The University of Alberta has put the head coaching job for the Golden Bears hockey squad on the open market. Eric Thurston has been serving as the interim head coach since former head coach Rob Daum went to Houston of the AHL back in 2005. The U of A is now in the process of filling that position on a permanent basis. Thurston was deemed the interim coach and not the head coach because Daum was on a three year leave from the university, but with that time period now past, the university will either remove the interim title from Thurston or find a new head coach. Here's a look at an excerpt from the job listing:

"It is preferred that the successful candidate possesses a university degree; however, equivalencies of education, experience and demonstrated national success will be considered. The successful candidate will have a minimum of NCCP Level III certification or equivalent as well as several years of coaching experience at the CIS level, preferably with a minimum of three (3) years as a CIS Head Coach. Effective communication skills and proven organizational, leadership and management skills are also required. The ability to successfully function as a Head Coach within a multisport environment will also be a consideration."

There are two keys from this section: 1)It is preferred that the successful candidate possesses a university degree and 2)a minimum of three (3) years as a CIS Head Coach. 'Preferred' being the key in the first point, because Thurston himself doesn't possess a university degree, and the second section - requiring 3 years at the CIS level being equally important because Thurston just completed his fourth season as head coach of the Green and Gold.

The job posting is pretty much written directly for Thurston - as it should be. He just won the CIS Coach of the Year award, and has won two national championships in his four seasons. The U of A is required to post the job, but in reality there has never been a doubt as to if Thurston will be the Bears head coach moving forward. He's a first class individual, and has proven that he can take a team to the University Cup and win. Thurston's tag as the 'interim' head coach will surely be replaced simply by head coach in the weeks to come. Thurston will be the Bears bench boss for years to come.
If ever a University Cup has been won in a 20 minute span, it was this University Cup. A five spot in the first period against the defending champs from Alberta was just the start the UNB V-Reds needed en route to claiming their third national championship.

I was lucky enough to be at the Fort William Gardens all weekend long helping broadcast the Alberta games, and after watching the Bears play all season long I can confidently say that first period against UNB was the worst period of hockey the team has played all year. Aaron Sorochan who is arguably the best goaltender in the CIS was not himself in the first twenty minutes, but give full marks to UNB who took advantage of several horrendous Alberta giveaways. Watching Sorochan all season long, he could always be counted on to make that one big save to allow the Bears to get into the game - that didn't happen in Thunder Bay and the result was a huge 6-3 win for the V-Reds.

UNB came out with a whole lot of jump against the Bears Thursday, which would be expected at the University Cup, but even the UNB radio crew was surprised by just how dominating UNB was. The rematch of last years national final was hyped as the game of the tournament, but was as good as over after the Bears could only count for one in the first. Eventual tournament MVP Lachlan MacIntosh capped off the game with a spectacular breakaway goal in the third right after the Bears failed on a 5 on 3 powerplay, as the Bears went 0/4 with the extra man.

Saint Mary's started the tournament strong with a 4-1 win over McGill in the tournament opener Thursday afternoon, going 3 for 8 with the man advantage. Saint Marys looked poised after that win to have another solid outing against the Queen's Cup champions from Western Ontario Saturday afternoon.

McGill had to regroup quickly, as they faced the Mustangs from Western Ontario Friday afternoon at the Gardens. In a tight one, the Redmen were able to come away with the 4-3 win, and forcing Western into a game with the Saint Mary's Huskies in which they would need to win by at least three goals to punch their ticket to the final Sunday. The Redmen were eliminated even with the victory.

In the night cap, the Bears faced the host T-Wolves of Lakehead. I was expecting a huge crowd for the game with Lakehead averaging over 3 000 a game in the regular season, but to my surprise the announced attendance was only 2 746 (roughly the same as all the other tournament games). The building wasn't loud in the least, and the crowd was not a factor. The reason for the lack of fans - the tournament organizers only sold full tournament passes, meaning all those people not willing to shell out over $100 bucks for the pass and only wanted to watch the games they chose could not get individual game tickets. From all accounts this won't be the case next year as the feedback was extremely negative regarding ticket sales.

In a relatively tame game the Bears skated away with a 2-1 win. In a bizarre situation, Bears head coach Eric Thurston was forced to pull Sorochan with a 2-0 lead late in the third to get the Bears at even in goals for and against, to have any hope at advancing to the final. Lakehead's bench was hollering for a too many men on the ice penalty before they realized what was going on - so I can only imagine what the fans thought was going on seeing a goalie pulled to go up 3-0. The Bears couldn't capitalize, and Shandor Alphonso scored the empty netter for the T-Wolves. With the win the Bears were eliminated, just like McGill after their win.

Saturday provided the biggest surprise of the tournament. Saint Mary's went into Saturday needing not even a win to advance. The Huskies could have advanced with a win, or even a one or two goal loss. With their backs against the wall, the Mustangs exploded for five goals in the third to claim a 7-2 win, shocking the Huskies and ending their national title hopes in the process. The 'Stangs became the second team, after Alberta did it last year in Moncton, to advance to the final after an opening game loss.

In the night game, the host T-Wolves faced the V-Reds. Again without a big crowd behind them, Lakehead couldn't muster a win as UNB rolled to a 3-1 win. Lakehead goalie Chris Whitley was the player of the game in both Lakehead losses, and made things closer than they really were. The fifth year senior Whitley was the story for the T-Wolves all weekend - which was fitting as it was Whitley's final time in a Lakehead uniform.

After looking as though it would be an all AUS final before Saint Mary's collapse, it was UNB and Western for the University Cup. UNB came out flying again sending ten shots on net in the first to Western's only one. Western was clearly the better team in the second, but in the third UNB came back and asserted themselves and on the back of MacIntosh's hat trick won their second cup in three seasons.

The V-Reds went in seeded as the #4 team, but surely would have been the #1 seed if they had won their AUS final against Saint Mary's. They were the most complete team all weekend and deserved the championship. The logjam with Saint Mary's, Western and McGill all being 1-1 in pool B opens the question of whether the tournament format needs to be adjusted. That's a question that has been brought up year in, year out and likely won't be resolved anytime soon.

UNB has to be given credit for a very solid three games, and in many ways they won the tournament in the first 20 minutes against an Alberta team that just didn't look like the team I've watched all season long. UNB was the best team over the tournament, and capped off a great season with another title.
This is rather spur-of-the moment, but we thought we might as well live blog this afternoon's men's hockey final between the Western Mustangs and the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds (which can be seen on all four Sportsnet regional channels and at Who will take home the University Cup? It should be quite the clash, so come join in the live blog below!

First, is that how you spell the plural of Jones? Yes, I suppose a trained journalist sould know that. But English majors, feel free to email me.

Anyway, big news was announced Friday night at the University of Guelph's Annual Athletics Awards Banquet and Celebration: The numbers from a recent referendum are in and the student body approved a new $38 fee for full-time students ($19 for part-timers) that will fund capital and operating costs of a new physical activity, recreation and fitness centre and construction of four synthetic playing fields. Be warned, there's a lot of information contained in that link.

The announcement was met with raucous applause from the more than 650 people in attendance.

Guelph is now the latest in a long list of OUA schools to be approved for or having built new facilities. TD Waterhouse Stadium at Western was one of the first major captial projects among OUA athletic programs. Windsor has its new University Stadium. And McMaster recently opened Ron Joyce Stadium.

This is a badly needed project for Guelph, where the football is still grass, the gym is as old as Dr. Naismith and where a track doesn't exist, save a 200-metre half track housed in a golf dome — not that it matters much to the OUA and CIS medallists.
A heartwarming story out of Kingston about the philanthropic efforts of Doug Falconer, a K-Towner who played on two still-legendary football teams:
"The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football team announced yesterday that Falconer has established the Gilbert-Fraser- Morrison scholarship, a $2,000 entrance bursary awarded annually to a La Salle graduate (the first option) or a Kingston-based grad with an average of 80% or better. The award, named after former La Salle basketball coach Doug Fraser, football coach Bob Morrison and one-time Gee- Gees football coach Don Gilbert, is the first entrance scholarship in the 109-year history of the football program at Ottawa.

" 'I wanted to give back to the Kingston area as I still consider it my hometown,' said Falconer, who went on to win a Vanier Cup with the Gee-Gees in 1975 and a Grey Cup with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1976 as a defensive back." — Kingston Whig-Standard
A huge thanks is owed to The Whig sports editor Mike Koreen for expanding on uOttawa's initial release.

