on van in N.B. crash (The Canadian Press)
Average points scored and allowed per game (sorted by differential)
3-Saint Mary's, 84-77
Carleton, Acadia, and Saint Mary's sport the best offenses among this group when you compare to their conference average, though you don't need to solve a math problem to know Dave Smart's boys are really good. On the other side of the ball, it's Carleton and Acadia again. (Somewhat interestingly, the Ravens and Axemen were also 1-2 in rebound differential.) To paraphrase Jerry Howarth, Acadia-Laval tomorrow night should be a honey of a game.
Among the CIS top scorers in the tournament, we have Laval's J.P. Morin, of course, with 24.5 points per game as well as his teammate and 2006-2007 Rookie of the Year Jean-Francois Beaulieu-Maheux (19.4). Alberta's Alex Steele checks in with 21.0; Mark McLaughlin of Saint Mary's scored 19.0 and is one of two AUS All-Stars in the Final 8. Curious about Carleton? Stu Turnbull and Aaron Doornekamp are both in the 15-16 range.
The list of high-percentage shooters is a little different, as you might expect. A pair of standouts are Marc-Andre Cote and Ikeobi Uchegbu, who connected on 59% and 57% of their shots, respectively. There were also a lot of guys at 55%. From beyond the arc, watch out for Mustang Jason Milliquet (52-for-121), Axeman Peter Leighton (39-for-87) and Beaulieu-Maheux (41-for-91).
Also keep an eye on Acadia's Leonel Saintil who set a record for most rebounds in a season with 277 in 20. He and Morin each topped 10 per game.
By the way, big ups to Carleton for their Final 8 media guide, available here. If every team went to this much effort, it would be laughably easy to cover the CIS.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Mark Masters of Streaming Sports Network Canada (and Rogers 22 here in Ottawa) passed along word today that SSN will webcast the quarter-finals on Friday, with Mark and the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Kondro at the mikes for the 11:30 a.m. ET Western-Saint Mary's contest.
Mark related that SSN's viewership for last weekend's women's Final 8 in Saskatoon by far exceeded expectations.
Shawn McCart will do the play-by-play for the 2 p.m. UBC-Brock game. (If McCart's name sounds familiar, he did play-by-play for the Triple-A Ottawa Lynx in 2006.)
It would be remiss not to point to the story on Acadia's Achuil Lual and Leo Saintil, the two Ottawa products on the Axemen, in the dead-tree medium. Lual, the AUS defensive player of the year, was everything you want in an interview; laid-back, able to poke fun at himself and quick with names. He made sure I didn't get off the phone without him pointing out that since the AUS began recognizing a top defender three years ago, the honour has gone to a graduate of the Ottawa Phoenix club program -- Garry Gallimore, then with St. FX, for two seasons, and now him.
(cishoops.ca also has a post up on this.)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
- Both goaltenders were awarded with a tie and 65 minutes played, despite the game-winning goal that came at 61:29.
- UNB's players tallied 42 shots on the Saint Mary's goalie, but Brandon Verge only faced 38 shots because four of those were double-counted for "Nathan O\'nabigon" and Nathan O'Nabigon. This also added a phantom assist to the UNB total, which doesn't seem so bad, but it's really, really hard to get credit for seven assists on three goals.
- "Denny Johnson" scored for UNB 11 seconds into the third period and Denny Johnston was credited with a goal on the scoresheet. The latter is correct.
- Nathan Beausoleil is also misnamed as Nathen.
- And who knows what else.
It's not easy to keep score in a game as fast as hockey, but these are easily-avoided factual mistakes. Players and coaches talk about stepping up their game for the conference finals and it sure would be nice to see the scorekeepers do the same.
Monday, March 10, 2008
There were some grumbling about how that unbeaten record was fashioned when they kept thumping the same three teams over and over during the regular season. No matter, though. Charline Labonté and Co. showed they're legit in a 2-0 win over a game but outgunned Laurier team tonight in Ottawa. National team coach Peter Smith's Martlets, which got goals from Cathy Chartrand and Ann-Sophie Bettez, in the final minute of the second and the final minute of the game (the clincher with 16 seconds left came after a penalty all but sealed the game) didn't give the third-best team in the country much breathing room for the entire 60 minutes.
