We've often seen teams forfeit a game or two here and there due to ineligible players, and now and then a whole season is wiped out.

Well, it's time for that second thing to happen again. Yesterday we learned that 17 RSEQ men's soccer games have been affected, including nearly every game for McGill.

Montreal and McGill, according to the RSEQ release, "inadvertently allowed the participation of a player who is 20 years of age or older (as of Aug. 16) and who participated in a professional soccer match without respecting the mandatory 365 day waiting period."

McGill must forfeit every game except their Sept. 9 game at Laval, which they lost anyway. Montreal used their player in seven games, one of which was against McGill, so that Sept. 20 result gets the classic CIS label of "0-0 double-forfeit."

As usual, the name of the player isn't being released, but also as usual, it's not too hard to narrow it down on our own. Only three players appeared in 11 games for McGill, two of which were not on last year's roster: Max Leblond and Olivier Lacoste-Lebuis. My knowledge of professional soccer is, shall we say, limited, so we'll just leave it there for now. For Montreal, three players appeared in seven games, and two appeared in non-forfeited games, leaving just Kenan Morina, a first-year goalkeeper from Switzerland. Morina, or someone with the same name and likeness, played a game last October for FC Saint-Imier. (And possibly more recent than that, but that game would be enough.)

Like with the Hardy Cockup three years ago, when Manitoba's use of an ineligible football player pushed Regina into the Canada West playoffs, this event has caused Concordia to move up to fourth place in the RSEQ standings and therefore into a playoff spot. At 5-6-1, the Stingers finish fourth in the smallest of margins, with Sherbrooke now fifth at 5-7-0. That would probably annoy the Vert et Or had they not used ... can you guess? ... an ineligible player themselves this year.

McGill, Montreal, and Sherbrooke, together with the University of Winnipeg, as well at St. F-X and UPEI make it six teams out of 45 in men's soccer who have forfeited games. Not to mention this has happened to two other Quebec schools this year, in football, at both Bishop's and Concordia.

I believe this makes OUA the only conference in 2012-13 to have a clean sheet with regards to eligibility ... so far, at least.
The logjam in the AUS standings moved to second place as Moncton was the only team with two wins on the weekend to put them all alone into first place. Acadia, UNB and StFX are now all tied for second spot. At the bottom of the standings STU still searches for their first win.

Les Aigles Bleus flying high

Home has been good to UdeM, who have earned 7 of 8 points the last two weekends, a big reason why they find themselves now in first place. Friday night Moncton had a 3-0 lead after two periods versus the Huskies and then blew open the game in a wild third period for 7-2 win. Saturday was a closer game, as Raphael Pouliot and Guillaume Parenteau had two goals each, including an empty-netter for Parenteau to seal the win over StFX.

Rookie goalie Adrien Lemay picked up both wins, so it looks like he's put in a solid argument for the starting job. Offensively UdeM leads the AUS with an average of 4.5 goals per game, and the top power play in the conference at 27.6%. Sure it has only been six games, but if Moncton can keep this pace up there's a good chance they could hold onto first place. Or, they might find the road a little less to their liking. We'll see.

Friday: SMU 2 @ UdeM 7
Saturday: StFX 2 @ UdeM 4

Acadia came close to taking over first

The Axemen can thank their special teams, and UNB's surprising propensity for taking penalties, for their win over the top-ranked team in the country. Acadia scored a power play goal just 43 seconds into the game, and then another on their second PP when it became a 5-on-3 man advantage. A third PP goal with 16 seconds to go in the first period left them sitting pretty. The V-Reds pushed back in a very tightly played game, but only managed two goals in the third period.

Saturday's game was a lot closer, and had a few incidents to rile up the fans. First, at 17:11 UPEI's Cole MacMillan ran Acadia goaltender Evan Mosher. The Axemen of course didn't take this well, and out of the tussles there was a legitimate fight between a couple of big boys, defencemen Leo Jenner from Acadia and Reggie Traccitto from UPEI. Rubbing salt in the wounds, Panther Jordan Knox scored on the resulting 4-on-4 play to tie the game. In the third period, seconds after Acadia had a goal waved off for goalie interference, Chris Desousa scored the go-ahead goal. He also added a late empty-netter to secure the win.

Friday: UNB 2 @ Acadia 4
Saturday: UPEI 4 @ Acadia 2

UNB salvages weekend roadtrip

The V-Reds special teams had a tough first period in Wolfville. They gave up three power play goals, and went 0-for-3 on their three opportunities with the man advantage. You give a team like Acadia a three goal lead and a come back is pretty darn difficult. Saturday in Halifax UNB had the first two power plays, but it was Dal getting on the scoreboard first. After tying the game in the second period, the V-Reds took back-to-back penalties and the Tigers scored on the 5-on-3 power play to take the lead. The third period was dominated by UNB who finally got their power play going with about five minutes to go, as Cam Braes scored his second goal to tie the game. The V-Reds kept driving the net until Matt Fillier put them ahead, and they added an empty-netter to end any chance of a Tigers comeback.

Friday: UNB 2 @ Acadia 4
Saturday: UNB 4 @ Dal 2

StFX also just one point out of first

The X-Men were outshot 31-22 by St. Thomas Friday night, but still managed to squeak out a win with a late third period goal by Josh Day. Saturday they couldn't pull out the win against Moncton.

Friday: StFX 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: StFX 2 @ UdeM 4

Weekend finished better for UPEI

Friday was not a good game for the Panthers. For the second match in a row they couldn't find a way to score, so that win over Acadia on Saturday was doubly important, and it ended a three game losing streak.

Friday: UPEI 0 @ Dal 3
Saturday: UPEI 4 @ Acadia 2

Another down and up weekend for the Huskies

Friday night the Huskies were humbled by les Aigles Bleus in Moncton. The next night in Fredericton they bounced back and completely dominated the Tommies, outshooting them 49-17.

Friday: SMU 2 @ UdeM 7
Saturday: SMU 5 @ STU 0

Dal keeps pace

Despite losing starting goalie Bobby Nadeau to an injury 15 minutes into Friday's game, the Tigers still managed to get their first shutout of the season with Wendell Vye finishing up in nets. Vye did his best to hold off UNB the following night, but eventually the V-Reds shooters got a few pucks past him.

Friday: UPEI 0 @ Dal 3
Saturday: UNB 4 @ Dal 2

Still no wins for Tommies in new barn

St. Thomas had a pretty good game Friday. They outshot the X-Men 14-7 in the first period, and were tied. They traded goals in the second period, but only StFX scored in the third period. Saturday was a forgettable game against the Huskies, their most lopsided loss of the young season. Maybe a road trip is what the Tommies need, because home ice isn't exactly working out great.

Friday: StFX 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: SMU 5 @ STU 0

Next weekend 

After two weekends at home, StFX and SMU each head out to visit UNB and UPEI. Travel partners Moncton and STU will be in Nova Scotia to play Acadia and Dalhousie.
Some suggestions follow which might be the most important or interesting CIS men’s hockey games to watch this weekend. As luck would have it, we’ve got several nationally ranked teams facing off against each other.  

Now with more updates!

Friday

  • AUSUNB @ Acadia. Battle of two of the three teams tied for first place in the AUS sees top-ranked Varsity Reds in Wolfville to play the 7th ranked Axemen. Home ice advantage on the Olympic-sized surface may give Acadia the edge in this much anticipated game. How big a game? The V-Reds are traveling down Thursday evening to avoid bus legs.
    • Special teams were the difference in this tight-checking game, especially since Acadia scored three power play goals in the first period for early lead and held on for a 4-2 win. 
  • Canada WestSask. @ UBC. Another battle for first place, but the 10th ranked 4-1-1 Thunderbirds will be playing a traditional CanWest power for the first time this season in the No.2 ranked Huskies. Home teams usually have the edge, but a win for UBC would add a lot of legitimacy to their place in the standings. 
    • UBC blew leads twice as the Huskies got the comeback 5-4 win.
  • OUA EastOttawa @ Carleton. Last week in the National Capital Battle (not sure what they call this one) the Ravens won 5-2 in the Gee-Gees rink. Now it is Carleton’s turn to host. 
    • This rivalry game finished with a combined 28 minor penalties and 5-2 win for Ottawa.
  • OUA WestWestern @ Lakehead. Traditionally strong Mustangs seem to be in hangover mode after losing the national championship in OT in March. Lakehead players rebelled and got their coach sacked, and then a few days later pushed Laurier to OT and then won 4-0 against them the next day. Quite a week for the 8th ranked team. 
    • Lakehead built up 3-goal lead in front of over 3000 fans and Western scored twice in the third period to make it close.
Saturday 

  • AUSStFX @ UdeM. The 5th ranked X-Men, who may or may not still have a share of 1st place by Saturday, take on the 6th ranked Aigles Bleus in M oncton. 
  • Raphael Pouliot and Guillaume Paranteau each had a pair of goals to power Moncton to a 4-2 win and move into sole possession of first place in the AUS.
  • Canada WestManitoba @ Calgary. Since western teams play weekend pairs of games, you can just as easily swap the Friday and Saturday picks. The 9th ranked Dinos haven’t played any of the big boys yet in conference play. Now they get the Bisons.
  • After a 4-1 loss the night before the Dinos rebounded with a 3-2 overtime shootout win to split the weekend with the Bisons (who pick up 3 points).
  • OUA East – Neither game looks very big. Sorry. 
  • OUA West – Windsor @ Waterloo. The Lancers and Warriors battle for second place in the standings.
  •  Lots of goals in this one as Windsor outshot Waterloo 40-28 in 7-5 win. Warriors scored twice in third period to make it close, but Lancers got the empty-netter for insurance.
 Sunday 

  • OUA EastUQTR @ Ottawa. Wednesday night les Patriotes lost 4-0 lost in the Ravens’ nest. Now they visit the GeeGees’ stable. Luvin’ Ottawa much? 
  • Raphael Boudreau scored 53 seconds into overtime to give les Patriotes the 3-2 win.
Once again, here's a guest post from Robert Murray, taking stock of the teams and storylines over the first two weeks of AUS play.

