Some end-of-year, end-of-decade accolades for CIS athletes and teams:
  • The Score chose Queen's Yates Cup win over Western as the game of the year. The Golden Gaels also finished fourth in the voting for The Canadian Press Team of The Year, which is pretty high for a CIS squad.

  • The National Post included a team of a certain ornithological variety among the Top 10 basketball moments of the decade:
    "The Dynasty: University sports routinely are ignored in Canada. But the Carleton Ravens could not be overlooked, winning 87 straight games from 2003-06. The Ravens also won every national title from 2003 on, with the exception of 2008."
  • Dave Perkins' year-end wrapup in the Toronto Star got the name of Queen's football team right, if not that of their star quarterback. Close enough!
    "Two great QBs: Danny Brannigan, the quarterback for Queen's, and Western's Michael Faulds stirred up dreams of another Canadian QB in the CFL. Both were sensational in setting passing records, Brannigan's Golden Gaels eventually winning the Vanier Cup 33-31 over Calgary."
  • A-Channel London had Faulds' season, where he set single-season (3,033 yards) and career (10,811) passing records while playing with a torn ACL, as its No. 3 London sports moment.

  • Toronto Sun baseball writer Bob Elliott, a Kingston native, had a nice sentiment that Brannagan, not Stanley Cup-winning Sidney Crosby, was Canada's athlete of the year. That is a stretch, but it was great to read.
Please let Mark Wacyk of know you're thinking of him.

Mark, the country's foremost university hoops chronicler, posted on Christmas Day, "Best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous Holiday season to all. I had a coronary issue this past Monday (Dec. 21), am home now and feeling much better. Best of luck to everyone for the remainder of the season."

Mark moderates the comments on It might be a pleasant surprise if he sees he has a bunch of supportive comments to approve once he is up to it. Get well soon, Mark.
Here's a look at some of the first-half stats, both team- and player-based, as we wrap up 2009.


When I say top offence or defence, I mean Offensive or Defensive Rating (ORtg, DRtg), which is simply points scored (or allowed) per 100 possessions. This is a better measure than straight points scored/allowed, since a team that has more chances to score will often score more points due to those extra chances, and not because of any greater offensive ability. The same applies to defence. For example, UBC and Victoria have given up almost exactly the same number of points, but UBC has had about 10 more possessions per game which they must defend, so their defence on a per-possession rate is probably better.

These stats are built up from the individual game statistics, so whenever the boxscore itself isn't linked to the player's page (like here) or doesn't even exist (like a few games here), those games are ignored. This means we're missing out on a fair bit of some players' successes, but if a team is unhappy that they aren't getting enough recognition, they can always go back and upload the boxscore correctly.

Top teams in Offensive Rating (at least 10 points better than average)
112.5 Carleton
109.8 Western
109.6 St. Francis Xavier
109.3 McGill
106.6 Saint Mary's
105.2 Windsor

Top teams in Defensive Rating (at least 10 points better than average)
77.5 UBC
78.6 Laval
80.6 Calgary
81.1 Ottawa
82.9 McMaster
85.9 St. Francis Xavier
85.9 Cape Breton

The Ravens were just out of the top list here, with an 88.2, and Carleton and StFX are the only two near the top in both measures so far.

Putting the two together (subtracting DRtg from ORtg) gives us Net Efficiency, the top 10 of which are below, with latest CIS Top 10 in parentheses:
24.3 Carleton (2)
23.8 St. Francis Xavier (3)
22.1 Laval (13)
20.9 UBC (1)
19.9 Calgary (4)
18.7 Cape Breton (5)
16.3 Windsor (7)
16.2 Ottawa (11)
14.6 Western (NR)
13.5 Victoria (NR)

The highest-ranked team not in this top 10? No. 6 McMaster, who are 11th because their fifth-ranked defence was brought down by their offensive ranking (which is in the low 30s, and might have something to do with Keenan Jeppesen being their only real offensive threat).

And how about that surprise team in Thunder Bay? Well, if you followed the parenthetical links above, you'd know they were missing a lot of their game statistics so far, but they don't rate very well anyway, mostly because their Pace Factor (possessions per 40 minutes) is by far the highest, meaning a per-possession measure will be lower for Lakehead. There does not appear to be any one supremely excellent dude among the great group of them; their success so far is what cliché-heavy commentators dub a "team effort."

Let's go back to the top 10 teams from the previous list. These are all fairly good teams, but some of them have areas for development that their coaches are no doubt working on (or should be, hint-hint):

Carleton: Defensively, their turnover rate is lower than most, and their opponents get to the free-throw line quite a bit. Neither is a large weakness, though, and they can afford them anyway.

UBC: The Thunderbirds' effective field-goal percentage is only 48.6%, a far cry from the Ravens (55.3%) and X-Men (54.6%), and lower than four Canada West teams: Calgary, Victoria, Brandon, and SFU. Their No. 1 defence, however, has kept them at the top of the coaches' poll, our RPI, and their division, and there's no reason that can't continue.

Ottawa: The Gee-Gees are another high-ranked team with weaker shooting, and even though they have the 5th-best free-throw percentage in the country, they only have one free-throw for every five shots taken; compare that to Carleton (nearly one for every three), St. F-X , Calgary, or UBC (all about one per four).


So that's how the teams stack up, but what about the players?

The top game scores in our database just happened to occur on the same weekend, and they belong to SMU's Mark McLaughlin from Nov. 22 (box), McGill's Matthew Thornhill on Nov. 20 (box), and Calgary's Ross Bekkering on Nov. 21 (box). It's not sporting to tell you who has the worst game score so far, so I'll just point to the game in question and you can guess.

The leaders so far in average game score are Boris Bakovic (Ryerson), Showron Glover (Saskatchewan), Joey Haywood (SMU), Matthew Thornhill (McGill), Mark McLaughlin (SMU), Manock Lual (UPEI), Keenan Jeppesen (McMaster), Jacob Doerkson (TWU), Ross Bekkering (Calgary), and Mitch Leger (Queen's). None of those names should surprise you, as they went 1-5-9-59-43-2-4-6-20 in the MUBL draft. (Proper, though grudging respect to Chris Lund, who picked up Thornhill in the tenth round.)

At the end of the year, we'll have a more detailed look at all of this, but for now, that's where we stand going into 2010.

(The women's version of this will be posted later in the week.)
Not CIS, but it bears noting some Canadian ballers have helped both Syracuse Orange basketball teams get off to unbeaten starts.

The Orange men, as you know, are 12-0 and ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll entering their game on Tuesday vs. Seton Hall. Guard Andy Rautins is leading all Canadians in NCAA Division 1 in assists (5.5) and steals (2.7) and Montrealer Kris Joseph is averaging 9.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

The SU women's team is off to its best start ever, 11-0 (albeit against a less than taxing schedule). The Orange's lone Canadian, 6-foot-4 frosh forward Kayla Alexander from Milton, Ont., had a team-high four blocked shots along with eight points and seven rebounds in a win over Rider on Monday.

Sorry for going off-topic, but it was tough for a Syracuse basketball fan to resist making a note of this during our non-peak time.

(It is hoary Kingston cliché to be a fan of The 'Cuse. In defence, it is the closest major D-1 school and I came of age when the Big East was a power conference. The fandom doesn't really extend beyond the men's basketball team, but there is always a willingness to get on the bandwagon when it is convenient.)
In Duane Forde's considered opinion, it is a deep draft for CIS talent.

The TSN football analyst's latest CFL draft rankings, which list the top 5 at each position group (save quarterback), is two-thirds made up CIS players (23 of 35). No offensive linemen were mentioned, but the breakdown goes five receivers, four running backs, three D-linemen, four linebackers, four defensive backs and three kicking specialists.

