This time last year, we took a look at six teams who we figured were going to improve in the second half, at least in terms of win-loss record. We'll do the same thing this year.

Before we get started with this year's teams, let's take a quick look at last year. Did those teams end up improving after all?

  • UFV, men's basketball: Expected to go from 4-8 (10th) to 10-14 or 11-13 (8th). Actual final record: 10-14 (7th).
    Not bad.
  • Acadia, men's basketball: Expected to go from 6 points (tied for 4th) to 27 (4th alone). Actual final record: 22 points (4th).
    They did worse we expected in the regular season, but ironically made the Final 8 anyway.
  • McMaster, men's basketball: Expected to go from 3-5 (t-7th) to 10-12 (6th). Actual final record: 11-11 (4th).
    Also not bad. The OUA West after the top three teams was a little screwy last year with everyone at 11-11 or 9-13.
  • Guelph, men's hockey: Expected to go from 18 points (t-6th) to 31 (5th). Actual final record: 33 points (4th).
    An up-and-down 2011, but the Gryphs nonetheless finished about where we expected.
  • Nipissing, men's hockey: Expected to go from 19 points (t-5th) to 31 (4th). Actual final record: 37 points (4th).
    They certainly improved, even if I didn't have them winning every second-half game but two.
  • RMC, women's volleyball: Expected to go from 2-5 (t-5th) to 7-12 or 8-11 (4th). Actual final record: 7-12 (4th).
    This one made me look smart.

So that's six teams, four of which finished within a game of their predicted records. I'll take that.


And now, this year's teams, in men's and women's basketball and men's hockey and volleyball, who might surprise in the second half. (That is, they would surprise you if you didn't read this first...)


UBC Okanagan
Now: 3-7, 9th place in Canada West
Expected: 8-12, 7th place
Swing games: Jan. 13/14 at Brandon, Feb. 3/4 at Saskatchewan, Feb. 10/11 vs. Thompson Rivers (last games of season)

Seventh isn't high, but it's high enough to make the playoffs in Canada West (7 of 11 qualify, with the No. 1 seed receiving a bye to the Final Four) and the Heat might just get there. They've played the toughest schedule in all of CIS so far, and while they haven't had the success of an Alberta (2nd-toughest schedule, 13-7 overall) or Manitoba (third-toughest, 17-3), their 7-15 record is somewhat deceptive.

Now, of course, the problem is that they've won merely one of their last 22 sets. But, again, those games were against the top seeds — Manitoba, TWU, Calgary, UBC, and so on. And while Alberta and Brandon remain on their schedule, so do 4-8 Regina, 2-10 TRU, and 1-9 Saskatchewan.

They have ten games left, and at least four are very winnable.


Now: 8-5-3 (19 points), 7th in OUA East
Expected: 13-7-8 (34 points), 4th or 5th
Swing games: Jan. 8 at Ottawa, Feb. 4 at Nipissing, any game vs. Ryerson

The Blues are this year's team who'll benefit from a second-half schedule loaded with RMC. (Last year it was Nipissing.)

They're just a point behind each of Carleton and Concordia, with two games in hand over the Stingers, so moving up to fifth isn't a problem. Overtaking Ottawa might be more difficult, but maybe it won't be: the Blues have a cupcake schedule (10 games against RMC, Queen's, and Ryerson) whereas the Gee-Gees do not (zero games against those teams).

Ultimately, it won't matter much, since both U of T and Ottawa will make the playoffs anyway, and they might even play each other.


Now: 2-6, tied for 8th
Expected: 7-13, 5th
Swing games: Jan. 12 at Brandon, Jan. 27/28 at Regina, Feb. 10/11 at Calgary

This isn't the first time we've been somewhat high on the Wesmen ... hopefully this time we're more accurate in our optimism.

David Larkins (of The Feed and the Winnipeg Sun) was not high on this team in his season preview and we've asked him via e-mail for his thoughts on whether they can make a run at a playoff spot.

"Winnipeg's depth is better this year but I would have figured they'd struggle to get to .500 coming into this season.

"To me the biggest thing needed in a turnaround is a better defensive presence, more physicality on that end and in rebounding, and a PG to help get easier shots. I don't personally see that happening, but that's the ideal situation."

Andrew Cunningham, out of Toronto's Eastern Commerce by way of Oklahoma's Redlands Community College and sidelined so far with a broken foot, was supposed to help out with "depth and scoring ability", per Larkins, but the injury made that impossible in the first half.

"Cunningham's return is critical because the Wesmen are completely exposed at the PG," he continued. "Craig Sharpe is a battler and a good kid, but he's not a weapon on either end. Teams lay off him when he's on the perimeter, he's turnover-prone and he's defensively suspect.

"The Wesmen knew they'd have to have a strong defensive team this season and I just don't think it's happened. They struggle to score (again Cunningham will assist this greatly), and that's put an even greater pressure on their defence."

Even if it's unlikely that the Wesmen qualify for the playoffs, it's worth pointing out that UBC's not in a great position: they're two losses behind UVic and are ahead of UFV only on percentage points. They play the same teams as UVic, plus two against TRU, so they can certainly make up that deficit. But UFV doesn't have a game left against a team currently above .500.

Now: 5-3, tied for 5th
Expected: 13-9, 4th
Swing games: Jan. 4 vs. McMaster, Jan. 27/28 vs. Lakehead, Feb. 4 at Guelph

A 5-2 record against the non-Carleton OUA East teams is not perfect, obviously, but it's not the end of the season either.

In his OUA West first-half review, our Greg Colgan mentioned that he might have been too generous calling a third-place finish for the Lancers, but maybe it's not so optimistic. He still expects them to improve, riding Enrico Di Loreto, Josh Collins, and Lien Phillip "as far as they can take them."

Including Windsor here also gives us an excuse to run another edition of This Week In Chris Oliver: "A big step in life is when you realize other people can help you do a better job than you would do alone."


St. F-X
Now: 2-3, 4 points, 6th place
Expected: 28 or 30 points, 4th place
Swing games: Jan. 11 at CBU, Jan. 21 vs. CBU, Jan. 29 at Dalhousie, Feb. 15 at CBU, Feb. 18/19 at Memorial, Feb. 25 vs. Saint Mary's (last game of season)

The Capers are themselves another team who could improve, and obviously with three games left against each other, they and the X-Women will be battling more than these natural rivals usually do.

For X, though, it's one of those things that seems like it could go either way. They're 2-3 in AUS play and 6-5 overall against a slightly weak schedule, so 28 points* could be a little too optimistic. We'll see.

* I suppose I could tell you what 28 points translates to in wins and losses, but given the points system in the AUS, that would pretty much require me to run the extended Euclidean algorithm, something I told myself I would never do again.

Now: 4-3, 4th place
Expected: 14-6, 2nd place
Swing game: Jan. 7 at UBC

10-3 is quite the second-half record. But "4-3" is misleading, as this Huskies team is 10-4 overall. So 10-3 is certainly doable.

Manitoba and Brandon will likely help them with four of those wins, not to mention TRU and UBC-O and Winnipeg. But they're favoured in so many games, by at least a 70:30 margin, that there's really only one swing game we will mention here — their second game back, in Vancouver.

Finishing second rather than fourth means a home playoff series, but their opponent in either case will likely be from the UFV/UVic/UBC set, each of which is top 15 in RPI nationwide. Of course, those B.C. teams will probably have to play someone in the top 6 (Regina/Saskatchewan/Alberta), so either way you look at it, it's a tough order.
With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence?

National hoops editor guy Brian Decker attempts to sound knowledgeable as we delve into Atlantic University Sport.

Perhaps no conference has seen a departure of talent quite as devastating as the AUS. With stars like Simon Farine, Christian Upshaw and Joey Haywood and more having moved on from contending teams last year, the stage has been set for a substantial re-set of contending teams. It's tough to make much of the 5-7 games each team has played so far, but with the first semester behind us, it's time to take a look at how each team has done so far.

The Contenders...

St. FX X-Men
Record: 5-0, 14 points, 1st
CIS Rank: 2nd

Despite losing Upshaw and a handful of other talented players, X has established itself as a favourite not only out east, but for many pundits in the national picture as well. They lead the RPI and have clearly developed a nice team structure. Bruising forward Jeremy Dunn has established himself as a very physical presence inside, Terry Thomas is doing the east coast guard thing (mid size, good shooter, can slash with and without the ball) and McMaster transfer Tyrell Vernon has stepped in nicely as a it tier point guard.

Of course, it's not hard to find X doubters - I've been one myself fairly consistently - and the fact that the AUS' reputation as being watered down was enhanced by a mass talent exodus this year hasn't helped. They've had to earn some of their wins in dramatic fashion and haven't exactly been blowing away opponents.

Five games is way too little to get a real feel for this team, and there's a huge range of realistic possibilities for this team come playoff time. With the Rod Shoveller Invitational coming up and more games on the way, a clearer picture of whether X is for real should be available soon.