Here are the top three stories at this point of the season:

Panthers and Mounties are hoping things get better

It seems like with any league, the teams reaching the pinnacle of success have the worst championship hangovers at the beginning of the season. Nothing could be truer for last year's AUS finalists, the UPEI Panthers and Mount Allison Mounties. Combined, both teams have scored a total of 3 goals while giving up 25 (12 for UPEI and 13 for the Mounties). What's worse is that both teams have lost by embarrassing scores to league rivals: Mt. A dropped a 6-0 decision to the X-Women and the Aigles Bleues converted a touchdown against the Panthers. Both teams currently sit at the bottom of the AUS standings, and the only point between them came when Mt. A lost in OT to Saint Mary's last Friday night.

STU tied for first

The St. Thomas Tommies hope the adage about the best defence being a good offence holds true. (Though they aren't so bad defensively either.) Last year the Tommies didn't score their tenth goal until their fifth game, on Nov. 5, which was also just the second win of the season for the Tommies. Fast-forward a year and around the same point in the season the Tommies are riding high. Thirteen goals in three games already put them in a tie for first with St. FX (also at 13 in 4). The Tommies also sit tied for first with those same X-Women with 6 points and a perfect 3-0-0 record.

Turning a corner for SMU

It was a year's worth of work accomplished in just one weekend for the Saint Mary's Huskies. A 2-1 OT win over the Mounties on Friday night followed by a 3-1 victory over the Panthers less than 24 hours later cemented a successful weekend for the red and white from the south end of Halifax—but also more wins than they had all of last year. (And, of course, shortly after they nearly lost their team entirely.) Goaltender Sienna Cooke stood tall in net for the Huskies, recording both wins with a .953 save percentage and 1.27 GAA. The Huskies will get two chances for their first home win in over a year when they welcome the Aigles Bleues (Friday night) and Tommies (Saturday afternoon) to Halifax this weekend.

**

AUS Power Rankings (with pre-season predicted finish in brackets)

  1. St. FX (1): When your goaltending has let in one goal over three games, your team doesn't need to score thirteen goals to win. The X-Women did both.
  2. St. Thomas (5): What's better than having your starting goalie sport a .952 save percentage? Having your backup shutout last year's AUS finalists 5-0.
  3. Moncton (4): Rookie Catherine Dumas has five goals in her first three CIS games, including a four-goal performance against UPEI.
  4. Saint Mary's (7): The Huskies and Aigles Bleues are tied for power-play goals this season with three apiece, and they play in Halifax on Friday night.
  5. Dalhousie (6): If the Tigers want to increase their goal total this season (only three through four games) they will have to put more pucks on net. They currently rank last in the AUS with less than 20 shots per game.
  6. Mount Allison (2): One goal through three games doesn't get you much these days, especially against opponents who are a combined 8-1-0 so far. A 1.7% shooting percentage and an 0-for-9 power-play doesn't help.
  7. UPEI (3): The Panthers must stay out of the sin bin to record some wins. They have given up three power-play goals against on just 8 opportunities so far this season. Even with the advantage, though, they've also allowed a short-handed marker this year—the only team in the AUS to do so.

Friday
Alberta at Regina (-30)
UBC at Saskatchewan (-8.5)

Saturday
StFX at Saint Mary's (-21)
Acadia at Mount Allison (+24)
McGill at Sherbrooke (-21)
Montreal at Bishop's (+28.5)
Laval at Concordia (+37.5)
Manitoba at Calgary (-28.5)

Saturday - OUA playoffs
Laurier at Queen's (-29)
Windsor at Western (-15)


From last week, obviously Regina's win was a big upset, and also the Mounties and whoever were wearing Waterloo's uniforms:

Oct. 19
Calgary at Regina (+21) (actually -3)

Oct. 20
Mount Allison at StFX (-6) (actually +13)
Saint Mary's at Acadia (-12.5) (actually -7)
Concordia at Sherbrooke (-19.5) (actually -27)
Guelph at York (+13) (actually +21)
Western at Ottawa (+20) (actually +3)
Laurier at McMaster (-37.5) (actually -43)
McGill at Montreal (-27.5) (actually -44)
Windsor at Waterloo (+35) (actually -19)
Toronto at Queen's (-28) (actually -28)
UBC at Manitoba (-10) (actually -6)
Saskatchewan at Alberta (+17.5) (actually +17)

Oct. 21
Bishop's at Laval (-33) (actually -50)


The favourite has now covered 46 of the 92 games for which we have published point spreads.
In the first episode of The CIS Blog Podcast, Andrew Bucholtz and Rob Pettapiece discuss their FRC-CIS ballots in this week's poll, and debate where to rank the Guelph Gryphons, Western Mustangs, and Regina Rams.



Correction: At one point, Rob said Regina didn't score touchdown or a field goal in their Oct. 19 game against Calgary, but they did have one field goal.
In only the second weekend of play in AUS men’s hockey there was understandably quite a shakeup in the standings. Now the usual suspects are back in the top spot, with Acadia, UNB and StFX all sitting in first with 3-1 records.

Tommies Open Shiny New Barn

STU had their home opening weekend at the brand new Grant•Harvey Centre (GHC), but it was unfortunately same-old, same-old on the ice. The city-built double-ice-surface facility cost just over $29 million to build, and St. Thomas contributed between one and two million bucks to get their own impressive dressing room suites, including a separate locker room for street clothes and a player lounge (similar for both the women’s and men’s teams), coaches’ offices, fitness area, etc. For the fans there is tons of paved and marked parking, just under 1500 comfortable seats with no impeded sightlines, a wide concourse surrounding the seats with lots of railbird space, beer tables in each corner of the rink (no need to smuggle in your booze anymore), and a glassed-in bubble for the media. What’s not to like?

Well, Friday as I was exiting the GHC I overheard one fan ruefully tell his buddy, “Great place to see a game if we had a little better game.” Too true. Acadia came to play, and defencman Chris Owens gets credit for the first-ever AUS (men’s) goal at the GHC when his shot from the blue line found the top corner past rookie netminder Jonathan Groenheyde at 4:30 of the first period. The home team’s first-goal honours go to Steven Sanza on the power play at 7:38 of the second period. (However, the first STU goal at the GHC was the weekend before, when Katie Brewster scored unassisted at 11:36 of the first period in a 4-2 win over Moncton. Brewster also scored the first goal the following night, also unassisted, in 5-0 win over Mount Allison).

The wheels soon came off for the Tommies after the Sanza goal, as the Axemen reeled off five unanswered goals, including a natural hat-trick for CIS player of the year Andrew Clark. Acadia never gave STU a sense that they had any chance of coming back. Groenheyde took a ten-minute misconduct late in the period when he reacted badly when an Acadia player came a little too close to his crease, and coach Troy Ryan took opportunity of the occasion to give the STU goalie the rest of the night off. Like his teammates. STU only managed three shots on goal in the third period.

Saturday Dalhousie was up 4-0 in the third before the Tommies finally scored. They did draw within two goals, but couldn’t manage the comeback against the next-worst team in the AUS. At least STU was getting the puck on net this game, and were in it all game, only being edged 35-34 in shots. All in all, a very disappointing weekend for the team, and their fans, in their new digs.

Friday: Acadia 7 @ STU 1
Saturday: Dal 5 @ STU 2

V-Reds back to winning ways 

Fredericton’s other team was in Nova Scotia for the weekend, and former Huskies captain Colby Pridham scored the first goal in his much anticipated return to the Halifax Forum. UNB had three more goals in the third period, but the real story Friday night was Dan LaCosta making 26 saves for his first shutout for the V-Reds. While it is early yet, the former pro goalie is looking more like what was expected of him, as compared to his injury plagued first season.

 LaCosta got the start again in Antigonish on Saturday. UNB had full control of this game when even-strength. The problem was that they took a string of penalties that provided opportunities for StFX to get back in the game. The X-Men had their own penalty troubles, as they seemingly went out of their way to target their former teammate Bryce Swan a little too aggressively. Offensively it was a breakout game for UNB’s strapping defenceman Chad Denny, who had two assists and then an impressive third period goal when he blasted the puck from halfway between the X blue line and centre ice and blew it right past Joey Perricone in the StFX nets. Denny only played eight games last season due to injuries, and is another V-Reds sophomore playing more like he was advertised when he arrived on campus.

Friday: UNB 4 @ SMU 0
Saturday: UNB 4 @ StFX 2

Acadia sends notice

After dismantling STU on Friday, the Axemen had a more even contest in Moncton. Les Aigles Bleus put on a big push in the third period to tie the game, and nothing was decided in the overtime. Acadia’s Brett Thompson and Alex Beaton had highlight-reel goals in the shootout to seize the win for the visitors. Interestingly, Andrew Clark was held off the score sheet. It is worth noting that Acadia’s only loss so far this season came opening night last weekend, when they outshot StFX 43-13, including 19-0 in the third period, but still lost 4-3. Defenceman Chris Owens sits atop the AUS scoring race with 3 goals and 6 assists.

Friday: Acadia 7 @ STU 1
Saturday: Acadia 3 @ UdeM 2 OT-SO

StFX hanging onto share of first place

The X-Men were undefeated going into that UNB game, thanks to a 3-2 overtime win over UPEI Friday night with rookie Brad Cuzner getting the unassisted game winner in extra time. Bright spots for X are the improved play of Perricone in nets, and rookie Cory McIntosh who has scored three goals in four games.

Friday: UPEI 2 @ StFX 3 OT
Saturday: UNB 4 @ StFX 2

Moncton may have found a goalie

Rookie goalie Adrien Lemay looked very good against UNB in his first start last weekend. Andre-Michel Guay, the veteran netminder who had played behind P.-A. Marion until this season, gave up three goals against Dal in the first 26 minutes of Friday’s game before giving way to Lemay. His teammates rallied, and UdeM earned a 6-4 comeback win. Eric Faille continued his hot hand offensively with 2 goals and 2 assists. Saturday Lemay got the start, and made 37 saves in that OT-SO loss to Acadia. One might expect the rookie to get more starts going forward.