Several schools had multiple players ranked:
  • Laurier (4): FB Mike Montoya, REC Josh Bishop, DE Chima Ihekwoaba, CB Taurean Allen
  • Concordia (2): LB Cory Greenwood, REC Cory Watson (each No. 1 in their group)
  • St. Francis Xavier (2): WR Akeem Foster, DB Cauchy Muamba (DB Nick Riva also got a mention as a darkhorse pick)
  • Saskatchewan (2): DB Jon Krahenbil, DB-K Grant Shaw
  • Sherbrooke (2): RB Pascal Fils, CB Ludovic Kashindi
  • Queen's (2): LB Shomari Williams, LB Chris Smith
  • Manitoba (2): DT Eddie Steele, RB Matt Henry
Forde: Breaking down the 2010 CFL draft (
Manitoba Bisons alum Israel Idonije had a big hand in the NFL playoff race on Monday night.

Idonije was all over the field in the 36-30 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings, who went from still being alive for the No. 1 seed in the NFC to being bumped down to No. 3. He blocked an extra point, which loomed large for the rest of the night and also made two other plays that led to Bears scores. Idonije had a sack-forced fumble in the first half which took a scoring opportunity away from the Vikings and led to a Bears field goal. On the kickoff following his blocked PAT, Idonije threw a key block on a 57-yard kickoff return, setting up Chicago with a short field for a touchdown drive.

It might have been the most depressing upset win of all time from a Chicago Bears supporter's perspective (where was that all season, Chicago?). The Vikings are still headed to the post-season (they're limping in the same way the Arizona Cardinals did last season, except with a better defence), but nevertheless, what a night for Idonije.
  • St. FX, which had great goaltending from Joseph Perricone (former 'tender with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors) in the first half, gets back into action with a two-game home series vs. Carleton. That's a potentially solid matchup between a traditionally strong AUS team and an emerging OUA team; Ravens coach Fred Parker also gets to return to his alma mater. (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)

  • No. 10 Lakehead hosts No. 7 Manitoba in a two-game series beginning today, with Matt Caria (92 points in major junior last season), Matt Dias (66-point in the OHL) and Ryan McDonald (63 in the WHL) all set to make their Thunderwolves debuts. (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal)
  • Please let Mark Wacyk of know you're thinking of him. Mark posted on Christmas Day, "Best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous Holiday season to all. I had a coronary issue this past Monday, am home now and feeling much better. Best of luck to everyone for the remainder of the season."

    Mark moderates the comments, but if you leave one, he'll surely see it when he's up and doing.
  • Each of the hometown teams, Winnipeg and the Manitoba Bisons, are on the B side of the Wesmen Classic. Laval plays Lakehead in one semi-final tonight and Bishop's meets Valley City State (N.D.) from the NAIA in the other semi. (Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Point guard Liz Boag, who was an unanimous choice to Kingston's high school all-star team, is committed to the Queen's Golden Gaels. (Kingston Whig-Standard)
Sixty-eight in a row for the McGill Marlets and counting.

The two-time women's hockey champions eclipsed Alberta's record for longest win streak vs. CIS opponents with a 4-1 win over Toronto at Concordia's annual Theresa Humes tournament.

Ann-Sophie Bettez had a hand in three Martlets goals, while Carly Hill, Rebecca Martindale and Jordanna Peroff each contributed power-play goals. Taylor Salisbury was the goalie of record in the record-setting win.

McGill plays No. 10 Guelph and No. 4 Manitoba these next two days as coach Amey Doyle's club attempts to stretch to to 69 and 70 consecutive. With 10 regular-season games left in the QSSF, plus two best-of-3 playoff rounds, it could be an 84-game win streak by the time nationals roll around in Antigonish in March.

Almost half of the wins (33) during McGill's run have come over ranked teams.
Former Sherbrooke receiver Samuel Giguère might yet contribute for the Indianapolis Colts this season.

Stampede Blue thought it was "a bit odd" that Giguère was not activated for the 14-0 Colts' 4:15 ET game vs. the New York Jets.
"It is a bit odd that Sam Giguere was not signed to the active roster seeing as (inside receiver) Anthony Gonzalez was just IRed. Giguere is a young WR that (Colts GM) Bill Polian and (coach) Jim Caldwell have been very high on, and he can contribute on special teams.

"... this week seemed like the perfect opportunity to promote Giguere. Pierre Garçon is all but ruled out with a hand injury. This means that the only wide receivers active for today's game are Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Hank Baskett."
As Giguère blogged at Versus Quebec:
"Il y a eu beaucoup de blessures au cours des dernières semaines, surtout en défensive, et ce fut impossible pour lui de m'activer à ce moment. Toutefois, on m'a dit que dès qu'il aurait la chance, je ferais partie des 53 joueurs actifs."

(Our translation): "There have been many injuries during these last few weeks, especially on defence, and it was impossible for him to activate me at this time. However, they told me that as soon as I had the chance, I'd be part of the 53 active players."
For lack of a better word, it would be great to see Giguère on the field for a Super Bowl contender. It sounds like there is a good chance he'll play next Sunday in an otherwise nothing game in Buffalo. Offensive lineman Dan Federkeil, the former Calgary Dino, is on season-ending injured reserve due to concussion problems.

Of course, the San Diego Chargers are looking solid. Rookie nosetackle Vaughn Martin, the former Western Mustang, has a shot at dressing for the Vanier Cup and Super Bowl in consecutive seasons.
Four members of the Queen's Golden Gaels offence have signed pro contracts for next season.

The word out of Kingston is two-time all-Canadian Scott Valberg and fellow receiver Chris Ioannides have signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and B.C. Lions as free agents, respectively. Two members of the offensive line which protected quarterback Dan Brannagan so well, left guard Vince DeCivita and right tackle Jon Koidis, have signed to play in a league in Switzerland, beginning in January.

There should be more to come abut this from both Queen's and the Kingston media in the next couple days.

The Vanier Cup was nice, but it makes it even more special to hear coach Pat Sheahan's players have earned opportunities to play more football. Speaking as a grad, there is happiness that that DeCivita, Ioannides, Koidis and Valberg get to play a little more football. Being able to point out graduates who have moved on to the next level should also be a recruiting chip.

A decade ago, Queen's CFL representation consisted of Jock Climie and Brad Elberg — two players in the entire league. Now almost every team in the league has at least one ex-Gael.

Defensive end-linebacker Shomari Williams is projected as a first-round pick in the 2010 CFL draft. I am no expert on these matters, but slotback Devan Sheahan has the size and speed to likely warrant a look. Outside linebackers Alex Daprato and Chris Smith were each fourth-year players this past season, so they are draft-eligible. Both are pretty heady players who play a kind a hybrid linebacker-DB position.

Also, as observers such as the FAN 590's Mike Hogan have noted, if someone doesn't try to find a spot for cornerback-kick returner Jimmy Allin, then there's nothing real in the world anymore.

It's a nice payoff for Valberg, who appealed successfully to get a season of eligibility back so he could play this season. He ended up leading CIS in receiving for the second season in a row and also caught the touchdown passes which put Queen's ahead for good in both the Yates Cup vs. Western and the Vanier Cup against Calgary.

Ioannides — it's hard to forget the passage from a Mike Koreen column in the Kingston Whig-Standard about him being slumped, despondent, against the goal post after the 2008 playoff loss vs. Ottawa — made several catches which were just as huge in the grand scheme. He caught a pass with 3.3 seconds left to set up the winning field goal in the wild 52-49 win over Guelph in the season opener. He also caught a third-down pass on the game-winning drive in the Oct. 17 win over Western.

Both receivers played a lot of special teams this past season, which should help them in their bids to crack a CFL roster next season.

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)
It's a Festivus miracle for the Morencies.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman Matt Morencie has been selected for the next month's East-West Shrine Game, a post-season showcase for the NFL draft. It also appears his dad Mike Morencie is returning to coach the Windsor Lancers in 2010, despite going 7-17 the past three seasons.

The younger Morencie, who is the first Lancer ever selected for the game, will be on the East team for the Jan. 23 game in Orlando. Regina slotback Jordan Sisco is playing for the West, as previously noted.

It's a prestigious honour. It says a lot that Morencie could get picked while playing centre on a Lancers team which outscored only U of T and York and was 26th of 27 teams in total offence and passing. (Windsor and York were the only teams in the country which failed to crack 1,000 yards either rushing or passing.) That speaks to his talent, and probably the mental aspect. A lot of players would tank it in that situation. So, there are some positives taking place with Windsor's team.