UPEI Panthers
Record: 6-0, 12 points, 2nd

Perhaps the Cinderella team of the CIS this season, the Panthers have taken off in coach Tim Kendrick's first season. The team's two previous seasons (7-13 in 2010-11, 4-16 in 2009-10) haven't offered much optimism, but behind a super trio - Jonathan Cooper, Donathan Moss and Manock Lual, who have combined to average nearly 60 points and 20 rebounds per contest - the panthers have become one of the best stories in the CIS this young season.

Now, the three teams they've beat - St. Mary's, Memorial and Acadia - have had just three wins between them in 18 games, so perhaps these were all games UPEI should have won. Like X, six games is probably to few to get excited about.

They get their first real test Jan. 15 against St. FX, and as wildly successful as they've been so far, it's hard to say if the Panthers will still be feeling as optimistic after that game.

Part of being a great story, however, is doing those things that the idiot pundits like myself expect in pre-season previews. So far, that's just about all UPEI has done.


Cape Breton Capers
Record: 4-2, 10 points, 3rd

With coach Jim Charters' resignation, things could have been worse for the Capers so far this year. Charters left the team with no official reason given, though rumblings of a team control problem in the wake of legal problems for former players Tremaine Fraser and Philip Nkrumah let the speculation run wild.

While Charters is gone, CBU's physical brand of defence and solid-as-always play from Jimmy Dorsey hasn't changed. Dorsey leads the team with 20.7 points and 9.0 rebounds and has been instrumental in keeping the team as one of only a few above .500 out East.

Last year, the pylon-orange guys kept a cinderella story going all season before fizzling out in the playoffs. Perhaps with turmoil abound this year and some pieces left to pick up, the Capers can catch momentum later in the year this time and win the ones that really count.


The Others...

Acadia Axemen
Record: 2-3, 8 points, 4th

Perhaps some late-game heroics by St. FX in a 90-89 OT loss on Nov. 18 prevented this team from being included in the group above. When examining a 5-game sample, 2-3 vs. 3-2 is a big difference. But even if they had pulled out that win, the Axemen haven't lived up to the lofty hopes they may have inspired with their run to the Final 8 last year.

With over 20 turnovers per game and a field goal percentage near 43%, this team has got to be tidier to make a second half run at a repeat appearance for nationals. With perhaps the most dynamic big man in the country in Owen Klassen and a few other nice pieces, they have the pieces to do so.


UNB Varsity Reds
Record: 2-4, 8 points, 4th

Their two wins came by a total of four points over Memorial at home, and they've been outscored bay total of 85 points (!!) in their four losses. That's enough to make a defence Varsity Red in the face with embarrassment.


SMU Huskies
Record: 2-5, 6 points, 6th

Tory Fassett is doing his best to replace the (figuratively) big shoes of Halifax Rainmen star Joey "King Handles" Haywood, scoring 23.4 points per contest, good enough for third in the nation. And despite five losses, the Huskies have only been outscored by 20 points on the year. A second half turnaround isn't out of the question.


Dalhousie Tigers
Record: 1-4, 2 points, 7th

They've played some of the better teams tough, but overcoming the loss of a program's signature player (Farine), two imposing bigs (Sandy Veit and Joe Schow) and a legitimate sharpshooter (Peter Leighton) will set any team into rebuilding mode. So far, the Tigers haven't been able to overcome that (substantial) setback.


Memorial Sea-hawks
Record: 1-5, 2 points, 7th

Hey, they beat Saint Mary's in a basket ball game. Give the team some credit.

With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence?

Cam Charron takes us through the wild, wild Canada West University Athletic Association.

There's been a surprising bit of parity in Canada West this season, with a fair number of upsets and teams that probably don't deserve to be hanging around a playoff race hanging around a playoff race.

6-2, 1st East Division, Ranked #6 Nationwide
RPI: #1 (Canada West), #3 (Nationwide)
+9.8 Point differential, 4th Pythagorean

The first-half winners are the Golden Bears, who lead their division thanks to a pair of wins over Saskatchewan and boast the second-highest scorer (21.5 ppg) in the Conference in Jordan Baker, who also leads in rebounds (10.8) and is second in steals (2.8). They also lead in RPI thanks to a slightly higher strength of schedule than Saskatchewan, and the two remain pretty close in talent level overall. Alberta, despite having trouble putting the ball in the basket compared to some of the other top teams, lead the Canada West conference in team defense. Daniel Ferguson has also become a huge part of the offense, scoring 19.1 points per game, also carrying the load in minutes.

Their keys going into the second half are finding more scoring depth and rebounding, but the defensive system in place thanks to Greg Francis has really helped keeping opponents off the board and shooting below 40%. The biggest of tests face the Golden Bears when the return to classes, as they'll play UBC at War Memorial. That should be an excellent game, pitting a top offense against a top defense.

5-2, 2nd East Division, Ranked #4 Nationwide
RPI: #2 (Canada West), #4 (Nationwide)
+21.1 Point differential, 3rd Pythagorean

The big story with the Huskies has been the play of Jamelle Barrett, who sat out some time to injury and only in the last two games has showed the form he displayed as arguably the nation's top player last season. He's put up 17.2 points per game in just over 30 minutes, with much of the scoring load being dished off to Duncan Jones, Peter Lomuro and Michael Lieffers. The Huskies are the conference's top shooting team and are strong on both sides of the ball (3rd in both offense and defense) in the team's second season under Barry Rawlyk.

Keeping Barrett healthy and going is important going into the second half, but what I like about this team is that they have the depth that Alberta and UBC don't have, particularly on offense. They have 8 players with at least 5 points per game and can beat you with their bench and a number of very good field goal percentage guys (Lieffers is 31-51, Evan Ostertag 15-23 and Chris Unsworth 18-31).

8-0, 1st West Division, Ranked #5 Nationwide
RPI: #3 (CW), #5 (Nationwide)
+13.5 Point differential, 2nd Pythagorean

The only thing keeping Victoria from being higher is their pretty flimsy schedule so far, having only beaten Trinity Western as a team of any sort of national aspirations, but they've done everything the schedule-makers have asked them to, and are .2 points per game back of Alberta for the best first-half defense. They recently held a high-flying Thompson Rivers offense to below 80 points twice, Lethbridge to 59 (severely cutting that team's offensive ranking) and have won six games by a double-digit margin.

Ryan MacKinnon is third in the conference in scoring, and the speedy point guard has really taken over every game the Vikes have played this season, with a game-high in points in every one. Victoria also repeatedly beat their opponents under the basket. The team is second in rebounding percentage, but the responsibility is spread around: Mike Berg and Zac Andrus have each averaged more than five per game, which is exceptional when you consider that Victoria is good at sinking their own shots (49.9%) and their defense ranges more on preventing shots than forcing their opponents to bad shots (they're 7th in shooting defense).

This is a very good team. They get to play Saskatchewan in their first game back, and if they can carry their record to 9-0, they should earn an extra spot in RPI. They're a team that impressed on the weak half of their schedule. It's time to see if they can keep it up playing against the big boys.

4-2, 3rd West Division, Ranked #7 Nationwide
RPI: #8 (CW) #18 (Nationwide)
+18.3 Point differential, 1st Pythagorean

Despite the gaudy RPI rank, I couldn't keep the Thunderbirds off this list very long, simply by virtue of them crushing every opponent they've faced, minus the two they faced in their recent Alberta road trip, dropping consecutive decisions to Lethbridge and Calgary. RPI doesn't factor in Pythagorean expectation, which is excellent to judge how good the quality of a team is. They crushed Trinity Western twice, but the bigger test will be when they start facing some better competition. They've had a cupcake schedule and haven't even come out undefeated.

They average 93.8 points per game, most of that coming from their top-heavy lineup of Nathan Yu, Doug Plumb and Tommy Nixon. We haven't seen a lot of scoring with Kamar Burke, but him and Balraj Bains have been relied upon heavily under the basket, carrying the load in rebounding, particularly off the offensive glass, with the team being the best in the country at offensive rebound percentage.

5-3, 2nd West Division, Ranked #9 Nationwide
RPI: #4 (CW) #7 (Nationwide)
+10.1 Point Differential, 5th Pythagorean

This is a team dominated by its big men. Jasper Moedt and Michael James have been dominating off the glass this season, and, partnered with Kyle Grewal and Joel Friesen on defense, this is not a team that gives up a lot of second chances. They lead the league in defensive rebounding (both raw number and percentages), holding their opponents to 75.4 points per game, fourth in the conference.

They're an aggressive team that like to put the ball in the hands of high-volume shooters Friesen and Sam Freeman. With such strong threats inside, it creates a lot of space for those two to rack up a good number of points. When they're moving it inside, they're a pretty tough team to beat, and it's something I'd like to see them do a little more in the second half. Their record is marred by an OT loss on the road to Saskatchewan, and a grueling trip to Alberta the next day, which is a trip apparently a lot West teams are making this season.

4-4, 4th West Division
RPI: #5 (CW) #10 (Nationwide)
+1.4 Point Differential, 7th Pythagorean

After losing big man and inside threat Greg Stewart, one of the top players in the country at his position, 2nd year head coach Scott Clark was left with a roster with not a lot of bright spots. He recruited Las Vegas-born Justin King out of the NWAAC who has become a high-volume shooter, the first mid-range shooting threat in the team's history, and one of the country's best players since arriving.