McGill, which won the school's first CIS title in a women's team sport, seemed several gears faster than Laurier. (Kylie Richardson, who did a great job as a colour analyst for The Score once she settled in, pointed out during the third period that McGill was so aggressive on the puck that it seemed like they were down 1-0 instead of being ahead.)
Get used to seeing McGill in this game. The school has a lot invested in women's hockey, it has a strong coach and the chance to be play on a winning team while surrounded by everything a McGill education and downtown Montreal has to offer is tough to turn down. McGill's win tonight is a good prologue for the rivalry that will hopefully develop once their new neighbours, Danielle Sauvageau's Montréal Carabins, get their program up to speed.
There was just an air of inevitability to the entire night. Laurier just didn't have the hammers, no matter what they tried or how brilliantly their goalie, Liz Knox, played. Their best chance at tying the game in the third period actually came when a McGill defender tipped a pass on net, but Labonté adjusted quickly to the deflection and made the save.
Labonté probably didn't give up a bad rebound all night on her way to finishing with a clean sheet for the entire tournament -- three games, three shutouts. Chartrand had a tournament-high six points. It would be remiss not to mention Shauna Denis, the Martlets captain who was The Score's performer of the game. On The Score telecast, Arash Madani related a good anecdote about how Denis, who's from Stittsville just south of Ottawa, passed up a good job opportunity to come back and try and win the long-elusive national title in her own backyard. It worked out well for her.
Laurier played the role of the plucky longshot to the hilt. It was probably too much to ask of a young team to keep McGill from the national title that was theirs to lose all season, especially when penalties in the final two minutes of each of the first two periods gave the Redmen a pair of 5-on-3s, the second resulting in Chartrand's goal after an ill-timed line change.
It's probably the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic to wonder too much about Laurier coach Rick Osborne's strategy in the final two minutes. He opted not to call timeout with 1:43 left and a faceoff in McGill's zone. Seconds later, rookie Heather Fortuna took a penalty that basically decided the game. He also didn't lift Knox for an extra skater with about 40 seconds left when the Golden Hawks, despite being short-handed, got the puck deep into McGill's end. Bottom line, though, the Golden Hawks gave it a good go and they had their shining moment by helping knock Alberta off the podium for the first time in a while. (Manitoba took the bronze by beating the Pandas 4-2 earlier today.)
Alberta will be back, but it looks like the the torch is headed east.
You're all witnesses -- the comment was made during the first intermission about how annoying it is women's teams getting put two skaters down by a body contact penalty. Damned if that might not decide the national championship.
Chartrand broke the goose egg with 52 seconds left in the period on a 5-on-3, about 40 seconds after Laurier's Andrea Bevan was penalized for elbowing (although it probably goes uncalled if the McGill player hadn't landed on her duff). It was the second time that Bevan was sent off in the final two minutes of a period. The Golden Hawks are good, but not good enough to get away with that twice.
Laurier, perhaps a little shaken by that, was doing fine on the penalty kill until the forward they had out tried to change when McGill had the puck at its own blueline. That was a killer; it was 5-on-2 for a few seconds, giving Chartrand time to wind up.
Liz Knox is stealing the show -- along with 3-4 potential goals -- in the first period, making 15 saves for the Golden Hawks.
It's shaping up to be quite a second period, the crowd at the uOttawa rink is pretty loud and it's a slow sports night. What's your excuse for not tuning in? You can get a pretty drinking game going -- chug every time The Score's colour commentator refers to a player's conditioning. You can get drunk in ironic fashion.
Knox has been impressive, robbing the Martlets' Ann-Sophie Bettez and Caroline Hill and denying Rebecca Martindale twice.
One adjustment that comes with watching a women's game is the penalties that are issued for body contact. It's especially annoying when a team gets a body contact penalty in their own zone when it's already short-handed. McGill got a 5-on-3 for the final 1:41 of the first period after Laurier's best defender, Bevan, got the gate for taking down a Martlets player. It was a clear penalty under the rules, but talk about putting a team behind the 8-ball.