The son's success might ultimately be responsible for his father keeping his job. The understanding is Mike Morencie still has one year left on the contract he was signed to by a long-departed administrator, which makes the situation an OUA equivalent to the Toronto Blue Jays being stuck with Vernon Wells in centrefield. Apparently, keeping Morencie was viewed as what was best for Windsor's bottom line.

As for the selection itself, it might be the CIS rep is based on a filling a position. There were already seven linebackers on the East roster and only one player listed as a center.

No doubt Morencie and Sisco will do CIS proud next month.

(Putting "B.C. Lions offensive lineman" would have been tacky.)
Just a reminder: The roster of Canada's Olympic women's hockey team will be announced at 3 p.m. ET (12 PT) on

Canada has been carrying 23 players and has to get down to 21. McGill Martlets defender Catherine Ward seems to have nailed down her spot. During the U.S.-Canada game last Wednesday, Hockey Night in Canada's Cassie Campbell-Pascall, moonlighting for TSN, stated she felt veterans Becky Kellar and Gillian Ferrari were battling it out for the last spot on the blue line. Ferrari was released on Sunday.

Fellow Martlets Charline Labonté and Kim St. Pierre are part of the three-headed hydra in goal along with the bright young hope Shannon Szabados, who plays in the Alberta colleges men's league. Peter Smith is an assistant on Melody Davidson's coaching staff.

The Canadian roster is composed of five members who played at the CIS level, including right wing Jayna Hefford (Toronto Varsity Blues) and defender Colleen Sostorics (Calgary Dinos).
Trinity Western has a second former Portland State player transferring in, forward Kyle Coston.

Little Man on Campus has the details about the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward's decision to transfer to Langley. Coston — whose brother, Tyler Coston, played point guard on some great Alberta teams under Don Horwood — would be eligible to play next season.

It's a bit of a coup. Kyle Coston is described by as someone who "can stretch out the defense with his ability to hit the mid-range jumper" ( and as a "lefty with a strong outside shooting touch" (Stumptown Sports Hook).

He also left his mark during three seasons at Portland State — literally on the arena floor.

Trinity Western's Tyrell Mara, as you know, previously played at PSU.

TWU scores recruting coup, ink former Portland State standout Coston (Howard Tsumura, Little Man on Campus)
When the CFL sneezes, CIS may catch cold, meaning the situation with the Toronto Argonauts is a concern.

So, where to begin with the Boatmen sinking (so, so sorry) into despair and disrepute? There was a speculative report Michael O'Shea, the former Guelph star, being considered for the coaching gig, although that came off like it was written on a lark. (More likely they hire the other Greg Marshall, the long-time defensive coordinator, not the Western coach.) The Argos were shot down on their attempt to move to BMO Field (footy fans, rejoice!). They get use of Rogers Centre rent-free, but it is a double-edged deal when the building's owners are aiming to bring in the NFL and the building itself is no longer a draw.

Then again, it might not be a huge detriment.

It is not clear that a CFL team having good support always spills over to the university team. Quebec and Saskatchewan support each well, but it's more like one city has the solid CFL team (Montreal, Regina) and one has a CIS team (Quebec City, Saskatoon). Some CIS teams located in CFL cities do not have good attendance, to put it mildly. An interest in the pros doesn't always lend itself to checking out the collegiate option.

Still, it is better to have Canadian football stay somewhat on the media's front burner. There are plenty of reasons CIS football has gasped for airtime, so to speak, that have little to do with the CFL, but solving the situation in Southern Ontario would not hurt.

and fired coach Bart Andrus never adapted to coaching football in Canada.

Dave Naylor had a post on Tuesday night .

O'Shea in line to coach Argos?; Former CFL great mentioned as possible candidate to take over for Bart Andrus (Robert MacLeod,
Gee, as someone who wants both a world junior hockey gold medal and a higher profile for CIS hockey, how are you supposed to feel?
"Steven DaSilva scored twice in the third period as the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Saskatchewan All-Stars upset the Canadian junior team 4-2 in exhibition play Tuesday night before 3,329 at Brandt Arena.

Chris Durand had a goal and two assists and Brennan Bosch also scored for the CIS.

Philippe Cornet of Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and defenceman Dylan Olsen of the University of Minnesota-Duluth scored for Canada, who outshot the students 38-23 but were stoned by their own goaltenders, who played for both teams."
It was a one-off event, but the combined Regina Cougars/Saskatchewan Huskies squad did get praise for their "experience and energy." Really, that should happen when collegiate hockey players in their early 20s going up vs. 17- to 19-year-old juniors. You just can't convince 95% of their hockey fans in Canada of this reality.

Canadian juniors fall to CIS all-stars in exhibition play (The Canadian Press)
Ryerson forward Boris Bakovic has an outside shot at becoming the OUA's career scoring leader this season.

Bakovic, as noted, is 417 points away from former RMC Paladins star Kevin Dulude's five-year-old OUA mark. Bakovic would need to average 30 points per game (currently he's averaging 22.9, down from last season's 27.3) to get the mark before the end of this season.

As you can see, a good first weekend in January could help Bakovic shoot into fourth, ahead of two former Brock Badgers:
  1. Kevin Dulude, RMC: 2,092
  2. Kiraan Posey, Lakehead: 1,879
  3. Kevin Stienstra, Brock: 1,737
  4. Norm Hann, Laurentian: 1,723
  5. Brad Rootes, Brock, 1,704
  6. Boris Bakovic, Ryerson: 1,675
Queen's forward Mitch Leger has always been a good passer for a big man.

The Golden Gaels forward took part in the Kingston portion of the Olympic torch relay, running a leg just east of the city in Gananoque. He passed the flame to Shiri Gabrie at 5:31pm.

Leger, who is fifth in the OUA in scoring (20.5 ppg) and first in reboundig (11.1), gets to keep the torch he carried as well as his official torch bearer outfit.

It sounds like it was a fun time in K-town. More than 2,000 people gathered downtown for a community celebration afterward.

One hopes a few more CIS current athletes get to carry the flame (presuming a few have already).

Well I’ve been toying with the idea of a mid-season AUS hockey report card for a while (i.e. procrastinating), but since Evan has handed out his grades for Canada West, I guess it is time now to do my part. Unlike Evan, I’m going to allow myself some flexibility with the overall assessment, and there will be no F’s as these teams are all works in progress. Also, before the comments start I’m not going to apologize for giving UNB perhaps the most ink – they are the CIS champs, a “model franchise," and the team I know best.

UNB Varsity Reds (15-0-0, 1st place)

Forwards: A+
UNB leads the AUS in goals (84), shots per game (40.6), and shooting percentage (13.8%) and in the CIS only McGill scores more goals per game (6.4 vs. 5.6). Hunter Tremblay leads the AUS & CIS with 34 points, and his linemates John Scott Dickson (25 pts) and Chris Culligan (23 pts) are third and fourth (tie) respectively in the AUS points race. Tremblay has an AUS-leading 5 game winning goals. Dickson leads the team with 7 power play goals (2nd in AUS). Culligan leads all rookies for points in the AUS. All three are in the Top 5 for plus/minus in the AUS. Is there a better line in the AUS or CIS? UNB has four other forwards in double digits for points, and only one forward hasn’t scored a goal yet this season.

Defence: A
Graduating three starting defenceman, including their two best, was supposed to make the V-Reds a bit vulnerable. Hasn’t happened. Luke Gallant is UNB’s most improved player, with 23 points and +13. Newcomer and Memorial Cup winner Ben Shutron is +20 with a goal and 15 assists. Jonathan Harty, who’s missed the last 7 games, and Bretton Stamler are having solid second years, and Alex Aldred keeps absorbing extra ice time. Harty’s absence has been missed in physical games, and now that 6’5” rookie Josh Kidd is back in the line-up the team is stronger on the back end. All of the d-men can play UNB’s up-tempo game, and their one weakness may be that they are not built for a slogging game against a hard, grinding forecheck.