(Personal note: One of the long-time coaches at La Salle Secondary is Kim Latourell, whose spouse was my elementary school French teacher. She used to joke about it apropos that her husband coach football, since their last name sounds like "lateral.")

La Salle graduate establishes scholarship; Bursary to be awarded by Ottawa Gee-Gees (Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig-Standard)
There's a fair bit of news about UBC and Simon Fraser's moves to NCAA Division II, via the Vancouver Province:
"Simon Fraser University will apply for NCAA Division II membership by this year’s June 1 deadline and, if approved, plans to move all its teams there by the 2011-12 season.

"SFU’s board of directors voted Thursday morning to support the athletic department’s application to the major U.S. sporting body, which in a landslide vote in Jan., 2008 opened its doors to Canadian schools for the first time.

" 'It’s about our historical roots with the Pacific Northwest, and we also realize that travel within the Canada West has become quite cumbersome,' said SFU athletic director Dr. David Murphy." — Vancouver Province
Simon Fraser would join the Great Northwest conference, whereas it's complicated for UBC. Basically, it has until June 1 to apply to join the NCAA, but won't find out until after that whether a school can be still keep some teams in Canada. UBC, as the Provie's Marc Weber notes, is also mulling what to do now that it has a $55-million campus arena, built for the 2010 Olympics:
UBC would consider keeping some teams in CIS and having others play in the NCAA and, for that reason, it’s prudent of them to wait for the CIS to make a ruling on dual membership.

"... That vote on dual membership will come mid-June at the AGM, so after the June 1 NCAA deadline. All that means is the timeline shifts one year if UBC chooses to go down the NCAA road, and there’s plenty of reasons to suggest UBC wouldn’t want to go down that road right away anyway."
Again, it's thorny ... tough to separate the emotions from the rationalism.

Simon Fraser Clan takes first step towards securing NCAA Div. 2 membership (Marc Weber, Vancouver Province)
The full skinny on the Clan's move to the NCAA (Marc Weber, Little Man on Campus)
There's a bad joke to be made in what I type and what you're about to read. But I won't make it.

Police arrested and charged Windsor, Ont., twins Dan and Doug Hogan with running an illegal sports betting operation.

The kicker — and butt end of that bad joke? Dan Hogan has been an assistant coach with the Windsor Lancers football team for three seasons.

[Det. Sgt. Bill] Sword said there’s no evidence to indicate Hogan took any bets on Lancers games. “But I can’t say for sure. I don’t believe he would, but I can’t prove yay or nay to that. Our lines weren’t up during the time that they were playing.”

Lancers head coach Mike Morencie couldn’t be reached for comment on Dan Hogan’s current status with the team. Hogan’s biography was recently removed from the Lancers website.

In the early 90s, Dan Hogan was an All-Star and All-Canadian player with the Windsor AKO Fratmen. He started coaching the AKO junior team in 1997, and went onto work as a defensive line coach at the high school level.

As of this post, Dan Hogan is not listed on the Lancers website as a member of the football team's coaching staff.
Probability of winning the University Cup
Saint Mary's, 26.3%
UNB, 22.8%
Alberta, 16.5%
Western, 16.2%
Lakehead, 11.5%
McGill, 6.7%

This was supposed to go up before today's SMU-McGill opener, so those probabilities don't count the 4-1 win by the Huskies, whose odds have jumped quite a bit now.

Alberta having the same chances as Western seems kind of odd, but UWO doesn't have to beat UNB so I can see how it makes sense. And Saint Mary's only has to finish ahead of Western and McGill to make the final, so their being the favourite does have some logic to it. (Again, their odds are better now that they've beaten McGill.)

I don't think these odds aren't as accurate as the basketball ones (both of which gave the eventual winners at least a 45% chance of winning the whole thing), mostly because these rankings have seemed off for hockey most of the year: Alberta's better than fifth, but not according to the RPI, to take one example. And it's also much, much, much harder to predict winners in a round robin setup, especially when goal differentials come into play as tiebreakers. But it's a quick way to handicap the six teams vying for the championship.

That Alberta-UNB-Lakehead pool is pretty brutal, but should feature three good games. It's likely that the overall winner comes out of that group, if they don't beat each other up en route to facing (likely) Saint Mary's.
It's completely unbecoming to be caught up in where an 18-year-old is going to pursue post-secondary studies, that goes without saying, but man, everyone wants to know which school Ottawa baller Tyson Hinz will attend.
"There are two universities that Hinz is now strongly considering. He likes Carleton because of its 'exceptional' basketball program ... while McGill would earn him a degree that is a little more respected (although he's still waiting for acceptance into the commerce program he'd like to study)." – Orléans Star
The new nugget is waiting to hear back from McGill commerce (the major at Carleton for Ravens such as Stu Turnbull, Aaron Doornekamp and Os Jeanty). Check out this quote from McGill coach Craig Norman (who had great success recruiting in Ottawa when he almost took RMC to nationals, yes really):
"Oh my God, I think Tyson Hinz is the most complete basketball player I’ve ever seen at that age. He's a great young man, has tremendous work ethic, and he’s so polished for a kid his age. It’s unreal."
Hinz will probably make out well at whatever school he chooses. It's kind of cool, in a Canadian way, that speculation has not run amok in the media. It's good that Tyson Hinz is free to be an 18-year-old and make up his mind, with his family's counsel.

Hinz becomes coveted recruit for universities (Dan Plouffe, Orléans Star)
With a few days left until the championship starts, let's dive into the penalty numbers from this season and see if anything hooks our interest. Bonus points to anyone who can name the three original words in "PIM" without looking them up.

Last year, we learned--seriously, click that link and keep it open, I'm going to refer back to it often--the most penalized teams in the CIS were Lethbridge, the U of S, Moncton, and Regina. UQTR and Waterloo were also pretty high, considering the OUA's then-tendency for fewer penalty minutes per game.

What do the PIM stats look like for this year? Glad you asked.

Average penalty minutes per game, 2008-2009 (2007-2008 in brackets)
OUA, 22.4 (18.8)
Canada West, 19.7 (22.6)
AUS, 18.9 (19.9)

Like last year, there are some differences between the conferences, except this time around the average Ontario/Quebec team saw nearly six more minutes of penalties per game. That's pretty significant. Out west, the numbers dropped by about half that, which is also interesting if not as big of a change.

No explanations are coming to mind for either conference. The WHL factor was noted in the West's high 07-08 numbers; are there more WHL grads in the OUA this year? Maybe there's no reason and it's just one of those things.

More penalty minutes than the conference average
RMC, 32.3 minutes per game
Ryerson, 29.5
Saskatchewan, 24.2
Carleton, 26.2
Regina, 22.9
Concordia, 25.0

(The teams are ordered by how much they out-penaltied their conference average. The Huskies took more penalties vs. the average Canada West team than the Ravens or Stingers did vs. the average OUA team.)

Aside from Ryerson, there's no overlap between this list and last year's equivalent list, both of which included every team with at least 10% more penalty minutes than whatever their conference average was. I'm guessing the coaches, maybe aside from Ryerson, knew all about those high PIM totals and made some changes to bring down the time spent shorthanded. It'll be interesting to see what next year's list looks like.

The last RPI update I did showed these teams as 31st, 33rd, 13th, 23rd, 16th, and 19th respectively (out of 33), so aside from the U of S, they were probably all hurt somewhat by their penalty-taking habits.

Going back to that OUA jump: now that we see RMC and Ryerson at the top (bottom?), can we just blame that jump on those two schools? Tempting, but no. 11 of the top 13 teams, in raw numbers, were in Ontario (well, Ontario and Montreal). Only Windsor and Western averaged fewer PIM this year than last year's conference average. Which leads us nicely into the next list.

Fewer penalty minutes than the conference average
Alberta, 11.8
Western, 16.6
Windsor, 17.1
Lakehead, 18.9
Queen's, 19.4
Toronto, 19.5
UOIT, 19.6

The Alberta Golden Bears: they're so good, you won't get the man advantage. They were the least-penalized team in the country last year, too. The average team in the West had nearly 530 minutes in 08-09; Alberta, just 331. Sounds like a disciplined team.

After Alberta, there's Western and Windsor again, and a bunch of other OUA teams. You'd figure better teams tend to take fewer penalties and that does seem to be the case, some outliers aside (hello, Oshawa!). Acadia, Lethbridge, and UNB all had 18 or fewer penalty minutes per game, but were too close to the AUS/Canada West average to show up here.

Three OUA teams made the low-penalty list two years in a row: Queen's, Lakehead, and Western. Two of those teams are in the championships this year. Coincidence?