Friday: Dal 4 @ UdeM 6
Saturday: Acadia 3 @ UdeM 2 OT-SO

50/50 weekend for the Huskies

Friday night SMU was blanked 4-0 by UNB, with their former captain scoring twice against them. Saturday they rebounded nicely by earning their own 4-0 win over UPEI, with Anthony Peters getting the shutout. There was a ton of penalties in this one; the Panthers were 0-for-11 on the power play while the Huskies were 2-for-11 with the man advantage.

Friday: UNB 4 @ SMU 0
Saturday: UPEI 0 @ SMU 4

Panthers have tough road trip 


Last weekend UPEI opened at home and won both games for a brief share of first place. Then they headed to Nova Scotia and suffered an overtime loss and a shutout and now find themselves tied for fifth place. Back to reality.

Friday: UPEI 2 @ StFX 3 OT
Saturday: UPEI 0 @ SMU 4

Dal looking better 

With the unwelcome off-ice attention last week due to general manager Pete Belliveau’s apparent dismissal, and a pending CIS regulation breach self-report, it was probably good for the Tigers to get out of Halifax. Dal had a third period lead over Moncton in their Friday loss, and they held onto their comfortable third period lead against STU on Saturday for their first win of the season. Dal is scoring goals, with Patrick Daley leading all AUS forwards with 4 goals and 4 assists in 4 games played.

Friday: Dal 4 @ UdeM 6
Saturday: Dal 5 @ STU 2

Next weekend 

In a break from the normal home and away weekly schedule, travel partners UPEI and UNB are back in Nova Scotia for the second weekend in a row, playing Acadia and Dalhousie. StFX and SMU will be in New Brunswick to each play STU and UdeM.
Phil Scrubb, according to last season's awards as well as our rankings, is the best player in CIS. He's the best player on the best team in the country, and has guided his team to national titles in each of his first two seasons.

But holy crap, he might be even better than anyone thought.

At this past weekend's Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament in Victoria, the third-year guard led the Ravens to a three convincing wins (including a 78-65 dismissal of last year's championship game opponents Alberta) on the way to posting some borderline-unfair numbers. Here's what Scrubb did:

  • 26.0 points and 6.0 assists per game (good),
  • just four turnovers in 94 minutes (great), and
  • 14/28 3-point shooting (awesome!).

Oh, and an ungodly true shooting percentage of 80.2%.

That's absolutely wild. For some context, Scrubb had a 73.0 TS% last year, so it's not totally unexpected for him to do that over three games. Or is it? I'm not sure. With the way Scrubb is besting his already ridiculous 2011-12 numbers (38.6 PER, 143.3 Offensive Rating) against some decent preseason opponents, I'm beginning to question whether we're really here and if the Earth is round.

Scrubb is like some kind of robo-point guard. He pushes the ball, gets in the paint, doesn't turn it over, gets to the line and can shoot from anywhere. And it's not like he's always looking to score, either: Carleton is loaded with shooters again this year despite the loss of Elliot Thompson and Willy Manigat, and thanks to Scrubb's drive-and-dish abilities they've been able to go bombs away. Carleton shot 33 threes against Lethbridge, 22 against Victoria and 34 against Alberta (the other team this piece was also supposed to be about, before the Ravens did what they do and made themselves the only story). Oh, and they made 41.6% of them. Eek.

It's early, and there are some promising challengers in the OUA to give the Ravens a run. But it looks like the best player on the best team—one that simply dominated their opponents, virtually every time they stepped on the court last year—is just getting better.
TORONTO — The renovated Maple Leaf Gardens is much like other renovated buildings in Toronto. A modern facility indicative of the 21st-century lifestyle built inside an old facade, with historic artifacts left over from a by-gone era.

Much of the activity in Toronto this Friday night is a few blocks south. Dundas Square at Yonge is a 24-hour beacon of lights and commercialism.

Maple Leaf Gardens is removed from that, surrounded by a few grocery stores and apartment complexes, but none of the bars and restaurants that light up the area around the Eaton Centre or Air Canada Centre. It even retains that dusky smell. The patrons at the new Ryerson athletic complex aren't required to wear hats, but wafts of cigarette smoke penetrate the air upon entry to the building, a smell I can only imagine was just as present to the same 24-year old hockey fan walking up to the entrance of the building in the 1940s.

Maple Leaf Gardens is officially the Mattamy Athletic Centre, but like the Rogers Centre, the new name will never stick. The hundreds of fans skulking up to the entrance on Carlton Street, old and young, refer to the rink as "the Gardens" or "MLG". There may be a few dissenting voices belonging to bodies dressed up in Ryerson golf shirts this evening, but they're quickly drowned out. A fairly large student crowd has turned out, crowding the narrow hallway upon entry to the renovated facility up two flights of stairs from ground-level.

The opponent tonight, in the home opener for the 1-1 Ryerson Rams men's team, is the 1-0 Queen's Golden Gaels. There are no game programs provided, nor any newspaper that can offer a comprehensive preview. Not being an expert in OUA hockey, I rely on the facts about either team found at the bottom of the game sheet offered to fans with both team rosters.


"This is already the second meeting between these teams; Queen's took a 6-3 win last Friday night in Kingston."

"Ryerson has fired 95 shots on goal in two games for an average of 47.5 shots per game which is tops in the country."

"Defenceman Brian Birkhoff scored the Rams' game-winner in a 3-2 win against RMC on Saturday night,"

"Queen's won the season series last year, taking two of three games against the Rams."


Other than that, I wouldn't be able to tell you anything about either team. I'd never watched either squad play before. I will say that especially earlier on, it was easier to note the Ryerson players. Every odd-man rush, every collision, everything of note was accompanied by an auditory cue. Everything Ryerson did just seemed to mean more.

What else do I know? Ryerson starter Troy Passingham, who let in 6 of 33 shots in the previous two meetings between these teams, is "not the good goalie" according to an old-timer next to me explaining the Rams' squad to his friend. Confirmation bias, perhaps, but Passingham fumbles his first touch of the puck, a long range effort through a screen that bounces through the crease but eludes any Golden Gael stick.

**

He's also the first to get beat. Steve Schmidt whistles a shot over the cross bar, and the puck ricochets off the end boards right to a waiting Andrew Wiebe at the goal-mouth. It's 1-0 just ninety seconds in, before the raucous student sections have taken a break.

That's what it takes to get chances in this game. Everybody is strong, everybody is structured, but the talent that's present in an OHL game or a pro game, where a couple of guys on the ice can just create offence, doesn't really exist. Breakdowns are rare and the action isn't chaotic. It's a delight to watch, and Jordan Mirwaldt, just after the midway point of the first period, is the first to create something on his own, dragging a defenceman to the right side, along with Passingham, and sliding it right across the goal to Corey Bureau for the 2-0 goal.

I think this is where the crowd starts to get nervous: the atmosphere is rowdy, but now there's a collective belief that (gulp) Ryerson might not win their opener. Their best line, a unit worth a combined 650 lbs with Jason McDonough, Andrew Buck and Greg Payne, are physical, knocking over defencemen, but again, none of them is talented enough to bring a puck right into a good shooting area. Ryerson are generating shots, but they're outside efforts.

But that's how they get on the board the first time. Rams defenceman Mark Corbett takes a weak wrist shot from the left point right along the boards that's deflected somewhere around the hashmarks and flutters over Riley Whitlock's outstretched glove. The goal is credited to Matt McCann, but before it's even announced, Queen's get one right back. A clearing attempt off the face-off takes a lucky hop right onto the stick of Golden Gael captain Patrick McGillis who moves in 2-on-1 and rips a wrist shot short-side on Passingham.

After 1, the scoreline reads 3-1 for the visitors, despite the shots being 17-14 for the Rams. Passingham hasn't looked awful on either goal, but he's removed at the start of the second period for Steve Gleeson.

**

In hockey, when one team is behind by a goal or two, they tend to throw everything they can at the net. Whitlock is set to be busy.

Indeed, while the pace slows for the second, Ryerson get their chances, out-shooting the Golden Gaels 17-5 in the period. It doesn't look like the discrepancy is that much, but the Rams have a very obvious territorial advantage, with a couple more players making themselves known.

Number 72, a pretty big character I later learn is Michael Fine, has gotten a couple of good shots away, while Number 10 (Daniel Lombardi to his friends) is a little too creative for his own good, squandering a chance on the powerplay with Whitlock down on the ice. The Golden Gaels did a good job plugging up the shooting lanes, and this is the one time in the game I guess the Rams didn't just take the shot as soon as they were below the top of the circle.

Queen's get the only goal of the period. Gleeson is beat the same was as Passingham was on his third goal, as a rare breakdown in the neutral zone leads to a passing play that has Jordan Soquila moving in on the right wing. Another short-side effort, and it's 4-1 heading into the second intermission. Shots are 34-19, but the scoreboard is tilted to the inverse, and several of the non-student crowd has decided to leave the rink.

**

There's a bit of a show in the third, however.

The structure collapses in the third as Ryerson push a little more, activating a defencemen on more rushes and trying to create more offence by moving the puck directly from the wing to the slot, looking for a lucky bounce. The skill of Jamie Haines has contributed to this, the weakening structure letting him move the puck more freely around the perimeter, but he's a passer, not a shooter, and Ryerson isn't particularly good at getting sticks on scoring chances in front.

The Rams catch a break while killing a penalty. At the blue line, Golden Gael Stephane Chabot is stripped by an aggressive Dustin Alcock, who fires a shot short-side on Whitlock. 4-2, and the fans have hope. A few minutes later, Fine sets up a backdoor play to the rushing Mark Corbett, who has snuck in from the left point. 4-3, and the crowd is starting to think that a comeback is in the works.

**

Ryerson will get several more chances in the coming minutes, with Queen's on their heels defending the onslaught.

