Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Men's Basketball: OUA West Weekly Roundup

There’s only a handful of games left in the regular season and Lakehead and Laurier are still tied for first in the OUA West, while McMaster and Windsor are tied for third. As far as national rankings, both Lakehead and Laurier held firm as the second and sixth best teams in Canada, respectively. McMaster was probably the happiest team this weekend winning both their games and seeing a Lakehead sweep of Windsor to let McMaster back in the chase for the West title. Although it’s still statistically possible for both Windsor and McMaster to win, this division is a two-team race. Lakehead’s got the easier schedule between the two teams, but sometimes that complacency, combined with teams trying to get a final playoff spot, has been known to cause upsets. Laurier will have their work cut out for them as they play some of the best that the West has to offer. With three weeks left, the top four spots in the West could get interesting.

Wednesday, Jan. 25

Guelph 74 vs. McMaster 82

I think Guelph is at the point where they just throw their hands in the air and come close to quitting. They’ve had an awful second half record-wise, but have come close in almost every game they’ve played. The game against McMaster was no different. What's hurt Guelph is little to no secondary scoring. Daniel McCarthy and Kareem Malcolm can put up all the points they want, but they need at least two or three players to help out. Guelph only had 10 bench points, which isn’t going to cut it. McCarthy finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds, while Malcolm had 27 points and 3 rebounds. Both had their usual stellar night. For McMaster, Adam Presutti had a career-high 27 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Taylor Black helped out with 16 points. The win let McMaster jump back into a tie for third place with Windsor, thanks to a little help from Lakehead sweeping the Lancers.

Friday, Jan. 27

Lakehead 87 vs. Windsor 83

This was a little closer than I thought it would be. It goes to show that Windsor isn’t a pushover in the West and can battle with the best of them. Lakehead got out to a quick start in the first quarter with a 19-10 lead, but Windsor slowly picked away at it and were actually up 81-80 with two minutes left. Lakehead, though, does what Lakehead does best and made key shots while stepping up defensively. The Thunderwolves' Venzal Russell had 20 points, while Ben Johnson had 19 points and more importantly, 5 points in the last two minutes to give Lakehead the win. Windsor looked to Enrico Di Loreto and his 22 points. Lien Phillip finished with 12 points and a game high 12 rebounds. One aspect of concern for Lakehead were the points in the paint. Windsor dominated with 36 to Lakehead’s 18. It’s something the Thunderwolves have struggled with all year and something that might hurt them in the playoffs. (Ed. note: Ben Johnson's 13 threes over two games broke the game of basketball, so points in the paint are kinda overrated - BD)

Player of the Week

Benjamin Johnson
Guard - Lakehead Thunderwolves


If there’s one strong point in Johnson’s game, it’s shooting. And on the weekend he was doing a ton of it, and nailing most of them. In the weekend series against Windsor he was 14-29 from the floor, a mind-boggling 13-20 on threes and was 7-8 on free throws. This was all in only 60 minutes of playing time, so he averaged about a shot a minute. His final stat line was 48 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. In the Friday game his clutch three with two minutes left gave Lakehead the lead and his two-pointer put the game out of reach. On Saturday night, his threes pretty much dismantled any comeback by Windsor in a 85-79 Lakehead victory. Johnson may not be the best player in the Thunderwolves lineup, but when it comes to threes he’s the best in the CIS with a 55.7% average.

Upcoming Game of the Week

Laurier vs. Windsor
Wednesday, Feb. 1


With first place in the OUA West down to Laurier and Lakehead all it takes is one loss for one team to seal the division. Fortunately for Lakehead, they’ve got a fairly easy schedule in the few remaining weeks before the playoffs. Laurier, though, not so much. They start with Windsor and still have to face McMaster, Guelph, Windsor again and then end the year on the road against McMaster. With all those teams clawing their way into the playoffs Laurier isn’t going to get an easy game the rest of the season. They’ll also have a bitter Windsor team coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of Lakehead. This will likely be one of the hardest tests of the year for Laurier. As with every Laurier game, I’d expect a lot of scoring and a tight game down to the last couple of minutes.

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Hockey: AUS Weekly Update

Well this week the AUS standings got even more bunched up. UNB reclaimed first place, while Saint Mary’s, Acadia and Moncton are all now tied for second place, with UPEI just two points back of the pack. StFX continues to flirt with missing the playoffs with Dalhousie and St. Thomas charging hard.

UNB is a different team with Fullerton in nets 

Travis Fullerton, with his knee taped and braced, made his successful return to the V-Reds net this weekend, and came away with two wins, only giving up three goals – all versus the opposition’s power play. He wasn’t overworked, facing 14 shots Friday and 13 Saturday. And his last previous game on Dec. 2 after he came back from appendectomy surgery? 17 shots. Meanwhile during his absence, Dan LaCosta (with the bad groin) and Matt Davis (emergency third string goalie) have faced a combined average of 27.7 shots per game in the first seven games of the second half. You’d think the V-Reds would play tighter defensively in front of their #2 and #3 goalies, yet you’d be wrong. Go figure. The only explanation I could get from some UNB players is that they feel more comfortable/confident playing in front of Fullerton.

As for the games themselves, UNB was jacked to play the-then first place Acadia on Friday, and it showed. The Axemen? Pretty flat. The score is fairly indicative of the play. Saturday Dalhousie played very well, although the V-Reds had the clear edge in even-strength play. It was an entertaining game to watch in front of a sell-out crowd of 3650, including over a thousand invited elementary school kids. UNB's warm-and-cold power play was good on Friday on the rush and back to bad on Saturday. As for positives, V-Reds veteran centre Chris Culligan quietly picked up 6 assists on the weekend.

Friday – Acadia 1 @ UNB 7 
Saturday – Dal 2 @ UNB 3 OT 

Huskies are humming

Only a hot STU goalie made Friday’s game close (shots were 43-20), while Saturday Saint Mary’s special teams went to work scoring two shorthanded and two power play goals in dominating Moncton (40-24 in shots). Captain Colby Pridham had the “one of each” hat trick vs. UdeM (even strength, power play and shorthanded goal) while rookie netminder Anthony Peters earned the shutout. Pridham was named the SMU and AUS male athlete of the week.

Friday – STU 2 @ SMU 3 OT 
Saturday – UdeM 0 @ SMU 5

Acadia hanging in 

Okay, for a first place team the Axemen did not look very good against UNB on Friday, and played what coach Darren Burns labelled “their worst game of the season.” The V-Reds playing very well made it look worse. Saturday they bounced back with three third-period goals to tie the game against UPEI, but the Panthers got the winner early in OT.

Friday – Acadia 1 @ UNB 7 
Saturday – Acadia 3 @ UPEI 4 

Moncton still in hunt for bye, but …

Friday les Aigles Bleus scored two power play goals and held on for a win against the X-Men. Then Saturday they laid an egg in the battle for second place against the Huskies. They gave up two shorthanded goals in the first period and went 0-for-7 on the power play. Wouldn’t like to be on the bus ride home after that game.

Friday -- UdeM 3 @ StFX 2 
Saturday – UdeM 0 @ SMU 5 

Panthers prowling on the Island

While UPEI may be in fifth place in the standings, they are only two points back of the logjam in second place and just four points back of UNB (who they have beat three times this season). Only UNB has scored more goals than UPEI this season. Friday that offence didn’t get going until the third period, when they scored four unanswered goals against Dal. Saturday they blew a three-goal lead, but defenceman Reggie Traccitto got the winner in OT.

Friday – Dal 2 @ UPEI 4 
Saturday – Acadia 3 @ UPEI 4 

X-Men barely hanging onto playoff spot 

Is it panic time in Antigonish yet? StFX is now only one point ahead of surging Dal for the last AUS playoff spot and the X-Men have only six wins this season. To be fair, they’ve been in a lot of one-goal games this season, and unlike McGill, they’re not winning the close game. Their last five games have all been decided by one goal, two in overtime, and StFX only won once. As a matter of fact, the X-Men have been in 13 one-goal games this season (counting empty netters) and only won two. Two. They’re 1-and-4 in overtime games, with the sole winner coming in a shoot out against UNB a couple of weeks ago.

Friday they gave up two PP goals to Moncton and only managed to score once. Saturday they did mount a furious pushback against a hot Tommies goalie, and did tie the game in the third period, but had no luck in the ten-minute overtime and in the shootout the teams went five shooters deep before STU won it.

Friday – UdeM 3 @ StFX 2 
Saturday – STU 2 @ StFX 1 OT-SO 

Tigers not as hot now, but still in hunt

Dalhousie is hitting a bit of a slide again, but fortunately StFX ahead of them are having their own troubles. Friday the Tigers got off to a good start on the Island, but they couldn’t hold off the Panthers in the third period. Saturday they played pretty well and took advantage of their power play opportunities to tie the V-Reds, twice, despite being outshot 27-13 in regulation. Overtime on the other hand was all UNB and their eventual victory seemed inevitable.

Friday – Dal 2 @ UPEI 4 
Saturday – Dal 2 @ UNB 3 OT

Down but not out

Thanks to back-to-back stellar performances by their two goaltenders, St. Thomas is showing that they want to stay in the hunt for the last playoff berth. Friday rookie Justin Collier made 40 saves, 4 in OT, before Chris MacKinnon finally scored at 6:03 of the extra period to complete the comeback for Saint Mary’s. Saturday was that tight game against StFX with veteran Charles Lavigne making 40 saves in 70 minutes of play. The overtime shootout hero for STU was Yuri Cheremetiev, who along with Robert Zandbeek beat SMU’s Morgan Clark.