Not shown above, just missing the 10% cutoff, are the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Which means a year after they were the most-penalized team in the country--and it wasn't even close--they saw a huge drop: from 29.9 minutes per game to 17.8. Who knows what happened there? Did a few misconduct-happy grinders exhaust their eligibility?

And finally, the last thing you'll notice is no AUS teams are on either of these lists. There was a per-game average of 18.9 down east and no teams were above 20.3 (Saint Mary's, St. F.X.) or below 17.6 (Acadia).

Sources: AUS, Canada West, OUA.
There's a nice feature out of Edmonton today on Gonzaga-bound guard Mangisto Arop which touches upon the impact new Alberta men's hoops coach Greg Francis has had on him with the National Elite Development Agency:
"Working under Francis with NEDA the last two years has lifted Arop's game, maturity and confidence that much higher.

" 'The thing about Greg is he's been there,' Arop said of Francis, a former National men's team member. 'He played Division I at Fairfield, he's been to the tournament.

" 'He played pro in Europe and had an NBA tryout. He's played against all the top players.' "
Gonzaga also has 6-foot-10 Kelly Olynyk from Kamloops, B.C., coming in for next season. Any search for fresh info on Bol Kong seems to get Googlewhacked, although someone did leave a comment on YouTube, "all the best in Gonzaga," after watching the short film which details the talented Sudan-born swingman's struggles to gain entry into the U.S. on a student visa.

Gonzaga will beat North Carolina in the Sweet 16, by the way. That's what my NCAA bracket says, anyways.

Basketballer zigs his way to Zags; Long journey has taken Arop from Sudan to Gonzaga University (John Mackinnon, Edmonton Journal)
Michael O'Shea seems to have been forcibly retired, but the Toronto Argonauts have brought in another inside linebacker who starred in the OUA.

Jay Pottinger, who was a big part of McMaster's Yates Cup run early on this decade (seems like a long time ago) should become fan favourite in Double Blue. He's from Whitby, he's a demon on special teams.

Argos acquire Pottinger from B.C. for draft picks (Terry Koshan, Sun Media)
McGill was the unquestioned No. 1 team all season long, so it was only fitting that they ended up on top tonight, with their leading scorers Ann-Sophie Bettez opening the scoring and Marie-Andrée Léclerc-Auger getting the clincher with 11:07 to go with a 3-1 win over the game Laurier Golden Hawks.

National team goalie Charline Labonté only had 12 shots, but made a big save when it was still 1-0, thwarting Laurier's Kaley Powers on a backhand. A couple minutes later, Laurier's Lauren Barch collided with teammate Stephanie Crarey on the backcheck, and the resulting confusion, Rebecca Martindale centred to Alessandra Lind-Kenny for the tap-in goal. Barch pulled a goal back with eight minutes left, but it was pretty moot.

McGill was the better team, but beyond coach Peter Smith's unbeaten Martlets going wire to wire, there was a lot of parity this season. Five of nine games at nationals required overtime, while multi-overtime games were prevalent in three of the four league semi-finals in Ontario and Québec.

Mariève Provost played the heroine for Moncton in the bronze-medal game, scoring the tying goal and the shooting winner in the 3-2 decision over Manitoba which gave the Aigles Bleues their first CIS medal. It might be the first time Canada West has not had a medal winner, although that's somewhat a function of the qualifying process.

Captain Brayden Ferguson scored 27 seconds into overtime to lift host St. FX past Ottawa 5-4 in overtime in the first-place game. The X-Women's Jessica Shanahan and the Gee-Gees' Samantha Delenardo each scored twice, while Ottawa's Jessika Audet, unfortunately for her, completed her decorated career with back-to-back overtime losses.
Watch out Canada - the Alberta Golden Bears are on a mission. The Bears dismantled the University of Saskatchewan Huskies tonight 7-0 to win the best of 3 series 2-0. Great recap here from the Edmonton Journal. All-Canadian goalie Aaron Sorochan picked up his first shut-out of the year and sixth of his career. He made 31 saves in the victory. Before today's game Sorochan said he knew what to expect from the Huskies having played them in the Can West finals every year he has been at the U of A. He didn't just know what to expect, he knew how to stop the Huskies giving up just 2 goals in 2 games. Bears off to Thunder Bay now for the National Championships, March 26-29. The U of A will be looking for their record 14th national crown.
Marie-Andrée Léclerc-Auger and Ann-Sophie Bettez's one-goal, two-assist evenings lifted McGill to a 5-1 win over St. Francis Xavier and a return trip to the women's hockey national final. An unbeaten season, that'd be something.

Seriously, is anyone going to stop McGill? Laurier goalie Liz Knox helped keep the Golden Hawks in the game in last season's championship game in Ottawa (a 2-0 Martlets win, the clincher came in the final 90 seconds), although she did give up three goals on 15 shots today against Moncton.

It will be St. FX-Ottawa and Moncton-Manitoba in the fifth- and third-place games, starting at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern, both on
Laurier has held up its end of the bargain, beating Moncton 5-3 today by virtue of a hat trick from second-team all-Canadian Andrea Ironside and a key goal by Katherine Shirriff.

Moncton scored twice early in the third period to come within a goal. Shirriff scored just 1:16 after the Aigles Bleues' second goal and Ironside applied the hammer with her third goal of the afternoon just 46 seconds later. Lauren Barch also had three assists.

Fifth-year Golden Hawks defender Andrea Bevan, the lone Laurier player who's served continuously since it won in 2005 (backup goalie Cindy Eadie graduated and came back), will be playing in her fourth national final.

The St. FX-McGill game is airing on, while tomorrow's final will air on The Score. The Cord, Laurier's student newspaper, is updating at

(Small world: I have a great-uncle and great-aunt in Carrying Place, Ont. Wonder if Shirriff knows the John and Sandra Vanberkel?)
It could be a unique double for Montreal in women's hockey. The Montreal Stars won the Clarkson Cup with a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps in the championship game in Kingston. McGill is favoured to win the CIS title tomorrow (St. FX and Laurier, who's through to the final after its 5-3 win over Moncton, will have something to say about that yet).

Former McGill captain Shauna Denis, who helped the Martlets win last year in her swan song as a university player, scored the first Stars goal. Captain Lisa-Marie Breton, a former Concordia star, accepted the trophy. All told, the Stars have no less than a half-dozen former Martlets (Denis, Kim St-Pierre, Catherine Herron, Valérie Paquette, Brittany Privee and Gillian Merrifield) and four ex-Stingers (Breton, Tawnya Danis, former captain Kelly Sudia and Marie-Claude Allard) on their roster.

The Clarkson Cup has been a long time coming. It should get more coverage, and hopefully with the right promotion by 2010 and a bump from the Vancouver Olympics, it will develop.

Montreal Stars win women's national hockey championship (Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig-Standard)
It has come up in discussions about the women's nationals, especially after Alberta missed out, but at least one coach is on record about opening up the men's University Cup to more teams.
" 'The one thing I learned in my 10 University Cups — five participating and five observing — is that seeding doesn't mean anything,' Western coach Clarke Singer said. 'Out east, (New Brunswick) was the No. 1 ranked team for a lot of the year and they lose the final to Saint Mary's so there's a very good team that's going to be a fourth seed at best.' "

"Singer favours changing the six-team Cup to eight like the basketball nationals. If they do, they should eliminate the massive gaffe Western's hoops team had to endure — going to a Canadian championship and playing two teams from Ontario." — Ryan Pyette
Doing so runs the risk of adding too much water to the wine, but something needs to be done about the long layoff before the nationals. It's getting to the point of college-football lunacy. McGill and Western, will go 11 days without playing before the University Cup and will have each had only one game in almost three weeks. Host Lakehead's first games in March will actually come at the at the nationals, since they were ousted from the OUA playoffs on Feb. 28. UNB and Saint Mary's will be off seven days, while only the Saskatchewan-Alberta will have played the week previous. This is somewhat about students who are also athletes, but it's not helping sell the game.

Mustangs vs. Knights difficult call (Ryan Pyette, London Free Press
It's a bit dated now, but a commenter made note of it earlier this week, so here's a link to a recent Van Province feature on Thomas Scrubb, the 6-foot-5 forward with a name straight out of Dickens who's said to be ticketed for the Carleton Ravens.
"It's hard to remember many players in the recent history of the B.C. prep game who could entirely change the momentum of a contest based on their quickness and economy in the open court.

"Yet Scrubb, bound next season for Ottawa's CIS No. 1-ranked Carleton Ravens, is just such a player."
The schools themselves won't know who is coming until well into the spring and summer. Carleton seems to be at the front of the queue.