But they're concentrating on the shooting lanes more than the passing lanes, and a lot of efforts are hitting shins before they get to the net. Ryerson, who you'll recall had fired an average of 47.5 shots on goal per game coming into this one (refer to Game Sheet Fact #2), are adding to that total. They creep above 40, and 45 soon follows, but most attempts are from the outside. This can be dangerous for Queen's, as Haines takes a soft shot that hits a shin pad in front and re-directs just wide of the post.

On an ensuing 4-on-2, Ryerson fail to get a shot. Defenceman David Searle has a good shooting lane just above the left circle, but Tyler Moore jumps in feet first to block the shot, limping off the ice as the puck harmlessly retreats into the Ryerson zone. Andrew Buck gets an opportunity in front for their 47th shot of the game, but Whitlock makes the save and no Ram can get their stick on it for a 48th shot on goal with the goalie down and vulnerable. Any good whack could have tied the game at that point.

That's as close as the Rams come. Gleeson is pulled for the extra attacker but with just over a minute to go, off a missed Rye shot, Taylor Clements is able to skate the puck out to centre, and buries a centre ice shot into the empty net. The fans are still chanting "Our House", but the comeback has fallen short. Despite outshooting the Gaels by a hefty amount, 48-27 in the end, Ryerson lose due to a couple of unfortunate bounces in the first period.

But it's still a jovial atmosphere. The student sections went to the game to watch their team, not necessarily to watch them win, and the crowd files back through the narrow hallway, out into the rainy Toronto night.
Continuing with our ballot-posting, here's how we saw things following Week Seven, which featured Montreal edging Laval and a McMaster-Windsor game that may not have been as close as it looked.

Rob Pettapiece's ballot: 

1. McMaster
2. Calgary
3. Laval
4. Montreal
5. Western
6. Queen's
7. Regina
8. Guelph
9. Sherbrooke
10. Acadia

Rationale: I don't know what the Mustangs were doing down at 9th last week—I was the only one here to have them higher than that—because they have had a very solid season and should be in the middle tier, not the bottom one. As usual, the top four don't change, and the bottom is roughly the same. There aren't any teams I like enough to put 9th or 10th without reservations.
The Halifax Herald's Glenn MacDonald has a story today about the new roster caps coming next season for hockey rosters. I had intended to post more about this earlier, but the AUS never got back to my e-mail request (and in hindsight I may not have contacted the right person at the AUS) and I didn't have time to pursue on-the-record comments, although I was hearing lots of grumbling in Fredericton. So good job Glenn!

Starting next season, the eight AUS men's hockey teams will be capped or restricted to 21 skaters and unlimited number of goalies. The roster for any CIS game is 18 skaters and 2 goalies, so the new AUS cap means each team will only be able to carry three extra skaters. All season. If a player receives a season-ending injury, you can't replace him on your roster.

Pierre Arsenault, chairman of Atlantic university men’s hockey, told the Herald "Theoretically, if a team got into a situation where they have consumed 21 (spots) and they have a bunch of players hurt, they will go into games playing with less.”

Looking at the normal injury attrition rate in the hard-hitting AUS, I can pretty well guarantee that there will be teams with less than 18 healthy skaters on the ice in games next season. It happens now with unlimited rosters, so it will only be more common. It certainly could make for a self-imposed disadvantage for AUS teams advancing to the University Cup against OUA and Canada West teams without such restrictive rosters.

And why did the AUS do it? Again from Arsenault. "There was concern over the cost of roster sizes and the ability to bring in an unlimited number of players in season or at Christmas time for second semester. Now, once they get to 21, no new players can dress for the remainder of that season."

 No surprise, UNB's Gardiner MacDougall is not happy.
“You kind of put one hand behind your back, no matter who comes out of our league going into nationals,” MacDougall said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “We pride ourselves in the AUS in having the strongest conference, and the goal of our conference is to try and win a national championship each and every year and you want to have everything in place to do that. So why shortcut ourselves in this process?
“We usually have 22 or 23 (skaters on roster),” MacDougall said. “But the last year or two, circumstances like injuries and getting guys at Christmas just fell in our lap, there was resentment at that time. “Whoever’s coming out of our league, you want to go with your best foot forward at nationals and sometimes you need some depth. I don’t think 21 is the number. No CIS league has any type of curtailment with how many players you can have in any sport. Why do we need to put a limit on it?”
The approaching roster caps have already affected recruiting in the AUS this season. My understanding is that current rosters will not be grandfathered going forward to next season; if more than 21 skaters from this year's team were return to school next year, you will have to cut players to get back to the 21 cap.

Looks to me that the AUS was determined to restrict UNB's strong recruiting advantage over the field. In the process, they're making the AUS champion less competitive on the national stage while also marginalizing local Junior A players who no longer will be able to fill depth roles on rosters in the future. On the top AUS teams those 21 spots are going to be mostly Major Junior grads.
The OUA's unveiling of the various football playoff scenarios entering the final week of conference play (in a nine-page PDF, no less) has inspired CIS Blog Labs to run the numbers and figure out which ones are actually likely to happen.

Spoiler alert: there probably won't be any surprises.

We give each OUA team odds of winning their next game based on their RPI and SRS rankings, and whether the game is home or away. We then combine these odds for each scenario. (If, for example, Queen's and McMaster are each 90% likely to win, there's an 81% chance they will both win.) We'll group outcomes by playoff seeding, so if two different scenarios lead to the same ranking of teams, they're considered to be the same scenario. (We've done this in past years, too.)

No matter what, McMaster finishes first, Guelph finishes second, and Queen's third. Waterloo cannot make the playoffs, and Windsor and Western also are safe from elimination. What's left up for grabs are the fourth through sixth seeds.

In the end, we get the following outcomes:

1. Laurier (6) at Queen's (3), Windsor (5) at Western (4)
94.7% likely to happen

Basically this is it right here. Unless something crazy happens, like "two of Toronto, Ottawa, and Waterloo win", these will be the playoff matchups.

2. Windsor (6) at Queen's (3), Ottawa (5) at Western (4)
3.9% likely to happen

From firing their coach to a 5 seed in the playoffs. It's not exactly that easy, since Gary Etcheverry didn't get a chance to play Waterloo or Toronto.

The only way this can happen is if Guelph, McMaster, and Queen's all win, and then Waterloo and Ottawa do too. That gives us a three-way tie for fifth between Ottawa, Windsor, and Laurier, with the Hawks left out. (Based on the Waterloo requirement alone it's pretty unlikely Ottawa will avoid Queen's, although somehow I have the Warriors at only 20-80 underdogs ... how is that possible?)

3. Ottawa (6) at Queen's (3), Windsor (5) at Western (4)
0.6% likely to happen

Ottawa and McMaster have to win (keeping Ottawa and Laurier at 3-5), and then either Guelph/Windsor/Toronto win (Windsor 5th, three-way tie for 6th), or York/Waterloo/Queen's all win (four-way tie for 5th).

4. Windsor (6) at Queen's (3), Laurier (5) at Western (4)
or 5. Windsor (6) at Queen's (3), Western (5) at Laurier (4)
0.5% likely to happen

Those of you hoping for a WLU-UWO matchup (so, basically, everyone at either school) will first need to hope that Laurier wins (that would be the same Laurier who have failed to score a touchdown in three games so far this year). After that, it gets kind of complicated. Guelph/Ottawa is probably the most likely of the sets of wins needed.

6. Toronto (6) at Queen's (3), Windsor (5) at Western (4)
0.2% likely to happen

This one's easy: in addition to Toronto winning and Laurier losing, Guelph/Western/Windsor all have to win. It's one of two ways Toronto can sneak in; the other (York/Ottawa/Waterloo) is much less likely.

7. York (6) at Queen's (3), Windsor (5) at Western (4)
0.03% likely to happen

Friday
Calgary at Regina (+21)

Saturday
Mount Allison at StFX (-6)
Saint Mary's at Acadia (-12.5)
Concordia at Sherbrooke (-19.5)
Guelph at York (+13)
Western at Ottawa (+20)
Laurier at McMaster (-37.5)
McGill at Montreal (-27.5)
Windsor at Waterloo (+35)
Toronto at Queen's (-28)
UBC at Manitoba (-10)
Saskatchewan at Alberta (+17.5)

Sunday
Bishop's at Laval (-33)

From last week, the big misses were Mount A over SMU, Concordia over McGill, UBC over Regina, and just how bad the two Waterloo teams were going to lose.

Oct. 12
Manitoba at Saskatchewan (too close to call) (actual: -5)
Calgary at Alberta (+40) (actual: +50)

Oct. 13
StFX at Acadia (-32) (actual: -21)
Saint Mary's at Mount Allison (+26.5) (actual: -13)
York at Toronto (too close to call) (actual: +12)
Bishop's at Sherbrooke (-16.5) (actual: -12)
Laurier at Western (-19.5) (actual: -53)
Windsor at McMaster (-24.5) (actual: -21)
Laval at Montreal (+4) (actual: -3)
Waterloo at Ottawa (-16) (actual: -61)
Queen's at Guelph (+9) (actual: -5)
Concordia at McGill (-11.5) (actual: +3)
Regina at UBC (+12.5) (actual: -7)

The favourite has now covered 40 of the 79 games where we've done this.
Last week, in Quebec City, it wasn't even close. Two drives, four plays, 107 yards, 2:05. And just like that, less than half of the first quarter was completed and it was already 14-0 Laval against the Montreal Carabins.

The Carabins learned quickly that in order to have a chance against Laval, you need to control the ball and, especially when you have Rotrand Sene, if you fall behind you lose a portion of your attack. In this past Saturday's game, the Carabins got off to a balanced start. Sene fumbled a ball in the first quarter, but the Carabins also got to establish the run and then by extension, open up the pass.

When Montreal is able to mix the run and the pass and not play from behind and get away from their game plan, they can be successful. Alex Nadeau-Piuze went 20/27 for 262 yards and two touchdowns while Sene had 25 carries for 130 yards. Montreal had 140 yards more than the Rouge et Or and still, this game came down to one thing. A blocked punt.