Goaltending: A+
As a team, UNB gives up the fewest shots in the AUS, 21.9 per game, which means that their goalies get the least work. When those shots do come, they are often on a rush after a turnover, or in a flurry on the power play, so they have to find a way to stay sharp. The tandem of Travis Fullerton and Derek Yeomans are both undefeated in UNB’s 15 game win streak, and have only given up a combined 29 goals. Fullerton has 2 shutouts in his 11 wins; Yeomans has one shutout in 4 wins. They are both over .900 in save percentages, and both under 2.00 for goals against. Only thrice this season has UNB been equalled or edged in shots, so V-Reds goalies are not expected to steal wins.

Special Teams: A
UNB’s power play hit a high of 30%, before slumping to 26.4% at the break, still good enough for 2nd in the AUS. They sometimes drive their fans nuts as they appear to over handle the puck when they have a man advantage. 35% of the V-Reds goals come on the PP. UNB’s penalty minutes are up 4 PIMs per game over last season, but their penalty killing has improved from 79.4% to an AUS-best 89.9%, so maybe practice makes perfect.

Intangibles: A+
Gardiner MacDougall is UNB hockey’s winningest coach, and he is quick to point out that the large team of staff and volunteers around him is as important as the team on the ice. MacDougall might be a better recruiter than coach, as he continually replaces graduates and those that leave early for the pros with key recruits that keep UNB a perennial playoff powerhouse while they are still one of the younger teams in the conference. UNB’s strength and conditioning is second to none, thanks to Ken Seaman, and is dramatically superior in the early season. When the team is healthy UNB has skaters in the stands who would be regulars on any other team in the AUS. They have the best attendance in the AUS (although the fans could do better some nights), and perhaps the greatest reach into the community. The future looks bright for the spoiled Fredericton hockey community – who really don’t need no stinkin’ Junior!

Overall Grade: A+
This is a very confident and flashy team – they are fun to watch on the ice. You really have to nit-pick to find fault with UNB, yet the team truly lives a continuous improvement process to get better every game. If their skaters were more physical, they would be less mobile. To test their goalies more they would have to give up more shots -- not good for a puck possession team. More adversity in the second half might better prepare them for the playoffs, but UNB was pushed to overtime four times plus two more close games in the first half.

Acadia Axemen (11-3-0, 2nd place)

Forwards: A-
Although less offensively challenged than last season, Acadia is only the fourth best this season with 55 goals. The top Axemen scorers, Chris Bruton and Phillipe Bertrand, are tied for 12th place in the AUS scoring race with 18 points apiece, followed by Jonathan Laberge with 17. They are +4, +6 and +6 respectively. The last couple of years Acadia had a speed-disadvantage on their Olympic-sized home ice surface against their swifter opponents such as UNB and UdeM; that gap looks a lot less apparent this season.

Defence: B+
Acadia is a defensively minded team, and they have limited their opponents to 27.5 shots per game and 44 goals against. They really missed Zack Firlotte when he was out of the line-up.

Goaltending: A-
Kristofer Westblom has the second most wins in the AUS (8), a 3.28 GAA and a respectable .879 save percentage. Michael Chiasson is 3-1 with a 2.26 GAA and .912 save percentage. Not a bad tandem at all.

Special Teams: B+
Acadia has the third best power play in the AUS (23.7%) and 35% of their offensive production comes with the man advantage. The Axemen continue to be the least penalized team in the AUS. Just as well, as they only have the sixth best penalty kill, at 75.8%.

Intangibles: A
Acadia has the second best attendance in the AUS and they are THE hockey team in the Annapolis Valley, although the new Junior A team in Bridgewater probably takes a bite out of the market. There may be pressure on coach Darren Burns to bring back the glory days of the Nineties, but the V-Reds and Huskies are in their way. There is probably still championship DNA running through the Acadia hockey program, which is never a bad thing.

Overall Grade: A
Acadia has only lost three times this season, twice to UNB and once to SMU. They may not have the stars like those teams, but they find ways to win. The Axemen keep improving and may hold off SMU for the all-important second-place first round playoff bye. Lost in the UNB buzz is the fact that Acadia is riding a nine game winning streak.

Saint Mary’s Huskies (9-3-3, 3rd place)

Forwards: A
Only UNB scores more goals and puts more shots on net in the AUS. SMU has 67 goals and 543 shots so far. Cam Fergus is 2nd in the AUS with 28 points; Marc Rancourt is tied for 5th with 23 points and Cody Thorton is tied for 10th place with 19 points. Their plus/minuses aren’t as impressive as the UNB leaders: +7 for Fergus, +6 for Rancourt and +2 for Thorton. Thorton is tied for the AUS lead with 14 goals, and is tops in the conference with 10 goals on the PP. Fergus has one more shot on net (71) than UNB’s Tremblay to lead the AUS, and has three game winning goals. No other SMU forwards are in double digits in points, but four of them have four or more goals.

Defence: A
SMU gets a lot of offence from two of their defencemen – Andrew Hotham has 27 points to lead all AUS d-men and David MacDonald has 20. However they are +4 and +6 respectively. SMU gives up the second least number of shots in the AUS (364), so the back end is doing its job.

Goaltending: A-
Veteran Brandon Verge is having an off year (3-2-2, 3.83 GAA, .845 save percentage) for him, and looks to have been supplanted by rookie Neil Conway (6-0-1) who has two shutout wins, and both an AUS leading 1.78 GAA and .922 save percentage. The team GAA of 2.93 is second only to UNB.

Special Teams: A
The (in)famous SMU power play had a bit of a slow start, but improved to an AUS leading 27.3% at the break. MacDonald has done a good job replacing Scott Hotham on the “Fab Five”. Forty percent of the Huskies goals come from their power play. Penalty killing has been almost as strong – SMU is second best at 88.6%. SMU has had fewer penalties to kill this year, as they’ve gone from the most visits to the penalty box to become the third least penalized team in the AUS.

Intangibles: B+
The Huskies have played in six overtime games so far, and split the wins, so mixed success. That is a lot of extra points at play in the standings. One wonders if the-period-that-shall-not-be-discussed still haunts this team. The Huskies play in the venerable Halifax Forum, which is far too big for their average crowds. Like Dal, they play in a bit of a vacuum, as the Q's Halifax Mooseheads suck all of the air out of the local hockey market. At Saint Mary's it seems like the hockey team is third fiddle to football and basketball.

Overall Grade: A
Coach Trevor Stienburg proved last season that his teams can beat UNB, and the last game of this half saw them force UNB to overtime in a low-scoring affair (2-1 for UNB). This team should be on a mission to get back to Thunder Bay, but they haven't looked that way every game.

StFX X-Men (7-5-3, 4th place)

Forwards: B+
StFX has the third best offence in the AUS, led by Bryce Swan with 19 points (tied for 10th place). Five other forwards are in double-digits for points. StFX is more focused on a physical game than the teams ahead of them in the standings and as a result take inopportune penalties at times.

Defence: B
StFX graduated their three best defencemen, but rookies Spencer McAvoy, Nick Pageau and Josh Day have stepped right in and should continue to improve in the second half. However as a team StFX give up more shots on net than they take, and have been scored on more than they score. That needs to be better.

Goaltending: B+
Rookie Bryan Gillis and near-rookie Joey Perricone have been pretty solid in nets, when not hampered by the flu. Perricone has the third best save percentage in the AUS (.907) and a 3.35 GAA. Gillis' stats aren't as good, but he does have one more win. Gillis has already stolen a win from SMU and a point from UNB while Perricone stole a point against Acadia in games where they were badly outshot.

Special Teams: C
The X-Men power play is only so-so at 16% and their penalty kill is the worst in the AUS at 71.2%. Luckily for them StFX has improved to be the second-least penalized team in the conference.

Intangibles: B-
The X-Men are 0-3 in overtime. Coach Brad Peddle has a lot of new faces this year, and those rookies are getting a lot of ice time. The fan support is good at just under a thousand. The team graduated a lot of experience. X seems to win and lose in bunches - they lost their last three games heading into the break.

Overall Grade: B
With the young defence and goalies this team should get batter in the second half, and probably won't be fun to meet in the playoffs.

