Hockey: Puck drops tomorrow for the University Cup

The 2011 Cavendish University Cup presented by Home Depot (what are we now, NASCAR?) kicks off today with the lunch time "meet the coaches" press conference and the All-Canadian Awards presentations tonight.

I posted the pools and schedules on Sunday, so you can scroll down in the blog or click this link. No need to make this post longer than necessary.

The press conference will probably follow the same predictable form as the past: the coaches will all talk about the good teams they had to beat to get here, the great competition this year (best ever!) at the tournament and how anyone here can win the University Cup. The assembled media will then turn to each other and roll their eyes. Except it is all true. And any team with a hot goaltender and a hotter sniper can win this thing when you are effectively playing single elimination games. But of course a big chunk of the attention will be on favoured UNB and head coach Gardiner MacDougall who are under incredible pressure to win at home.

This evening is awards night, and UNB is trying something different. Instead of the typical long drawn out banquet format with antsy hockey players, tonight the teams will have their team meals at their hotels or local restaurants. They will then arrive at the Fredericton Playhouse for a one-hour ceremony focused solely on the nominees and award winners. No food, and quick escape. For local fans there is a little less excitement, as the AUS coaches saw fit to exclude any UNB players or coaches from their major awards, and thus none of the #1 ranked V-Reds are in the contention for CIS awards, other than the All-Canadian teams.

Five of the six teams skated yesterday at the Aitken University Centre; StFX who were just here on Friday night for Game 5 of the AUS championship skated at home and bussed in last evening. Calgary's sticks didn't make their flight, so they had to buy some stick locally for their practice (there's some petrodollars for the local economy ...)

Sportsnet is here. Louis Jean was at the first practice (Western) yesterday morning, and he was joined by Sam Cosentino in the afternoon. Play-by-play man Peter Loubardias arrives today or tomorrow. Sportsnet will be broadcasting live the two Saturday games (2:30 pm & 7:30 pm ADT) and the championship game Sunday (8:00 pm ADT). SSN Canada will be webasting all seven of the games, and I will be doing colour for all seven games alongside Dave Ritchie for local radio on CHSR-FM (and audiocast at I'll also be hosting liveblogs on CISBlog for each game for those who want to join in the conversation (snark not required, but it often appears). There will also be lots of folks tweeting - look for the #CIS #UCup hash tags.

The Daily Gleaner, as expected, is giving a ton of coverage. They've got a two-page broadsheet (a double-truck in newspaper parlance) spread on all of the teams, which is essentially a rehash of the team stats collated by Steve Knowles, the Canada West and CIS hockey stats guru who also chairs the Top 10 committee. You can read those team-by-teams stats here on the tournament web site. Sport Editor (his paying job) Dave Ritchie today used his weekly column to offer a mini-history on the rise of AUS hockey. Bill Hunt has a story on the ex-Bears now coaching the Dinos, another on Western assistant coach, and former Tommie, Pat Powers and his desire to be the next STU coach, and another feature on the organizing committee behind the University Cup. Finally they're also running a story out of their sister paper in Moncton on UNB goaltender Travis Fullerton. Oh, and they squeezed in a short notebook too.

The real fun starts tomorrow. StFX and McGill play at 2:00 pm, and this should be a great game. Then the home team, UNB, opens against Calgary at 7:00 pm in front of what should be, hopefully, a raucous full house. I guess we'll see if the AUS can walk the walk tomorrow.

Just one more sleep ...

Official 2011 Cavendish University Cup website
Team-by-Team Stats
Success follows Travis Fullerton (Sean Hatchard, Moncton Times-Transcript)
Strong team 'behind the scenes' (Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner)
Return fuels Powers interest in STU job (Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner)
Ex-Bears entrusted with building Dinos (Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner)
Suddenly, the AUS holds balance of power in CIS hockey (Dave Ritchie, Daily Gleaner)
Hunter Tremblay: the quiet hero (K. Bryannah James, The Brunswickan)
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