In the fourth quarter, Laval was forced to punt with just over 5 minutes to go and they were clinging to a two-point lead. The snap went to the right of punter Boris Bede. He went to punt it and Jonathan Gagnon practically took the ball right off of his foot. The ball went out of bounds and Montreal took over in field goal range for what ended up being the game-winning field goal.

If you watch the punt, Montreal was sending men from both sides of the ball. Laval had three men back. The Carabins had five men past the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. Gagnon went free because two of the Laval blockers were chipping other guys or distracted by players who were on the other side of the ball. Montreal has blocked punts in other games this season, and in a key spot like that you would have maybe expected Laval to make sure they had enough guys to block all of the Carabins. Instead, the Carabins didn't even need to move the ball and they would have had a 30-yard field goal attempt. They moved it nine yards and made it a 21-yard attempt.

Two weeks ago, we were talking about how Montreal would be able to beat Laval. It seemed like a hard task. Montreal always performs better at home. That we know. We also can assume that every team can't play at their best all of the time. That is something to take into account as well. Also, you have to make adjustments. Montreal did by playing a more ball-control game to avoid falling behind early. These two teams are clearly the class of the Quebec conference. I expect a second game in Laval in the Dunsmore Cup—if it happens—to be a lot more like the second game in terms of final score than the first one.

Is it easy to beat Laval at home? Absolutely not. But if the Carabins are able to shut down the Laval offence like they did in the first half and are able to out-gain them by over 100 yards again, you never know. But that is not an easy task. I was absolutely impressed with the mix of run and pass Montreal showed and this may have been one of the better games I have seen from Nadeau-Piuze in terms of throwing the ball.

Laval has players, too. But when Montreal's weapons step up, and get a good play mixture, they are tough to beat. Even if you're the Rouge et Or.
What you missed while pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez ...

We'll have more on the Laval/Montreal game soon, and how to reconcile this result with last week's disappointing loss by les Carabins, but for now we can say that the point differential in the game means Laval only has to beat Bishop's (at home) and Concordia (away) to avoid playing in any other team's stadium the rest of the year.

McMaster/Windsor looked close, but from what I saw in the first half it wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated, and the second half proved that to be true. At one point Mac had been whistled for 40 objectionable or unnecessary yards in a four-play period, yet after those plays still had possession inside the Windsor 40 ... and that kind of sums up the day. They were 24.5-point favourites based on our calculations, and ended up winning by 21.

From Friday, we learned of more eligibility issues, this time in men's soccer. St. F-X and UPEI each forfeit a win and a tie after using a player "who had also participated with a foreign team within the past 365 days as a 21-year old." The release doesn't name the players, which is silly, because the UPEI coach already has and it's not really a secret, to anyone. And especially because the players—Michael Hojdar for X and Mark Behan for UPEI—will be allowed to play the rest of the year, in one of those only-in-CIS situations where the importance of eligibility varies depending on the wind. (Hat-tip to Robert Murray.)

A disappointing second half (outscored 16-0 in 30 minutes, otherwise known as a "half-Waterloo") led to a loss by the 5th-ranked Queen's Golden Gaels. After a pick-six, Queen's drove precisely 22 yards in four minutes (yards per minute: 5.5), then watched Guelph gain 76 in 63 seconds (yards per minute: 72.3). So that didn't go well, and that was pretty much the game. Once again, very solid lede in the Metroland paper's game recap. (Wouldn't "Hello, good bye" work better?)

A proud day for Waterloo alumni everywhere as Ottawa beat them 61 to 0. (Amazing what dominating a terrible team can do for expectations.) Nick Anapolski was a one-man offence for the Warriors, but ultimately not in a good way. (Hat-tip to Neate Sager.)

Saint Mary's lost to Mount Allison, 25-12, this time with Jahmeek Taylor though, despite his "battling a painful turf toe". (This story came out the day after we asked what happened to him.) That makes two wins in four games since someone suggested the Mounties should be removed from the league.
AUS men's hockey teams finally start their regular season tonight, so time to get our team capsules posted.

The UNB Varsity Reds won the AUS championship for the 12th time last season, going undefeated in the playoffs. That is, until they were upset 3-2 by Western in the de facto semi-finals at the University Cup back in March, and McGill went on to win their first-ever men’s CIS hockey championship. Moncton had a great playoff run thanks to goaltender P.-A. Marion, but struggled against UNB and then lost their first game at Nationals to the Redmen, effectively taking them out of contention. There is a good chance that both teams will be at the 2013 PotashCorp University Cup in Saskatoon since it is the AUS’s turn to hold the rotating wildcard spot. But don’t count out Acadia, who for some reason struggled at the end of the season and then lost three one-goal games to UPEI in the playoffs, but continue their good recruiting run. Saint Mary’s and StFX are always in the mix, but one wonders if UPEI is the same team after losing some key players. Is this the year St. Thomas gets back into the playoffs and has Dalhousie improved enough?

Confession: My paying job and life in general has impacted on my research time this year (especially since the AUS has yet to post the hockey rosters online yet) so I have cribbed heavily from Bruce Hallihan's AUS preview bible in today's Daily Gleaner for player comings and goings. You can always trust what Bruce writes.

ACADIA AXEMEN
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 16-10-2 (5th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 1-1-1. Lost to UPEI in 1st round.
  • Power play: 19.3% (3rd in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 84.4% (2nd in AUS)
  • Last Season: Acadia went with three rookie goaltenders last year and had a pretty good season, with a couple of winning streaks, but ended the season on a disappointing 1-4-1 pace and dropped into fifth place and lost the home ice advantage for the playoffs. All three games vs. UPEI in the first round were one-goal games, but the Axemen lost both road games.
  • Departures: F Nicholas Chouinard, F Chris Moulson, F Adam McIllwraith, F Ryan Graham, D Paul Kurceba, D Graham Bona.
  • Arrivals: F Brett Thompson, F Mike Cozzola, D Colin Archer, D Dylan Anderson, D/F Travis Randall.
  • Coach: Darren Burns (12th season)
  • Key Player: Andrew Clark was the CIS Player of the Year last season, and no surprise, he is expected to lead the team this year.
  • 2012-13 Outlook:Those three rookie goalies all have an AUS season under their belt now, with Evan Mosher getting most of the starts and Peter DiSalvo becoming the number two. None of the players gone from last year’s team were big point guys - Chouinard led that group with only ten points. I thought Acadia underachieved last year. Add in some good recruits and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that they have the potential to secure one of the first round byes.
  • Projected conference finish: 2nd place.


DALHOUSIE TIGERS
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 7-18-3 (7th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: N/A.
  • Power play: 17.5% (7th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 78.8% (7th in AUS)
  • Last Season: Turmoil. After squeaking into the postseason the previous year, the Tigers had a poor first half and rumblings surrounded the team. Over the Christmas Break head coach Pete Belliveau stepped away from behind the bench and moved upstairs to a new General Manager position he worked out with the AD, and Chris Donnelly was promoted to take over the coaching reins. The team was better in the second half with more wins and closer losses, but it wasn’t enough of an improvement to make the playoffs.
  • Departures: F Jordan Villeneuve-Gagne, F Trevor MacKenzie, F Ryan Stoddard, D David MacDonald, D Zach Firlotte, D Justin Javorek
  • Arrivals: F Andrew Langan, F Andrew Wigginton, F Kendall MacInnis, F Andrew Roski, F Chris Ivanko, F Dan Conacher, D Brad Yetman, D Matt English, D Rob McEwan, D Mathieu Boudreau, G Russ Brownell
  • Coach: Chris Donnelly (2nd season*).
  • Key Player: Slick forward Ben Breault has been expected to carry the team offensively and is the Tigers go-to guy, but they really need a goaltender to step forward and steal some games.
  • 2012-13 Outlook:Pessimistic view: grim. Optimistic: can only get better. Hopefully the drama surrounding Belliveau is over, especially as he was let go by the school this week (although there is apparently a CIS investigation of the Dal hockey program to be officially responded to within a few weeks). Former Huskie MacDonald was a horse on the back end last season, so someone will have to step up or divide his minutes. Upfront only the departed Villeneuve-Gagne was a really scoring threat. Dal has added a bunch of recruits, but they’re Junior A guys for the most part and the jump to the Major-Junior-rich AUS can sometimes be challenging, so is difficult to predict their potential impact. Bownell, a transfer from UofT, might thrive in the nets in the AUS, or wilt. The Tigers had their rink demolished in the offseason and will now share the venerable Halifax Forum with the Saint Mary’s Huskies. Not sure how that will go.
  • Projected conference finish: 8th place.
MONCTON AIGLES BLEUS
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 18-9-1 (3rd place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 6-6-0. Won 2 of 3 from StFX and 3 of 4 vs. SMU before being swept in 3 games by UNB in AUS championships. Were 1-1 at University Cup.
  • Power play: 17.7% (5th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 80.0% (6th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The huge turnaround in Moncton earned head coach Serge Bourgeois AUS and CIS Coach of the Year honours.
  • Departures: G Pierre-Alexandre Marion, F Dean Ouellet, F Charles Bergeron, F P.-A. Poulin, F Chris Rodrigue, D Mathieu Labrie
  • Arrivals:G Adrien Lemay, F Alex Noel, F Alex Emond, F Raphael Pouliot, F Pierre-Antoine Dion, F Luc Williams, D Kevin Levesque
  • Coach: Serge Bourgeois (4th season).
  • Key Player: Former pro Christian Gaudet only played 10 games last season, but proved he was worth waiting for when he was in the line-up. In a healthy season he could win the AUS points title.
  • 2012-13 Outlook: While it would be easy to pencil in Moncton for second place this year due to their strong playoff play last spring, one shouldn’t underestimate how much of that was due to goaltender Marion. Just ask StFX and SMU. Well Marion’s gone now, and job goes to understudy Andre-Michel Guay and newbie Lemay, who does have some minor pro experience. UdeM has retained almost all of their solid defence and added several forwards form the Q. This is a very good team that beat UNB in the first exhibition game of this season, and may yet end up in Saskatoon.
  • Projected conference finish: 3rd place.