Friday – STU 2 @ SMU 3 OT 
Saturday – STU 2 @ StFX 1 OT-SO

This week

This is another of those weeks where the dance partners are the same and only the venue has changed. In the battle for one and two in the standings, and the first round playoff byes, Friday’s UNB @ Acadia and Saturday’s SMU @ UdeM matchups are probably the games to watch. In the battle for sixth place and the last playoff spot, the key game may be Saturday’s StFX @ STU game.

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Football: AUS Year in Review

Today we welcome a pinch-hit from Kevin Garbuio, a former linebacker with the Acadia Axemen and now working on their SSN broadcasts, who looks back at the 2011 season in AUS football.

AUS had an interesting season in 2011, and some storylines will carry over towards 2012. As a league at whole it again failed to gain respect at the national level. Acadia’s failure at the Uteck Bowl was the third straight blowout loss for an AUS team in a national semifinal, and in the last six years the AUS team has only won once.

AUS also saw its competition issues cause some scheduling problems in the last two years. RSEQ has reduced its interlock schedule to one game, and as of right now for the 2012 season, there may not be any interlock games. Many people have pointed to the one-sided results between the two conferences as a reason against further interlock. (The interlock contract is not yet over, but RSEQ has been "less than positive about the future" of interlock and rumour has it there may not be any next year. At the time of writing this piece I'm assuming there won’t be.)

Aside from this doom and gloom, at the top of the AUS standings last season, the league was competitive. Acadia finished the season with a 7-1 record while Saint Mary’s finished 6-2. Both regular-season games between the two teams were closely contested and entertaining to watch.

With that brief introduction out of the way, here is a team-by-team breakdown of this past season in AUS:

ACADIA AXEMEN
Record: 7-1
Playoffs: W 39-20 vs. SMU (AUS final), L 21-45 to McMaster (Uteck Bowl, in Moncton)

Acadia had been building toward this season; unlike their rivals in Halifax, they are forced to build. And after going 1-7, 2-6 and then 4-4, this Axemen squad matured into the most successful team since the '86 Axemen went 7-0 and won an AUS title.

Unfortunately they suffered the same fate as their predecessors and lost to a talented OUA team. Despite that 45-21 loss in Moncton*, the Axemen had a lot to be proud of. For one, they unseated Saint Mary’s, which they had not done since 2006. Also, if not for a game played in a hurricane, the Axemen could have gone 8-0 in conference play. Many readers would argue that a perfect record in AUS is a hollow achievement but to any of those who played CIS football they could tell you it is not easy to run the table in any conference.

* I think it is ridiculous that AUS is the only conference where the host team does not actually host the game every year. Essentially this game was played on neutral ground and had little crowd support. 3500 in Wolfville is a lot different than 3500 in Moncton.

Individually Acadia had a successful season. Quarterback Kyle Graves showed the raw talent coaches around the country raved about four years ago when he walked on to campus, essentially running away with the Hec Crighton nomination on the first day of training camp. As well, tailback Zack Skibbin proved to be the real deal this season, posting career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns as he looked like the SMU tailbacks from the early- to mid-2000s that set AUS ablaze. Wide receivers Taylor Renaud (who topped AUS in yards per catch), Mike Squires, and AJ Durling were too much for their opposition, dominating most teams they faced. Squires was picked up by the Calgary Stampeders in December. Fullback Reed Anderson also signed with the Eskimos.

Defensively, the Axemen never had a problem, only once allowing more than 20 points until they ran into the eventual Vanier Cup champions. They lost only three key players from the year before: Eskimos-bound Mike Miller, Adrian Saturley and Najja Coley. President trophy nominee Tom Labenski was as stellar as ever and the defensive-line play of Andrew Frazer, Jake Thomas, John Wilson and Jarrett Laycock meant Acadia could get home while only rushing four. The defense backfield also saw Cam Wade step in for Miller, going on to be an All-Canadian.

Coach Jeff Cummins also won his first CIS coach of the year award. Unfortunately for Acadia, co-offensive coordinator Tom Flaxman signed on with the University of Toronto to be their new offensive coordinator.

As long as Acadia can return its young core it should be happy days in Wolfville for the next few seasons.



SAINT MARY'S HUSKIES
Record: 6-2
Playoffs: W 25-2 vs. St. F-X (AUS semifinal), L 20-39 at Acadia (AUS final)

The Huskies are never to be counted out.

That is something I learned early on when I first moved out east. They truly are the definition of "reloading, not rebuilding."

This season was supposed to be a tough year for SMU but they still managed to lock up another AUS final spot — and that was with inconsistent QB play by returning son Jack Creighton, and the intermittent appearances of Devon Jones, the bruising Alberta tailback who had eligibility concerns that left him out of the lineup for most of the season.

While Creighton was getting up to speed with the SMU offence, rookie phenom Jesse Mills filled in admirably. His percentages were a little low, but it was his first year, and Mills should be the starter in 2012 based on his size and athleticism. He was one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks in Canada and proved why this season, being a successful game manager early in his young career. It seems he is only going to get better; his coaches call him a hard worker with a strong desire to win, something extremely important when playing in Halifax.

Ryan Tremblay proved to be a great compliment to the explosive Jahmeek Taylor, who was as dangerous as ever. The Huskies' defence, as always, was daunting, playing their usual match coverage which has given teams fits ever since they implemented the scheme. Acadia finally cracked it in week 7 but it had been years since any team in AUS had been successful vs. this defence.

The biggest issue with SMU in 2011 was not the fact they did not win the Jewett Trophy this season, but rather the surprise firing of long-time coach Steve Sumarah, a move that shocked the Atlantic football world. I figured Sumarah would be hired quickly by any team that wants to win now, and Carleton picked him up for their reintroduced football program.

Sumarah rebuilt the SMU program after Blake Nill left for Calgary. The next coach will have to assume that it's "AUS championship or bust."

Saint Mary's is hard to predict every year in terms of what they have coming back, but AUS watchers have learned not to underestimate a Husky squad.



ST. FRANCIS XAVIER X-MEN
Record: 2-6
Playoffs: L 2-25 at SMU (AUS semifinal)

X is an interesting team. They are the most athletic team in AUS and have studs all over the board. Blue-chip prospects and young talent could make them a team to watch in the next few years.

This year we saw Ron Omara prove he was the bruising tackler that had every CIS university coach salivating. The first-year linebacker from the Cumblerland Panther program out of Ottawa was seen as a junior Henoc Muamba, using his size, speed, and athleticism to make offensive players pay. Raye Hartmann at DB was an elite cornerback in the division and should only improve as he grows older. His issue next year may be that no one throws to his side.

Offensively they have some issues. I have long believed that in AUS (and in football in general) each offense has to have an identity. With SMU everyone knew they were going to have to stop the run. This year, Acadia had the run but to win you had to get to Graves like Mac did. For X, however, they would come out one week passing, the next week running. The next week they would try to run a spread. They never really had an identity.

I bring this up because what may stunt X’s ability to grow into a championship-calibre team is their coaching. Some of their schemes and how they defended certain formations was anything but conventional. I am all for going against the grain but they have had issues adjusting to basic Canadian football offences. Coach Gary Waterman has to be feeling some pressure after two straight losing seasons, but with such talented players he has to be optimistic that his team can challenge for an AUS title this coming season.


MOUNT ALLISON MOUNTIES
Record: 0-8

Well, it is hard to review a winless team and be positive, but let’s give it a try.

The Mounties began their first year of the A.G.R. Era (After Gary Ross) with defensive stalwart Ben Halpern getting hurt for the entire season, an injury that was a contributing factor to scores like 54-14, 60-6, and 59-21. Also, Mount A on the road is a different animal than Mount A at home, and they only had three home games this year. At MacAuley, the Mounties fought hard vs. Acadia and X but came up short.

They have room to grow and their coach Kelly Jeffrey has won in Sackville. Now for them to be successful they need to find a way to attract Gary Ross-like talents to the school. That will take a large commitment from the school and alumni. Jake Hotchkiss is a great talent and when he has a playmaker (or two or three...) around him, he has shown he could be great as he was in 2010. On defence Jacob LeBlanc was the AUS rookie of the year and will be representing Team World in the annual Team World Vs. Team USA game. With those two talents, Mount A can only hope to build around them and hopefully for the conference's competitiveness they will regain the steam they had when Ross, Callen Exeter, and Kelly Hughes were some of the biggest names in AUS football.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Canada West Men's Basketball: Jan 27-28 Update

A really busy January has led to the Canada West recap becoming a bi-weekly installment, at least last month, but hopefully my work schedule should be a bit less heavy between now and the end of the season, and you were able to get any important news from the Top 10 recaps Brian does every week.

There were some good storylines this week: Calgary knocked off Alberta twice, the Lethbridge offense came alive, and the TRU WolfPack's losing streak was halted thanks to a well-timed bye.

Alberta 66 vs. Calgary 67 | Alberta 64 vs. Calgary 79

This week, the big news was Boris Bakovic becoming unofficially the most prolific scorer in CIS basketball history, albeit after missing half the season with a 24-point performance on Friday, but obviously the real important takeaway from the weekend is Alberta dropping two games to provincial rival Calgary.

On Friday, it was Bakovic's night, but it was Tyler Fidler who got the winning points with (sigh) a free throw with 52 seconds to go. Jordan Baker missed two shots in the final 34 seconds and Daniel Ferguson turned it over with no time on the clock for the Dinos to eke out a close victory. Despite the advantage of the continental breakfast on Saturday, and as my old broadcast partner Joey Otoo used to say "hotel legs", Alberta came out flat in the Saturday rematch, shooting just 36% and getting nothing from beyond the arc.