TRU have played a pretty tough schedule so far, seeing UFV twice, Victoria, and having travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge. That said, they've held a .500 record, which is very suspicious knowing the WolfPack's history. Their outside guys, Kevin Pribilsky and Chas Kok, have swayed between hot and cold this season, and if either of them catch fire in a game against one of the top teams in the second half, there's a chance that the 'Pack could surprise. Certainly those two enjoy the extra space afforded by defenses focusing on the highest-scorer in the country.

They play UBC two weeks into the second half, which should be a battle between the league's two top offenses.


2-6, 5th West Division
RPI #6 (CW) #11 (Nationwide)
-11.8 Point Differential, 12th Pythagorean

An absolutely brutal schedule has kept last season's CIS runners-up out of the rankings since the end of November, coupled with the loss of Jacob Doreksen to graduation. However the Spartans didn't really keep games against top teams close, an unfortunate reality of the season, and it will be real interesting to see if Kyle Coston and Tristan Smith, the team's two best players, can really begin to grab a hold on games.

It starts at home against Lethbridge and Calgary.

4-4, T-3rd East Division
RPI #7 (CW) #12 (Nationwide)
-1.0 Point Differential, 8th Pythagorean

This is a team mostly made up of college recruits, led by Dominyc Coward and Daryl Cooper, really improving the team and keeping them in contention. They're quite a veteran team that's 6th defensively in the league, but their offense is the key. They don't win a lot of low-scoring basketball games, but take a lot of shots, spread the ball around and create turnovers. I'm quite excited to see what they can do in the second half.

4-4, T-3rd East Division
RPI #9 (CW) #20 (Nationwide)
-1.4 Point Differential, 9th Pythagorean

A strong start to the season, but the Bisons faltered in the second half last season after a 7-3 start, plummeting to lose 12 of their last 14 games and getting swept out of the playoffs by UBC, so perhaps it's good that they didn't start with just too good of a record this time around. They earned a split in the early going against Alberta and have survived Fraser Valley, so there's one quality win at least going ahead, on the back of Jonar Huertas who has come from being a bench option to a key player for the Bisons.

3-5, T-5th East Division
RPI #13 (CW) #37 (Nationwide)
+2.0 Point Differential, 6th Pythagorean

Another team that Pythagoras likes but RPI doesn't, Calgary is coming off a good win at home to UBC and is in theoretical playoff contention. Tyler Fidler is having a strong season with 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as the Dinos' go-to player. Their opening road trip down to the Coast pits them against Trinity and Fraser Valley, and splitting that series puts the Dinos in excellent contention. They'll need a very hot start.

3-5, T-5th East Division
RPI #12 (CW) #26 (Nationwide)
-9.4 Point Differential, 10th Pythagorean

I like Brandon, boasting two of the conference's best rookies in Ali Mounir and Ilarion Bonhomme. Not many Canada West teams go East to find players, but the two are 2 and 3 on the team in scoring and Bonhomme is tied with Nathan Yu of UBC for assists. They're finding their game, having won two of three, and begin with a home-and-home against Regina.

2-6, 8th East Division
RPI #10 (CW) #21 (Nationwide)
-10.3 Point Differential, 11th Pythagorean

They're 8th in team defense, which I guess is alright, but despite wins over Alberta and Lethbridge, the team has been left wanting, mostly due to their inability to shoot. Leading scorer Dominique Brown is shooting just 33% on the season.

2-5, 7th East Division
RPI #11 (CW) #23 (Nationwide)
-12.3 Point Differential, 13th Pythagorean

Other than the play of Paul Gareau (18.3 points, 7.7 rebounds) and a pair of wins over Calgary including an overtime game, not a lot to cheer about in Regina, who are clearly the weakest non-"expansion" team in the conference.

1-5, 6th West Division
RPI #14 (CW) #38 (Nationwide)
-22.2 Point Differential, 14th Pythagorean

A win against Regina salvaged the first half, but the team has had a lot of trouble scoring points. That said, former Kitsilano Blue Demon Yassine Ghomari has been pretty good averaging 19.2 points and the team has seen some good performances from 6'8" rookie big-man Julien Asselstine.
First was the rumour thread on HF Boards yesterday. Today comes the rumour story in the Chronicle-Herald. So while the students are on their Christmas break it looks like Dalhousie Tigers men's hockey head coach Pete Belliveau might indeed be gone from behind the bench, midway through a horrendous 2-11-1 first half. Riding an eleven game losing streak. And your home rink is to be torn down at the end of the season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

In Glenn MacDonald's piece, the reading between the quotes do appear to indicate that Belliveau is done:
Despite speculation making the rounds that Belliveau would be replaced, Dalhousie athletic director John MacDonald would only confirm that he has a meeting with the Tigers coaching staff this morning.

"Coach Belliveau has been asked to a meeting to talk about a few things but there’s nothing that’s coming from my way," MacDonald said Thursday evening.

However, Belliveau said Thursday he wasn’t aware of any meeting.

"If there’s a meeting I won’t be there," Belliveau said.
If Belliveau is gone, I will miss him. While his coaching and managing style (most CIS hockey head coaches are effectively coaches and general managers and are responsible for all hockey operations including recruiting) may be polarizing, he was always open, warm and entertaining with the media.

Belliveau guided Moncton to a national championship in 1995, was the architect for the revival of CIS hockey at Lakehead, and last season finally had Dalhousie back in the playoffs. At the same time he's always been shadowed by whispers about players unhappy with his methods who stop playing for him, or quit. When you're winning these mutterings tend to get ignored, but when you're losing, those whispers get louder, and true or not, might have cost him his job.

UPDATE: Well according to an official release from Dalhousie, and in a move reminiscent of a NHL team, it looks like Belliveau is moving upstairs and he will "delegate on-ice authority to current assistant coach Chris Donnell".
With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence?

Jared Book takes a look at the Quebec conference.

With the most any Quebec team having played being at least three games lower than the rest of the country, there isn't much to go on especially when the favourite to win the conference has only played three games. However, there seems to be a grouping in the middle of the pack that has yet to separate.

Record: 3-0, 1st
CIS Rank: 10th

The Concordia Stingers went worst-to-first last season, and this season lost no players to graduation so you had to expect them to be the favourites again this season and so far so good as they have won their three games and are the best Quebec in most key statistics including rebounding, scoring and turnovers. They even lead the nation in steals at 13.3 steals per game. So far this season they have beat McGill, Laval and Bishop's and start the second semester off with back-to-back games against UQAM. The Stingers seem to be the team to beat in Quebec.

Record: 3-2, 2nd

The McGill Redmen are continuing their relaunching under second year coach Dave DeAveiro. After finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs a year ago, McGill had a 25 point win over Laval in the season's second game which is never an easy task. They also had wins against Bishop's and split their two games against UQAM. McGill is second in most statistical categories in the conference and seem, so far, to be the team that has the inside track for the second home playoff game. All in all, McGill has to be pleased with the results thus far from DeAveiro.

Record: 2-2, T-3rd

Laval always seems to be in the playoff hunt, and this year is no different. However, other than their win against last-place Bishop's, this Laval team has struggled losing big to McGill and Concordia on the road and beating UQAM by only four at home. Laval and Bishop's do have the most traveling to do in the conference as UQAM, Concordia and McGill stay in the city when they play each other. That gives Laval a home-court advantage but also hurts them in their multiple trips into Montreal. This conference, with McGill's emergence is becoming a four-team race and it will be a very interesting second half of the season.

Record: 2-2, T-3rd

UQAM is coming back from a disappointing 5-11 season a year ago which saw them need to replace several key players. Already almost halfway to their victory total from a year ago, their key seems to be a stifling defence. In their win against McGill, they held the Redmen to only 35 points and have allowed a Quebec-best 59 points per game. They have yet to meet Concordia and their two games with them coming out of the break will be big in seeing whether this UQAM team is closer to the top or the bottom of the conference.

Record: 0-4, 4th

After a two-win season last year, the Gaiters have yet to win this season. They have lost to each team in the conference with the closest game being an eight point loss against UQAM in their first game of the season. Given the results of the teams ahead of them, Bishop's has their work cut out for them to make the playoffs this year and will need a strong second half in order to get themselves into the picture before they fall too far behind.

With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence? We'll start with the OUA West and East today, with Canada West and the AUS to follow tomorrow.

Perry King moves us eastward with his look at the haves (perhaps have) and have nots of the OUA East.

The OUA East has become strange territory in the last month or so. The division may be identifiable by the Carleton Ravens at the top, and the abysmal York Lion, RMC Paladins and Queen’s Gaels at the bottom, but the mighty middle has looked mildly mediocre at times in the last month. We have unscientifically graded their performance, and placed expectations adequately.

Record: 8-0, 16 points; 1st place

What’s going on: The Ravens are great at going about their business and winning when it counts. When the Lakehead Thunderwolves pulled out a victory on them to win the OUA last season, the Ravens shrugged it off to the tune of a national title. Without a hitch, this squad has already sprinted to a four-game lead on the next team. Undefeated, first in many team stats, and winning the games they’re supposed to—including a tight one against the Wolves. Stats and wins are a small indication of what we have come to understand about the Raven’s success, but we do understand that this squad is good in every aspect of the game..