(There's a very good take up at cishoops.ca -- the point being, let's keep some perspective.)
Nevertheless, Jack Aubry, who's a seasoned political reporter, kind of lost his wits inveighing against Dave Smart not being up for CIS men's basketball coach of the year, even though the Carleton Ravens are 31-0. (The rest of us made our peace with this a couple weeks ago, when the OUA East award was announced.)
"... There's already been a bit of craziness off the court that has left serious Canadian basketball fans shaking their heads in wonderment."Here on Planet Earth, those who follow university sports for more than two weeks out of the year (Final 8 and the week of the Vanier Cup) are numb to rather enigmatic award choices. Remember when the Hec Crighton went to a quarterback (McMaster's Ben Chapdelaine in 2001) with more interceptions than touchdown passes that season?
Hate to break it to him, but he exaggerated. Yes, it's silly to synch up OUA and CIS awards, since the two best coaches or the two of the best individual performers might play in the same conference (think Regina QB Teale Orban and UBC tailback Chris Ciezki in football two years ago). Sadly, the argument kind of gets lost in the wildly inaccurate analogies.
"... Dave Smart, the Johnny Wooden of Canadian basketball, will not be receiving the national coach of the year award for 2007-2008."
"I don't want to exaggerate, but in the world of awards, it's akin to denying Albert Einstein the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Or telling Wayne Gretzky that he wouldn't receive the Art Ross Trophy for scoring in 1985-86 even though he broke the NHL record for most points in one season with 215."
(The Nobel Prize is for accomplishments that have stood up to a test of time and the Art Ross Trophy is a straight stats award. If the coach-of-the-year award just went to the coach whose team won the most games, yeah, it would be a totally valid analogy.)
"There should be blood over this."It's amateur sports, for pity's sake. It's the ultimate tribute to Carleton's coaches and players that Smart wasn't the OUA East coach of the year during an unbeaten season. (It went to Mike Katz of Toronto, which Aubry sideswipes as the "centre of the universities.")
The Ravens have reached that level where it almost seems redundant to honour them -- much like how Wooden didn't win NCAA coach-of-the-year honours during all 10 of his national championship seasons at UCLA (he won it only seven times).
Let's appreciate that instead of trying to conjour up injustices where there aren't any. Surely a veteran political reporter has the sufficient common sense.
- (6) Western vs. (3) Saint Mary's: It figures that the matchup between two bright bench coaches, Western's Brad Campbell and SMU's Ross Quackenbush, gets scheduled for 11 a.m., when some of us aren't awake enough to pick up all their nuanced moves.
There's a good take at cishoops.ca explaining how the Huskies went from being the No. 3 seed in their own conference tournament to the same seed at the nationals.
- (7) Brock vs. (2) UBC: The T-Birds, as the No. 2 seed last season, lost to Ottawa in the first round. Brock is a similarly dangerous team, with some good veterans and maybe just a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
Chris Dyck, UBC's primary scoring option, struggled at this stage in 2007, shooting 2-for-12 and fouling out in that loss to the Gee-Gees. There's a storyline for ya.
- (5) Acadia vs. (4) Laval: This can be billed as a tough defensive team (39% shooting against prior to he AUS Final 6) trying to shut down the leading scorer in the country, J.P. Morin. The Axemen duo of Achuil Lual and Leonel Saintil should be able to make Morin work for his touches. They also had some success with a 2-3 zone vs. Saint Mary's; you might see them use that vs. Laval to save their bigs some fouls and push Morin out of the post.
- (8) Alberta vs. (1) Carleton: There's a bit of historical significance. Don Horwood's Golden Bears won the last title in 2002 before the Ravens began their run, but how well can they defend in the post vs. the Ravens' Aaron Doornekamp? This could follow the close-for-a-while pattern of Carleton's last two playoff wins.
Last, but not least...
- Sweet 16? Reading that tournament committee apparently considered seven schools for the wild-card bid might spark thoughts -- again -- about expanding the tournament. Brandon, Calgary, Cape Breton, Ottawa, St. Francis Xavier, Toronto and Windsor are each equal to if not better than a couple of tournament teams. Throw in someone to be the No. 16 seed and play Carleton in the first round...