Calgary got a great performance from point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 0 turnovers for one of the more impressive all-around stat lines this season, and while Fidler was the only other Dino who cracked double digits, they didn't really need it. Jordan Baker had just 11 points on Saturday, hitting just four of his just 12 shots from the field.

What does this mean? Well, now at 6-10, Calgary are now in legitimate position for a playoff spot, two games back of sliding Manitoba for the 4th spot in the Prairie Division and three back of Trinity Western for the Wild Card spot. It will be a fun race down the stretch.

For the record, Calgary visit Manitoba next week.

Manitoba 89 vs. Lethbridge 103 | Manitoba 87 vs. Lethbridge 95

This is more like the Pronghorns offense we saw at the start of the season. Morgan Duce had a game-high 22, while Dominyc Coward had a Blake Griffin-esque 21-point, 16-rebound performance... in just 22 minutes of action. This game was over quick, thanks to Coward and his team's superior rebounding ability (60-22... yikes) and a 37-point quarter for the Horns.

On Saturday, all four starters scored in double digits Friday night in a dominant offensive performance. Dominyc Coward and Derek Waldner each had 12 boards, as well, with Coward blocking three shots as well. Overall on Friday, it was a very good shooting outing for the 'Horns (53.5%) and, again, out-rebounding the Bisons 45-37, including 33-13 off of the defensive glass. Despite this, Kevin Oliver had a good night for Manitoba with a 17-point, 11-board double-double in 38 minutes of play.

So, Lethbridge leapfrog the Bisons this weekend and sit at 9-7, a game up on the Bisons and three up on Calgary with four to play, so a playoff appearance for the Pronghorns looks very likely at this point.

Trinity Western 72 vs. Fraser Valley 88

Just a one-off game between TWU and UFV, but it was a doozy, with Jasper Moedt saying it was "our turn to knock [Trinity] off", providing excellent bulletin board material for the Spartans and coach Barnaby Craddock. Unfortunately, the game didn't really live up to its billing, as Trinity came out with just 7 points in the first quarter, somewhat validating Moedt's comments.

Moedt himself put up 10 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes, but the real story were turnovers and foul shots: Trinity turned the ball over 15 times to UFV's 7, while the Spartans sent UFV shooters to the line 37 times, which usually isn't a path to success, when you're only drawing 13 shots on your own. To their credit, the Cascades followed through, hitting 32 of them (Joel Friesen was a perfect 13-for-13 and had a game-high 24).

This is a rivalry that could take off. As far as I'm concerned, both Abbotsford and Langley are undesirable stops along the Greyhound route between Kamloops and Vancouver, but that's just me. Trinity are 2 back of UFV for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division with three to play, although they do hold a 2.5 game lead on the Dinos in the Wild Card. This may not be a playoff matchup, but the two do rematch on the 9th.

Brandon 70 vs. Saskatchewan 92 | Brandon 70 vs. Saskatchewan 89

In the most unsurprising weekend sweep ever, the Huskies clinched a playoff berth by knocking off Brandon twice at home. As mentioned by Brian in the Top 10 recap, it was a big weekend for Michael Lieffers.

What I like is the practically identical scorelines, although it's worth noting on Friday that the Bobcats got just 5 points in the first quarter of Friday's game—Saskatchewan went off on a 17-0 run and it wasn't until an Ali Mounir shot with 3:16 left in the quarter was the shutout bid collapsed.

UBC-Okanagan 43 vs. UBC 77 | UBC-Okanagan 48 vs. UBC 78

Okay, maybe THIS is the most unsurprising weekend sweep ever. The virtual bye allowed Kevin Hanson to use his bench (Nathan Yu played just 49 minutes all weekend). The Heat were held to single digits in the 2nd and 4th quarters on Friday and shot just 25.7% on the weekend.

Now, I know that UBC has the best shooting defense in the league, but, cripes, they're at 36% this season, down from 40% last season. You have to think their opponents are going to eventually start making shots, no?

The Thunderbirds are a game up now on idle Victoria with four to play for each.

Regina 86 vs. Winnipeg 79 | Regina 79 vs. Winnipeg 72

A sweep by Regina theoretically keeps them within striking distance of the playoffs, but at 5-10, there's just too much competition still in the mix. Brendan Hebert hit three three-pointers in the Friday contest to help him towards a team-high 19 as the Wesmen shot just 41% from the field and turned the ball over 20 times. Winnipeg blew a 9-point fourth quarter lead, getting out-scored 25-9 in the frame.

On Saturday, Winnipeg had no change to blow such a lead, as Paul Gareau shot 10-for-12 in 33 minutes. After the third quarter, the Cougars were up by 15, and a late charge by Winnipeg wasn't enough.

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Men's Volleyball: Top 10 Tracker - A Tale of Two Halves

A strange weekend in CIS men's volleyball saw upsets reign supreme on Friday night, before order was restored to the chaos on Saturday. The theatrics should cause a shake-up of sorts in Tuesday's fresh rankings, and when they come we'll break down how it all happened.

You Shouldn't Have Missed: #2 Manitoba (3) vs. #1 Trinity Western (0) - Friday, Jan. 27

Friday night's opening tilt between the hosting Manitoba Bisons and the Canada West pace-setters from Trinity Western was a true head-scratcher. In a weekend chalked full of bagels, perhaps the most intriguing of those was dealt on Friday, when the Bisons — who had been playing second fiddle to the Spartans in both the CW and national rankings for months — brought out the brooms at the expense of the defending national champions.

The statistical story is telling. Despite losing the match in three sets with none-too-flattering totals (21, 19 and 17) to their name, the Spartans notched more points scored (50.5-46.5), kills (42-37), and total blocks (17-11) than their opponents. So how did the mighty Spartans manage to throw the match away? The answer lies in the error totals across the board. Trinity Western racked up more than double the number of hitting errors committed by Manitoba (23-10) and suffered eight more service errors than the Bisons as well (11-3). Dan Janssen van Doorn alone eclipsed the Manitoban outfit's mistake total from the stripe with four. It's fitting then, that the match was decided by a botched serve from the Spartans' Derek Thiessen

How the Top Teams Fared

#1 Trinity Western Spartans (15-1) and #2 Manitoba Bisons (14-2)

If Friday night found the Spartans on sloppy form, it was very quickly raised in response. The follow-up contest on Saturday saw Trinity Western scrape past the Bisons in three consecutive, closely-fought sets (28-26, 26-24, 25-22). The difference? The Spartans managed to greatly trim down their error totals, and played a cleaner attacking game than their opponents. His team's erratic play from the service line might still be a concern for coach Ben Josephson (the Spartans committed 14 service errors), but the Saturday victory was an encouraging bounce-back effort from the defending champions nonetheless.

#3 Laval Rouge et Or (15-0)

The march goes on for the Quebecois powerhouse, as the Rouge et Or notched another convincing victory on Friday. This one came against Sherbrooke and it came with a bagel, as Laval once again reminded everyone that they are the only team worth mentioning in Quebec. Outside hitter Karl de Grandpre was his usual godlike self in tallying 21 points in the victory, going 15 of 28 from the floor (.429) and dropping in five aces for good measure. Next!

#4 Alberta Golden Bears (12-4) and #7 Calgary Dinos (9-7)

I actually managed to watch a few rallies in the Saturday edition of this one — camped around a dying laptop with a choppy feed while a McMaster team bus rocketed toward Windsor. Those few sample points led to some groundbreaking realizations on the part of myself and some select members of the Marauder entourage. 1.) Ivan Kartev is a big dude. 2.) Said big dude couldn't jump to save his life.

With these revelations in mind, it's safe to say that my view of the match up was not a good one. However, as the statistics and the box score can tell you, the usual suspects in outsides Jay Olmstead and Mitch Irvine pulled the Golden Bears past the Dinos on consecutive nights. Olmstead put up 20.5 points on 18 of 29 hitting (.552) in Friday night's four-set opener, while the team as a whole hit for an efficient .380 (51-100).

Saturday's second half of the weekend series was a tighter affair, but was once again won through the attacking contributions of Olmstead and Irvine. The former led the match with 18.5 points on 16 of 37 from the floor (.297) while the latter chipped in 13 on 11 of 27.

#5 UBC Thunderbirds (9-7) and #10 Winnipeg Wesmen (7-11)

The Thunderbirds were the second of the upper-echelon teams that suffered a shock defeat on Friday night. Visiting the Winnipeg Wesmen, UBC's offense was anemic to say the least. The Thunderbirds hit for a collective zero as a unit, committing 24 errors to cancel out their 24 kills. Jarrid Ireland was UBC's top point producer on the night, but hit a paltry 7 of 30 and tossed in 5 errors (.067). Winnipeg's numbers — while hardly astounding — were steady enough to earn them the win. Nathaniel Therrien led the Wesmen with 12.5 points in the Friday victory, finishing 10 of 26 from the floor with 4 errors (.231).

As was the case with the Spartans, the Thunderbirds recovered well from a Friday slip-up to record a win in the second half of their weekend series. Outsides David Zeyha and Robert Bennett — who had been conspicuously quiet in the loss of the previous night — bounced back with efficient offensive outputs in Saturday's sweep of the Wesmen. Zeyha led all scorers with 15 points on 12 of 31 hitting and 4 errors (.258), while Bennett chipped in 14.5 of his own on an impressive 12 of 25 with 2 errors (.400).