SAINT MARY'S HUSKIES
  • 2010-11 Regular season record: 18-7-3 (2nd place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 1-3-0. Lost to UdeM in 4 games in semi-finals.
  • Power play: 17.9% (4th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 86.6% (1st in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Huskies had another strong regular season last year to finish in second place, led by goaltenders Anthony Peters and Neil Conway who had the 3rd and 4th best goals against averages in the AUS (behind only the UNB tandem). They play smart hockey against their opponents, and get the results, and you just assume the Huskies are always going to be in the hunt for an AUS championship. After the first round bye, the wheels came off in the playoffs because they couldn’t solve Marion in Moncton’s net. Hot goalies can do that.
  • Departures: G Neil Conway, F Colby Pridham, F Cam Fergus, D Tyler Cuthbert, D Kyle Wharton
  • Arrivals: G Chris Perugini, F Ryan Hillier, F Brad Greene, D Dylan King, D Kyle Pereira
  • Coach: Trevor Steinburg (16th season).
  • Key Player: Could be “rookie” forward Ryan Hillier. The former Halifax Moosehead and minor pro redshirted with the Huskies last year and will no doubt get lots of first line ice time this season.
  • 2012-13 Outlook: Former captain and the team’s top score Pridham is now a grad student at UNB. He was the only Huskie in double-digits for goals. Fergus was the next most important offensive go-to guy. Cuthbert and Wharton were solid, defensive d-men. All hard to replace. Coach Steinburg has already said that they need to have someone step up and score goals. He seems to always get the most out of his players, but right now this doesn’t look like a team that can finish in second place again.
  • Projected conference finish: 5th place.
ST. THOMAS TOMMIES
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 5-18-5 (Last place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: N/A.
  • Power play: 13.9% (8th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 75.0% (8th in AUS)
  • Last Season: The Tommies were much improved last year, but they didn’t have a lot of wins to show for it. However, they came out on the short end of a number of close games. Still, while they owned StFX last year they never managed to beat 7th place Dal in their four meetings, and those were effectively must-wins.
  • Departures:G Charles Lavigne, F Brad Gallant, F Jordan Scott, F Matt Eagles, D Andrew Andricopoulos, D Bryan Mine, D Chris Van Laren, D Erick Tremblay
  • Arrivals: G Jon Groenheyde, F Colin Martin, F Alexandre Leduc, D Matthew Hobbs, D Marc-Andre Levesque, D Jordan Thomas, D Nick Brown
  • Coach: Troy Ryan (2nd season).
  • Key Player: Last season, the Tommies went as far as goalie Charles Lavigne could carry them. The mantle now falls to rookie Groenhyde who has a solid pedigree from the WHL and some time in the minor pros.
  • 2011-12 Outlook: The Tommies have moved into the spanking new city-built Grant•Harvey Centre where the school invested in top of the line dressing rooms and facilities for their men’s and women’s hockey programs. How much of a “bump” will the new digs give the team? Coach Ryan has brought in more of his guys, and time will tell if his new d-men outshine the underperformers who have left. Most of their scoring has been retained, including 20-point defenceman Felix Poulin who really should have been named to the AUS All-Rookie team last season. What the Tommies really have to solve is their dismal special teams’ performance -- last in the conference. The team should be better this year, but the playoffs look to be one year away yet.
  • Projected conference finish: 7th place.


ST. FRANCIS XAVIER X-MEN
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 10-14-4 (6th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 1-2-0. Lost to Moncton in 3 games in quarter-finals.
  • Power play: 22.3% (1st in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 81.3% (5th in AUS)
  • Last Season: StFX really looked out of sorts last season, especially considering how hard they pushed UNB in the AUS finals the year before. Former hero goalie Joey Perricone looked very mortal with his 14 losses and 3.57 GAA. Goals, and especially non power play goals, were hard to come by. Not a good combination.
  • Departures:F Bryce Swan, F Brett Morrison, F Kevin Undershute, F Scott Brannon, F Brett Robertson, F Marco Desveaux, D Mark Louis, D/F Stephen Simms
  • Arrivals: G Drew Osley, F Cole Grbavac, F Steven Kuhn, F Zack MacQueen, F Cory MacIntosh, F Brad Cuzner, D Bronson Maschmeyer, D Mitch Taylor
  • Coach: Brad Peddle (7th season).
  • Key Player:Forward Jordan Bast was the CIS Rookie of the Year in 2010-11 and will probably be leading the X attack again this year.
  • 2012-13 Outlook: StFX really underachieved last year. Coach Peddle has brought in a ton of new gritty forwards and a stud defenceman to play with Bast and AUS rookie of the year Michael Kirkpatrick. Losing Swan to grad school at bitter rival UNB can’t make Peddle happy. Look for a rebound year by Perricone, especially if he is pushed by newcomer Osley who had big numbers in the WHL. It appears that StFX is returning to their hard-to-play-against style that has been successful for them in the recent past.
  • Projected conference finish: 4th place.
UNB VARSITY REDS
  • 2010-11 Regular season record: 20-5-3 (1st place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 7-1-0. Swept UPEI in 3 games in semi-finals; swept UdeM in 3 games in AUS finals; 1-1 at University Cup for 3rd place.
  • Power play: 17.6% (6th in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 82.9% (3rd in AUS)
  • Last Season: The only drama for UNB last season was goaltending. The V-Reds were loaded up front and on the back end. However, they started the year with two goalies and ended up dressing six (including one-time STU goalie Matt Davis), as first former-pro Dan LaCosta went down with a groin injury that bothered him most of the season and then veteran Travis Fullerton was out in November after an emergency appendicitis operation. Fullerton returned after Christmas, only to end up back on the shelf with a lower body injury. When he came back on January 27th he went 5-0-1, and then undefeated in the playoffs, until that upset loss to Western in UNB’s second game at the University Cup.
  • Departures: F Kyle Bailey, F Dion Campbell, F Jordan Clendenning, F Jeff Lee, F Shayne Wiebe, F/D Spencer Corcoran, D Luke Gallant, D Jonathan Harty, D Bretton Stamler, G Matt Davis
  • Arrivals: F Cam Braes, F Cam Critchlow, F Colby Pridham, F Bryce Swan, D Adrian Robertson
  • Coach: Gardiner MacDougall (13th season).
  • Key Player:Chris Culligan is the new captain of the V-Reds and their best all-round forward. He could prove to be the best player in the AUS this season.
  • 2011-12 Outlook: Nine players are gone from last year’s AUS champs. Nine. Replaced by three rookies and two transfers. But what transfers in the form of 4-year veterans SMU’s Pridham (30 points last season) and StFX’s Swan (25 points), and they’ve been playing together much of the preseason. Braes has already worked his way onto Culligan’s right wing, Critchlow was a playoff powerhouse with Halifax last year and Robertson is highly touted. UNB no longer has their famously strong taxi squad and is now more susceptible to injuries (they only had 16 skaters for Sunday’s game against the Maine Black Bears of the NCAA). So maybe they’ve come back to the pack a bit, but they still have to be favoured to win the AUS until another team proves otherwise.
  • Projected conference finish: 1st place.
UPEI PANTHERS
  • 2011-12 Regular season record: 18-10-0 (4th place in AUS)
  • Playoffs: 2-3-1. Scraped by Acadia in quarter-finals and were then swept by UNB in semis
  • Power play: 21.5% (2nd in AUS)
  • Penalty kill: 82.1% (4th in AUS)
  • Last Season: UPEI had a fine regular season last year, tending to win games in bunches, with a scary offence that was second only to UNB. Unfortunately for the Panthers, after squeaking by the Axemen in the first round of the AUS playoffs they had to face the V-Reds, and that didn’t go so well. One more win in the regular season and they would have finished in third place and avoided UNB until the AUS finals.
  • Departures: G Jhase Sniderman, F Matt Carter, F Jared Gomes, F Devan Praught, F Chad Locke, F Brandon Biggers, D Zach McCullough
  • Arrivals:G Wayne Savage, F Mason Wilgosh, F Jordan Mayer, F Cole MacMillan, F Tyler Brown, F Colin Beck, D Spencer Metcalfe
  • Coach: Forbes “Forbie” MacPherson (4th season).
  • Key Player:There may be a ton of scoring expectation put on AUS All-Rookie Chris Desousa, or it may be veteran Jordan Knox that takes this team on his back.
  • 2012-13 Outlook: UPEI has lost a ton of their offence in Carter and Gomes, plus the others added a lot of size on the forecheck. Getting Savage back after a pro stint should replace Sniderman, and Parks was solid with 14 wins in nets. Until we get a good luck at the recruits the Panthers may have taken a step or two backwards.
  • Projected conference finish: 6th place.
There are probably a few people who would take Laval plus-4...

Friday
Manitoba at Saskatchewan (too close to call)
Calgary at Alberta (+40)

Saturday
StFX at Acadia (-32)
Saint Mary's at Mount Allison (+26.5)
York at Toronto (too close to call)
Bishop's at Sherbrooke (-16.5)
Laurier at Western (-19.5)
Windsor at McMaster (-24.5)
Laval at Montreal (+4)
Waterloo at Ottawa (-16)
Queen's at Guelph (+9)
Concordia at McGill (-11.5)
Regina at UBC (+12.5)



Last week had three big misses: McGill over Bishop's, Ottawa over Toronto, and Western over Guelph:

Oct. 4
McMaster at York (+31.5) (actual +40)
Waterloo at Laurier (-11) (actual -12)
Bishop's at McGill (+7) (actual -14)

Oct. 5
Mount Allison at Saint Mary's (-28.5) (actual -36)

Oct. 6
Acadia at StFX (+23.5) (actual +27)
Ottawa at Toronto (-7) (actual +28)
Western at Guelph (+13) (actual -3)
Sherbrooke at Concordia (+6.5) (actual +42)
Queen's at Windsor (+5.5) (actual +17)

Oct. 7
Montreal at Laval (too close to call) (actual: -19)

Together with last year, there have been 68 favourites, and 37 have covered.
Today we welcome a guest post from Robert Murray, the national sports editor with Canadian University Press and sports editor at The Argosy, previewing the AUS women's hockey season and the road to the conference championship in Sackville in February.