UPEI Panthers (6-7-2, 5th place)

Forwards: B+
As a team, UPEI is in the middle of the pack for goals scored, with Matt Carter tied for 8th place in the scoring race with 20 points, and Chad Locke tied for 12th with 18 points. There are four other forwards in double digits. Two top forwards from last season quit this fall without playing a game.

Defence: B
On average UPEI gives up 9 more shots on net than they take, so the defence could improve. Rookie Dylan Quaile has become the top offensive d-man with 13 points to date as Brett Nasby continues to spend a lot of time on the shelf.

Goaltending: B-
Jhase Snideman is not having a great second year: 5.72 GAA, .833 save percentage, 1-3-0 record. Fortunately Wayne Savage is playing better, and getting more starts as he has a 3.40 GAA, .901 save percentage and a 5-4-2 record. On the bad side, both have been lit up by UNB: Sniderman to start the year and Savage to close out the first half.

Special Teams: C
UPEI has the second worst power play in the conference, at 15.1%, with only 11 goals on the PP. Their penalty killing has been pretty good, at 79.5%, and gets a lot of work, as the Panthers are the most penalized team in the AUS with an average of 29.6 PIM per game, almost 5 PIM worse than the next team.

Intangibles: D
The Panthers are 2-3-0 since the players revolted and forced the coaching change in mid November. New coach Forbie MacPherson has his hands full learning what he has to work with on the ice. This was/is a team in turmoil: some players chose not to come back from last year, some quit in the fall, and more threatened to quit at the break if the coaching didn’t change. Well, the players own the situation now. The fan base has been growing over the last couple of years, and hopefully they stick with the team.

Overall Grade: C+

This team could reinvent itself over the holidays and become a playoff threat again, or it could tailspin into indifference and slide out of the playoff picture. The jury’s out …

St. Thomas Tommies (4-8-2, 6th place)

Forwards: B-
STU needs more goals. They’re tied for 6th place in the AUS with 3.29 goals per game. Rookie Kenton Dulle leads the team with 16 points (but only +1) and only two other forwards are in double digits.

Defence: C+
The Tommies give almost 36 shots per game, so they’re not helping the goalies. Andrew “AA” Andricopoulos leads the D, and captain Erick Tremblay and Brad Gallant have the best plus/minuses at -2 and -1 respectively.

Goaltending: C+
Of the three goalies, only rookie Charles Lavigne has wins, four, and a 3.76 GAA and .895 save percentage. When Lavigne is healthy, he can steal wins or points. When he can’t go, STU stuggles.

Special Teams: B
The Tommies power play is fourth best in the conference, at 21.3%, and accounts for 37% of STU’s goals. The penalty kill is the fifth best in the AUS as 77.5%, and STU is the second heaviest penalized team in the conference.

Intangibles: B-

Coach Mike Eagles has recruiting challenges: he shares a campus with mighty UNB and his school doesn’t offer the same breadth of academic programs. The LBR doesn’t compare to the AUC, and STU’s attendance keeps dropping as the team struggles. Like Eagles the former NHLer, his teams work hard and they have twice this season pushed UNB to OT.

Overall Grade: C+
Right now the Tommies look like they will go as far as Lavigne can carry them, but should be able to hold onto their playoff spot.

Dalhousie Tigers (3-8-3, 7th place)

Forwards: C+
The Tigers score the same number of goals as the Tommies, and have one less win. The good news is that scoring is spread through the lineup; the bad news is veteran Patrick Sweeney leads the team with only 11 points.

Defence: C-
Rookie Benoit Gervais, although -10, and veteran Ryan Jenner (+5) are probably the best Tigers on the back end right now. Hopefully the newer players can continue to improve, as right now they’re giving up 38.5 shots per game.

Goaltending: C-
The bane of coach Pete Belliveau’s existence last season, on the whole goaltending has improved by more than half a goal allowed per game, but it is not enough. To be fair, Dal’s goalie troika was hit hard by the flu in the first half. Rookie Bobby Nadeau is the only goalie to earn W’s, just 3, with a 4.48 GAA and .884 save percentage. He does lead the AUS with 352 saves, or 32 per game.

Special Teams: C-
Dal’s special teams weren’t so special last year, and they have improved some. The power play is the sixth best, cashing in 15.4% of the time. The penalty kill is the second worst, at 71.6%.

Intangibles: B
Belliveau had added more than ten players this season, so it would be understandable that it will take time for this team to gel. The Dal hockey program is reportedly well funded and Belliveau has a history of building winning teams, so the future looks bright, but maybe not quite yet. Unlike SMU they have a comfortable on-campus rink, but the Huskies still outdraw them. I guess winning is important in Halifax. One plus is that Dal is the largest school in the hockey conference with a wealth of academic choices. However, instead of chasing high-end recruits who spurn school for the pros, Dal perhaps needs to aim one level down and build a core of good meat-n-potatoes players who will stick around.

Overall Grade: C-
This is another rebuilding year, so expectations perhaps shouldn’t be too high, especially when Nadeau isn’t in nets.

Moncton Aigles Bleus (3-11-0, 8th and last place)

Forward: D
Almost unbelievably Moncton has scored the fewest goals in the AUS, 38, or 2.71 per game. Captain Pierre-Andre Bureau leads the team with 14 points, but is -4. Every player with more than four games played is a minus, other than Alexander Soucy who is at 0.

Defence: D
To add to their woes Moncton has given up the most goals in the AUS. The injury to Mathieu Richard certainly hasn’t helped the defensive corps. While UdeM has size, they don’t have speed this year and get exposed too often.

Goaltending: D
It has been a nightmare year for veteran goaltender Kevin Lachance. His 3.13 GAA of last season has ballooned to 4.61 this season. His save percentage last year? .910. This year? .856. Understudy P-A Marion is not finding life much easier.
Special Teams: C
UdeM’s power play is dead last, at 14.9%. Penalty killing is much better – third place and 81.5% successful. That’s good, as penalties are up 6 PIM per game over last season.

Intangibles: C
How the mighty have fallen. U de M didn’t replace their graduates with players of similar skills. Quite simply there aren’t enough QMJHL grads on this team to make them competitive. New coach Serge Bourgeois has a more team defence orientation, but the lesson doesn’t seem to be taking yet. The remodeled J-Louis Levesgue Arena is much more casual-fan-friendly, they still have great ice, and the fans are still coming, and there are still four CIS banners hanging up, so all is not lost ...

Overall Grade: D
Hopefully Moncton can turn their season around in the second half, as the first half had everyone watching scratching their heads. On paper this should be a playoff team, and they look that way many nights. Then there is that 11-0 stinker at SMU on Nov. 14, probably a record loss for U de M. Which team will it be down the stretch?
At least one media outlet is echoing our sentiments about how the Hec Crighton Trophy winner is picked, even if was prompted solely by their guy not winning. Chalk that up as a win.
"Eight coaches select the winner of the Hec Crighton Award.

"They are normally the bosses of non-playoff teams and they're flown in together to pore over highlight packages and mountains of stats and then pick the most outstanding player in Canadian university football.

"There is plenty of information to digest.

" ... But nothing videotaped or calculated properly tells the story of what Ontario's Crighton nominee — Western quarterback Michael Faulds — accomplished this season.

"The Mustangs leader managed to become the Canadian career passing king.

"He led his team to two playoff wins, and in his third straight Yates Cup appearance, came within one score of knocking off the eventual Vanier Cup champion Queen's Gaels in Kingston."

"And he did it all, remarkably, on one leg.

"Faulds is currently in recovery from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus damage he suffered during Western's Homecoming loss to McMaster on Oct. 3."
The Free Press is on a good track, even if they arrived at an incorrect conclusion.

CIS could better market the award (maybe that way people would stop spelling it Creighton) and come up with a better way to select a winner.

It should not be up to active coaches. There should be a panel — media, ex-coaches, past winners, CFL scouts, the more engaged sports information directors. There could be a fan balloting component to help determine a 10- to 12-player longlist, which the experts would whittle down to a three-man shortlist (and if two play in the same conference, so be it). The winner could be presented during Vanier Cup week.