Things to look for next semester: I am, like many, already looking to how the Ravens will fare in the playoffs next spring. I can say this: the OUA West playoff teams will give the Ravens a problem, but not before they beat up on each other.

Grade: A+

Record: 4-4, 8 points; 2nd place

What’s going on: It looks like the Gee-gees are doing much better than last season, by comparison with a similar roster. Coach James Derouin’s squad started the 2010-11 season 2–6 before rallying to an 11–11 finish. While the expectation for Carleton’s neighbour is equal win-loss perfection, a relatively young coaching staff has slowly found its legs, with a 4–4 start. While we can’t assume their start will improve next season, this season they’re competitive but I’m still not sold on them. They should have beaten Laurier last week and the Windsor Lancers on Nov. 18—those games were heartbreakers—and their 0–2 start was a bit disenchanting.

Things to look for next semester: The Gee-gees are not faring well with rebounds, they’re 26th in the nation in boards. They need to hustle out there, but expect the numbers to improve against the likes of the Blues, Lions, and Paladins.

Grade: B

Record: 3-5, 6 points; 3rd place

What’s going on: This is not how the Blues go about business. When they have won, they have won close. When they have lost, they have been blown out, though with exceptions to losses against very good teams in Lakehead and Laurier the opening weekend. The common thread has been offensive woes. Squads have figured out that if you take away the Blues bombers behind the arc, they become worse at ball handling and they simply are not well-organized. To UofT's credit, they are defensively better than they have been in the past few years, but they need to keep the point totals down. Coach Mike Katz is a man with an impressive resume, and if this squad can win 10 of their last 14 games, that is at least at par with some of Katz’s past squads.

Things to look for next semester: This squad needs their second team to produce. Filling the holes left by vets like Arun Kumar, Justin Holmes, and Drazen Glisic can ensure this squad can stay in games more often.

Grade: B-

Record: 3-5, 6 points; 3rd

What’s going on: The Rams are perhaps performing exactly as was predicted. The epitome of the middle of this division, they have played well enough to win against Guelph and Brock—the same Badgers who beat the Blues this season. They have been handed their asses on a few occasions, though.

Things to look for next semester: This squad wants to beat the Blues, they want claim to who rules downtown Toronto. Expect this Jan. 18 contest to be very close.

Grade: C

Record: 2-6, 4 points; 5th

What’s going on: Despite their record, I’m very impressed with this squad. The Voys have the two top scorers in the East this season—Alex Ratte (17.9 ppg) and Isiah Pasquale (16.9 ppg). They have been competitive in all their games, and have been blown out only a couple times so far. They have exceeded my expectations so far.

Things to look for next semester: Watch out for the Voys when they face the third-place squads next semester. I feel like this squad can beat Toronto and Ryerson outright without it being a long shot. They do need to deal with defensive gaffes, but so do the Blues and Rams.

Grade: B-

Record: 0-8, 0 points; 6th

What’s going on: Not so golden so far, unfortunately. What’s the most ridiculous stat of their futility so far? They are forty-first in the nation in points per game (60.2)—which include losses by 32 against Lakehead, 26 against Laurier, and 21 against Western.

Things to look for next semester: Hilarity, but if you’re a fan of the squad, defend them. They need the motivation, especially if they want to beat the likes of Toronto, Laurentian, and Queen’s.

Grade: F

Record: 0-8, 0 points; sixth

What’s going on: While we have come to expect this winless performance each season, it still doesn’t excuse the Paladins to be beaten by an average margin of 49.9 points. This upside of ridiculous stat is that their margins of loss have shrunk over the length of the season—including losses by 38 and 41 last weekend.

Things to look for next semester: Expect much of the same, although they do face Queen’s Feb. 3. Can we say first victory since the 2006-2007 season?

Grade: F

Record: 0-8, 0 points; sixth

What’s going on: Simply put, this team is ridiculously lacking in overall experience. They have three fourth-year players—F Justin Bell, G Ken Buchanan and G Dave Tyndale—on a team that was really young last year, too. It’s quite a risk to do this, and a 10–12 finish last season was surprising, so the Lions’ good luck may have run out

Things to look for next semester: This squad will win some games, hope is not lost. Expect the offense to improve a tiny bit—they are 34th in field goals made, 40th in three-pointers made, and 40th in freethrow percentage.

Grade: D
With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence? We'll start with the OUA West and East today, with Canada West and the AUS to follow tomorrow.

Greg Colgan gets us started with his assessment of the OUA West.

Brock Badgers
Record: 6-2, 12 points; 4th place

Any time you can win on the road, you’ve got a chance of getting a nice playoff spot. They finished with a 4 - 0 record away from St. Catharines, which will keep any coach happy. They’ve also improved in several categories as the year has gone on including more blocks, assists and rebounds, while limiting their fouls and turnovers. This is a hard-working team that is learning to compete, but may end up giving the best in the West a run for their money.

Improvement Needed:
Winning at home has been a problem for Brock and the 84 - 60 trouncing Ryerson gave them on December 2 was embarrassing. Any team that expects to contend should have a better home record than 2 - 2. Better offensive rebounding is likely to be a priority come January. In the first-half of the year they ranked in the bottom 10 with an average of 10 offensive boards per game.

First-half MVP:
Ever since Brock got Jameson Tipping back, they’ve gone 5 - 1. Granted it’s not against the top talent in the OUA, but wins are wins the last time I checked. His 15.7 ppg have helped a lot, as has his 49.2% shooting from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. The combination between Tipping and fellow guard Andrew Kraus, who leads the CIS in assists, is a backcourt most coaches would want.


Guelph Gryphons
Record: 5-3 loses, 10 points; 5th place

Usually teams want to play at home instead of the road, but Guelph might be asking the OUA to give more road games after the first half. They are 4 - 0 on the road, which, in all fairness, when you play RMC, Queen’s and York, you should have at least 3 road wins. Still, anytime you can go on the road and know you have a chance of winning is a big morale lift.

Improvement Needed:
Simply put, they need to win games at home. If you can win most of your road games it won’t matter if you’ve got a 25% win percentage at home when it comes to making the playoffs. After Kareem Malcolm and Daniel McCarthy, Guelph doesn’t have much to compete with other teams. They get occasional help from other players like Zach Angus and Aron Campbell, but when you’re a two-trick pony, it limits your chances. If they don’t get players stepping up more consistently, that lack of depth will hurt them as the season goes on.

First-half MVP:
It’s pretty much a toss-up between Malcolm and McCarthy, but I’ll give it to Malcolm. He finished 18.1ppg, 50.5% shooting from the field, led his team in minutes and can pull down the odd rebound to go with decent defence.


Lakehead Thunderwolves (CIS no. 3)
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 1st place

It’s Lakehead, so defence. Next to Mac, they’ve given up the fewest points in the West. This is a good all-round team that only lost to a better Carleton team in what was one of the best games the CIS will see all year. There’s no shame in that loss. Their offence has also been surprisingly high and they’re averaging 89.4 ppg, which is good for fourth highest in the CIS. If they can keep that up, while improving slightly on defence, the OUA could be theirs for the taking.

Improvement Needed:
Despite the fact that I listed defence in the strength category, I can’t help but think that head coach Scott Morrison is a bit concerned that his team gave up 72 or more points in each of the last four games. That includes 95 points to a much weaker Laurentian, who can score, but shouldn’t be able to put up that much against the defending OUA champs.

First-half MVP:
This one is tough. They’ve got such a well-balanced team that five players are averaging double-digit points and Brendan King was only 0.2 ppg away from making it six. Since I have to give it to one of their guys, Greg Carter is much more to this team than his stats show. He’s getting 10 ppg, a little over 4 assists a game, and shooting 49.2%. He’s the team leader and the best defensive player in the West, by far. Fast forward to the three-minute mark from this game against Toronto, as an example. If there’s a guy I want on the court with one minute left and a tie game, it’s Carter.


Laurier Golden Hawks (CIS no. 8)
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 2nd place

I said it at the beginning of the year: this team will score. They’ve done just that all year. They’ve hit more than 100 twice and made 98 another game. Their lowest total was 68 against Carleton and Carleton has a habit of making good teams look average. They’re averaging 91.5ppg, which is good for third in the CIS after UBC and Carleton. Pretty good company, I think. Don’t be surprised to see them keep that output up in the second half.

Improvement Needed:
They’ve been pretty flawless all year, but they need to be better at their end of the court if they want to go far. They’ve got the team to challenge for the OUA championship, but when you give up more than 70 against teams like RMC and Laurentian, it’s not a great sign. I think some of that comes from the fact they can put up 100 points on almost any given night. As long as they don’t get complacent, they’ll be looking good in the second half.

First-half MVP:
Kale Harrison is one of the biggest scoring threats in the OUA. He puts up 18.4 ppg and is shooting 47.5%. He’s thrown back 30 points in two games this year, including a season high 31 points against a strong Ottawa team. His 10 points against Carleton are a little alarming, but back-to-back games on the Ottawa road trip are one of the most feared weekends for any West team. This is his last year in the OUA and the best program Laurier has ever put together, so expect an even stronger second half by Harrison.