222 days.

As of this Saturday, October 13, when this AUS season opens, that's the number of days since the surprise championship game between the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers and Mount Allison Mounties took place in the Dalhousie Memorial Arena—a 3-0 victory for the Panthers.

Despite this unexpected matchup, regular-season success has shown time and time again—mostly—to be a precursor for a trip to the big dance, the CIS championships. The St. Francis Xavier X-Women have finished first in the conference six of the past eight years, and the Universit√© de Moncton Aigles Bleues were in the top spot during the other two. This regular-season achievement has translated into six conference titles combined for the X-Women (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2010-11) and Aigles Bleues (2006-07 and 2008-09).

With the stage set to open on another AUS season, the first-place finisher is likely in good shape to grab the only AUS berth at this year's national tournament in Toronto. We'll find out who that will be in about 130 more days...

Here is how each team stacks up compared to each other as the 2012-2013 season approaches. Last year's rankings are found here (for the CIS Top 10 as of February 21, 2012) and here (our own RPI and SRS).



SAINT MARY'S HUSKIES
2011-2012 regular season record: 1-22-1 (7th in AUS)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Nationwide rankings: Unranked (final CIS Top 10), 30th out of 30 (RPI), 30th (SRS)
Powerplay: 5.9% (7/119, 7th in AUS)
Penalty Kill: 76.0% (37/154, 6th in AUS)

Last season: In the roughest year for the Saint Mary's women's hockey program, they went from near non-existence to being slammed into the ice by every other AUS team.

Key departures: Kayla Oakley, who finished 5th in team scoring last year with just one goal and four assists, and Erin Doerrsam, whose GAA of 4.46 and save percentage of .868 were best on the team and will be missed despite a 0-5-0 record.

Key additions: Everywhere. With ten players (one at goalie, three at defence, and six at forward) coming in as rookies these players will get a chance to grow together as a team for four (maybe five) years, building some much-needed team chemistry.

Statistic they want you to see: Saves made. It's hard to take positives from a season in which a team only wins one game but the Huskies goaltenders were the story of the year. The team's goalie tandem made a total of 713 saves throughout the season, the most in the AUS.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Goal differential. Usually bringing up Wayne Gretzky's number brings joy and excitement. Not the case for the Huskies. Their goal differential last year was a rough minus-99.

Key tests: Every game will be a test for the Huskies but a battle on October 20 against UPEI in Charlottetown will gauge where the team is. The season opener at home, against the Tigers on October 13, will also give the team a chance to potentially secure a win early and gain some confidence on the ice.

Outlook: An exhibition win against the Mount Allison Mounties in a tournament in Moncton may be a glimmer of hope for the team but head coach Chris Larade knows his team will have it tough.

Predicted finish: 7th



DALHOUSIE TIGERS
2011-2012 regular season record: 9-12-3 (6th)
Playoffs: Lost in pool play to UPEI and St. FX
Nationwide rankings: Unranked (final CIS Top 10), 21st (RPI), 27th (SRS)
Powerplay: 20.4% (23-113, 3rd in AUS)
Penalty kill: 86.7% (17-128, 2nd in AUS)

Last season: The Tigers were the classic tale of two teams. Some nights they would be the team stealing a 2-1 win against the eventual AUS Champions from UPEI, the next night they'd be the team losing 6-1 to the X-Women or losing to the Huskies (the worst team in the league just a few blocks from their own arena).

Key departures: Jocelyn Leblanc, Jenna Currie.

Key addition: Mati Barrett. The goalie from Stittsville, Ont. last played for the Nepean Junior Wildcats of the Provincial Women's Hockey League sporting a 6-10-4 record in 21 games with the club. Despite a losing record, Barrett maintained a .914 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA. Her three pre-season starts have included a win against SMU and two respectable losses to the X-Women. Her adjustment period to CIS hockey will strongly determine how well Dalhousie does this year.

Statistic they want you to see: The Tigers last lost in regulation in a regular season game back on February 11, 2012 (a 7-4 loss to Mt. A). Since then, the Tigers lost a game in the extra frame to UPEI and recorded wins against SMU, Moncton and St. Thomas. They will look to carry their regular-season regulation unbeaten streak as deep as they can into the season.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Goals allowed per game in '11-12. 87 (3.6 per game), second-worst in the AUS.

Key tests: October 14 @ St. F-X, November 11 @ St. Thomas

Outlook: After the losses from last year, the highest returning scorer is 5th year defender Miranda McMillan with 18...

Predicted Finish: 6th



ST. THOMAS TOMMIES
2011-2012 regular season record: 11-12-1 (5th in AUS)
Playoffs: Eliminated in pool play
Nationwide rankings: Unranked (final CIS Top 10), 18th (RPI), 28th (SRS)
Powerplay: 18.4% (21/114, 6th in AUS)
Penalty kill: 74.7% (23/91, 7th in AUS)

Last season: Up until November 26, all but one of the Tommies' victories had come against the previously-mentioned last-place Huskies. The Tommies would eventually take two wins in OT from the dangerous Aigles Bleues squad before the season was over.

Key departures: Kathleen Boyle, the only fifth year on last year's squad contributed two assists in 24 games playing defence.

Key Additions: Eliza Snider. The defender who was previously captain of the St. Albert Slash Midget AAA (Alberta) team will take over for Boyle on the blue line.

Statistic they want you to see: Penalty minutes. The least-penalized team in the AUS, they only took 8-and-a-half PIM per game.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Second period goals. The middle frame haunted the Tommies last year, being outscored more 2:1. They only scored 12 goals in the middle twenty minutes all year while giving up 25 themselves. (In the other periods, they were even at 47 and 47.)

Key tests: October 13 vs. Moncton, January 13–20 with three home games against Mt. A, St. FX and SMU.

Outlook: The Tommies have plenty of upside, a solid core of veterans and rookies eager to make their presences felt. The team has the chemistry for not only a generic sports movie but to also make a solid challenge to the hierarchy of the AUS.

Predicted finish: 5th



MONCTON AIGLES BLEUES
2011-2012 regular season record: 16-5-3 (2nd in AUS)
Playoffs: Lost in semifinal to Mt. A
Nationwide rankings: 6th (final CIS Top 10), 19th (RPI), 22nd (SRS)
Powerplay: 20.2% (24/119, 4th in AUS)
Penalty kill: 86.9% (13/99, 1st in AUS)

Last season: Playing second fiddle to the X-Women, Moncton had a quietly successful season. Their sixth straight winning season since the horror show of 2005-06 (1-20-0) landed them another trip to the AUS playoffs, where it took the aforementioned hat trick from Katelyn Morton to keep them from reaching the championship game for a fourth straight year. Marie-Pier Arsenault finished third in team scoring with 28 points and claimed the AUS Rookie of the Year award.

Key Departures: Marie-Michelle Poirier, who lead the team with 36 points in 24 games, Johannie Thibeault, second with 31 points, and Kathy Desjardins, who went 13-5-0 between the pipes with six shutouts and a .935 save percentage.

Key additions: Samantha Belliveau from St-Antoine, N.B. will provide some much-needed size to the Aigles Bleues, at 5'10", a full two inches higher than any other forward on the team.

Statistic they want you to see: Shot percentage. Leading the AUS in shooting percentage at 13.6 per cent— the fourth year in a row they did so—the Aigles Bleues made use of what few shots they did put on net throughout the season, finishing second in goals scored with 86.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Shots. The converse of a high shooting percentage is, unsurprisingly, not controlling the puck enough to have more shots. Aigles Bleues players only put 632 shots on net, ahead of only the Huskies, and allowed 735.

Key tests: After January 20, they will only have two home games out of six.

Outlook: The Aigles Bleues have lost a lot of firepower in their offence and any scoring issues will be thrust upon the shoulders of the departed Poirier. Goaltender Jenna Van Belois, who went 3-3-0 last season, will see the bulk of the starts in net for Moncton as their most experienced goaltender.

Predicted finish: 4th



UPEI PANTHERS
2011-2012 regular season record: 13-10-1 (4th)
Playoffs: Won AUS championship 3-0 over Mt. A, finished 6th at nationals
Nationwide rankings: Unranked (final CIS Top 10), 15th (RPI), 25th (SRS)
Powerplay: 19.0% (20/105, 5th)
Penalty kill: 80.0% (22/110, 5th)

Last season: The Panthers, simply put, had a mediocre regular season and then got hot in the playoffs. They went into the playoffs playing their final five games at home, earning some strong results against teams like X (4-3 OT loss) and Moncton (3-1 win).

Key departures: Kelsey O'Donnell, first on team with 20 points, and Amber Gaudette, fifth with 13.

Key addition: Marie Soleil Deschenes. The first-year is a third-string goaltender right now but it will be interesting to see what experience rubs off on her from the tandem of Kristy Dobson and Bailey Toupin, both entering their fourth year.

Statistic they want you to see: Saves per game. Panther goaltenders had a relatively light workload last year facing only 533 shots over 24 games, second-least in the AUS behind St. FX.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Shot percentage. Of the 733 shots taken by UPEI last year (2nd most in the league), only 65 went in (5th most in the league). They have been last or second-last in this category for three years running.

Key tests: October 14 @ Moncton, October 19 vs. St. FX. The Panthers' first two games are early challenges against the perennial contenders for the AUS title.

Outlook: With sustainable scoring, the Panthers may be able to overcome losing three of their top five scorers. Retaining their AUS title won't be a walk in the park but from the net out, the team has the means to succeed in the league this season.