Scrubb's father, Lloyd Scrubb, played at UVic in the 1980s, meaning he would have been there when the Vikes won their seventh national title in a row in 1986. Imagine the son helping the Ravens go after their seventh title.

Scrubb makes it look easy; Vancouver College star is one who can change a game (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver Province)
Dollars to donuts says McGill will be raising the trophy on Sunday night, but damn if it hasn't been tense down east at the women's hockey nationals. Three of the four games have been decided by 2-1 scores in overtime.

Manitoba beat host St. Francis Xavier 2-1 in a shootout in the evening game tonight, with Addie Miles scored the tying goal late in regulation before Chelsea Braun scored the shootout winner in the seventh round.

Meantime, Moncton escaped with an overtime win over Ottawa, which will be in the fifth-place game for the third successive year. The Gee-Gees Fannie Désforges rang a shot off the post, only to have the Aigles Bleues wheel the other way, with Kristine Labrie finishing the game 1:28 into overtime.

The Laurier-Moncton game this afternoon becomes the semi-final. McGill has to beat St. FX to get back to the championship game. Mathematically speaking, if X wins in regulation, Manitoba would go to the final.

Please don't ask what happens if they end up going to overtime and everyone in that pool finishes with three points.
Word about the death of McGill defender back Adriano Tassone is spreading through the CIS football world. There is an online legacy book that people can sign and donations in Tassone's memory can be made to Right To Play.

It's terribly sad and the Tassone family has asked for privacy, so this seems like the most which can be done. Tassone is survived by parents Vincenzo and Sabina and his older sister Liana.
Former Manitoba Bison Israel Idonije, now a fixture in the Chicago Bears' defensive-line rotation, has been in the news for some of the community outreach he's been doing in his home province, Manitoba. There's been some news coverage in the past week or so of his good works, but there's been some more details about the mission to Nigeria he's undertaking with several NFLers, including Bears teammate Tommie Harris, Houston d-tackle Amobi Okoye, New York Giants pass rusher Osi Umenyiora and Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha.

Chicago Bears Idonije, Ogunleye, Harris headed to Nigeria (
Texans tackle helps out Nigeria, hones technique (Houston Chronicle
Anything is possible; Mr. Nice Guy Idonije spreads goodwill at home and abroad (Sun Media)
Carleton shooting guard Elliot Thompson, one of several Ravens who will be looking to take on a larger role with the graduation of tri-captains Aaron Doornekamp, Rob Saunders and Final 8 MVP Stu Turnbull, was the subject of a nice feature article in his hometown newspaper:
"Thompson, who turns 20 April 15, has also learned plenty from the aforementioned Turnbull, Doornekamp and Saunders.

"Saunders is in electrical engineering, so he can relate to Thompson trying to juggle basketball and a demanding science program. He's helped him with time management.

" 'Not only were they great basketball players, they were unbelievable leaders,' he said. 'They all led in their own unique way. What's most important about all three of them is they weren't feeding you bullcrap every day. Whatever they were saying was genuine. Some days you didn't want to hear it, but they were telling you the truth.' "
Elliot expressed similar sentiments when we spoke earlier this week for a Sun Media story (which, alas, seems impossible to locate anywhere on the Internet machine). He noted that what you saw on the court from those guys "is the way they are, deep-down. There's no fake leadership from them."

Capital investment turns into gold for Thompson (Bruce Hallihan, Fredericton Daily Gleaner)
This is mostly straight from the press release, but it is notable that the Alberta Golden Bears have brought in former Calgary QB Julian Marchand.

Alberta had a Canada West-high 21 passes intercepted while going 2-6 last season and as Marchand told his hometown paper (some time back, he typed, red-faced), he would like to get that down to "non-double digits."

Coach Jerry Friesen's team has nosedived a bit since going 7-1 in the regular season in 2005 (before a certain team from the next province order, which also wears green, no, not Regina, restored the natural order in the playoffs). Alberta has 12 recruits coming in from junior football, including:
  • RB Harpreet Turka and O-lineman Will Henry, both CJFL all-stars in 2008 with the Winnipeg Rifles. Defensive back Terrence Coutou, also of the Rifles, has committed.
  • DB Hayden Bell (Victoria Rebels).
  • Pass rusher Corey Kuzik, who led B.C. junior football in sacks last season while playing for the Okanagan Sun.
  • OL Darek Graff and receiver Ryan Meraw from the Edmonton Wildcats.
  • Lane Bell, linebacker/long snapper, and receiver Chris Klevin from the Calgary Colts.
  • Receiver Rob O'Connell (Kamloops Broncos).
  • LB Bo Onyschuck, another Calgary transfer who won two CJFL titles with the Edmonton Huskies. we ain't, so the floor is open if anyone wants to praise or pan U of A's recruits, but be civil.
The estimable Wayne Kondro has a must-read this a.m.: Starting in 2011, regionals will be held to determine the final three spots at the Final 8 to go along with the four conference champs and whoever is assigned the host team.
"Berths and matchups at those regional tournaments will be strictly prescribed. Five teams will come from the OUA, four from Canada West, two from the AUS and one from the QSSF. They will be spread out across all three regionals and will automatically slot into matchups based on a team's final placement within its conference playoffs, or in some cases where it finished in the regular season standings.

"The upshot is that conferences that feel they have had a strong year can make their case on the floor, said NABC president and Regina coach James Hillis."
It's wish-you-thought-of-it-first idea. CIS president Marg McGregor told SSN Canada last weekend that the seeding committee next year will be instructed to avoid intra-conference first-round matchups, but this takes it one step farther.

If such a system had been in place this season, Carleton (host), Calgary, Concordia, Dalhousie and Western would have had the automatic berths (no, the Mustangs didn't win the OUA outright, but play along, it's 3:15 a.m.).

For argument's sake, the regionals would have looked like this:
  • West regional: Brandon vs. Windsor (CW4/OUA2); UQAM vs. UBC (AQ3/CW1). The 'Birds probably wouldn't have had much trouble.

    Please bear in mind that Canada West is junking its three-division format, so this season's Alberta team could easily go into Brandon's spot.
  • Ontario regional: McMaster vs. Cape Breton (OUA4/AQ2); Victoria vs. Ottawa (CW3/OUA1).

    This probably would have the best four-team pod.
  • East regional: Ryerson or Waterloo vs. St. Francis Xavier (OUA5 vs. AQ1); Toronto vs. Trinity Western (OUA3 vs. CW2).

    Varsity Blues coach Mike Katz would finally get a chance to get to the Final 8 without having to go through Ottawa or Carleton. U of T, with the 10th-best RPI in the country, would have stood a good chance to advance (without even presuming that St. FX would have had three players suspended).

    Regular-season performance will be considered, so the committee would have to weigh Ryerson's 12-10 record vs. Waterloo being 10-12 with a playoff win (and a higher RPI than the Rams).
Hopefully, that makes some sense. The runner-up in each conference would host a four-team regional. All three regions have at least one team going cross-country. The West and the East each send a team to Ontario. the OUA sends two teams to the East regional. It's possible you could see some switching around from year to year, similar to the Vanier Cup playoff system (although that's another one which needs fixing).

One question for the OUA is how to fit everything in, especially since the Wilson Cup, its championship game, now has meaning. Perhaps it could do a single-site conference tournament.

CIS to introduce regional men's basketball playdowns (Wayne Kondro, Canwest News Service)
No surprise here — former Calgary Dino Dan Federkeil has re-signed with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
Who doesn't like free stuff? And if this weren't a family friendly blog I'd call it free something else that starts with an S because that's usually what it ends up being in the end.

Well, I'll tell you who doesn't like free stuff. The guy who wrote this post you're currently — okay, hopefully still — reading.

There's nothing I can stand less at sporting events than middle-aged men dressed in business casual polo shirts and khakis while spilling their $10 beers while attempting to flag down a too-small, silk-screened T-shirt with a cell phone logo on it.

But the Western Mustangs of the OUA have taken the free stuff phenomenon one step too far. According to the Western Gazette, the school's daily newspaper, the Mustangs are offering students free admission to all Western Mustangs games on campus next season.
Free sports for all

Students will receive free admission to all Western Mustangs games on campus next year, after the Intercollegiate Athletics budget was granted a two per cent increase in funding by the University Students’ Council’s Student Services Committee.

The only events that will not be free to students are playoff and Homecoming games.

USC President Stephen Lecce is hopeful the free admittance will boost both attendance and school spirit.
Leave it to student council to not understand athletics — or a business model.