McMaster Marauders
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 3rd place

They haven’t faced the strongest schedule, but the opening weekend against Carleton and Ottawa isn’t the best way to start the year and to come out with a split is a good feeling. It’s impressive McMaster finished as high as they did considering they were without Kenan Etale for the first-half of the year. With Etale coming back in January, McMaster has enough depth to make every team jealous. As the season goes on, that depth will pay off big time.

Improvement Needed:
With Etale coming back, McMaster will have no problem moving the ball around. They do need someone to grab those rebounds, and it has largely been by committee this year. When they lost Scott Brittain to concussions, they lost about eight rebounds and two blocks a game, not to mention a guy with experience in the NCAA. They’ll need guys to step up every night, especially when they’re up against teams like Laurier and Lakehead.

First-half MVP:
This is another close one, Victor Raso has come through this year with a shorthanded McMaster roster. Cam Michaud has been strong, but Raso has been better, averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg and shooting 50%. Those totals include games against RMC where he got 0 points in 12 minutes and 4 points against Ottawa. He has struggled this year against better teams, but he’s had big shoes to fill in Etale and he’s done an admirable job for a team that’s 7 - 1.


Waterloo Warriors
Record: 4-4, 8 points; 7th place

When it comes to shooting threes, Waterloo’s among the best. They’re tied for first with the most threes made, which oddly enough has seven OUA West teams in the top 10. They’re also among the better teams with a 45% field goal percentage, which was higher before they ended the year against Ottawa and Carleton. With one of the highest shooting rates in the CIS, they love to shoot the ball, which helps when you can sink them.

Improvement Needed:
Their defence has hung them out to dry this year. They’ve given up 691 points, the worst in the West, with Western being the next closest at 614. It doesn’t help when you give up 80 plus points in five of your eight games, and ending the year by allowing a combined 221 points in your final two games will leave any coach less than happy. If Waterloo is going to stand a chance at making the playoffs, their defence has to be better.

First-half MVP:
I chose Cam McIntyre, but not without hesitation. He’s got 16 ppg, but that 39% shooting for twos kind of held me up. The big man, Brendan Smith, is averaging 10.8 ppg, but is 15th in the CIS with 58 rebounds to go with his 56.8% shooting percentage. That being said, McIntyre is the go-to guy on Waterloo and he can put up points when he wants to while logging a ton of minutes.


Western Mustangs
Record: 3-5, 6 points; 8th place

Umm... Ryan Barbeau. Yeah, that about sums it up. In all honesty, this team hasn’t been as bad as their record may indicate. Full disclosure: I did my undergrad at Western and I loved it so much I’m doing a Master’s there, but what can you say... It’s been a tough year. That being said, this is a team in full rebuild mode with eight rookies and three second years. Anytime a team is in rebuild mode, I give them props for doing so. It takes a lot to dismantle a program and start from the ground up. Head coach Brad Campbell realized he needed a rebuild and if you’re going to do something, you may as well go all in. He’s got his players working hard every game and they lost two games by less than five points that they could’ve won. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that hard work pay off with a surprise win against a high ranked team that takes them to easy.

Improvement Needed:
This will be a good team in two years, but that’s a long way off right now. This is a young team, and they’ll only continue to grow as the season moves on. Granted, it’ll be some painful lessons for the young guys, but as long as they take everything in stride, they’ll continue to improve. However, unless they can bring Andrew Wedemire back from Scotland and give him a sixth year of elgibility, every aspect needs to be improved on for both sides of the court.

First-half MVP:
Finally! An easy choice. Barbeau, by far, has been the best player for UWO. He’s ranked 7th in CIS scoring with 21.6 ppg and plays pretty much every minute of the game while not getting into foul trouble at all this year. Not bad for a guy who always had some people talking that he couldn’t do anything without Wedemire. Anything UWO does this year will be because of Barbeau, but with such a young line-up I have a hard time believing this is how he wanted his last year to be. Still, those are impressive numbers, and hey, give the guy a break, he got his 1000th point in the OUA before the break.


Windsor Lancers
Record: 5 wins, 3 loses, 10 points; 6th place

Ok, so I might’ve given Windsor a bit more credit when I had them finishing third in the West. I still expect them to get better, but maybe third was being generous on my part. I may have been blinded by the trio of Enrico Di Loreto, Josh Collins, and Lien Phillip who are just downright menacing when everything’s ticking. Phillip is averaging a double-double every game, Collins has stepped up admirably to replace Isaac Kuon and Di Loreto is nearly unstoppable when shooting. These guys are everything to Windsor and it can’t be understated that Windsor will go as far as they can take them.

Improvement Needed:
As one of the younger teams, Windsor doesn’t have the depth to go head-to-head with teams like Lakehead or Laurier. The bench has contributed 10 or less points in half their games this year, including a pitiful five against Laurentian. Unless some of their bench guys start stepping up and putting up points, Windsor won’t make it too far.

First-half MVP:
Di Loreto is 2nd in the CIS in ppg with 23.7 to go with a 52.5% field goal and 40% from the three line. He missed the last two games of the year, which Windsor won both of, but his presence wasn’t really needed against Ryerson and RMC. If Windsor is going to make some noise, they’ll need him to continue his play in the second half.

It’s back! Our women’s hockey coverage is back and ready for action. Unfortunately some miscommunication caused a delay in getting back into the swing of things, but we are ready to begin our coverage now at the break, and excited for the second half of the season.

Due to the few games played this past weekend, this opportunity will be used to examine how the seasons of the top 10 teams are looking, and where they should end up.

1. McGill (9-1-0)

The Martlets remain in the top spot in the CIS, a position they are well-accustomed to as they attempt to take their fourth national championship in five years this season. While the Martlets sit atop the standings of the RSEQ, one thing is already different from last year: they’ve lost. Though there won’t be a repeat of the perfect season the Martlets claimed last year, McGill is still poised to be top contenders for this year’s championship.

Suffering a loss to Montreal early in the season, McGill enter the break with a 9-1 record (I’d add an adjective like impressive before that, but for McGill, it’s just become natural), and are riding a seven-game win streak. November was a month much more reminiscent of last year’s dominating season, as McGill outscored opponents 29-5 in the month leading up to the break.

Captain Cathy Chartrand is back on the point for the Martlets, where she’s racked up an impressive 12 points in just 11 games. Leading the offense are Ann-Sophie Bettez and Leslie Oles, with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Between the pipes, Charline Labonte is her regular self, with a GAA of just 1.47 and three shutouts.

All in all, it wouldn’t be surprising if McGill ended up with yet another championship, but the gap between the Martlets and their opponents is much smaller this year, leaving a lot of opportunity for another team to capitalize and seize gold.

2. Laurier (13-0-1)

In OUA action, the Golden Hawks have fiercely bounced back from a disappointing post-season last year. Looking for their eighth OUA title in nine years, Laurier brings a balanced attack to the table this year, evidenced by their largely spread out scoring threats. Abby Rainsberry leads the team in scoring with 15 points, but seven other Golden Hawks are within just four points of the centre. Laura Brooker, the OUA's Rookie of the Year last season, has 11 goals and 14 points, while fifth-year staple Katherine Shirriff has 14 points, as well.

The Hawks are undefeated in regulation play going into the break, and are on pace to finish similarly to last season, in which they finished atop the OUA. Their only loss to this point came against rival Guelph in early November. Since then, Laurier has outscored their opponents 34-6.

A major part of the Golden Hawks' success this year has come defensively, and thanks to the goaltending tandem of freshman Erika Thunder, and Rachel Hamilton, playing in her second year. After much concern (or relief for opponents) over who would be able to fill Liz Knox's shoes, Thunder leads the OUA in goals against average posting a 1.60, while Hamilton is third with a solid 1.71. As the only team in the CIS yet to lose in regulation, everything appears to be on-track in Laurier's redemption year, but Thunder and Hamilton will need to continue their dominant play in nets if Laurier is to win gold come March.

3. Calgary (9-3-0)

The Dinos find themselves ranked third going into the break, despite suffering three losses in the competitive Canada West conference. Led by Elena Lovell and Iya Gavrilova offensively, who sit second and third in scoring, respectively, the Dinos have pieced together a great start to the season.

Playing in arguably the toughest conference in women's hockey, the Dinos have managed to take a series lead over rival Alberta, while splitting their series with Lethbridge. The Dinos have had somewhat of an advantage over opponents in the first half of the season, though. Eight of their 12 games were played on home ice. In the second half of the season, when the top five CW teams (currently separated by four points from first to fifth) will get in the final stretch of battling for just four playoff spots, Calgary will be forced to play eight games on the road, including a tough streak of five in a row.

Amanda Tapp will look to continue her solid play in nets, where she ranks third in Canada West in both goals against average and save percentage among goalies who have played more than five games. At the same time, Calgary hopes they can get more games out of superstar forward Hayley Wickenheiser, who was only able to suit up five times for the Dinos in the first half. While the Dinos look strong, they will need to continue to prove themselves against Lethbridge, Alberta and Saskatchewan if they are to be considered a legitimate threat for national title.