#6 Western Mustangs (15-1)

While a few other top 10 teams were busy gifting points to conference rivals, the Mustangs enjoyed a statement weekend and reasserted their dominance in the OUA. Saturday saw the visit of the McMaster Marauders to Alumni Hall, where Western dealt out a crushing defeat to their fiercest competitors. The Mustangs were in control throughout the straight-set victory, and outside Matt Poulin in particular was on top form. Poulin dropped 18.5 points on McMaster in the short space of three sets, going 12 of 26 from the floor (.385) and pumping 3 aces past the Maroon and Grey.

As if that were not enough, the Mustangs were back in action on Sunday to put the studs to the York Lions — who never tallied more than 17 points in a set over the course of the sweep. The wins make Western's position at the head of the conference all but certain at this stage.

#8 Brandon Bobcats (9-7)

No news to report on the Bobcats' front, as the Manitoban team enjoyed a bye week this time around. Next up for the Bobcats: a trip to UBC this weekend and an opportunity to separate themselves from Canada West's logjam of 9-7 clubs.

#9 McMaster Marauders (12-3)

Having been at Alumni Hall on Saturday night, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that the Marauders' loss to the Mustangs was their most sobering result of the season. McMaster was quite simply outclassed in every facet of the match, and had only one possible glimmer of hope in the entire contest — coming in a tight second set. The box score is a fair reflection of the difference in quality between Ontario's top two teams on the basis of Saturday's evidence.

Much like several of the other teams on this list that endured a Friday night hardship however, McMaster bounced back strongly to cruise past the Windsor Lancers in straight sets. The Lancers continue to be a paper giant, and look completely unable to compete with the best in the OUA.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Men's Basketball: Top 10 tracker: A few losses here and there, and Brian gives Carleton a new nickname

This week's schedules and results for the top 10 teams (RPI here, all numbers through Saturday's games).

1. Carleton (17-0 OUA, 23-0 CIS, RPI #5, SRS +23.7) — W 90-48 vs. York, W 109-74 vs. Laurentian

Laurentian's Alex Ratte has developed a habit of saving some big games for his toughest opponents. He's scored 28 points against both Lakehead and Laurier, and then posted a career-high 32 on 13/25 shooting against Carleton on Saturday. That's a pretty good game, and just enough to keep the Voyageurs within 40 points of the Carletons, who should be re-named the flying three-point death machine. The FTPDMs shot 16/29 from beyond the arc in their win over Laurentian, a night after making a meagre nine of them in a 90-48 win over York.

Only three teams take more threes per game than Carleton, and nobody makes them at a better rate. Once again, FTPDMs.


2. Lakehead (12-2 OUA, 20-2 CIS, RPI #3, SRS +13.0) — W 87-83 vs. Windsor, W 85-79 vs. Windsor

Two great wins for Lakehead this weekend at Windsor. There might not be a worse matchup for the Thunderwolves (Okay, non-Carleton division) with Windsor being perhaps the only team that can match (or maybe surpass) Lakehead's athleticism.

Ben Johnson, who's gone from off-the-bench shooter to a go-to option in Thunder Bay, made 9/12 threes in Saturday's 95-79. Nine! He knocked down more threes than a lumberjack with a lisp, saw more triples than third base, dropped more treys than a clumsy waiter etc. etc.


3. UBC (10-2 CW, 16-3 CIS, RPI #8, SRS +12.6) — W 77-43 vs. UBC-Okanagan W 78-48 vs. UBC-Okanagan

Two games against UBC-Okanagan means two games to get the bench involved, and more importantly, to give the starters some rest for the Thunderbirds. Only one of UBC's regular bench players (Malcolm Williams) plays more than 16 minutes a game, and only one starter (Tommy Nixon) played more than 30 minutes in either game vs. UBC-O, both 30+ point blowouts.

That's eight wins in a row for UBC, who are looking more and more like the efficient teams we've seen in blue and white over the past few years. 


4. StFX (7-3 AUS, 17-3 CIS, RPI #1, SRS +7.4) — L 79-68 vs. Dal

Let the RPI haters have at it: the no. 1 team by that metric is now just 4-3 in 2012, the latest loss coming today at Dalhousie. Even though they held their opponents below 40 per cent shooting, X let the Tigers grab 25 offensive rebounds. That kind of glass control is going to surrender too many easy shots for the opponents, and too many (more) shots at Rob's besieged statistic.


5. Saskatchewan (10-4 CW, 14-5 CIS, RPI #2, SRS +13.5) — W 92-70 vs. Brandon, W 89-70 vs. Brandon

Whoever drafted Michael Lieffers in the MUBL (I think it's Mr. Andrew Bucholtz) is a happy dude after the Huskies' big man went 10/12 for 23 points with 13 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in Saturday night's 89-70 win over Brandon.

Lieffers' big play is going to be crucial as the Dogs move on without the injured Nolan Brudehl. He's now shooting 57 per cent on the year and Saskatchewan has won five in a row. 


6. Laurier (12-2 OUA, 18-6 CIS, RPI #10, SRS +11.7) — W 89-55 vs. Brock, W 89-73 vs. Western

Laurier's efficient offence and stout defence kept them chugging along this weekend as they handled Brock and Western with ease. They're keeping turnovers down, crashing the offensive boards and getting to the free throw line regularly. Those are all marks of a good, physically strong basketball team, something Laurier is beginning to make its calling card.

7. Alberta (10-4 CW, 11-6 CIS, RPI #3, SRS +8.3) — L 67-66 vs. Calgary, L 79-64 vs. Calgary

Speaking of highly-ranked RPI teams about to take a hit… Well, at least the Golden Bears got a chance to witness history, as Boris Bakovic became (unofficially) the all-time leading CIS scorer in a 67-66 Dinos win.

In that first game, Alberta lost despite getting what it needed from Jordan Baker and Daniel Ferguson - 48 points on 18/39 shooting. In their 79-64 loss the following night? Just 24 points on 10/28. The fact that they lost despite getting a lot out of their big bruins is bad. The fact that they can both have a brutal night when they need a win might be worse. 


8. Concordia (8-1 QUBL, 15-5 CIS, RPI #7, SRS +4.9) — W 75-67 vs. Bishop's, L 73-67 vs. McGill

Hey! A notable game in Concordia's regular season schedule! A 73-67 loss to McGill was thanks to stinker from Kyle Desmarais, Decee Krah and Evens Laroche. The three-headed, basketball-playing hornet type thing went a combined 13/42, while Concordia shot just 32 per cent overall.

Now, this was on the second night of a back-to-back, so they get a bit of a pass there. But one more loss, and we might have a conference. 


9. Victoria (11-3 CW, 12-5 CIS, RPI #9, SRS +10.6) — 

Week off to enjoy the mild weather (and hopefully norovirus-free) Victoria winter. They'll pick it up against UBC-Okanagan again next weekend. 



10. UFV (10-5 CW, 14-5 CIS, RPI #12, SRS +6.3) — W 88-72 vs. TWU


Got a nice win over a surging TWU team thanks to 13/13 free-throw shooting night from Joel Friesen. Winners of three in a row, the Cascades will get a chance to prove their mettle as they host UBC for two this coming weekend.

In other news..

Chris Oliver has a new challenger for best Twitter account, OUA basketball coaching legend and McMaster alumnus division. Joe Raso has taken to the Twitterverse, and his mix of basketball coaching advice and insider terminology is worth a follow.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Men's Basketball: Top 10: Top 6 stay put, Carleton's really good

We're right in the heart of the season, and with only a few weeks to go in most conferences, we're getting a better idea of who the contenders and pretenders are. Here's our evaluation of the teams moving up, moving down and staying put in this week's CIS top ten.

RPI and other numbers here; CIS top ten here
.

STAYING PUT:

Carleton Ravens (15-0 OUA, 21-0 CIS, RPI #5, SRS +23.6)

Despite being quite obviously the best team in the country, Carleton is no. 4 in the RPI, a little tidbit that has rankled some of the CIS faithful. This is mainly due to their strength of schedule being ranked 38th and the fact that RPI doesn't consider margin of victory (SRS does; they're doing pretty ok in that department, way ahead of everyone else), but I won’t spend any time trying to justify the RPI’s merit – I’ll leave that to Rob, or at least someone who won’t make a fool of themselves trying to explain math.

Instead, I’ll try to make my own case that Carleton is, in fact, the best team in the country.

- Since beating McMaster on opening night by 16 points, the Ravens have won every single game they’ve played by an average of 39.8 points (including a 3-point win over Lakehead and an 82-point win over RMC, the latter of which shouldn’t really count). Again, RPI doesn't care by how much they've won.

- The Tyson Hinz-surrounded-by-shooters routine that the Ravens play so well is even more terrifying than we thought. Hinz is shooting nearly 62 per cent from the field with his crafty post game while having also developed excellent three-point range (40 per cent). Meanwhile, two high-volume shooters (Phil Scrubb and Elliot Thompson) are shooting better than 50 per cent from long range, followed by Willy Manigat’s 44 per cent and Cole Hobin’s terrible (note: not terrible) 39 per cent. Forget that this team has superb defensive schemes and rarely has lapses in focus; they have a simple, effective offence with the right personnel in place to make it terrifying.

- This is a little rock-jock, but they’re the national champions and have showed no signs of slowing down. So, eat it, RPI.