... Don't miss the point, though. There's sort of a destiny aspect to winning a national title. You win it, but it wins you.
Each of the teams who are on the outside looking in had a chance. Calgary is home due to one bad weekend. The same goes for Brandon. Windsor and Toronto are home due to one rough game. So it goes. The conference playoffs have a one-and-done urgency to them that should be retained, not tampered with. It's good there aren't as many second chances in the CIS as there are in NCAA Division 1.
(Plus, in their league, every team doesn't automatically make the playoffs.)
Laurier upended two-time champion Alberta 4-2 last night, turning the tables on the team who dashed their gold-medal hopes the previous two years. What's kind of remarkable about coach Rick Osborne's team is that they seem to be pretty young; only three players remain from the 2005 national championship team (one of whom, Lauren Meschino, scored what proved to be the game-winner). A second-year player and a rookie -- Daniela Di Felice, with a pair, and Kaley Powers, who opened the scoring -- counted three of their first four goals.
Goalie Liz Knox, who stopped 19-of-21, is also just in her second season. She'll be matched against an Olympian, Charlie Labonte, tonight.
(It would be remiss not to point out that Powers played her minor hockey in the Kingston Ice Wolves, which has produced a fair player or two since their teams were called the Kodiaks and Jayna Hefford was skating circles around house-league boys teams.)
Alberta and Manitoba will play for the bronze at 2 p.m. Anything less than a national title is typically considered disappointing for a U of A hockey team, but things aren't looking too bad for the Golden Bears men's team. They hammered Saskatchewan by a combined 13-3 in the Canada West championship series.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Neither team played their best basketball at the most important time of the season, which is why they're in this situation. The case for Brandon (28-8, 4th in RPI) is that they played a tougher schedule. They beat Calgary twice, but were otherwise 1-4 against tournament teams (although that includes a 14-point win over UBC and a one-point loss to Carleton).
The argument for Acadia would take in the fact they beat the Bobcats in their lone meeting at the Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg over the Christmas holidays and are 25-6 on the season. Three of those losses, though, came against the same team, Saint Mary's, and Acadia is just 9th in the RPI. (As a footnote to that, the Atlantic University Sport powers-that-be might want to review their rules regarding pre-season practice and games ... there was some carping about that on the Dale Stevens discussion list back in the fall, and one wonders if there's a correlation with the RPI of Atlantic teams. Other than Saint Mary's and that one holiday tournament, Acadia hasn't seen any of other Final 8 teams.)
"If Dave doesn't know you, he is hard to approach, but once you know him then he is always kind. Yes he is sarcastic, and yes, he doesn't let you get away with saying stupid things, but people that are close to him don't think of that being
a hard-ass." -- Osvaldo Jeanty
The feeling on this end with how Dave Smart coaches has always been, Why wouldn't you coach that way? His Carleton Ravens players seem to come in with their eyes wide open; they know what they're getting into.
A good companion to Andrew Duffy's feature in the Citizen today is the profile Chuck Klosterman did on Steve Nash in 2005. Smart's Ravens, in their own way, also boil basketball down to its purest form -- "consciously creat(ing) short-term sacrifice if that loss yields long-term social benefit to players ... From each his ability, to each his needs."
It's important, as Nash pointed out in that article, not to "glorify the idea of playing basketball." That said, one analogy for what Carleton has done is that Smart takes young men who might be predisposed to becoming cutthroat capitalists, but who are open, even eager, to be share-the-ball, sprawl-on-the-floor socialists for four or five years. They also rebound really, really well.
(Much obliged to Andy Grabia from The Battle of Alberta for the link -- and sorry about the U of A Pandas hockey team. Laurier's got big hawks.)
Saturday, March 08, 2008
"I mean, no one in Canada expects us to win and we’re going to go in and play our game and play free, much as we’ve done our entire playoff run."