4. St. FX (9-2-0)

Coming off a silver medal at last year's CIS championships, the X-Women looked poised to run the table in the AUS just as last year when they went undefeated through the regular season. Two surprise losses to Moncton threw a wrench in that plan, as the X-Women look to regain their spot atop the conference.

Led by a high-powered offense which has scored five or more goals in eight of their eleven games to this point, the X-Women have made easy work of their opponents, save the Aigles Bleues. A two-pronged attack, second-year forward Alex Normore is averaging a goal a game and more than two points a game with 24 at the holiday break. Meanwhile, Janelle Parent has eight goals and 20 points of her own. Noticeably quiet this year have been Erin Brophy and Nicole Hansom, both of whom are stuck at just six points, despite finishing in the top ten for scoring in the AUS last season.

Katie Garrow and Kristy Greenway have split the duties in net, with Garrow posting an impressive 1.00 GAA in her five games, and Greenway a solid 2.01 in six. Continued strong play from both goalies will be needed in the second-half of the season, but how the team performs in the clutch will determine if its St. FX or Moncton who ultimately end up in Edmonton come March.

5. Moncton (10-1-0)

Hands down, les Aigles Bleues have been the dark horse of this season to date. With wins over St. FX in both games played against the X-Women, it's surprising that Moncton doesn't receive the fourth place spot in the CIS Top 10. Perhaps it was the loss suffered to Mount Allison, or maybe just the traditional placement of St. FX has Moncton sitting fifth, but that is something that few had expected.

Unranked to begin the year, Moncton came out as a defensive force to start the year, holding their opponents to one goal or less in six of their first seven games. Since, the offense has started clicking, scoring 19 goals in their past four games.

Like Laurier, Moncton has been running on a multi-faceted offense that has five players averaging over a point a game going into the break. Leading the way is Genevieve David, followed closely by Marie-Pierre Arsenault and Johannie Thibeault. Meanwhile, Kathy Desjardins has four shutouts in eight games, and has an amazing save percentage of .947.

Ultimately, this season seems to be Moncton's to win, or lose. Regardless what happens in the next half of the regular-season, the conference seems to be a two-horse race between Moncton and St. FX, and whoever comes out to play March 4 should be representing the AUS in Alberta.

6. Guelph (12-3-1)

The Gryphons have consistently been among the top three of the OUA, and this year is no different. With twelve wins in their first sixteen games, the Gryphons will find themselves in familiar territory battling it out for one of the top three sports come season's end. Where Guelph has stumbled has been surprising. They defeated Queen's both times they faced them, as well as the fourth-place Windsor Lancers. Losses for the Gryphons have come to Brock, Waterloo, and UOIT — all teams that are under .500 and hold three of the bottom four spots in the OUA.

Fifth-year center Erin Small has been the main weapon in Guelph's arsenal, not surprisingly, with 12 goals and 12 assists. She's found help from Jessica Pinkerton, who has 11 goals herself. Freshman goalie Stephanie Nehring has emerged as the apparent starter of the future for Guelph, posting a 9-0 record and a 1.78 GAA, while Brooke Siddall, expected to lead the way in net, has struggled, with a 3-4 record and a goals against average of 2.98.

The second half of the season for Guelph should be an interesting one, as the Gryphons have one game against Laurier, Queen's and Windsor each remaining. It might not be those games that matter, though, but instead the matchups with the OUA's weaker teams. Guelph will need to prove they are as good as many believe they are if they are to make it to the CIS championships.

7. Queen's (10-3-2)

Last year the Gaels managed to end Laurier's long run of OUA championship wins, and they hope to begin their own little streak this season. As the break comes upon us, Queen's find themselves third in the OUA, but have struggled against the top two teams. Laurier has defeated the Gaels by 6-3 and 5-2 margins, while Guelph managed to take down Queen's 3-2 and 4-3 (in a shootout). Nevertheless, Queen's has demonstrated yet again that they are not to be taken lightly by any opponent.

The McHaffies have been on fire in the first half, torching goalies across the league. Morgan McHaffie leads the OUA with 29 points, while Brittany is sitting third with 21. They have combined for more than a third of Queen's' goals. Not to be outdone, Alex Cieslowski has 19 points herself, contributing as well to an offense is the second-highest scoring in all of the CIS.

In the second half of the season, Queen's will host both Laurier and Guelph, so they have a good chance to move up the standings with home-ice advantage then. Ultimately, Queen's will make the playoffs, so their fate for Edmonton will depend on those two series. As they showed last year, though, they do not fear the higher seed.

8. Lethbridge (10-4-0)

The Pronghorns will enter the break atop Canada West, boasting a strong 10-4 record. Defense and goaltending has been the major strengths of the Horns throughout the season, as they managed to light the lamp just 34 times through the first half of the season. Crystal Patterson has played in all 14 games for Lethbridge, picking up five shutouts and maintaining a 1.34 goals against average, good enough for second best in the conference. Patterson also has the best save percentage, an astounding .951.

Offensively, points have been spread rather equally across the first two lines for the Horns. Both Shelby Ballendine and Jenna-Marie Durnin have 12 points, while Kirsten Reeves is the other Pronghorn in double digits with 10.

Truth be told, Lethbridge's start to the season is right around what was expected of them. They split series with both Calgary and Manitoba, but the real surprise were losses to UBC (the T-Birds only win this far), and a struggling Regina team. If Lethbridge is going to be successful, they are going to need to play consistent hockey, and eliminate the rusty play that led to the losses against the bottom-feeding teams.

9. Alberta (7-2-5)

The Pandas will return to the CIS championship this year by way of playing host, but that doesn't mean they will not compete to take home the Canada West championship as well. Going into the break, the Pandas are third in CW with an interesting record that includes five overtime and shootout losses.

Alberta dropped six straight (five in OT or SO) midway through the first half of the season, but rebounded since, winning every game except for their final game before the break. For lack of a better word, the Pandas have played on-par with the other top three teams in Canada West, as evidenced by the six one-goal games against those three teams.

Sarah Hilworth is leading the offense with 16 points, while Monika Moskalski has an impressive seven goals going into the break. Kaitlyn Chapman is the conference's second-best goalie heading into the break, posting a goals against average of 1.10 in eight games, and a save percentage of .947.

As noted, the Pandas have a bye into the championships, but don't think that means they won't get caught up in the competition of the Canada West championships. If hosts are to learn anything from Laurier last year, it's that a few weeks off before the championship isn't always a good thing.

10. Montreal (7-3-1)

Les Carabins land a surprising spot in the Top 10 heading into the winter break, beating out CW's second-place Saskatchewan in the process, with seven wins and a second-place spot in the RSEQ. Of course, losses to McGill are to be expected, though the 6-1 and 10-1 blowouts may be an indicator of Montreal's chances (or not) to shine on the national stage. Losses to Concordia and Carleton also question the reasoning of putting Montreal in the Top 10.

Offensively, Cassandra Dupuis and Kim Deschenes sit tied for fourth in the RSEQ with 13 points a piece, nine of those being goals for Dupuis. Four more players sit with between nine and 11 points, showing that like many others in the top ten, Montreal has a balanced scoring attack.

Rachel Ouellette has been given the nod as starting goalie, and boasts a decent 2.66 goals against average. Her save percentage is well below .900, however, indicating that teams that get a lot of shots can pick up wins against the Carabins. Overall, the Carabins will likely fall out of the top ten come the first or second week back, and McGill will have no problem rolling over Montreal in the RSEQ finals, en route to Edmonton.

Predictions for Final Conference Standings

1. St. FX
2. Moncton
3. Mount Allison
5. Dalhousie
6. St. Thomas
7. Saint Mary's

Canada West
1. Calgary
2. Saskatchewan
3. Lethbridge
4. Alberta
5. Manitoba
6. Regina
7. UBC

1. Laurier
2. Guelph
3. Queen's
4. Western
5. Toronto
6. Windsor
7. York
8. Brock
9. Waterloo
10. UOIT
11. Ryerson

1. McGill
2. Montreal
3. Carleton
4. Ottawa
5. Concordia
We have a winner in part 2 of our predictions contest, and it's Dave Dennis.

Part 1, won by Postmedia's Peter James, was predicting the win-loss records of every team. Part 2 required participants to predict who would win each conference championship, the bowl games, and the Vanier Cup — which may sound easier than Part 1, but picking these teams in August isn't always easy, despite what some say about the league's predictability.

There were a maximum of eight points available in the second round: one for guessing each bowl game participant correctly (4), one for guessing the winners of those games (2), and two more for guessing the correct Vanier Cup champion (2, 8 total).

Nobody was perfect, but one person got seven out of eight points: Dave Dennis. He correctly predicted McMaster over Acadia in the Uteck, Laval to win the Mitchell, and Mac to win the Vanier over Laval. The only team he was incorrect about was Regina, but many of us were wrong about the Rams this year. Dave's son happens to play for McMaster, and he admits, "It was more hope than clairvoyance when selecting McMaster to win the Vanier. It wasn’t until after the mid–season that I believed McMaster was a legitimate contender whereas it was only week 2 when I realized my error in selecting Regina."