Lakehead Thunderwolves (12-2 OUA, 20-2 CIS, RPI #10, SRS +12.4)

One of the McMaster poo-bahs told the Sil’s sports editor before the Marauders’ impending visit to the Thunderdome for two days last weekend that his young team had “no idea how intense it would be playing there.”
If there’s a better home court advantage in the CIS, including the flights/long drives to Thunder Bay, and passionate/slightly crazy local fans, I don’t know where it is.


UBC Thunderbirds (10-2 Canada West, 16-3 CIS, RPI #6, SRS +12.5)

An OT win over 6-8 Manitoba and a one-point squeaker over Winnipeg suggests the Thunderbirds aren’t exactly cruising right now, and they’re depending on their few veterans more than ever. On the bright side, Malcolm Williams somehow scored 10 points in four minutes.


St. FX X-Men (9-2 AUS, 19-2 CIS, RPI #2, SRS +9.3)

Beating Cape Breton handily despite Jeremy Dunn shooting 2-17? That’s pretty cool, I guess. But if X is going to keep this going into the playoffs, they’ll have to do better from long range: They’ve taken fewer than 19 threes in a game just once this season, but have shot worse than 35 per cent on those attempts in eight of their 11 games. That kind of inefficiency is tough to depend on when the games matter.


Saskatchewan Huskies (9-4 Canada West, 14-5 CIS, RPI #3, SRS +13.0)

Can we say Jamelle Barrett is back yet? In his past three games (all Saskatchewan wins) he’s shooting 63 per cent from the field while averaging 39.5 points per 40 minutes. The Huskies go as Barrett does, and if he keeps it up they’ll be a team to watch out for.


Laurier Golden Hawks (12-2 OUA, 18-6 CIS, RPI #8, SRS +10.2)

Despite having a few issues giving up turnovers and the occasional slow night from three-point range, Laurier has found a way to find the bottom of the bucket pretty consistently. Since their, 88-83 loss to Lakehead on Jan. 13, they’ve shot between 48.6 and 49.4 per cent from the field in each of their three games – all wins.


Fraser Valley Cascades (9-5 Canada West, 13-5 CIS, RPI #14, SRS +5.0)

The Cascades are breathing easier about their playoff chances, but they’ll have to finish strong to lock up a spot in the postseason dance: their four remaining games are against UBC and Trinity Western, who sit at 8-6 having won six games in a row.


MOVING UP:


Alberta Golden Bears (10-4 Canada West, 12-5 CIS, RPI #1, SRS +11.0)

The object of ire for RPI haters looks to have found some consistency, having won four in a row and vaulted themselves to the top in said statistical ranking. They’ve done it despite struggles from last year’s top scorer Daniel Ferguson, who has averaged just 15.3 points on 36 per cent shooting in those wins. But hey, if you’re number one, I guess that doesn’t really matter.


Concordia Stingers (7-0 QUBL, 14-4 CIS, RPI #4, SRS +6.0)

They shot 33 per cent and still didn’t lose to McGill? Instead of the Kyle Desmarais show, Decee Krah and Evens Laroche have turned Concordia into a three-headed monster, or stinger, or whatever has three heads and is really good at basketball.


MOVING DOWN:


Victoria Vikes (11-3 Canada West, 12-5 CIS, RPI #7, SRS +10.6)

Three losses in the new year, the latest being a 75-71 defeat at the hands of the suddenly resurgent Winnipeg Wesmen, have the Vikes wishing 2012 never came around. They’ll have three games on the road and one at home to try to figure things out before the playoffs; those will also tell us whether the Vikes’ hot start was a flash in the pan or a real turnaround.

Continue reading...

Hockey: AUS Weekly Update


The AUS standings certainly tightened up on this busy week, thanks in no small part to UNB’s goaltending woes and their problematic power play. Someone other than the V-Reds are in first place for the first time this season, and that special someone is Acadia. Moncton and UNB are just one point back in a tie for second place, and importantly, both teams have a game in hand on the Axemen. Saint Mary’s is just two points back in fourth place, but Moncton and UNB also have a game in hand on the Huskies. That game in hand will be made up on the last Wednesday of the regular season. UPEI is lurking two points back in fifth. StFX is barely holding onto the last playoff spot, 11 points behind the Panthers and just one point ahead of Dalhousie. STU are five points back of Dal, and need to see a lot of X-Men and Tigers losses for any hope at the postseason.

Remember us?

Acadia has been a good team flying under the national radar (not that there’s a lot of that …) for a couple of years now, as attention has tended to focus on UNB, SMU and StFX. Understandable, as those are the teams advancing out of the AUS the last while. But Acadia did push UNB to four games in the conference semis last year, including a CIS-record quadruple overtime game. They had a young D who are more experienced this year, and they’ve added some key recruits up front. Wednesday Acadia traded goals with resurgent Dal and Andrew Clark won it in overtime. Friday they had a dominant first period against StFX, saw the X-Men come back in the second and then won it in the third period on a power play goal from d-man Michael Ward. After both teams had Saturday for a travel day, they had the rematch in Antigonish Sunday at 4:00 pm and Acadia squeaked out a win thanks to Carter’s 13th goal. Rookie Evan Mosher got the shutout, his second of the season. Three wins in the week and there the Axemen are at the top of the AUS standings for all to see. No hiding now.

Wednesday – Acadia 3 @ Dal 2 OT
Friday – StFX 3 @ Acadia 4
Sunday – Acadia 1 @ StFX 0

No one said it was going to be easy

Before the start of the season, goaltending looked to be a strength for the Varsity Reds in their quest to repeat as CIS champs. Travis Fullerton has two University Cup rings already and UNB added Dan LaCosta, who once upon a time won two games in the NHL. No need for a third-string ‘tender to push the incumbents. However the regular season has turned into a goalie nightmare for head coach Gardiner MacDougall and the team’s supporters. In the first half LaCosta, who red-shirted last season and didn’t play any hockey, battled a nagging groin problem, but that was still okay for UNB because Fullerton was the hottest goalie in the AUS. Then Fullerton had that emergency appendectomy operation on November 4 and the V-Reds have been scrambling ever since. Grad student Matt Davis was hastily added to the roster to get UNB through that weekend and a couple of Junior B guys on campus were added as his back-ups. LaCosta suited up the next weekend on the road, but had to leave after the first period in the second game and Davis was back in, and he got UNB all the way to a shoot out against Acadia. Now Davis did play CIS hockey three seasons for St. Thomas, including all 28 games in 2007-08, but his last AUS game before this season was Feb. 11, 2009, and he’s only been playing beer league hockey since as he turned his focus to work and the MBA degree program at UNB.

Fullerton returned just 28 days after his operation and won on Dec. 2 and all was good again in V-Reds Nation. However, the Ottawa Gee-Gees crashed the net several times in an exhibition game on Dec. 30 and after the game we learned Fullerton had “tweaked something.” He hasn’t played since and now the team is admitting he’s got a knee issue. No problem, because LaCosta seemed finally to be in fine form and appeared to relish the workload. That is until Friday night when he struggled physically in the third period and came out with about 3 minutes left in the game and the Moncton lead pretty well insurmountable. LaCosta start\ed the game against UPEI on Saturday, but after one period that’s it, and the job was handed to Davis for the first time since mid-November. He had a tough go of it, and yet UNB still almost won that wild game.

If UNB doesn’t get a healthy Fullerton or LaCosta back, they’re probably not going to win the AUS and/or the CIS championship this year. Davis is a gamer, but I don’t know if he has time to regain his 2008 form by playoffs, and the AUS is too competitive for a team to advance without a sharp goalie. The V-Reds have enough depth to compete without the 7 or 8 skaters who are injured now, and their competitors have injuries too, so there’s no sympathy for the Red ‘n Black. That’s hockey. But trying to win a national championship with a rusty third-string goalie whose first-string days are probably behind him? That might be Mission Impossible: March in the Aitken Centre.

Wednesday – UNB 5 @ STU 1 
Friday – UNB 1 @ UdeM 5 
Saturday – UPEI 8 @ UNB 7 

We CAN beat UNB

Wednesday Moncton was across the Fixed Link to play their bitter rivals in Charlottetown. There were lots of power plays, but only one PP goal. UPEI got the first goal in the game, but UdeM answered with four. Friday was the BIG game, against arch-rival UNB who had won the last 12 meetings. The V-Reds had the edge in play in the first period, but Moncton was up 2-1 after 20 minutes. UdeM’s Kevin Charland scored at 7:18 when the teams were 4-on-4, and then the V-Reds were handed a golden opportunity when Francis Rochon was given two minors and a ten-misconduct for a high hit on Taylor MacDougall at 8:46. The UNB PP came up blank for the first two minutes, with their best point shot chance smoking captain Kyle Bailey in the back of the leg. Then Moncton’s captain Dean Ouellet was called for tripping and UNB had two minutes of 5-on-3. No joy. Turning point in the game. Les Aigles Bleus were flying high after that extended penalty kill while the V-Reds looked a bit deflated. Lacosta struggled physically in net in the third period and Moncton added two more goals. The home crowd was more than a little excited. Saturday the Tommies arrived in town and were picked apart, with Eric Faille (AUS male athlete of the week) notching the hat trick. Certainly a big weekend win for Moncton in the endless provincial rivalry with Fredericton.