Let's see. What else has been offered for free of late? Hmm. Newspapers. Music — OK, so it's been pirated. But you catch my drift. Incidentally, how are those two industries doing? One's nearly bankrupt as a whole and the other is claiming to still bleed money.

Whenever you give anything away you immediately devalue the product and create a state of apathy. Picture it:
FRESHMAN 1: Want to go to see the Mustangs play Guelph today?
FRESHMAN 2: Nah. We'll go next week. It's free, remember?
If you force a person to buy a ticket in advance, they're more likely to actually use the ticket.

If you tell someone they can attend the game for free, you're telling that potential fan your team and the gameday experience is worthless. And if there's a Canadian school where that simply isn't the case, it's Western.

People watching is free of charge. So is a scenic country drive. Not even thoughts are free. A penny for your thoughts, sir?

Sports shouldn't be free — especially not at this elite a level.

Suddenly, it costs the same to watch varsity sports at Western as is it does to watch an intramural game. Nothing.

The late, great Bill Veeck just turned over in his grave. And somewhere, his son Mike wept.

Send your thoughts to
McGill defender Catherine Ward is going to join her Marlets mate, goalie Charline Labonte, on Team Canada at the upcoming world championship in Finland next month.

That sounds pretty sweet for Ward, who at 22 is the youngest defenceman on Melody Davidson's roster. All of the players going to the worlds will be centralized with Hockey Canada's residency program next season, so she will be lost to McGill, not that it will hurt the Martlets tremendously (they didn't skip a bit when several players were at the 2009 Universiade).

It's always good to see someone who pursued collegiate hockey in Canada get a shot. There have been fewer since NCAA schools really started to invest in women's hockey. Veteran winger Jayna Hefford (hey! Her mom coached one of my sister Trina's teams!) did play at U of T for a couple years and defender Colleen Sostorics played for the Calgary Dinos.

Shannon Szabados, who plays collegiately at Grant McEwan College in Alberta, is going to give Labonte and fellow McGiller Kim St-Pierre some competition in goal.

Canada, as you know, is out to reclaim the IIHF world women's title after losing to the U.S. in the worlds last spring in Harbin, China.
It's momentous for reasons beyond it being St. Patrick's Day: Greg Layson, of the Guelph Mercury, has signed on to be a contributor with and its sister site, Out of Left Field.

Greg's bona fides as a chronicler of CIS sports, particularly OUA West basketball and OUA football, are well-established through his work at the Merc, at Big Man on Campus and through his former CIS radio show.

It is unbelievably flattering to have him on our team, since he's been a great supporter of both sites for the past two years in blog time, which is like 20 years in real time.
As Bucholtz noted over at Sporting Madness, Queen's Athletics has raised its athletics fee to $251, making it the highest among Ontario University Athletics member institutions. Eleven other schools, according to Andrew's report, are likely going to seek an increase in the next two years

My dear friend, CFRC 101.9 sports director Tyler King, has been a dissenting voice about the funding increase on this on his Friday afternoon show, Offsides. The crux of his argument seemed to be that this was less about doing better and more about maintaining the current standards, which have included scarcely few national championships since the last football Vanier Cup in 1992 and the women's soccer team winning the whole megillah back in '88.

The great part about being an alumnus is that you don't have to care; it's not your money, and hell yeah, it would be nice if Queen's got its act together. You can't take it on faith it's going to happen. At least someone in Kingston is in the range of doing whatever it takes, since it sure won't be the OHL's Frontenacs.
The Ottawa Citizen's excellent Wayne Kondro has a what's-next piece on the Carleton Ravens, who as you know, lose five-year standouts Aaron Doornekamp, Rob Saunders and Stu Turnbull to graduation. (Their impact is pretty much impossible to sum up in a sentence or two.)

It woudn't do to piggyback on Wayne's reporting and writing, since I'll try to have a take and not suck in the Ottawa Sun later this week. Here's some bullet points:
  • Carleton has five rotation players back: Kevin McCleery in the post, forwards Kyle Smendziuk and Cole Hobin at the 3-4 spots, Elliot Thompson as the 2-guard and Mike Kenny running the point.
  • Two HoopStars Canada Top 50 players from Kingston, 6-foot-8 centre/power forward Owen Klassen and 6-5 swingman Greg Faulkner, are also mentioned as possibilities; Smart says "as far as he knows" C

    . Klassen and Faulkner are the No. 2 power forward and No. 7 small forward, respectively.

    Oddly enough, like the Kingston trio, both are from the west-end schools in the Kingston high school league. Klassen attended Bayridge, Faulkner went to Holy Cross.
  • At least two people who would know told me during the Final 8 that Carleton is likely to get forward Tyson Hinz (ranked No. 4 in Canada at his position), who led the St. Matthew's Tigers to a 45-1 season and the Ontario AAA title. Twin guards Kyle and Scott Ring are also in the mix.
  • Some of you probably noticed that Willy Manigat, who was a valuable seventh man on Ottawa's national semi-finalist team in 2006-07, was sitting on Carleton's bench during recent games; he has three years' eligibility remaining if he gets his schoolwork in order.

    Manigat averaged 5.1 points in 13 minutes per game for the '06-07 Gee-Gees and also led them in three-point shooting (.455).
  • Guards Anthony Ashe and Luke Chapman are waiting in the wings.
Ravens lose big three, but coach still likes chances (Wayne Kondro, Canwest News Service)
Since history is written about the victors, the pain that UBC shooting guard Chris Dyck played through during the men's basketball championship game has been a bit underplayed anywhere east of Vancouver.
"Forced to wear borrowed shoes almost a full size too small after his favorite pair lost a sole in the pre-game warmups Saturday, Dyck wound up rolling both of his ankles in the first half on Sunday, then had to deal with a flare-up of his chronic back pain.

"That and the fact that he was a marked man by an extremely physical Carleton team after he scored 17 first-half points made the second half perhaps the toughest 20 minutes of Dyck's career.

" 'It's still a tough pill to swallow in your last year," said Dyck who was able to help lead UBC to heights that previous greats like Kyle Russell, Casey Archibald and Pasha Bains were not. "But all you can really ask for is a chance to compete for that national championship and tonight we did that.' " — Little Man on Campus
Carleton certainly put Dyck through the wringer after the break in the second half, putting player-of-the-game Rob Saunders on him. Dyck, who had three straight 17-point halves, was held to four the rest of the way, with the only basket coming on a layin with 1:18 remaining.

It's kind of one of those quirks of covering sports that only hear about who was playing hurt after all is said and done; surely most of the teams in Ottawa had guys playing through pain. Dyck and Blain Labranche certainly do so this weekend; Labranche was great for UBC in the second half vs. Carleton, even though he semed to in pain from an injury that grew out of plantar fasciitis in his left foot, causing him to miss their first game at nationals.

Gutsy Chris Dyck ends his UBC career with no questions left unanswered (Howard Tsumura, Little Man on Campus)
Queen's is apparently seeking a change in direction after the playoff disappointments of the past two seasons, where a prolific offence bogged down in losses to Ottawa and Western.

Offensive coordinator and QB coach Warren Goldie is leaving the program after a seven-year run with coach Pat Sheahan. The players were told at the team's season-ending banquet last weekend in Kingston that Goldie, who works full time in real estate and has young children, is leaving the program.

The Golden Gaels coaches have come under scrutiny in the past two seasons, as so often happens when a team loses at home in the playoffs. Their pass-run ratio was out of whack, especially in the 2007 Western game, and they couldn't make up for an injury to tailback Mike Giffin in the '08 loss to Ottawa.

Goldie is well regarded for being very sound with his coaching points, the technical instruction. On his watch, Queen's has had a string of receivers get CFL shots — Craig Spear, Iain Fleming, Brad Smith, current Saskatchewan Roughrider Rob Bagg and 2008 all-Canadian Scott Valberg, who's likely to get a free-agent shot. Queen's has also had two quarterbacks, Tom Denison and current fifth-year senior Dan Brannagan, each amass more than 7,500 career passing yards during Goldie's era. He'll be missed.

The upshot is that Sheahan has been his own offensive coordinator before, and this could be some fallout from last fall.
This likely rates a post of its own. You can hear the Haligonian tooth-gnashing all the way from Upper Canada (it's all in fun).
Carleton's success on the court hasn't been matched by fan support.

Attendance for the three-day tournament was 73,126 -- including 15,852 combined for the two games yesterday. That wasn't as high as anticipated, said Carleton athletic director Jennifer Brenning, the tournament chairwoman.