As for the consensus among all voters ... only three people chose McMaster to go all the way. The Globe and Mail would no doubt be shocked to learn that, when it came to the Yates Cup, support for McMaster and Western was just about even. Voters were split on Canada West — all teams except UBC received at least one vote, though the only ones with serious support were Saskatchewan and Regina. AUS support was mostly for Saint Mary's, and Laval dominated the Q ballots.

(One brave soul chose Bishop's to win the Q, though this person also picked Guelph over Acadia in the Uteck and then St. F-X to win the Vanier. I still haven't figured that one out.)
Our Andrew Bucholtz wrote at 55-Yard Line about Saint Mary's recent decision to not renew head coach Steve Sumarah's contract. Andrew concludes:

The late timing suggests SMU may already have someone else in mind, but there aren't exactly a lot of high-profile established CIS names looking for work at the moment, and there are plenty of other jobs open as well. It's going to be very interesting to see where the Huskies turn, but from this corner, they may have just fired the best man they could get for the job.

Monty Mosher is also on the story, of course.

CIS Corner: SMU Huskies axe Steve Sumarah [55-Yard Line]
Sumarah dumped as Saint Mary's football coach [The Chronicle-Herald]
The final regular season weekend of the first half is in the books and with that it's time to breakdown where all seven teams stand heading into the holiday season. Here's a final look at the Canada West hockey landscape before the New Year.

Huskies head in looking good

A pair of wins over Regina by a combined score of 16-2 means the Saskatchewan Huskies are heading into the break feeling pretty good about themselves. Sitting atop the standing with 24 points (which should be 26 without a Zamboni meltdown in Lethbridge) Saskatchewan has been the class of the conference so far, albeit by a narrow margin.

Regardless, with the conference's three top scorers in Kyle Bortis, Derek Hulak and Kyle Ross, Saskatchewan has shown they have the most offensive firepower of any Canada West team. With 10 more goals than third place Manitoba, the Huskies have found the back of the net more than any other team, and with only 37 goals — tied for second best in the conference behind Alberta's conference low of 34 — against haven't exactly been easily beaten defensively.

This team has looked good so far this season and aside from a sweep at the hands of the Calgary Dinos in the Stampede City have been consistently playing at a level that is good enough to win every night.

Friday - Regina 2 at Saskatchewan 10
Saturday - Regina 0 at Saskatchewan 6

Bears beating who they should

Sitting with 24 points through the first half is nothing to scoff at for Alberta, but upon closer review that number might be misleading. The Bears have taken care of business against the teams you'd expect them to, mainly Lethbridge, Regina and UBC. Alberta is a combined 8-0-0 against those three teams. Against the three other playoff teams from a year ago, however, the Bears are only 3-3-2.

That rather average rate of success against the conference's upper teams could be a worry for head coach Stan Marple and company come playoff time. Then again only Manitoba, who sports a 6-2-2 record against Alberta, Calgary and Saskatchewan, have been all that good against the conference's best teams.

Friday - Alberta 2 at Manitoba 3
Saturday - Alberta 4 at Manitoba 3

Bisons better than expected

We all expected Manitoba to be a good squad this season, but to be sitting only two points back of first at the break coupled with the fact they've been the best team over the first half against the rest of the conference's elite has to come as a slight surprise. Manitoba's 6-2-2 record as mentioned above is the best in the conference in head-to-head play against last year's playoff teams — by far.

It's been about balance for the Bisons to this point, allowing them to be as good as they have been. Sporting only three scorers inside the top 20 in CW scoring, but with a total of nine inside the top 40, Manitoba has been getting contributions up and down the lineup (Alberta has the second most balance with seven players inside the top 40, while Saskatchewan is third with six).

If Manitoba can keep up their balanced attack and continue to get decent goaltending, safe to say this team will have a pass into the second round of the playoffs.

Friday - Alberta 2 at Manitoba 3
Saturday - Alberta 4 at Manitoba 3

Calgary needs more from Jorgenson

While it's far too early to write off the Dinos season, it's not too soon to call into question the performance of Reid Jorgenson so far this season. After a stellar campaign a year ago the fifth-year forward has been a far cry from the player that finished third in CW scoring in 2010-11.

Jorgenson sits with only nine points in 16 games this season and that lack of production has been a big part of the Dinos disappointing first half of the season that has them only a few points up on UBC for fourth in the conference.

Calgary was idle this week.

T-Birds penalty kill needs to progress

It wasn't a phenomenal first half, nor was it a brutal one for the UBC Thunderbirds. Simply put this team has been OK, but has all but assured themselves a playoff spot baring a huge letdown in the second half. The T-Birds are six points up on sixth place Regina and eight up on last place Lethbridge, so this team will be playoff bound.

As for what will potentially lead the T-Birds to a postseason upset, that has to be their penalty kill. For a team that's supposed to be defensively sound, work hard, and frustrate the opposition it's been far too easy to beat UBC on the powerplay this season — only Lethbridge has been worse on the PK. At 75% this season UBC has some work to do with their penalty kill and then, maybe, they can surprise a team in the playoffs.

Friday - Lethbridge 2 at UBC 5
Saturday - Lethbridge 3 at UBC 7

New season, same story for Cougars

It's the same issue this team has faced for the last decade plus — they can't score. Regina is second last in goals for this season in front of only Lethbridge. The Cougars can't get into track meets with teams and in a conference where Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and even Calgary (although you wouldn't know it from the numbers) can score in quick succession, the Cougars are in tough.

Given the struggles of Lethbridge more than anything Regina will be a playoff team this season, but without much scoring again this season the Cougars more than any playoff bound team need to play a tight game that has proven ineffective the vast majority of the time. To sum it up, the Cougars aren't as talented as the teams ahead of them in the standings and need to get a little lucky to beat those squads.

Friday - Regina 2 at Saskatchewan 10
Saturday - Regina 0 at Saskatchewan 6

Lonesome at the bottom for Lethbridge

There's nothing positive you can say about the Pronghorns first half, in fact you could make the argument it was one of the worst in program history. Nothing went right for the 'Horns who aren't going to be a playoff team save for another miraculous second half. Perhaps a midseason recruit could save this season for head coach Greg Gatto and company — he's pulled that off before.

It wouldn't surprise me if he brings in one, or possibly two impact players that could help Lethbridge leapfrog Regina. Something tells me Gatto might have something up his sleeve. That being said, if some big additions don't happen this team won't be a playoff squad.

Friday - Lethbridge 2 at UBC 5
Saturday - Lethbridge 3 at UBC 7

One final note... also of note, a Canada West combination team of Pronghorns and Dinos will be taking on the Canadian World Jr. team December 13 in Calgary as the Red and White gear up for their Boxing Day tournament opener. It's the same thing we saw a few years ago when a joint Saskatchewan-Regina team played Team Canada in Regina at the Brandt Centre.

Evan Daum is The CIS Blog's national hockey editor. Contact him at
The Toronto Varsity Blues couldn’t have needed the holiday break any more.

With a chance to claim second in the East for their own, they in fact got owned—with losses to the McMaster Marauders and Brock Badgers. The 78–60 loss to Mac Dec. 2 was fairly competitive out of the gates, but 30 turnovers, a mere four 3-pointers, and 20 points by Andrew Wasik, Alex Hill and Drazen Glisic—the veteran leadership on this team—are clear indicators of an offensive shutdown. The pattern seemed almost similar in the 95–55 spanking by Brock, a squad that has the Blues’ number in the last few seasons. A 19–13 first quarter by Toronto was followed up by a 82-point performance by the tricky Badgers. While Wasik had 16 points to follow on a 4-point performance the night before, this is not like the Blues at all. Somehow, they need to get the ball control and offensive personnel sparked up before their next OUA match in January.

The Laurentian Voyageurs also need some kind of spark. This team has a lot going against them, but a lot of heart and can squeak out games if they bring their best stuff. Their luck was absent this weekend, losing by a basket, 79–76, against the Guelph Gryphons, and 99–95 in OT against the powerful Lakehead Thunderwolves in Thunder Bay. A 27–19 third quarter was the difference against Guelph, and while they kept their turnovers down and made 46 per cent of their shots, they could not keep up with the Gryphon starters, who played a cache of minutes. The next night, the home court advantage for the Thunderwolves was a catalyst in the Wolves’ four-point victory. Six Thunderwolves, lead by G Joseph Jones, had double digit points. An 0–2 weekend is a bitter pill to swallow, but the Voys have glimpses of good things coming. G Alex Ratte is quietly becoming a leader on the floor for Laurentian—if his 28 points against the Wolves were any indication. This team may need to work on defensive issues, especially with rebounds and such, but they could upset an Ottawa or Toronto.

The rest of the OUA East had a so-so weekend. While a 0–4 showing by RMC and Queen’s and a 2–0 weekend by Carleton are pretty much destined to occur, the Gee-Gees have landed second in the division. Their 77–76 victory was a sweet one, as the squad was trailing after three quarters. G Kale Harrison left it out on the court, putting up 31 points for the game. That game became the wake up call the Gee-Gees have been waiting for, as they buried the Waterloo Warriors 119–76 the next night. Five Gee-Gee players had double-digit scoring, and two—Warren Ward and Vikas Gill—had at least 20 points.
The final week of the first half in AUS men’s hockey saw the Varsity Reds stay in first place, and Saint Mary’s leapfrog Moncton and Acadia into second place. As was discussed last week, SMU has played two more games than UNB and UdeM and one more than Acadia, so appearances are a bit deceiving. UPEI is solidly in fifth place and StFX in sixth. STU is now just five points back of X with a game in hand and Dalhousie three more points back. In other words eight points out of the playoffs in their annus horribilis.