Wednesday – UdeM 4 @ UPEI 2 
Friday – UNB 1 @ UdeM 5 
Saturday – STU 2 @ UdeM 7

They’ll take a 3-point weekend about now

Saint Mary’s didn’t have a Wednesday date. They are the only AUS team that doesn’t have to play a Wednesday in the second half. The weekend was the Battle of Halifax, instalments III and IV. Friday in Dal’s soon to be demolished barn, the Tigers were up two zip early in the second before the Huskies put a furious push on to tie the game, outshooting them 17-8 in the process. The teams traded goals two minutes apart in the third period and Tiger Jordan Villeneuve-Gagné scored the winner early in overtime. In the rematch on Saturday at the Forum, there were lots of penalties and lots of power play goals. SMU was up 6-2 when a brouhaha broke out at 15:26 which saw Dal’s Daniel Bartek got five and a game for charging while five other players picked up ten-minute misconducts and assorted other minors,. Somehow the Tigers ended up on the power play. Pierre-Alexandre Vandall got a goal on the PP, and added a shorty 71 seconds later in the classic too little-too late.

Friday – SMU 3 @ Dal 4 OT 
Saturday – Dal 4 @ SMU 6 

Panthers still in the hunt 

The week didn’t start off well for UPEI at home with that loss to Moncton on Wednesday. However their weekend in Fredericton went just great. Well, they did appear to have discipline (or referee) issues on Friday depending on who you talked to at the Lady Beaverbrook Rink with STU getting 11 power plays to their four. UPEI’s Jared Gomes tied the game at 18:06 in the third, and then 34 seconds later was assessed two-and-ten for contact to the head high sticking. Eighteen seconds into the PK Chris Desousa was sent off for apparently chirping at the ref. Really!? So the four-on-four overtime started out with a 40-second five-on-three situation for the Tommies. No one scored in the ten-minute overtime, so they went to the shootout and only Desousa scored. Karma?

Saturday’s game just up the hill at the Aitken University Centre was wild. The Panthers went 3-for-3 on the power play in the first period versus UNB’s LaCosta, and added two shorthanded goals and an even strength goal against substitute Davis by the 8:05 mark of the second period. Then came the improbably UNB pushback, with three goals on the struggling PP and two even strength markers sandwiched around a Desousa goal. There were nine goals in that second period. UNB’s Luke Gallant added a shorty at 3:30 of the third and the comeback was complete. However there was no fairy tale ending for the V-Reds, as despite the UNB territorial dominance in the final period UPEI did manage a couple of forays into the other zone, and on one of them late in the period Gomes managed to beat Davis with a backhand to the short side. UPEI was outshot 45-28 but goalie Mavric Parks managed “to steal an 8-7 game” to quote coach Forbes MacPherson.

Wednesday – UdeM 4 @ UPEI 2 
Friday – UPEI 4 @ STU 3 OT-SO 
Saturday – UPEI 8 @ UNB 7 

Not a great weekend for the X-Men 

Two losses against Acadia propelled the Axemen to the top of the AUS standings, and left StFX dangerously exposed to missing the playoffs. Gut check time in Antigonish.

Friday – StFX 3 @ Acadia 4 
Sunday – Acadia 1 @ StFX 0 

Turnaround for the Tigers

Dalhousie slid into the Christmas break riding an 11 game losing streak. In January they’re 4-2-1 and now just one point back of StFX for the last playoff spot. Wow. I guess coaching changes can make a difference, especially when a number of players return from injuries.

Friday – SMU 3 @ Dal 4 OT 
Saturday – Dal 4 @ SMU 6 

Tough times for Tommies
 
On Wednesday STU hosted UNB, with their cross-campus rivals not pleased after picking up only one point the previous weekend. It was all V-Reds the first two periods, with UNB outshooting St. Thomas 29-11 and scoring three times, twice on the power play. STU had a better third period, and some hope, when Randy Cameron scored at 7:59, but UNB’s PP was clicking late in the game and they scored twice in 22 seconds to salt away the win. Friday enigmatic Yuri Cheremetiev scored his first two goals of the season in the first period, the Tommies power play was 0-for-11 in the game and UPEI won it in the shootout. On Saturday they again had a two-goal lead, but Moncton roared back with seven unanswered goals. Charles Lavigne took all three losses in nets for the Tommies.

Wednesday – UNB 5 @ STU 1 
Friday – UPEI 4 @ STU 3 OT-SO 
Saturday – STU 2 @ UdeM 7

This week
The game of the week is the battle for first place between Acadia and UNB on Friday, with the V-Reds holding a game in hand on the Axemen. Saturday the struggling Varsity Reds could help decide whether there is a postseason for Dalhousie. Moncton is off to Nova Scotia to play StFX and SMU with the potential to leapfrog Acadia if they should stumble against UNB or UPEI. UdeM’s travel partner is STU, so they’re basically in spoiler role against SMU and StFX. While first place may be a bit of a long shot for UPEI, they could make it interesting if they win against Dal and Acadia. As for Dal, the playoffs are now possible so they probably need to at least split their games to stay in contact with StFX.

Continue reading...

Men's Basketball: OUA West Weekly Roundup

Another week in the OUA West has gone by, and once again, another team has started to fall from top of the West. Last week it was Brock and Guelph, this week it’s McMaster’s turn. They stayed in tight with Lakehead on Friday night, but were blown out on Saturday by 20 points. The weekend sweep by Lakehead has pushed McMaster into fourth place in the West. Laurier and Lakehead remain tied with Windsor third. This week also saw Lakehead move from third in the CIS into second and Laurier from seventh to sixth.

Games In-Depth

Wednesday, Jan. 18

Laurier 97 vs. Guelph 91

Guelph can’t buy a break since the CIS returned from Christmas. It seems like week after week Daniel McCarthy and either Adam Bering or Kareem Malcolm put up 20 points, but still come up short. Friday night at Guelph was no different. This time, though, Bering had 20 points and 8 rebounds, McCarthy had 23 points and 6 rebounds, while Malcolm finished with 19 points 8 rebounds. The rest of the team: 29 points.

This game wasn’t exactly one for fans of defence with 4 players on both teams reaching double digits. And, if you’re going to forget defence against Laurier, they’re going to burn you. Laurier’s bench had 32 points to Guelph’s 16, which is rarely a stat you can lose and still win a game. Laurier’s Kale Harrison had an off night by his standards with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Max Allin ended with game highs with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Friday, Jan. 20

McMaster 76 vs. Lakehead 83
Heading into Thunder Bay, McMaster had a chance to make up some ground and challenge for top in the West. Well, at least that was the plan until they ran into a Lakehead squad that has hit full stride. McMaster threw everything they could at Lakehead. They tied or beat them in most offensive and defensive categories, had full contribution from their entire line-up (40 points off the bench) and went into the fourth quarter with the game tied. So, what was the difference? I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say turnovers. McMaster had 18 to Lakehead’s 7, which Lakehead turned into 13 points.

Cam Michaud led the way for McMaster with 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Adam Presutti finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists and a team high 31 minutes. Venzal Russell ended the game with 19 points, 5 steals and 3 assists. Yoosrie Salhia had 15 points and a game high 13 rebounds.

Saturday, Jan. 21

Brock 57 vs. Windsor 78


With both Laurier and Lakehead sweeping their weekend games, Windsor needed to keep pace, especially with an upcoming series against Lakehead this weekend. Windsor took it to Brock, who continues to free fall further from the top of the West. The Lancers were also helped by 27 points coming off the bench compared to the Badgers 11. It also helps when you outrebound a team 60 to 41 like Windsor did. Andrew Kraus finished with 11 points and 5 assists for Brock, while Rotimi Osuntola Jr. had 17 points and 8 rebounds. Also, Lien Phillip absolutely dominated inside the paint with 15 rebounds for the Lancers, which 12 were defensive. Phillip also added 12 points for Windsor.

Player of the Week

Max Allin stepped up in a big way this weekend for Laurier. He had 27 points and 11 rebounds against Guelph. He followed it up with 23 points and 8 assists against Western on Saturday night. Laurier relies on their offence more than any other team in the West and when your best scorer, Kale Harrison, has a couple of so-so games (15 points against Guelph and 2 against Western) someone has to pick up their game and Allin answered the call. His weekend totals were 50 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists and he only had 4 turnovers in 74 minutes of playing time. This weekend was, by far, the Maxwell Allin show.

Upcoming Game(s) of the Week

Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28: Lakehead vs. Windsor

The West is down to three teams challenging for first in the West. After these two games, it could be down to two. The Thunderwolves are tied with Laurier for first place and Windsor has third to themselves. If Windsor is going to take over first they need a weekend sweep over Lakehead, which isn’t likely going to happen. If Windsor comes away with one win I think they’ll be happy. Lakehead though, they need a sweep. Laurier has a fairly easy week against Brock and Western. Lakehead can ill-afford to fall behind Laurier this close to the playoffs. I’m expecting the Thunderwolves to come out with one of their best defensive weekends since the season started.

Continue reading...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Introducing "CIS Name Of The Year"

UPDATE (Feb. 7): The nomination period has now closed. Thank you all for your submissions.

Inspired, of course, by Name of the Year, but also wishing to return that august competition to its collegiate roots, we've decided to run a similar contest this year, choosing the best name in CIS.

We have some names in mind already (Ilarion Bonhomme, you can expect a high seed), but with so many CIS athletes across the country, we're going to miss some.

This is where you come in. In the nomination form below, enter the name of an athlete you wish to nominate for the Name Of The Year tournament (and, if possible, a link to the roster to verify that athlete exists). The seeding committee will review the nominees and issue a tournament bracket in due course.

Please note that you only have to submit the name once ... we are not giving more consideration to names submitted multiple times, so ballot-box stuffing will not have any effect on seeding.


(Our apologies to Monty Hardware for not running this contest while he was still eligible.)

Continue reading...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Men's hockey: Top 10 tracker: Plenty of top-ten matchups to cure the Januaries in all of us

This week's action (schedule, rankings) for the top 10 hockey teams...