"I'm a bit disappointed, but we're head-to-head with the 67's and the retirement of (Brian) Kilrea, so that would be a factor, and it's a beautiful day out," she said.

Brenning said the tournament lost money last year, and she just hoped to break even this year. Carleton has one more year of hosting the Final 8 before it moves back to Halifax for 2011 and 2012.

She didn't bid for those championships, and is debating whether she'll try to bring it back for 2013.

"They changed the funding structure, so the CIS holds over 60% of corporate advertising inventory and the host gets the balance. The concept is the host is to purely concentrate on ticket sales," she said. -- Ottawa Sun
Brenning's comment about corporate advertising inventory explains away the dearth of bids for some national championships; Atlantic University Sport basically was bidding against itself for the 2011 and '12 men's basketball tournament.

Any and all suggestions as to why ticket sales were down are welcome; it could be the novelty wore off, or maybe people thought Carleton would win. Also, maybe it's time to study how time is used; four hours dedicated to two consolation-side games on Saturday is one of those really ... really moments? It is understandable you don't want a team to travel from either coast to play one game, lose and be done, but an all-star game and a skills competition might be more of a crowd-pleaser. With all due respect to coach Dave DeAviero's Ottawa Gee-Gees and John Dore's Concordia Stingers, who engaged in a pretty good consolation final on Sunday, how about a bronze-medal game instead?

Tell you what, the thing with university sports in Canada is people really are there for the game. Getting 8,000 tickets distributed, even in a city Ottawa's size, is nothing to sneeze at, and yes, a lot of sports fans might have opted to be there for Brian Kilrea's final regular-season game, where the Ottawa 67's team beat a team from a certain Eastern Ontario city.
Chad Lucas at the Halifax Chronicle Herald passed along word over the weekend that he is leaving one of the East Coast's biggest papers. Chad's contributions will be sorely, sorely missed:
"The university game has always meant more to me because many of the players I've watched, covered and in some cases even coached since they were 14 or 15 years old.

"That's why I'm glad the final game I covered live for the Herald was last Saturday’s AUS championship, where a kid from Bedford named Josh Beattie performed a minor miracle in the third quarter to lift the Dalhousie Tigers to the title. I’ve seen heroes made and hearts broken, and though I've always tried to maintain some measure of objectivity as a reporter, I have to admit that watching the long-suffering Tigers and their fans celebrate was really, really fun. (Besides, now that I've seen Dalhousie win the conference, I've seen just about everything.)

"This will sound horribly cliched, but the thing I’ll miss most is the people, especially my colleagues in the sports department. I have laughed way harder and more often over the past six years than most people ever do (or probably should) in an office. But the Chronicle Herald is going to be a very different place by this time next week, and truth be told I'm ready to move on to other things."
Two veterans of the late Halifax Daily News, Chris Kallan and Shane Ross (Shane is now with Sun Media) were both in attendance at the Final 8, so one hopes Chad will find a way to stay close to the game and writing about it. These are uneasy times for media pros, since we are so early into a communications revolution not seen in some 500 years.

Chad is a 2001 graduate of the one-year B. Journalism program at the University of King's College in Halifax. To the would-be journos who came in the following school year, 2001-02, he was pretty much known as the superstar, someone who had the raised the bar for the next class, so you have to figure he'll be all right.

(Thank you to Eddie Pomykala for bringing this to our attention.)

The End. (Posting Up With Chad Lucas)
Canada West
  • Alberta needed a game to warm up before beating Regina 4-1 and 7-1 to advance in its semi-final series. Alberta, starting with Ryan White's go-ahead goal with 1:39 left in the second period in Game 2 on Saturday through the first period of Game 3 Sunday, ripped off eight goals over 40 minutes of hockey. The Cougars had won three straight away from home, but that was hard to sustain.

  • Saskatchewan doubled up UBC, 6-3 and 4-2 for a two-game sweep of its semi-final. Charles Durand had a hat trick and set up the other U of S goal in Saturday's clincher; in Game 1, the Huskies prevailed on the strength of a two-goal, two-assist night by Colin Patterson.
  • UNB and Saint Mary's are headed to Game 3 in the AUS final after the Huskies, thanks to a Cam Fergus goal early in the third and Chris Morehouse's clincher with 1:10 left, won 3-2 on home ice Sunday.

    The Varsity Reds started strong, taking Game 1 5-1. Kyle Bailey broke open a 1-1 game by scoring on a penalty shot with 2:10 left in the second period. Jordan Clendenning scored twice and Jimmy Cuddihy applied the hammer with a goal 2:24 into the third which opened a two-goal lead.
  • Western is headed to the University Cup with its third league title in school history. Keaton Turkiewicz scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 Queen's Cup victory over McGill on Saturday in London.
A month of Sundays hit the calendar: As Richard noted below, the women's hockey nationals in Antigonish, N.S. will not include the Alberta Pandas, upset 3-2 in triple overtime by the Manitoba Bisons on a goal by rookie sensation Nellie Minshull after 35:29 of free hockey.

The other five spots will include regulars McGill (the prohibitive favourite), Laurier, Moncton, Ottawa and host St. FX, although the No. 2 Golden Hawks had a narrow escape in the OUA final.

Expanding the tournament to eight teams, or reconsidering how the sixth spot is awarded to go along with the four league champions and host, should be on the table. The argument is that the calibre of play is good enough to fill out an eight-team field, whereas not too long ago, it was tough to have six teams. The top teams who are not named McGill aren't cakewalking through to nationals. Both semi-finals and the final in the OUA went the full three games.

Canada West
  • Stacey Corfield's stopped 107-of-113 shots, including 46-of-48, 37 saves, including combined on Pandas captain Jennifer Newton and star scorer Tarin Podloski.

    Alana Cabana, easily the best-named player in maybe any CIS team sport, scored two goals in Alberta's 3-1 win in Game 2. In the opener, Leanne Kisil scored Manitoba's game-winner with 4:45 left and got the empty-net goal with 42 ticks left.
  • Lauren Barch more or less carried Laurier to a pair of one-goal wins over Guelph, 2-1 and 3-2, as the Golden Hawks got back to nationals the hard way after dropping the series opener. Guelph was 20 minutes from its first OUA title Sunday when Barch scored tying and go-ahead goals; Kingston native Kaley Powers then scored the eventual game-winner with 5:54 remaining before Guelph pulled a goal back with 77 seconds left.

    Barch also got a goal right off the second-period opening faceoff that proved the winner on Saturday. Guelph had 'em, and one can only figure that coach Rachel Flanagan's team is starting to narrow the gap between Laurier and everyone else in that conference. Tori Woods was excellent in the playoffs for the U of G, with five goals in six games.
  • McGill had little trouble getting by Ottawa, sweeping the Quebec final 2-0. Marie-Andree Leclerc-Auger and Vanessa Davidson each had two goals and an assist in Friday's 7-1 clincher vs. the Gee-Gees, who of course are headed to Antigonish thanks Quebec being gifted with a second berth due to McGill's win last season.
The Alberta Pandas and Manitoba Bisons women hockey teams tried to do their best Syracuse-UConn impression this afternoon. In triple OT, the Bisons came out victorious 3-2, and won the the three-game series, 2 games to 1. Alberta had won five of the last six national championships and has made an unprecedented nine appearances to the national championships.

Manitoba's victory in Game 3 of the Can West finals will send the lady Bisons to the finals for the third time ever. I am heading down to Clare Drake now and will have more on this game and the Golden Bears game late. The Golden Bears are about to get under way in the deciding game 3 of the men's Can West hockey championships.
Carleton's offence gets a lot of press, but their defence was even more impressive today. One of the highlights of the game was the way they shut down UBC's Chris Dyck in the second half; he had 17 points in the first half but only finished with 21. The top defensive effort came from Rob Saunders, not surprising that he picked up the CIS defensive player of the year award earlier this week.

If offence wins games and defence wins championships, Saunders excels on both fronts. He poured in 18 points on five-of-nine shooting today, added four rebounds and was consistently strong defensively. For his efforts, he was named Carleton's player of the game. Nice to see that, as strong defensive efforts often go unrewarded.

It was Saunders' final championship with the Ravens and his fourth in five years. He said the program meant everything to him.

"It was the right decision for me to come here," he said. "Just the people I've been around are unbelievable."

Saunders said this win was extra special for him and the other fifth-year seniors from Kingston, Aaron Doornekamp and Stu Turnbull.