There has to be a better way to pick the Hec Crighton than having coaches "pore over highlight packages and mountains of stats." Naming the four finalists when the season is only 75% over creates problems — which is something the Free Press did not acknowledge.

This borders on fanbole when the Freep says nothing may be "calculated" and introduces Faulds' undeniably heroic post-season play into evidence. The Hec is based on the regular season and there was another quarterback who also had a decent playoff run.

If anyone deserved better, it might have been Queen's Dan Brannagan. True story: Queen's had a quarterback who guided his Golden Gaels past three teams whose QB was Hec-nominated and was not even second-team all-Canadian, plus it also has a potential first-round pick in the CFL draft, Shomari Williams, who did not get so much as a second-team OUA selection.

As far as "calculated" goes, Rob Pettapiece said Faulds was a deserving OUA nominee. It's also a contradiction to say stats don't matter and then note Faulds is "Canada's career passing king." Even with the knee injury, Western's emotional and spiritual leader was more productive and proficient in the regular season than Brannagan. However, Rob also said the eventual honouree, Calgary's Erik Glavic, was the most deserving of the quarterbacks who were nominated and was ultimately the one to vote for. Brannagan was not in that discussion.

As for bringing the playoffs into the discussion, thanks for lifting our talking point (from Oct. 30):
"Trouble is, the OUA announces its nominee before the Yates Cup and someone cannot be an anything of the year in a CIS sport unless he/she has already won the honour at the league level. How can you hold Brannagan not having (a) championship cachet against him when he could still help his team win one?

"... The OUA making the choice before the league final is doubly bad when it's tied with the one-nominee-per-conference rule, which has been irksome for a long time. If the nominee's team gets knocked out, then the other player has no chance to build his case." (emphasis mine)
Not that that is exactly what happened over the next five weeks. Just as time ran out on Faulds in Queen's tight 43-39 win in the Yates Cup, the Hec Crighton clock was stopped just when Steely Dan Brannagan was getting into a groove.

A badly designed selection process increases the possibility of a dubious selection. Glavic was a good pick, but Brannagan was left out. Good to see some others pointing this out, regardless of motivation. The way Faulds sacrificed his knee was awe-inspiring, as The Man himself said:
"You would hear people after the Mac game say Faulds is banged up, Western is vulnerable, but if you're in your fifth year and you've already used that last season of eligibility, you have two choices: pack it in or suck it up."
Faulds did everything he could. No one will forget what he did, regardless. like Ryan Pyette puts it, "... that game at Queen's will be the lasting memory of Faulds' career at Western. He kept dragging himself out there for another shot to help his team win."

If we didn't know better, we would say that implies Western won the Yates Cup. Regardless, the way the Hec is picked has to change. It would spark more debate, help with media coverage and it might even be fun. More people need to start beating this drum, on principle, not out of hometown media bias.

Faulds deserved better; Mustang quarterback's greatest accomplishments not on film or paper (Ryan Pyette, London Free Press, Dec. 10)
It's exam time on university campuses from coast-to-coast, and while I should be studying for my exams I would much rather be the one handing out the grades for once. Here's a look at all seven Canada West teams and how they stack up after the first half of the season. In the spirit of higher learning, each category will be assigned a letter grade, and each team will receive an overall grade (on the four-point scale of course).


Simply the cream of the crop through 16 games. With all five of the conference's leading scorers wearing the Green and Gold, it's hard to argue with the fact that this group of snipers has been explosive. Chad Klassen's 28 points has him tied for third in the nation in scoring, and has led a team that has scored 89 goals through 16 games (26 more goals than the second leading offensive team in the conference Lethbridge). Jesse Gimblett has had his best first half as a Golden Bear and is part of a top six that has given opponents fits all season. The forwards have been responsible defensively as well, with the Bears having five of the top-10 +/- players in the conference, with Klassen and Brian Woolger at the forward position.
Defence: A
Other than the question mark as to who would come in and take over between the pipes this season for the Bears, the defence was head coach Eric Thurston's number one priority coming into the fall. Newcomers Reade Wolansky, Colin Joe, Ian Barteaux, and the return of Mark Ashton have been tremendous additions to the blue line. Joe leads the conference in +/- with a +18 rating. Wolansky is tops in conference defenceman scoring with 17 points - 2 more than fellow Bear Kyle Fecho. This revamped group has been excellent, and has tremendous upside heading forward.
Goaltending: A
The question remains who will take the reigns in goal and become the number one netminder for the Bears in the second half of the season. So far Alberta has split goaltending duties between second-year goalie Real Cyr and rookie Travis Yonkman. Through 16 games the dynamic duo has been effective, with Cyr's record of 6-1-1 and Yonkman's a perfect 8-0-0 record helping the Bears sit firmly atop the Canada West. Yonkman leads the league in GAA at 2.11, and sits second in save%. Yonkman along with Manitoba's Steve Christie have been the conference's best netminders thus far.
Specialty teams: A
With a power play that's clicked at nearly 36%, and away the best in the conference, and a second ranked penalty kill, the Bears have been more than solid on specialty teams. The power play especially has been impressive, bolstered in large part thanks to the excellent play of the defence and forward Ian McDonald who plays the point with the man advantage.
Overall: 4.0
The Bears were far and away the best team statistically in the first half of the season in the Canada West, and have given themselves a healthy nine point lead atop the standings heading into January. They've held down the number-two spot all season long in the top 10 and appear poised for a return to Thunder Bay. A passing grade thus far -with flying colours.


Forwards: B+
The Dinos forwards have been solid through the first half. Calgary has been led offensively by Reid Jorgensen who has 16 points on the season, Torrie Wheat who leads the team in goals with nine, and Brock Nixon's 14 points. Those three are Calgary's lone scorers inside the top 20, but the Dinos have seen Teegan Moore and Kyle Annesley chip in when needed as both have 13 points.
Defence: B
Head coach Mark Howell has seen his defence remain steady through out the first half of the season with Jerrid Sauer leading the team in defenceman scoring with eight points in 16 games. Dan Ehrman has been among the most reliable defenders thus far this season for the Dinos, leading the team in +/- with a rating of +4.
Goaltending: B
The goaltending situation in Calgary has been like the rest of the squad has been good, but not tremendous through 16 games. Dustin Butler has gotten the majority of the starts for the Dinos, posting an 8-2-1 mark with a 2.53 GAA and .907 SV% in 13 games played. Butler has at times been great for the Dinos, as was the case in their opener against Alberta. Butler sits tied for the league lead in wins with eight along with Alberta's Travis Yonkman and the Bisons Steve Christie. Other than being among the leagues leaders in wins, Butler sits in the middle of the pack as far as GAA and SV% goes. Backup Jeff Weber has struggled when called upon, with a 4.42 GAA and .868 SV%.
Specialty teams: B+
The Dinos are tied for third in the conference with a power play efficiency of 19.8% (tied with Lethbridge), and sit alone in third on the penalty kill with a succesful kill rate of 83%. Both numbers are respectable, but not spectacular.
Overall: 3.2
It wasn't a surprise to see a much-improved Calgary team over the 2008-09 version. Calgary proved they could play with the leagues established elite at times (wins over Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) over the course of the first half, but still are a step or two away from beating those teams in a three game series. The pieces are there for the Dinos to make a potential run to the conference final and earn a berth to nationals, but the PP has to chip in a few more goals at critical moments to boost overall goal production slightly (50 goals for - 54 against). All in all a good start to the season for the Dinos sitting in third place heading into the second half, but more will be needed to hold onto that spot in the standings with a surging Saskatchewan team hot on their heels.