  1. UNB (+2.2 SRS, RPI #2) — W 5-1 at STU, L 5-1 at Moncton, L 8-7 vs. UPEI

    Not much to say from afar about the St. Thomas game, though it was 3-1 until UNB's third and fourth powerplay goals came in the last 90 seconds of the third.

    Friday was certainly not what UNB expected. After trading goals in the first, Moncton's Charles Bergeron broke through on the power play against and they didn't give up the lead again (or another goal). Dan LaCosta has had the best save percentage of any of the three goaltenders UNB have used this year, but not on this night, allowing 5 goals on 27 shots.

    Saturday was also quite unexpected, if only because you don't see 15 goals all that often. The Panthers had a 6-1 lead after three shorties in the second, and that's about all I think I can say, because there are goalie discrepancies between the two boxscores available. Over at the CIS site, it says Travis Fullerton and Seamus Bowen appeared for UNB, while the AUS site says it was LaCosta and Matthew Davis (which is likely correct). While they figure that out, we'll move on to the other teams.

  2. McGill (+0.8 SRS RPI #1) — W 1-0 (SO) vs. Carleton

    They scored just one even-strength goal in their 4-3 loss to Toronto last week. One assumes that wouldn't happen against Carleton, in front of an expected sellout crowd, but it was actually worse than that: they didn't score a goal at all until the shootout. Of course, they didn't allow one either, coming away with the shootout win (or as we call it around here, a tie). Hubert Morin made 32 of 32 saves and stopped all three Carleton shooters.

  3. Saskatchewan (+1.0 SRS, RPI #6) — L 4-2 at Manitoba, L 3-1 at Manitoba

    Series of the week? Sure, why not. Give Manitoba the sweep. On Friday, the Huskies didn't score until the second half of the third period, when they were down 2-0, and to make matters worse after scoring both their goals they allowed another one within a minute each time. (Only 451 people went to see this game? Really?) On Saturday, they didn't score until what we're going to call garbage time, 58:42 of a 3-0 game. Not the best week for Saskatchewan.

  4. Western (+0.8 SRS, RPI #9) — W 1-0 at Lakehead, W 1-0 at Lakehead

    (Friday link goes to the OUA boxscore, since it's not on the CIS site yet.) There was only one goal all game here, from Keaton Turkiewicz on the PP in the second. Repeat the same sentence, but with "Zach Harnden" and "the first", and you've got Saturday's game. (Harnden would later get two and 10 for checking to the head.)

  5. Alberta (+0.7 SRS, RPI #3) — W 5-0 vs. Lethbridge, W 6-1 vs. Lethbridge

    In his last game, Lethbridge's Scott Bowles played the first period then was pulled after allowing 3 on 10 shots. In this weekend's games, Bowles was left in for all 11, facing 78 shots in total.

    Johnny Lazo scored two for Alberta on Friday (putting him, I believe, fifth in goals in Canada West); Alex Rodgers and Kruise Reddick had two assists each. Lazo scored again on Saturday, and the Bears also got two from Jordan Hickmott in what was another rather lifeless game for Lethbridge.

  6. Acadia (+1.5 SRS, RPI #16) — W 4-3 vs. St. F-X, W 1-0 at St. F-X

    Another typically above-average Acadia season seems ready to continue against the X-Men (shootout win over UNB or no shootout win over UNB). The Axemen did need a few powerplays and 49:36 to take the lead for good, but they did. Andrew Clark assisted on all four goals, his sixth multi-assist game of the year and his 11th with two points or more.

    Sunday it looked close there for a minute, with the Axemen's one-goal lead withstanding a short powerplay in the third that ended 34 seconds after it began when X's Bryce Swan took a slashing call. Oops. Given how little Acadia had tried to attack that period (three shots, even though they had nearly four minutes of 5-on-4), that could have been the difference here. Two one-goal wins for Acadia, though.

  7. Moncton (+1.3 SRS, RPI #17) — W 4-2 at UPEI, W 5-1 vs. UNB, W 7-2 vs. St. Thomas

    Three wins in four days, outscoring their opponents 14-5, combined with UNB's two losses, put those Blue Eagles into a tie for first place. I don't know my AUS tiebreakers, but UNB's behind on wins so I'm going with that. It'll also make the season finale between these teams, on Feb. 11, that much more interesting.

  8. Lakehead (+0.5 SRS, RPI #8) — L 1-0 vs. Western, L 1-0 vs. Western

    Poor Jeff Bosch. He's faced 38 UOIT shots this year and allowed 10 goals (including seven in last week's 8-5 loss), for a horrid save percentage of .737. Yet against everyone else he has a .909. It's probably going to be Alex Dupuis for both of these road games against the good-but-not-that-much-better-than-Lakehead Mustangs.

    Dupuis did his best in both games, but it's hard to win without scoring (or, at the very least, when you have more ten-minute misconducts than goals).

    This is why you read the Lakehead recaps of games: most other schools would just say "Matt Caria was given a game misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct", if they mention such a penalty at all, not "mouthing off to the official." It's a small thing but it at least lets you know (more about) what happened.

    UPDATE: But, apparently, that's not all that happened. Caria has been suspended for two games for "a racial slur." (Thanks to Always OUA for the pointer.)

  9. Manitoba (+1.0 SRS, RPI #4) — W 4-2 vs. Saskatchewan, W 3-1 vs. Saskatchewan

    Ten Bisons got on the scoresheet in their Friday win over Saskatchewan, with both Matthew Lowry and Blair Macaulay receiving a goal and an assist. First conference win over Sask. for Manitoba since Feb. 26 of last year. They liked it so much, they did it again. Joe Caligiuri was in goal for both games, stopping 64 of 67, a few months after he let in 5 of 32 against these same Huskies.

  10. Saint Mary's (+1.6 SRS, RPI #5) — L 4-3 (OT) at Dalhousie, W 6-4 vs. Dalhousie

    A home-and-home against Dalhousie without any travel is a good opportunity for the Huskies to keep pace with the UNBs and Acadias of the AUS. Dal's opponents have a save percentage of .915, which, if they were a team, would lead the AUS. (Am I just an idiot, or can I not see the individual leaders for save percentage in the AUS?)

    However, Dal's Friday opponent, those Huskies, managed a save percentage of merely .818, losing 4-3 in overtime. It's almost like teams can upset other teams or something. Jordan Villeneuve-Gagne scored the OT winner here. Another loss would hurt that RPI quite a bit...but they didn't lose again, putting up 5 to Dal's 1 after three powerplay goals in the third, and just sort of hanging on for the rest of the game.

    (I would really like someone to explain to me how, in the Saturday game, the Huskies recorded a shot on goal on an empty net but did not score...)

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Men's basketball: Top 10 tracker: Carleton wins by 40 (and not against a last-place team); Saskatchewan beats up on the QUBL (in a way)

This week's schedules and results for the top 10 teams (RPI here) ... there are 21 distinct games involving the top 10 teams this week, since nobody plays each other.

  1. Carleton (12-0 OUA, 18-0 CIS, RPI #3, SRS +25.6) — W 74-34 vs. Ottawa, W 96-64 vs. Queen's, W 120-38 vs. RMC

    The only remaining undefeated team is going up against two teams that are winless against everyone but themselves, and are dead last and next-to-dead last in RPI. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Cole Hobin sees more minutes tonight than in both Queen's/RMC games put together (which almost happened: 25 vs. 27; I should have said Tyson Hinz, who didn't even see the floor vs. RMC). There's got to be a Tom Brady-vs.-the-Broncos principle at play here. Someone get Dave Smart an ugly hoodie with the sleeves cut off. On second thought, don't do that.

    Here I thought their first game might actually be a game. Nope. Well, it was, kind of, until the second half. The Gee-Gees shot 25%. Yeah.

    Queen's did better* but were outrebounded 22 to 3 on their offensive glass, and nearly outrebounded on Carleton's too (11 to 10). Carleton shot an effective 76%. Who does that?

    RMC did worse. Much, much worse. I can't say anything else.

    * The Gaels shot an effective 57%? Has anyone shot that well against Carleton? Certainly not this year. Ironically, coach Steph Barrie told Wayne Kondro that they "haven’t shot the ball well all year."

  2. Lakehead (10-2 OUA, 18-2 CIS, RPI #10, SRS +11.7) — W 83-76 vs. McMaster, W 91-71 vs. McMaster

    Lakehead's two losses have been by a combined six points, and were both to top-10 teams. Not bad. They happen to be behind 16-6 Laurier in RPI because their preseason (Brandon, Regina, Winnipeg) didn't feature the quality of teams that Laurier's did (Concordia, CBU, UBC, UFV).

    This series is the second of three straight for the GGOD[T]s against the dangerous half of the OUA West. They already hold the tiebreaker over Laurier, and a sweep or a favourable-point-differential split against Mac and Windsor will put them in the driver's seat for good. A more-than-2-to-1 turnover differential in Lakehead's favour helped in this one, as did Lakehead's 52 second-half points to Mac's 36. But what probably got to the Mac coach the most (I'm just guessing here) was his team's eight trips to the line vs. Lakehead's 24 — the 11-point differential there was basically twice the margin of victory.

    A 10-of-20 night on threes, with Ben Johnson shooting 4/6 himself, paced the 'Wolves to an easy win Saturday. Two double-doubles on the weekend for Yoosrie Salhia, and 28 on Saturday for Venzal Russell, albeit on 12/26 shooting.