"Carleton’s very deep, they’ve got a heckuva lot of talent, they’re probably the most physical team in the country, especially on the offensive and defensive boards, and they obviously defend very well. They’re incredibly tough."The full story on all the weekend action will be up Sunday night at Globesports.com and in Monday's paper.
Still up for grabs: The Atlantic berth (it's Dalhousie-Acadia and Saint Mary's-St. FX in the semis tonight), an OUA berth (the Ottawa-Brock play-in game has been put off till Sunday due to a snowstorm) and the wild-card berth (money's on Brandon).
It does bear pointing out the Laval and UBC get a special hat tip for having both basketball teams reach nationals. Alberta and McGill have done it in hockey.
The No. 3-seeded Marauders, who play No. 2 UBC in the semi-final tonight in Saskatoon, won a Final 8 game for only the second time in the program's history, with usual suspects Lindsay DeGroot and Chiara Rocca having big games in a win over the host Huskies. No. 8 Laval took care of No. 1 seed Simon Fraser, meaning it's up to UBC or Regina to keep that trophy in the west. It seems prudent to believe it will be the Thunderbirds and Cougars in the final tomorrow at 6 (Eastern, but you knew that) on The Score.
(Only in the CIS, and it's kind of charming: One of the game recaps was written by "Huskie Athletics sports information assistant" Laurence Nixon -- the same guy who's also the Huskies' quarterback. It's a little hard to imagine Tim Tebow sitting at courtside batting out an account of a basketball game.)
Day 1 of the women's hockey nationals went as expected -- McGill and Alberta, seeded 1-2, each won by shutout and bought themselves a day of rest. St. FX, which plays Manitoba in the afternoon game today, probably needs to win to further their hopes of being the first Maritime team to win a CIS women's hockey medal.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
It's unclear what the University Rush package might look like next year now that The Score has closed its bureaus and lost Forde to the bigger network.
Duane Forde joins TSN broadcast staff (TSN.ca)
It's no surprise that the Alberta Golden Bears and UBC Thunderbirds are the high risers after last weekend's Canada West Final Four.
- Carleton (1)
- UBC (6)
- Acadia (4)
- Brandon (3)
- Alberta (NR)
- St. FX (8)
- Laval (10)
- Ottawa (7)
- Calgary (2)
- Western (NR)
Dropping out: Windsor, Toronto
Also receiving votes: Cape Breton 50, Windsor 38, Toronto 32, Brock 21, Saint Mary's 16, Concordia 4.
There probably should be a post to go up over whether it's time to re-examine opening up the national championship to more than eight teams again. Anyone who has any thoughts, don't hesititate to shoot an e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, March 03, 2008
In fact, until Sunday, it'd never happened:
Mark the date down: March 2,2008. A historical day for Thompson Rivers University. One of Canada's youngest universities came of age on this date. Its the day they captured their first ever CIS medal. The WolfPack Mens Volleyball team captured a bronze at the CIS Nationals at the University of Laval.Anyone else have goosebumps?
I'm kidding. But this is a pretty big deal for TRU, which hasn't been on the CIS scene very long at all and has managed to become competitive quickly in the ultra-competitive men's volleyball circuit in Canada West.
With the bronze, TRU now has more men's volleyball medals than schools like Guelph, McMaster, Memorial, Queen's and Western, all of whom have been around for ages.
Between TRU and Ryerson, I just may have graduated from two of the least-decorated CIS schools in the country, but the WolfPack have beaten the Rams on the board.
Probably by a few decades.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Brock's goalie, Matt Harpwood, stopped 100-of-106 shots in the three-game series; no telling how many his defencemen blocked.
Look out -- Man!
Alberta and Saskatchewan, as expected, also advanced to the University Cup by winning their respective Canada West semi-final series. Alberta swept the Manitoba Bisons, but they were pushed, ultimately coming from two goals down in the second game to win 4-3 on a double-overtime by Brian Woolger.
Manitoba is an emerging program in Canada West. There's been a push within that province to develop their overall talent base and keep those players home (if you're not in the WHL, you can't leave to play Provincial Junior A until you're 18). Don MacGillivray, who was named Canada West coach of the year recently seems to have made a good transition from Junior A. Who knows, this might be a high-water mark for the Bisons, but hey, it's not like people haven't got a little tired of seeing the Golden Bears come out of Canada West every March.