"As seniors, that's a big reason why we put the effort that we did for the program and the people that brought us in," he said. "The four seniors last year, they didn't get their national championship. They were some of my best friends and watching that was terrible. We wanted to go out there and get this win."

Saunders said the loss last season motivated this year's group all year.

"We really wanted it this year," he said. "We wanted to make up for last year."

Saunders said team chemistry was a big factor in the win.

"Everyone gets along really well," he said. "Dave recruits quality guys."

Saunders said he felt grateful for his time at Carleton and his involvement with such a team.

"It's a pleasure to be a part of," he said.

Saunders left it all on the court today. When queried about his plans for the evening, he responded, "I'm going to sleep."

[Photo: Stu Turnbull poses in Cabbie's hat after Saturday night's semifinal (Rob Pettapiece photo)]

Carleton's fifth-year guard Stu Turnbull was selected as tournament MVP, and he was certainly a deserving choice. Turnbull had a fantastic season for the Ravens and established himself as their top offensive threat. He knocked down a game-high 22 points in today's final despite his normal shooting touch being slightly off; he was only five for 16 from the field and three-for-eight from deep. Turnbull hit nine of his 10 free throws, though, and added seven rebounds and two steals en route to his fourth career title.

Turnbull said this win was especially important given Carleton's loss in the semi-finals last year.

"It was a long while before we got to play in a national final again," he said. "It's awesome."

Turnbull said the key to victory today was adjusting to UBC's offensive explosiveness. The Ravens trailed by one at halftime, but went on to win 87-77.

"I think we were just a little bit surprised by how good they were in the first half," he said. "We kind of got used to it and got going."

Turnbull said the emotion of victory drained all the other thoughts from his head.

"Absolutely nothing's going through my mind right now," he said.

Turnbull said it was special for him and the other fifth-year players to finish with a win, though. He said it was a great way to go out.

"The best way. The only way."

Here's The Score's recap of the Carleton-Western semi-final:

This one's for all the marbles! It's the national championship game, live from Scotiabank Place. The top-ranked Carleton Ravens are taking on the third-seeded UBC Thunderbirds. Join us in the live blog below!

Lest there be any doubt about whether the two right teams are in the final, here are the top 10 in the RPI rankings going into today's final game:

1. Carleton
2. UBC
3. Ottawa
4. Calgary
5. Western
6. Concordia
7. UVic
8. Windsor
9. St. F.X.
10. Toronto

From Calgary down to Windsor, there isn't much separation, but those top two are certainly the top two. Should be a good game this afternoon (tipoff around 4:05 ET).
Funny story to share from a post-game interview with Dax Dessureault of Ottawa, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds in his final game for the Gee-Gees. Apparently, Ottawa was planning to wear whites today, but his white jersey got destroyed when the team manager was doing laundry, so they shifted to the garnet colours. Here's his quotes on the matter:

"We were supposed to wear whites today, and my whites got ripped in the laundry," he said. "It was like an omen for the game. They won't need that number any more."

Dessureault was named Ottawa's player of the game in all three of their matches. He said that was largely due to opposing defenses focusing on guards Josh Wright and Josh Gibson-Bascombe.

"Playing with two good players like that, one of us is going to be open," he said.

Dessureault said he was happy the Gee-Gees were able to finish with a victory in today's consolation final.

"It was nice to go out with a good game."
Live from Scotiabank Place, it's the consolation final of the Final 8! The Concordia Stingers are taking on the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Join us in the live blog below!

Words fail to describe the game just played.

"Carleton won 66-65" is the easy way out. But let's try some more.

It's two years in a row now that the Ravens have, to say the least, excited the crowd in their Saturday night semifinal at Scotiabank Place. Coming up with a way to describe it on the spot doesn't seem to work and others will have more details in the morning.

Stu Turnbull, seconds after missing two from the line, and even fewer seconds after Western took a narrow lead (65-64), scored the winning basket with absolutely no time left. All 40 intense minutes tonight (okay, maybe 25 or 26) were over once the ball found its way into the net. Hardly any mesh was disturbed on its arc.

The best way to react to the buzzer-beating shot? Carleton had one: they jumped up as one and piled on each other. The Mustangs had another: they just stood around, not sure where to walk or who to look at. Turnbull later took a breather, resting on the press table, just looking off into the middle distance near his ankles. He seemed to pause just to take in the moment for a bit, then of course he had to do some interviews and get his picture taken with some face-painted Carleton fans.

Again, time to reflect on the game will yield more complete thoughts. (49 personal fouls seems a little high, and someone with experience in deadline reporting probably has a game story written already.) But let it not be said that today's trip from Toronto to Ottawa was in vain.

There's more, much more to come tomorrow, but what can top that?

Good night from Scotiabank Place.
After a great first game, it's an OUA Replay for the second game. Carleton, Western, live from Scotiabank Place. Join us below!

We're up and running just about on time here, so stick around for our live blog!

Does anyone else have fatigue from hearing the endless comparisons between our collegiate basketball championship and the Americans'?
"By tomorrow night at 6, Canada will have a new national university basketball champion. A few people will know about it. Fewer still will watch it on TV. No real money will have been wagered on the games.

"A big deal? For those in it, sure. For everyone else, not so much.

"Meanwhile, by tomorrow night at 6, the annual orgy of basketball and betting south of the border will just be getting fired up. CBS will go on air and with remotes set up at schools from coast to coast, outline the brackets that'll lead to the NCAA championship three weeks from now. Bets will start flying. Office pools will fill up. Entire slates of prime-time broadcast space will be cleared to make way for it."
The author, Scott Radley, is one of Ontario's best sports columnists (he's got a shelf full of ONAs, Ontario Newspaper Awards, to prove it) and it's tough contesting any of his points. You sound hopelessly parochial if you decry everything associated with the NCAA Tournament (the shamateurism, people betting the grocery money on a sport where a team's chances can rise and fall based on whether the power forward had an argument with his girlfriend, the couch-burnings).

Let's just accept that in the States, everything is always going to be convenient for the college basketball fan. Can we not just accept that up here university basketball is a niche sport, while its U.S. counterpart is geared to the casual fan? I can't name one starter for North Carolina other than Tyler Hansborough, but I'll watch the NCAA Tournament.

The best analogy is that it's the difference between eating at some fast-food place and knowing some little out-of-the way place. In Canada, being a devotee of university basketball takes effort, maybe too much effort sometimes. It's kind of like the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel's character) recounts how he's spent eight years trying to find the great little hamburger place he found when he got lost on one of his first nights in New York City. Sure, you can get a cheeseburger pretty much anywhere and slick marketers will provide the attitude and the atmosphere, but finding that place was worthwhile.

There's a lot that has to be done at the upper echelons of the CIS to get on the national media's radar and realizing its potential. But the CIS vs. NCAA comparisons here are played out, with all due respect to Mr. Radley.

No hype? Must be Canadian b-ball (Scott Radley, Hamilton Spectator)
Unfortunately, business at my day job prevents me from being around the Final 8 today (and meant I had to drive back to Kingston late last night), but I thought I'd offer a few of my observations from games and interviews yesterday. The other guys will be handling the live-blogging duties today; I'll be back to join them courtside tomorrow.

Calgary - Concordia

- The Bekkering brothers are unbelievable; they have a perfect combination of size, athleticism and basketball sense. It will be interesting to see how they do against UBC tonight.

- Jamal Gallier is key to Concordia's success. He's listed as 6'7'', 270, which sounds about right, but he's incredibly quick and athletic for his size. He was the only Stinger who seemed capable of defending the Bekkerings and he played a huge role in keeping Concordia close through halftime. Once he got into foul trouble, they were done.

- The Stingers are quite small compared to most of the teams in this tournament. They often relied on outside shooting against Calgary, which was fine as long as the shots are falling, but cost them later in the game.

- Calgary doesn't have a lot of depth. It looked like Concordia was done when they trailed by 16 going into the fourth quarter, but the Calgary subs couldn't defend or score regularly against the Stingers and Concordia almost pulled off a comeback. The Dinos' starting five is amazing and has more size than anyone else (6'9'' guard Tyler Fidler, anyone?), but their bench didn't give them much against Concordia. That could hurt them against the deep Thunderbirds.


- Dalhousie is even more undersized than Concordia, which was very noticeable against UBC. They're good at moving the ball quickly and getting decent outside looks, but they didn't display a lot of lane penetration.

- UBC is one of the deepest teams in the tournament. They went to their bench guys early and often without a noticeable drop-off. That might be the key to victory against Calgary tonight; I give the Dinos' starters the edge, but UBC has much better depth.