Predicted finish: 3rd



MOUNT ALLISON MOUNTIES
2011-2012 regular season record: 14-6-4 (3rd in AUS)
Playoffs: Lost in final to UPEI
Nationwide rankings: Unranked (final CIS Top 10), 8th (RPI), 21st (SRS)
Powerplay: 23.6% (25/109, 1st in AUS)
Penalty kill: 81.0% (19/100, 4th in AUS)

Last season: The Mounties came to play last year. After years of building, the team finally rocketed into the playoffs with a nine-game winning streak lasting from February 4 to March 3 (including a 5-4 win over their geographic rival Moncton in the AUS semi-final).

Key departures: Katelyn Morton, Mt. A's leading scorer who had a hat trick in the semi-final to propel the Mounties to their first-ever AUS title game, and Lisa Riley (veteran presence, sixth in team scoring).

Key (re-)addition: Meghan Corley-Byrne. The goaltender shocked even those in the Mt. A community by announcing her return for a fifth and final year between the pipes. Her .937 save percentage and 1.85 GAA from last year will be welcomed back with open arms.

Statistic they want you to see: Goals allowed. With just 53 goals going through Mt. A goaltenders in 24 games it allowed the team to win the most games in the regular season in over eight years.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Past seasons' records. In 2009-2010, the Mounties went 2-21-1, 0-12 on the road, and in '10-11, they finished 10-12-2. Only time will tell if last season's success was an anomaly or if the team is for real.

Key tests: January 27–February 3rd. The Mounties play three road games in those eight days: UPEI on the Island, Saint Mary's in Halifax, and St. F-X in Antigonish.

Outlook: The big loss is Morton. However, double-sport standout Emily van Diepen (soccer and hockey) will look to play a larger role on the blue line this season. Ashlyn Somers, who tied Morton for the scoring lead last year will become one of Mt. A's offensive threats this season.

Predicted finish: 2nd



ST. FRANCIS XAVIER X-WOMEN
2011-2012 regular season record: 20-4-0
Playoffs: Lost in semifinal to UPEI
Nationwide rankings: 4th (final CIS Top 10), 4th (RPI), 12th (SRS)
Powerplay: 22.9% (25/109, 2nd in AUS)
Penalty kill: 86.4% (14/103, 3rd in AUS)

Last season: Their season came to an abrupt finish in the last game of pool play to UPEI, a result that surprised many, but the X-Women still led the way on the scoresheet with Alex Normore picking up the scoring title in the AUS as well as MVP honours. Kristy Garrow also led the league in both GAA (1.32) and save percentage (.938).

Key departures: Suzanne Fenerty, who was fifth in team scoring with 18 points last year, and fifth in the conference in plus/minus.

Key Additions: Kelsey Farrell (who played previously with Mount Allison) and Alyssa Hennigar (formerly with Dalhousie) will provide a leg up in familiarity for the X-Women when facing both teams.

Statistic they want you to see: Goals per game, on both sides of the ice. While scoring them, St. FX racked up 105 goals; when letting them in (or not), they allowed just 40. Both statistics led the AUS.

Statistic they don't want you to see: Games lost. Yes, focusing on four losses may be trivial, but after a perfect season in 2010-11, this past season showed that the supposedly-flawless team has some imperfections that can be exploited for victories by opposing teams.

Key tests: November 10 vs. UPEI, November 17 @ Moncton

Outlook: Returning the leading scorer? Check. Returning the top goalie in the AUS? Check again. The only question mark on the team is what type of impact the six different skaters in their first year of AUS eligibility will be able to provide.

Predicted finish: 1st
I co-host a weekly football podcast on Rouge Radio and each week I talk to CIS reporters from around the nation about league news. Each week there are fantastic stories, like Laval removing/forcing/firing/I didn't want this job anyway-ing their offensive coordinator midweek, or heavyweight matchups between teams/players dueling for awards, or just talking about powerhouses.

Then I have to ask about the AUS, which—pregnant pause—has been difficult to do this year. There hasn't been much competition for Acadia, to say the least.

The three biggest storylines so far have been:

  1. Acadia traveling to Laval to play their first night game, while the Rouge Et Or were playing without their offensive coordinator.

  2. Concordia forced to forfeit all games after playing with an ineligible player, losing their two wins and putting St. Francis Xavier in a second-place tie in the AUS.

  3. A few significant injuries that have affected the season: SMU quarterback Jack Creighton broke his neck in Week One and since his 2011 understudy left, Saint Mary's has been unable to have much of a passing game. Acadia lost its all conference running back Zack Skibbin to a broken leg in training camp.

But overall, one of the biggest themes I have noticed this AUS season is the number of programs that are in flux. Three, in fact:


SAINT MARY'S

Much has been said about SMU's coaching situtation but their lack of depth has shown through this year. They were hit by the injury bug early on, and that when combined with a weak recruiting class mean the Huskies are running on fumes.

They are winning games by running the ball, which is a Saint Mary's mainstay but this team cannot pass. Jean Legault and Drew Jacobson have both struggled immensely. Just two weeks ago Jacobson threw for just 50 yards with three interceptions in a win vs. X. He found his groove vs. Mount Allison last week but they are still a one-dimensional team at best. The Saint Mary's defence is the strength of their team—Rob Jubenville is having a strong season with 7.5 sacks, albeit zero against Acadia—but if they get down a few scores early I just cannot see that offence coming back.

RB Melvin Abankwah has played extremely well at times but one of the biggest questions I have is: What happened to receiver/returner Jahmeek Taylor? Did he do something to upset coach Perry Marchese? Is he hurt? He has no offensive touches over the last two weeks and only a few returns. In a conference that loves to run the slot/wide receiver sweep the best player at running that play is not being used.

Yet in any other conference would we be saying Saint Mary's is the No. 2 seed? I had them in third in the preseason and that was with Creighton under centre.


ST. FRANCIS XAVIER

To continue on with teams in turmoil, St. Francis Xavier has easily been the biggest disappointment this season. I'm tired of saying this because I think Rob is starting to make fun of me about it [ed. note: never! -RP], but X is the most athletic team in the AUS. Yet in talking to past players who have played against this team they have all said the same thing: "X runs poor systems." I watched a few X games this season and offensively they should be better. They have had a few players quit already this season, including standout wideout Damone Williams, and if they continue to disappoint it will be interesting if coach Gary Waterman will be able to keep the ship afloat.

Not all is lost, and a few changes could help. They have deep threats at the receiver position and a star tailback in Ashton Dickson. I think they should give Tivon Cook an opportunity at quarterback as he has looked more comfortable at that position than Clay Masikewich. I still don't like their play calling: they run too many screens and short routes when they have players who could cause problems in the seams. Devon Bailey should be used like Akeem Foster, running posts inside the hashes.

On defence, they haven't been nearly as good as I expected. That could be because defensive tackle Nate Annan has been out with injuries, but I thought Ron Omara would have taken over as the next Henoc Muamba.

If they do not host a playoff game this year they should see this season as a disappointment.


MOUNT ALLISON

I'd like to start by saying my favourite moment of the season so far was when Mount Allison beat X just two days after Alex J. Walling said they should shut down the program. Mount Allison is only two years removed from a .500 season yet some people think they do not deserve to exist?

While Mount Allison stalled out of the gates this season they have looked good at times and even better since QB Jake Hotchkiss left the team for the second time in less than a year. I like their new quarterback Brandon Leyh a lot; he reminds me of former Mount Allison quarterback Kelly Hughes and as former CFLer and current Acadia colour commentator Elliott Richardson said, "You have to be tough to be the quarterback at Mount Allison." I think RB Jordan Botel has the potential to be special but they are weak on the o-line and at wide receiver. They really need to start putting together some successful off-season recruiting to give themselves a chance.

They do some things well defensively: they rush the quarterback and Jacob LeBlanc is a beast at D tackle. However, they struggle at the corner and half position. They are still a long way away from contending for the AUS crown, but if they can win two of their last three (playing each team once), they might get a home playoff game or at the very least make it to the playoffs for the third time in five years.


That leaves us with the only team currently above .500 in the conference:

ACADIA
Disclosure: I played for Acadia from 2006 to 2010.

As mentioned, there has not been much of a foil for Acadia this season. Their chief rival, Saint Mary's, decided to tear down a winning program and, seemingly overnight, went from a CIS top 10 mainstay to a sub-.500 team that is fighting to qualify for the playoffs in a four-team league. Acadia is the top program in the AUS right now and it looks like they could be for awhile. The Axemen are certainly the most stable program in this struggling conference.

An issue that they have is they do not have competition this year. They have struggled more than they anticipated on offence and defence but are still dominating their in-conference opponents. They have yet to find their run game and on defence have bled yards in the air against weaker opponents, like when X threw for over 350 last weekend. They should probably finish the season at 7-1 barring any major upset but they probably will not be seeded higher than 8th in the top 10 rankings (I only had them 10th this week).

One comparison I have heard and liked was that the Axemen now get the Boise State treatment in that they cannot afford to lose one game if they want respect nationally. They have faced only one ranked team this year, Laval, and they lost 31-7, and will not face another unless they advance to the Uteck Bowl (which might be at Laval again). They have not beaten a team not named McGill out-of-conference since 2005 and that was Bishop's. The Axemen need to be ready for primetime in 2012 to be taken seriously.


LOOKING FORWARD

Acadia, at 4-1, only needs one more win to clinch home field advantage in the AUS. The final three teams should be in for a dogfight. With X now "defeating" Concordia they are tied with SMU at 2-3 for second. I think that they should both make the playoffs but I would not be shocked if the Mounties make it in over the X-Men. SMU is the second-best team in the AUS. If they had the depth of a full recruiting class and a healthy quarterback Week Seven in Wolfville could be a big game, but here we are with one team over .500.


CIS AWARD NOMINEES (my choices thus far...)

Hec Crighton Trophy: WR Taylor Renaud, Acadia
President's Trophy: DL Rob Jubenville, Saint Mary's
J.P. Metras Trophy: DL Rob Jubenville, Saint Mary's
Peter Gorman Trophy: OL Chris Fanning, Acadia
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