(MacGillivray knows from taking down a powerhouse; in 2003-04, his Portage Terriers finished 30 points behind the five-time defending champion OCN Blizzard in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League regular season -- then swept 'em four straight in the first round. The then-sports reporter/photographer/music reviewer from the Portage la Prairie Daily Graphic remembers it well. A couple of MacGillivray's players off that Terriers team are now playing for the Bisons.)
Saturday, March 01, 2008
The Ravens, now 30-0 after a 75-56 win over Ottawa in the OUA East final (it was close at the half; cishoops.ca has more, as always), are the only team whose Final 8 seeding is clear-cut. Almost everyone right under them in the polls -- No. 2 Calgary, No. 5 Windsor and then-No. 5 Toronto -- lost the plot this week. It reaffirms there's a lot of good teams out there, but seriously, no one wants to visit Ottawa in March? It's not like this winter is about to set a record for snow.
Anyway, the tournament committee will have a tough task trying to slot the 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5 quarter-finals if Brandon is the wild card, joining Canada West reps Alberta and the UBC. It's going to be much easier said than done.
Here's a first stab, with plenty of hedging and butt-covering, at what the seedings might look like next week.
- Carleton (OUA East champion): It's theirs to lose, but you knew that already.
- UBC (Canada West champion): Coach Kevin Hanson's team is 11-1 in the past six weeks and cancelled out that lone loss (which was close, five points) by winning on Calgary's floor on Friday. Chris Dyck's 26-and-10 effort against Calgary was something else.
- Alberta (Canada West No. 2): Strong RPI, good coaching and C.G. Morrison's steady hand at the point give them a shot at playing for a national title.
- Acadia (Atlantic champion): Please don't read this as an assumption Acadia's going to win the AUS next weekend. This is where Les Berry's team might go if they win the AUS Final 6. If the Axemen should lose in the final to St. FX and it's a close game, they're going to have a good wild-card argument. They've lost just five games and beat Brandon at Christmastime, in western Canada no less. It comes down to how much stock people put into those games.
- Brandon (wild card): The Scrum Brandon was pretty candid after the Bobcats fell to Alberta on Friday and all looked lost (and then Calgary gave it away in the Can West bronze-medal game): "BU did not adjust well when things were starting to go away from them. And here is a recurring, and startling, trend from the Bobcats in tight games: Horrendous shot selection. Shots early in the shot clock when you’re protecting a lead, first-touch hoists and in-traffic bombs."
It's always darkest before the dawn, though. Brandon has quick guards and some solid seniors such as Adam Hartman. Oh, and ask Calgary can attest to how well they get on the boards.
- Western (OUA West champion): Let's say Ottawa beats Brock in the special play-in game next Saturday in St. Catharines.
It might be tough but fair to slot Western ahead of Ottawa . The case for the Gee-Gees would be that they beat Western by 17 points, have three fewer losses and of course, would have to win on Brock's floor to earn their spot. The committee could say that they're not seeding teams based on October and November and that Western's displayed more depth and has played better. Four of Ottawa's starters played at least 36 minutes against Carleton and scored all but six of their points.
That said, gut instinct dictates that the Gee-Gees can't be written off. Dave DeAveiro's done a good job with a young and undermanned team.
- Brock or Ottawa (OUA #3): There's probably no way Brock gets seeded ahead of the Western team who just dusted them by 17 on their own floor. From the looks of the boxscore, the 'Stangs were full value. Their bigs, Colin Laforme and Andrew Wedemire, put up good numbers. Shooting guard Brad Smith shot 9-of-15.
As for next Saturday, the Badgers should be favoured based on experience and playhing at home. For what it's worth, they beat Ottawa by 11 at home in the regular-season meeting, but the Gee-Gees won a tournament matchup by a point on a last-second shot by Donnie Gibson.
- Laval/Concordia (Quebec champion): The QSSF winner probably has to go here to ensure that two OUA teams don't meet in the first round.