V-Reds survive a hot goalie and disobliging referee

The biggest crowd of the season thus far in the AUS, 3123, came out Friday to the AUC to see if STU could knock off UNB. They came close, thanks to stellar goaltending once again from Charlie Lavigne and a disproportionate number of power plays in the third period, including a dribbling power play puck that did NOT cross the goal line before being stopped by defenceman Jonathan Harty in the view of the goal judge, the media in the press box, and hundreds of fans who had a better view of the puck than the referee. However he decided it was in. To tie the game for STU. There is no photo or video replay in the AUS so the ref couldn’t be overruled. UNB dominated OT and came away with the win, but STU did steal a point thanks to Lavigne and their 7 momentum-killing power plays in the third period (and 11 in the game). Shots were 43-16 for UNB who were 0-for-5 on the PP.

Friday – STU 2 @ UNB 3 OT

Interesting week for Saint Mary’s

Wednesday the Huskies came back from a 4-goal first period deficit to beat StFX 6-5. This was a very chippy game with 67 PIM for StFX and 74 PIM for SMU. The PIM winner was Mark Louis who laid out SMU rookie Stephen Johnston with a thunderous open-ice hit. The big StFX d-man was given a 5-minute major for contact to the head and a match penalty (which probably means at least a 4-game suspension) while Johnston was prone on the ice for several worrying minutes.

Friday night Saint Mary’s was in Wolfville and they had a better start, as they scored first and were never behind in the game. Special teams were a factor as SMU was 2-for-6 on the PP while Acadia went 0-for-4.

Wednesday– StFX 5 @ SMU 6
Friday – SMU 4 @ Acadia 2

Aigles Bleus take rematch against Panthers

After blowing a 3-goal lead and losing at home to UPEI the previous week, UdeM rebounded on the Island. Like SMU, Moncton scored first and were never behind. Lots of chippy penalties in this one as well.

Friday – UdeM 3 @ UPEI 2

Acadia loses 4-point game

The Axemen had a great opportunity at home Friday. Win against SMU and they would finish the first half in second place and the Huskies would be in fourth. Lose and the opposite would happen. Which is what happened. Still Acadia is only four points back of first place UNB (who have played one less game). For the poolies Andrew Clark picked up a goal and an assist in the loss to keep him at the top of the leader board with 24 points in the first half, two more than UPEI’s Matt Carter.

Friday – SMU 4 @ Acadia 2

Panthers winning streak over

UPEI had a nice little 4-game winning streak going that was keeping them in contact with the top third in the AUS. Friday Moncton didn’t do them the repeat favour of sitting on their lead and taking bad penalties. They did outshoot UdeM 34-27 in the loss.

Friday – UdeM 3 @ UPEI 2

StFX losing the close ones

One difference between this season and last is that StFX is coming out on the wrong end of close games. Wednesday against SMU was different. Tweet of the week goes to UdeM’s online presence Phillip Poirier: “Blown 3 goal leads are so last week, blowing 4 goal leads is where it's at this week.” However many games Mark Louis gets suspended is going to hurt the X-men for sure early in the second half.

Wednesday– StFX 5 @ SMU 6

Tommies steal a point

Rebuilding STU doesn’t have the depth to match lines with UNB and go end to end. They do have a goaltender in Lavigne who can keep them in games, especially when his teammates collapse back in front of him to congest shooting and passing lanes and win battles for rebounds. They have opportunistic scorers. This week they had seven power plays in the third period and didn’t give up a shorthanded goal, a big improvement. (I know … snark). However, they did give up a shortie to UNB d-man Bretton Stamler in the second period, who also got the winner in OT. I’m not going to predict that the Tommies will make the playoffs, but StFX sure better sure not go into another extended slump.

Friday – STU 2 @ UNB 3 OT

No losses for Dal this week

They finished their first half of play last week.

Good luck to all of the student-athletes on their exams and Merry Christmas.
Highlights of the week so far for top 10 teams: Carleton continues to dominate opponents using their end-of-benchers, Lakehead gets a 'royal' breakout game from a bench forward and Laurier gets bailed out by their fifth-year leader.

RPI available here. This post will be updated as results come in.

1. Carleton (No. 2 RPI, SRS +25.2) 102-53 win vs. Waterloo (no. 34 RPI), 84-68 win over Laurier (no. 13 RPI).

To follow up last week’s barnburner vs. Lakehead, we had… well, whatever this was. A 22-point lead after one quarter for the Carletons is a good way to make sure nothing interesting happens all night.

One funny thing about Carleton crushing teams so badly is that their starters rarely have to play much in the second half. That lets a guy like Cole Hobin, who could probably fit in on any lineup and score 15 if he was asked to, average 4.6 points per game. That also means you get a chance to see guys like Dan ‘Fred’ Penner lead all scorers with 22 (including five threes).

I think anyone expecting a major showdown between the Ravens and Golden Hawks was probably expecting a bit too much. Yes, Laurier was undefeated, but they've been feasting on overmatched OUA East opponents, three of which went winless against the OUA West in the crossover portion of the schedule. Not to sound like a drive-by "HOLY COW LET'S JUST GIVE CARLETON THE TITLE NOW" analyst, but do the Ravens really need to play the second semester of the regular season? Unless Ottawa surprises everyone and wins the Capital Hoops Classic, or if Tyson Hinz accidentally breaks his elbow on Phil Scrubb's face in practice and they're both out for the year, the loss column should be a goose egg for the Ravens heading into the playoffs.

To play Devil's advocate, It's worth pointing out, as Wayne Kondro did here, that Carleton played the best West teams - Lakehead, Laurier and Windsor - on the second night of back-to-backs, and that they really haven't faced still competition yet. But yeah, the East is that bad.

2. St. FX X-Men (No. 1 RPI, SRS +13.4), off for holidays.

Off until the Rod Shoveller Tourny. Until then, they’ll work on not having to bail themselves out of late games against lesser foes. Also, cue the ‘good teams find a way to win’ argument.

3. Lakehead Thunderwolves (No. 12 RPI, SRS +7.6), 91-76 win at York (No. 43 RPI, also known as DFL), 99-95 win over Laurentian (no. 29 in RPI).

Overcame a sluggish start to pull away late from the Lions in Toronto.

The best part about this game (apart from the appearance of Ben Johnson’s increasingly robust afro) was Brendan King’s career night of 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting. King is a guy loaded with potential who has played most of the past two years behind Yoosrie Salhia and Ryan Thompson. His low-post scoring game, which should be complementary to his frontcourt mates’, is another weapon Lakehead can use to do one of the things they do best: create mismatches on offence.

In the Saturday nightcap, it looks like everyone but Greg Carter forgot to play defence, and the GGODs' solid execution down the stretch saved them from an upset loss to the Voyageurs. In the category of 'sweet,' Joe Jones hit every one of his 12 shots (including five free throws) he took inside the arc, while Jones and King combined for 46 points and exactly zero rebounds and zero assists. Just shoot, baby.

4. Saskatchewan Huskies (No. 3 RPI, SRS +14.6), off for holidays.

According to Jamelle Barrett, Ibuprofen can cure broken bones.

5. Victoria Vikes (No. 6 RPI, SRS +9.6), off for holidays.

Thank ‘gang rebounding’ and stingy defence for the Vikes’ surge to an undefeated season so far.

6. Alberta Golden Bears (No. 4 RPI, SRS +12.5), off for holidays.

The Gateway has a cool website, but it could do to show Jordan Baker, Daniel Ferguson and the fellas some love.

7. UBC Thunderbirds (No. 17 RPI, SRS +9.0), off for holidays.

They might still be steaming from their two losses last weekend, but at least the T-Birds have some pretty sweet jerseys this year.

8. Wilfrid Laurier, (No. 13 RPI, SRS +7.6) 77-76 win at Ottawa (no. 16 in RPI).

The moppy-haired superstar from Stratford is at it again - that’s right, folks, Kale Harrison nailed a three pointer with 8.6 seconds to go to let Laurier escape Montpetit Hall with a victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Also, 'Worldwide' Warren Ward is apparently such a star in the nation’s capital that it’s cool just to refer to him on a first name basis in the third graf of a gamer.

Hard to put much stock into losing to Carleton a night after the Hawks spilled their guts on the floor against Ottawa. A 7-1 record heading into the break is all this team could realistically hope for, and they're in good position to challenge Lakehead for the West title in January and February.

9. Fraser Valley (No. 7 RPI, SRS +7.9), off for holidays.

The Cascades get remarkably little love in the world of CIS hoops media, so here’s a picture of a kitty.

10. Concordia Stingers (No. 8 RPI, SRS +7.5), off for holidays.

If the Stingers want to return to the Final 8 this year, they’ll need to work on closing out games better and play with more intensity, says Stingers guard Evens Laroche.
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