For as long as I can remember following CIAU and CIS hockey, the weekend in October when the Canadian teams visit the NCAA has always been a humbling experience, as most of "our" teams get blown off the ice. The American schools customarily invite Canadian schools for just that reason - these exhibition games are the first matches of the season for the U.S. teams, so their players get to skate the rust off and coaches get first looks at their rookies in action, plus tinker with line combinations. It is also a non-risk game (not counting injuries), since as an exhibition match the stats don't count and it can't affect their all-important rankings. If you are not aware, ALL non-conference games in the NCAA "count", and affect everything except conference standings. So that's why you want to play a Canadian patsy to start the season.
But that is changing. In the last few years the AUS teams in particular have made their games against Hockey East, ECAC and Atlantic Hockey conference teams competitive. Some NCAA coaches are now being more strategic, inviting CIS teams who will give their teams a good no-risk workout, as opposed to a cakewalk. So is the quality of CIS hockey improving, or is the NCAA brand declining? That is probably a discussion for another day, but let's look at yesterday:
CIS Winners (or not losers)
UNB 4 at UMass-Amherst 3 (OT)
Acadia 3 at Northeastern 2
UOIT 3 at Ferris State 2 (Huge Upset!!!)
Western Ontario 5 at Lake Superior State 4
St. Francis Xavier 3 at New Hampshire 3 (OT)
St. Thomas 3 at Sacred Heart 5
Wilfrid Laurier 1 at Rochester Institute of Technology 3
Nipissing 3 at Michigan Tech 5
Not-so Competitive Games
Manitoba 4 at St. Cloud State 7
Windsor 1 at Alaska-Anchorage 4
The Usual Blowouts
York 0 at Niagara 9
Carleton 1 at St. Lawrence 5
Toronto 3 at Boston University 9
Queen's 0 at Robert Morris 5
UBC 1 at Nebraska-Omaha 6
Lethbridge 1 at Colorado College 5
Now I'm not expecting the same successes today. The travelling CIS squads will be playing well rested NCAA opponents who are hosting their season opening games. For "fair play" reasons, CIS sports don't generally schedule a rested team against a team that played the day or evening before. The only thing the CIS has in their favour today is that their squads have several games played together, and should have most of their kinks worked out. We'll see if that is enough.
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