Forwards: B-
A handful of Pronghorns have been the offence thus far this season, but aside from a relatively small group, more is needed from the forward position to provide some much needed secondary punch. Dustin Moore leads the 'Horns in scoring at the midway point of the season with 20 points, with five goals. Moore sits sixth in conference scoring, behind the Fab Five from Alberta. Andrew Courtney has also been a bright spot for Lethbridge this season, as his 13 goals are tops in the conference and tie him for third in the nation - two goals behind Francis Verreault-Paul of McGill. Third on the Pronghorns in scoring this season is rookie Adam Chorneyko. The St. Albert, Alberta native is third in rookie scoring with 12 points. Jason Roberts is the only other Pronghorn forward in double-digit point production.
Defensively the Pronghorns have been far from impressive. Lethbridge has surrendered the most goals in the conference (72), and have hung their goaltenders out to dry giving up an average of nearly 35 shots per game - the highest mark in the conference. Ryan Potruff and Andrew Marshall, have both chipped in at times on the offensive side of the puck as Potruff has 10 points on the season, while Marshall has eight. Lethbridge has given up too many offensive opportunities, coupled with undisciplined play which has lead to opposition power play chances.
Goaltending: D
Scott Bowles gets peppered night after night. With the opposition generating so many scoring chances against the 'Horns, and a team that's given up the second most power play opportunities, every game is a busy one for the 5 '11 goalie. Bowles has played all 16 games in goal for Lethbridge and with the poor defensive play and lack of discipline exhibited at times by his team, it should come as no surprise his numbers are far from sparkling. He sits ninth in both GAA at 4.11 and SV% at .880.
Specialty teams: B-
If it weren't for a decent power play, Lethbridge would be in an even deeper hole in the Canada West standings. 36% of the Pronghorns goals this season have come on the power play, and while that isn't the highest mark in the league (Alberta has scored 43% of their goals on the power play) it illustrates the fact that the 'Horns have struggled to generate scoring chances 5-on-5, as much as it indicates the power play has been steady. The PP is tied for third in the conference, clicking at 19.8%. The penalty kill is a different story for Lethbridge, however, as the PK is sixth in the conference with an efficiency of 75.8% - a stat that needs to improve as soon as the puck drops on the second half.
Overall: 1.9
After starting the season 3-2-1, it was downhill from there for Lethbridge as they closed out the first half by going 1-7-1 in their final eight contests. Defensively the Pronghorns will have to tighten up, and can't afford to be among the leagues most penalized teams with a PK that has been more than suspect at times (Alberta went 6 for 12 in the two teams first series of the season). Lethbridge is among the conferences second tier at the break, and have no time to turn things around sitting eight points out of fourth place already.


Forwards: B
Offence hasn't been the Bisons specialty this season, scoring only 45 goals through 14 games. Veteran forwards Mike Hellyer and Rick Wood have led the the Herd this season offensively with 13 and 11 points respectively. Providing some secondary scoring for Manitoba has been a pair of rookie forwards: Blair Macauley, and Ian Duval. Macauley and Duval are seventh and eighth in rookie scoring. While the forwards haven't scored at a torrid pace this season, they have been sound defensively, playing within Mike Sirant's defensive oriented first system.
Defence: A
This defence core has been excellent thus far for Manitoba. As mentioned above, Sirant's tight defence first system has paid dividends for the Bisons, as they have given up the fewest goals in the conference this season (33). Rookie Brandon Lockerby has been impressive, as he leads the team in defenceman scoring with 9 points and has a +10 rating. While not putting up big offensive numbers, Stephane Lenoski, Travis Mealy and Kip Workman have been reliable.
Goaltending: A+
Defence and goaltending are the keys for the Bisons, and with the defence playing well, it should come as no surprise that Steve Christie has had a tremendous start to the season in goal for Manitoba. Christie has been rock solid in between the pipes in 13 starts this season, posting a 2.13 GAA (second best in the conference) and a .926 SV% which is tied with Alberta's Travis Yonkman for tops in the Canada West. Christie had a terrific 2008/09 campaign and heads into the second half of this season looking to backstop Manitoba to a nationals berth.
Specialty teams: C
If the Bisons could find a way to score on the power play, this team would be far better. With the PP clicking at an abysmal rate of 10.5% (sixth in the conference), improving the power play even slightly will be priority number-one heading into January, and would pay major dividends. The penalty kill has been just OK for Manitoba so far, sitting at 82.6% (fourth in the conference). On the brightside for Manitoba, which at times under Sirant in the past has been undisciplined, the Bisons have given up a conference low 69 power play opportunities.
Overall: 3.3
So far they've struggled to score, especially on the power play, but defensively this team is very good and with an experienced netminder in Christie, the Bisons should remain a top-10 team with their sights set on Thunder Bay. With the Bears nine points clear of them, the Bisons will in all likelihood find themselves fighting for second-place in the conference come the stretch run. It's been a good start to the season in Sirant's return behind the bench, but the Herd need to find some more scoring touch.


Forwards: D
They haven't been able to score - simple as that. 26 goals scored, which is far and away the fewest in the conference is the reason for this near fail grade. Kyle Ross' departure at the end of last season was sure to hurt the Cougars offensive attack, with the question of who was going to score for the Queen City Crew heading into the season being the biggest unknown for this team. So far the answer to that question has really been no one. Tanner Shultz, rookie Craig Cuthbert and Mark Nelson lead the team in scoring with six points a piece - accounting for almost a third of the team's goals this season. Not enough offensive firepower for Regina.
Defence: C-
The defence hasn't been overly impressive this season for the Cougars, without a single defender on the plus side. Dylan Chapman leads the team in defenceman scoring with five points and leads the team in +/- with a +2 rating . The relatively poor +/- ratings among the defence are just another indication of the teams lack of offence coupled with mediocre defensive play from a team that battled to a first round playoff series win last season on the back of it's excellent defensive play.
Goaltending: C
Adam Ward and Brant Hilton have split starting duties in Regina, with Ward having the better numbers of the two. Shayne Barrie has also started a pair of games for Regina, compiling a 1-1-0 record. Hilton has a record of 1-6-0 with a 4.61 GAA and .863 SV%, while Ward has put up solid numbers - 2-3-0, 2.34 GAA and .929 SV%. The Cougars, who like to clog up the neutral zone, have given up only 449 shots on goal, which is the second fewest in the league behind Manitoba (411 shots against). Ward's play especially has been the strong point of this team, which is well out of the playoff picture heading into January.
Specialty teams: D
The Cougars struggles thus far include specialty teams. Regina has the worst power play in the nation clicking at 5.2%, having scored only four power play goals in 14 games and 76 opportunities. The penalty kill hasn't been impressive either, as it is third worst in the conference at 76.3%.
Overall: 1.3
It was a poor start to the season in Regina, as the Cougars are 11 points out of the playoff picture and didn't show anything towards the end of the first half that points to a momentum swing enterring January. It could be a very long second half in Regina with six games against Alberta and Manitoba yet to come for the cellar dwelling felines.


Forwards: B
It wasn't a good start to the season for the Huskies after coming into October with high expectations thanks to an extremely deep recruiting class, but as of late Saskatchewan's snipers have been in good form. Saskatchewan has six forwards inside the top-20 in conference scoring, including last season's CIS Rookie of the Year and conference MVP Steven DaSilva. DaSilva leads the Huskies with 19 points. Steven Gillen, Chris Durand and rookie Kyle Bortis have provided secondary scoring for Saskatchewan, as each have 15 points on the season.
Defence: B
After the slow start, much like the rest of the team the Huskies defenders have settled in. Chad Greenan leads the team in defenceman scoring, and is third in the conference in that category with 14 points. Matt Swaby leads the Huskies in +/- with a +12 rating. Rookie Brett Ward and veteran Zach Sim have also performed well for the Sled Dogs.
Goaltending: B
Veteran goalie Jeff Harvey and rookie David Reekie have both seen significant time in goal for the Huskies. Harvey's numbers have been solid aside from the wins and losses, as he sports a mediocre 5-4-1 record. His 2.33 GAA is third best in the conference, and he boasts a .925 SV% - with both stats being comparable to Yonkman and Christie - the top two netminders in the conference through the first half.
Specialty teams: A
Specialty teams have been a stong point for Saskatchewan this season with the number-one penalty kill in the league and the second best power play in Canada West. The PK has an efficiency of 90.1%, and has been extermely consistent. While the power play is a distant second in the conference behind Alberta's blistering attack, it has performed relatively well clicking at 23.7%.
Overall: 3.3
In the spirit of my econ class last year, here's an analogy to descride the Huskies first half: Saskatchewan was that kid who can be found in every university class who doesn't show up to the first two months of class, somehow does OK on the midterm and decides to pull it all together for the final and salvage a pretty good grade. Saskatchewan's raw skill, that seemingly wasn't being applied properly early on, has given way to the Sled Dogs seemingly fidning the recipe for success heading into the new year. They've yet to make a top-10 appearance, but that should change soon enough in 2010.