- UBC head coach Kevin Hanson told me believes in playing subs as much as possible, which goes a long way towards explaining their depth. Only three Thunderbirds averaged less than 10 minutes per game during the season, and most of their team played in every game. That bench experience looked valuable against the Tigers.


- This was yet another example of an outside-shooting team getting toasted by a team with several talented big men. Ottawa was creating great looks for much of the game, but star guards Josh Gibson-Bascombe and Josh Wright just couldn't get the shots to drop. Dax Dessureault was a key threat inside for the Gee-Gees, but he was the only one to do much against Western's bigs. Once they figured how to counter him, Ottawa was history.

- On a regular day, this game should have been much closer. As mentioned above, Ottawa was playing quite well at times, but they couldn't get the shots to fall. Western certainly deserved the win, but the magnitude of the loss was deceiving thanks to Ottawa's shooting touch going MIA.

- However, Western proved they're a real threat. They'll have a tough time with Carleton, but if they play as well as they did against the Gee-Gees, they'll have a shot.

Carleton-St. F.X.

- This game was over even before it was announced that Tyler Richards wouldn't play. Carleton is just too good for X.

- However, the aforementioned absence of Richards (and two lesser lights) made things much worse for the X-Men. With them, it might have been a little closer.

- Kevin McCleery has very quietly developed into a great player. He may take over in a starring role once Carleton's Kingston Trio graduate this year.

- The Ravens don't take their foot off the gas. Yes, Dave Smart used subs throughout, but their subs play with the same killer intensity.

- If Carleton plays the way they did last night for the rest of the tournament, I don't think anyone can stop them. If they fall off and their opponents have a perfect game, we could see an upset, but that doesn't seem too likely at the moment.
It's game one of day two of the 2009 CIS Final 8. Both of these teams are fighting for a spot in the Consolation final tomorrow. The loser is done for the tournament.

After yesterday's Western blowout, who knows how close these are going to be today, but let's get 'em out there and on the record:

Concordia vs. Dalhousie (too close to call)
Ottawa over St. F.X. by 5.5, assuming the Gee-Gees remember where the arena is today

UBC over Calgary by 6.5
Carleton over Western by 13

Please, no wagering.
Thanks to all who helped Messrs. Bucholtz, Book and Pettapiece with the live blogging for Friday's quarter-finals. Sequel Saturday, as some wags have dubbed the Calgary-UBC and Western-Carleton national semi-finals (5:45 p.m. on SSN Canada, 6 p.m. ET on The Score), should be a good one.

Here are bricks and bouquets from Quarter-Final Friday (and being generous, it's more bouquets):

  • Kevin Hanson, UBC coach. Hanson's Thunderbirds no longer have a piano on their back when they come to nationals. It was flowing like water across clean rocks for UBC in its 78-54 win over Dalhousie, as the Thunderbirds seemed nice and loose, very positive body language. That trumps any snarking that UBC was bound to win since drew the long straw with a matchup vs. Final 8 first-timers, Dalhousie.

    This sort of stood out: After the post-game handshakes, UBC's players gathered at centre court and lingered for a few moments. It seemed atypical. It was almost like they were marking their territory.

  • Henry and Ross Bekkering, Calgary forwards. The latter Bekkering more than lived up to his all-Canadian status, as Ross put up 26 points and 15 rebounds while his older sibling Henry had 25 and five, respectively. The two are yin-and-yang, fire and ice. It was impossible to keep a mental count of how many heady plays Ross Bekkering made.

  • Josh Whyte, UBC point guard. Whyte had all 11 of his points vs. Dal in the first half and served notice he's going to be tough for Calgary to stop off the dribble in the first semi-final on Saturday. Brent Malish (18 points in 25 minutes) and Nathan Yu (14 in 23) were superb off the bench for the 'Birds.

  • Matthew Curtis, Western point guard. The pass-first point guard made only 20.6% of his three-point attempts in the regular season, but canned two triples that helped buckle Ottawa's knees. Curtis finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while Keenan Jeppesen (17 points, seven rebounds) and swingman Bradley Smith (1o of his 12 points during the third quarter) also led the Mustangs.

  • Kevin McCleery, Carleton forward. Hooped 10 of his 14 points in the first 13 minutes to help set the tone for the Ravens, shot 7-of-13 and also shared the team rebounding lead with eight boards. The Kingston trio are reaping a nice windfall with the media attention (as well they should), but McCleery showed he can be the man for the Ravens.

  • Stephen Lopez, Dalhousie guard; Sean Nickel, St. FX guard; Ryan Barbeau, Western guard; Luke Chapman, Carleton guard: Bench players getting some burn in garbage time are often the ones who liven up one-sided games. Chapman went 3-for-3 from downtown in the second half of the Ravens' rout of St. Francis Xavier.

  • Mark Wacyk, Mark helped put the SSN on-air talent (well, can't speak for play-by-play man Mark Masters and sideline reporters Alison Sandor, Joe Fishman and Chris Messina, but that other guy, well) at ease with an excellent breakdown of the early matchups. Some of us aren't so sharp at noon.
  • The seeding committee. The average winning margin was 24.3 points. That is mostly testament to the teams which advanced, but it has to be said that is high compared to the past few seasons:
    2008: 6.8 (none by more than nine)
    2007: 18.3 (including a 48-point blowout)
    2006: 10.0 (8.3 including the Thursday prelim games)
    2005: 15.0 (15.3 including Thursday)
    2004: 6.3 (12.2 including Thursday)
    2003: 8.0
    2002: 9.5
    2001: 12.3
    2000: 9.3
    Imagine a 3 vs. 6 quarter-final that had put Western against Concordia with UBC-Ottawa in the 4 vs. 5 quarter-final. Ottawa would have been hard-pressed to beat just about anybody with the way it played, but those matchups might have produced closer scores.
  • The Atlantic conference. It has one of the best formats for its conference playoffs, but the optics of having its two representatives get blown out are poor. UBC roared out to a big lead over Dalhousie and X found itself down 13-2 right off the hop vs. Carleton.

  • The Ottawa Gee-Gees. Many people were at a loss to explain the Gee-Gees' showing vs. Western, where they shot 27% from the field and 47% from the line. People are right to how Ottawa could lay such an egg. It could be their style of play works when they meet a team of lesser talent, but not so much when it's an even match.

    Ottawa's last three losses at nationals, dating back to 2005, have been by 22, 22, and 27 points; they also lost by 17 to Brock in the OUA third-place game in '08. At some point, it's not about who they're up against, doesn't it?

    Dax Dessureault had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his final game in the garnet and grey. He and forward David Labentowicz, who's due to have off-season microfracture surgery on his knee, are the lone Gee-Gees who have completed their eligibility.
Last but not least, stat of the day: Carleton scored 94 points despite St. FX committing only three shooting fouls all the game. This is equivalent to a NFL team facing third down only three times all game.

(The Ravens shot an effective 68.7% and were 2-of-5 on charity shots).
The final game of the day sees the top-seeded Carleton Ravens take on the wild-card St. Francis Xavier X-Men. Join the live blog below!

It's the Battle of Ontario, CIS hoops-style! The Western Mustangs take on the Ottawa Gee-Gees at 6 p.m. tonight, live on The Score. The winner will play whoever comes out of tonight's late game between Carleton and St. FX. Join us in the live blog below starting at 6!

This one's about to get underway. Join us in the live blog below!
Ross Bekkering had 26 points and 15 rebounds while brother Henry had 25 points for the No. 2 Calgary Dinos to pace their 76-67 Quarterfinal win over the No. 7 Concordia Stingers.

The Dinos overcame an 11-point first half deficit before tying the game at 32 entering the half. The third quarter started with a 18-5 Calgary run, to pace them to the first round victory.

"Our focus in the second half was to get hungrier and we did that," said Ross Bekkering. "We ended up rolling the momentum into our offence."

For the Stingers, their on-court and off-court leader is fifth-year forward Dwayne Buckley. It was his third trip to Nationals. He had 19 points to lead the Stingers.

"We knew they were a big, athletic team," Buckley said. "We did a good job in the first quarter but then they got dunks and started feeling it offensively. When a team starts feeling it, they get hard to stop."

The Stingers cut the lead to four late in the fourth quarter, but couldn't complete the comeback.

"It was too much. It is tough to come back against a team like that. Their run was a lot bigger than ours and that was the difference."

"In the second half we exerted our physical play. When we play that style we are more successful. In the first we settled for more jump shots," Ross Bekkering said.

Calgary now faces the winner of UBC-Dalhousie while Concordia gets the loser in the consolation final.
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