Forwards: C+
Tyler Ruel
is the lone T-Bird inside the top-20 in conference scoring with 14 points. The T-Birds have gotten some secondary scoring from Brandon Campos, Justin McCrae and others, but overall UBC has scored the second fewest goals in the conference with just 40 (still miles ahead of Regina's conference low 26). The lack of offence that has plagued UBC will be a continuing concern heading forward.
Defence: C
UBC's defence core at times has been undisciplined. Matt Pepe (40 PIM), Theran Yeo (36 PIM) and John Flatters are all in the top-10 in penalty minutes through 16 games. Craig Lineker leads the T-Birds in defenceman scoring with 8 points. The backend hasn't been overly impressive so far, and the lack of discipline is a recipe for disaster.
Goaltending: C
Goaltending has been subpar this season for the T-Birds with Francois Thuot getting the majority of the starts in goal. Thuot's .864 SV% is second worst in the conference among goalies with at least 300 minutes played, ahead of only Regina's Brant Hilton (.863). Thuot has a 3.81 GAA in 12 games and has compiled a 3-8-1 record.
Specialty teams: D
Along with Regina, UBC has been the worst team on specialty teams this season. They rank fifth on the power play, with a success rate of only 13%, and are dead last on the penalty kill at 68.2%. The power play struggles aren't a huge surprise for the West Coast side with the overall lack of offence this season, but a sub 70% penalty kill is something that needs some technicaly work. Head coach Milan Dragicevic's team scratches and claws for every goal and just like Regina, can't afford to give the opposition tic-tac-toe goals on the power play.
Overall the T-Birds haven't shown a great deal of improvement over last season's campaign. Injuries were pointed to as a reason for the struggles last season, especially offensively, but even with a healthy Campos and Dalton Pajak, the red light at Thunderbird Arena has still been lit far too many times by the opposition, and not the home side.

The NHL signing a letter of intent to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to Ice Edge Holdings could (stress, could) have a ripple effect on CIS hockey.

One of Ice Edge's sops to Canadian fans, along with talk of playing some games in Saskatoon, is it would try to relocate the team's AHL affiliate in Thunder Bay (which you would recall is of comparable size with some AHL markets). Leith Dunick at TBNewswatch followed up today with a report:
"(Thunder Bay) City council on Monday will be presented a report detailing the possibility of the city building a $60-million, 5,600 seat facility within the next couple of years to replace the aging Fort William Gardens.

"The report shows that an AHL or Ontario Hockey League team could succeed in Thunder Bay, but must draw at least 4,300 fans a night. The Lakehead Thunderwolves, the main tenant at Fort William Gardens, currently draw in the 3,100 range."
It's not for yours truly to say how this would affect the Thunderwolves. For instance, if Thunder Bay builds an arena, would they stay there or at the "aging" Gardens until it becomes really obsolete?

It is early the game as far as Ice Edge being able to relocate the AHL team. If you read Make It Eight, you get the feeling they're the perfect mule for the corporate-welfare cartel. As our own Mike Aylward notes, Thunder Bay has a history of being fair-weather fans when it comes to junior and minor-league hockey teams, especially those whose schedules require a lot of midweek games.

Getting back to the point, it is hard to imagine that LU is jumping for joy at the prospect of a minor-league or major junior team moving into the city. Part of the selling point, if memory serves, was that its unique business model would work since there was little to no competition. (Junior hockey might not be much longer for North Bay now that CIS hockey has moved in, by the way.) This is a little like owning a store on Main Street and hearing that Wal-Mart is moving into town; you can either give up or rally.

AHL one step closer (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch)
Junior hockey in North Bay is strictly prohibited (Ken Pagan, North Bay Nugget)
There's news out of Saskatoon today that the Saskatchewan Huskies will host the Slovakian U-20 team December 22 at Rutherford Arena, as the Slovaks prepare for the World Junior Hockey Championships that get underway Boxing Day in Saskatoon and Regina.

The Slovaks finished fourth at last year's WJHC in Ottawa, and feature a pair of NHL second-round draft picks in the form of Tomas Tatar (60th overall, 2009 - Detroit Red Wings) and Richard Panik (52nd overall, 2009 - Tampa Bay Lightning) who will lead the squad up front.

Along with the matchup against Slovakia on the 22nd, the Huskies will team up with their provincial rivals the Regina Cougars, as 10 Huskies will suit up with the Cougars to face Team Canada in a pre-tournament game for the Red and White, December 15 at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

Further details including a preliminary roster for Team Slovakia can be found in the official release.
Managed to find a few headlines ...

  • Queen's Shomari Williams figures on converting back to linebacker at the CFL level. (Kingston Whig-Standard)

  • Golden Gaels centre Dan Bederman is hoping to get a free-agent shot in the pros; he went to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' training camp last season. (Jewish Tribune)

  • Western recruit Matt Uren, a prospective defensive back, was named MVP of the London-area high school league. (London Free Press)
  • Always OUA is looking ahead to January and the second half of the OUA season.

  • Lakehead sophomore point guard Greg Carter is starting to put his stamp on the No. 10-ranked Thunderwolves. (Ottawa Sun)

  • Former Dalhousie Tigers guard Devon Norris is the lone Nova Scotian playing for the Halifax Rainmen, the city's minor pro basketball franchise (Halifax Chronicle-Herald), but former St. F-X coach Garry Gallimore has made the team as well (Metro Halifax).

  • Guelph post player Jasmine Douglas gets some pub for being a bright spot on a struggling team. Awesome for her; now try to ignore the well-duh sentence about how she "enjoys winning the battles during OUA women’s basketball league games." Because you know all those self-loathing athletes who play because they hate winning the battles. (Guelph Mercury)
Jeff Blair dropped in on former Hec Crighton Trophy winner Jesse Lumsden's attempt to become an Olympic bobsledder:
"The former McMaster University star mixes well with his new teammates. He urged an interviewer to make sure other members of the team were included, and in the area behind the sleds, where athletes go through warm-up exercises and sprints and some practise visualization techniques, he seemed to fit right in."

Not even throat cyst can slow Lumsden (Jeff Blair, The Globe & Mail)
It's become an annual celebration of hockey from coast-to-coast in this country - CBC's Hockey Day in Canada. With the tenth Hockey Day set for January 30th of next year, CIS hockey's most successful program, the Alberta Golden Bears will get some airtime as part of the marathon of hockey broadcasting.

Along with a trio of NHL games featuring all six Canadian teams, the story of the 13 time CIS champion Bears will be just one of many hockey tales told over the course of the day.

Legendary former Bears head coach Clare Drake, and current head coach Eric Thurston were both interviewed this past month, as part of taping for the feature which will highlight the program's winning tradition. The airtime on CBC is sure to give the CIS valuable exposure to the throngs of hockey fans who will be tuned in for the day long hockey bash.

Stratford, Ontario is set to host Canada's unofficial hockey holiday January 30th, with the hockey extravaganza getting underway at 12 p.m. EST.
Plenty of CIS representation on the CFL's top prospects list for next spring's Canadian college draft:
  • No. 2: Concordia LB Cory Greenwood
  • No. 4: Queen's DE Shomari Williams
  • No. 6: Concordia WR Cory Watson
  • No. 7: Guelph K-P Rob Maver
  • No. 8: Montreal LB Joash Gesse
  • No. 9: St. FX WR Akeem Foster
  • No. 12: Manitoba DT Eddie Steele
  • No. 13: Laurier CB Taurean Allen
  • No. 14: Laurier DE Chima Ihekwoaba
The understanding is Calgary QB Erik Glavic has already passed through the draft, so he could only come to camp as a free agent.
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