  3. UBC (8-2 CW, 14-3 CIS, RPI #6, SRS +14.4) — W 93-84 (OT) at Manitoba, W 74-73 at Winnipeg

    Close, close weekend for UBC. Just one more basket against them in either game and they're 0-2. Six straight wins, yes, but with at least half an asterisk. Respect for the Wesmen, who nearly beat two top 10 teams.

    One of UBC's smaller advantages is their ability to get to the line, and they slipped slightly in that respect in their loss to Lethbridge, who are themselves quite good at it too. This will likely not matter this weekend, though...or it will, because they essentially managed to add a point per every three field-goal attempts (24 FT / 75 FGA), whereas the Bisons only had 10 FT on 79 shots. Kamar Burke scored 15 and added 15 boards, Doug Plumb had 16 and 10 of his own, and Tommy Nixon scored 20 of his own.

  4. StFX (7-2 AUS, 17-2 CIS, RPI #2, SRS +8.6) — W 79-66 vs. Dal, W 90-71 vs. Cape Breton

    According to coach Steve Konchalski, the reason for the seven one-game suspensions on Sunday was that the players "went out":

    “They went out on a night three days before the game, and that’s against team rules. We have a team rule that says within three days of a game, you’re not allowed to go out. You’re not allowed to go out to a pub. You’re not allowed to go anywhere.”

    Now, the midweek/weekend schedule that is a common part of AUS play means the games are often only three or four days apart. So for anyone who is curious, and assuming we're reading the rule correctly, no St. F-X players are allowed "to go anywhere" from Jan. 3 to Jan. 21, and again from Feb. 8 to Feb. 19. It's not the policy I would adopt, but then again the players presumably knew what they signed up for.

    In any case, they won this game, with at least 10 players not going out between Sunday and Wednesday. 22 from Jeremy Dunn led X over Dal, with three others topping 10.

    Saturday's rivalry game wasn't really one, with nearly a 30-point lead for the X-Men after three. Although these teams have played three times this year in conference play, each winning at least once, the games haven't exactly come down to the wire. We're spoiled after last year.

  5. Saskatchewan (7-4 CW, 12-5 CIS, RPI #4, SRS +11.0) — W 96-67 vs. UBC Okanagan, W 92-55 vs. TRU

    A pair of absolute blowouts by the Huskies. Maybe they can play Carleton next year at this time instead, and give TRU, UBC-O, RMC, and Queen's a weekend off.

    Did you know Michael Lieffers has 2.7 steals per game, more than Jamelle Barrett's 2.5? Lieffers' shooting is down (he led the league last year and is down about six or seven points to 56%), yet I am going to be very interested to see where he lands in this year's PER rankings.

    Lieffers only scored eight against UBC-O but then again he only played 22 minutes. The bench got a lot of minutes here, with Saskatchewan leading 52-36 at the half.

    I thought the Heat might go 5-17 this year (when I assumed it was a 22-game schedule) so they'll need to go 4-14 this year, or 2-4 in their remaining games, which won't probably happen (he said, looking at their remaining schedule).

  6. Laurier (10-2 OUA, 16-6 CIS, RPI #8, SRS +11.0) — W 97-91 at Guelph, W 89-73 at Western

    You never want to assume a 10-2 OUA West team will always lose to a 7-5 OUA West team, but Guelph (and 4-8 Western) better have a really friggin' good defensive game plan to keep that from happening, because this WLU side has the best offence (on a per-possession basis as well as per-game) behind the Ravens and they turn the ball over much, much less than anyone else. Much less. If UBC played Laurier, the UBC coaches would be screaming "ball pressure!" more or less continuously throughout the game, instead of more or less continuously throughout 70% of the game.

    Guelph didn't really stop Laurier's vaunted offence (27 from Max Allin with 11 boards and six assists, 15 from Kale Harrison on just five field-goal attempts, 9/17 from long range as a team) but they gave them a run anyway. Laurier's 11-point margin in the second quarter was enough for them to hold on in the second half. Sounds like it was a good one in Guelph.

    Western, on the other hand, had a first-quarter lead but there's a reason these games are 40 minutes long instead of 10. Of note in this game: (1) Kale Harrison scored just two points and (2) Matt Buckley grabbed 462 rebounds. Or 18. Something like that. (Cam has Buckley in the MUBL, but has never played him. Cam is also in last place in the MUBL. Just sayin'.)

  7. Victoria (10-2 CW, 11-4 CIS, RPI #5, SRS +10.9) — L 71-75 at Winnipeg, W 101-79 at Manitoba

    Third-best offence in the country so far? None other than these Vikes. (Third-worst uniform colours? Well...) It's going to be a really interesting weekend for Manitoba. And of course after focusing on Manitoba, it's Winnipeg who provide the upset. A 60-47 lead with 10 minutes to go is not often in danger, but so it went for UVic.

    It went much better on Saturday, with a 22-point win over the not-upsetting-anyone-this-weekend Bisons. Terrell Evans hit a pair of season highs, with 19 points in 26 minutes off the bench. The local paper has a recap written by Ron Rauch, which I read as "Jon Rauch" and I was, understandably, quite terrified.

  8. Alberta (8-4 CW, 10-5 CIS, RPI #1, SRS +9.9) — W 77-69 vs. TRU, W 87-54 against UBC Okanagan

    The other half of the TRU/UBC-O road trip went about as well as the Saskatchewan half did for the B.C. teams.

    RPI isn't the final word, especially not in January, but it's really interesting that Alberta, and not Carleton or anyone else, is No. 1. They have a 10-5 record, not as gaudy as others, but they've faced the toughest schedule in the country. Half their scoring comes from Daniel Ferguson and Jordan Baker, and maybe it's that reliance that led to a two-point loss to Manitoba, a one-point loss to Winnipeg, and single-digit losses to UBC and UVic the weekend before last.

    They must have heard me, because Rob Dewar led both teams in scoring with 21 against the WolfPack. Baker scored 15 and had 10 rebounds — seven defensive, more than the entire TRU team had on their offensive glass. Justin King did the same thing to the Bears in reverse (13 d-boards vs. 9). Then they shot nearly 60% against the Heat and Matthew Cardoza scored 14, one more than Ferguson.

  9. Concordia (5-0 RSEQ, 12-4 CIS, RPI #7, SRS +6.1) — W 78-66 at Laval, W 69-61 vs. McGill

    Two games in the same week? What is this witchcraft?

    Something weird is going on the QUBL so far. Last week I noted that Concordia were shooting rather poorly yet still beating teams, and it seems that's because everyone has forgotten what they're supposed to do with the orange round thing. Quebec teams as a whole are shooting an effective 40%, and are scoring only 86 points per 100 possessions, while turning it over nearly 28% of the time. Collectively, they're basically UBC Okanagan, no offence to the Heat, which means Concordia's opponents are collectively worse than UBC-O.

    And look! More of the same. 43 combined turnovers in the Laval game. Concordia shot an effective 45%. Then they shot 38% — and won — against McGill. If explorers were braving the St. Lawrence today, looking for quality men's basketball programs instead of lumber or beaver pelts or whatever, they'd reach what is now the Welland Canal, give up, and head back to the old country, taking Kyle Desmarais with them as proof that the journey wasn't totally fruitless.

  10. UFV (7-5 CW, 11-5 CIS, RPI #13, SRS +5.2) — W 86-73 at Regina, W 85-75 at Brandon

    Another underrated offence here (17th per-game, but 6th per-possession). Their best shooter so far has been transfer Michael James, who was previously a top-100 player with Winnipeg (in '08-09; he was ranked 204th in '09-10), but he's only their fifth-leading scorer. It'll be interesting to see what happens to UFV if he gets more minutes.

    Kyle Grewal and Sam Freeman each scored 23 against the reeling Cougars (who dropped five spots in the RPI after last week's sweep at Manitoba and sit dead-last in a division where five of the eight teams are below .500). Grewal had 21 more against Brandon, going to the line 13 times, and Jasper Moedt put up 15 and 15 in the 10-point win that required a 28 to 15 fourth quarter.

In other news...

  • Since Windsor's not in the top 10 anymore, we've been missing out on This Week in Chris Oliver, so let's get that in here now. "Keeping people at a distance doesn't allow them to hurt you, but they can not help you either."


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hockey: Canada West weekly roundup

If there was any doubt which team heads the Canada West pack heading into the home stretch of the regular season, there isn’t anymore thanks to the Saskatchewan Huskies sweep of the Alberta Golden Bears this past weekend.

Here’s a look at some of the headlines from this past weekend of action.

Huskies make a statement

In a series with first-place on the line, the Saskatchewan Huskies came out and made a statement at home. The now number-three ranked Huskies earned a 5-2 win Friday night in Saskatoon before following that effort up with a gutsy 5-4 victory in a Saturday matinee.

The Huskies Saturday win was especially impressive after the home team used four second period goals to erase a 3-1 Alberta lead after 20 minutes of play. Captain Kyle Ross led the way with the hat-trick performance Saturday in front of just over 1,200 fans at Credit Union Centre.

With the pair of wins Saskatchewan takes sole possession of first in the conference opening up a four-point lead on Alberta. That gap isn’t insurmountable, but is unquestionably significant.

Friday – Alberta 2 at Saskatchewan 5
Saturday – Alberta 4 at Saskatchewan 5

Bisons still in the running

First-place isn’t guaranteed to go the way of Saskatchewan, but if any team is going to catch them it could be Manitoba. The Herd are a full six points back, but have two games in hand on both Saskatchewan and Alberta.

While a clean regulation split between the Bears and Huskies would’ve been ideal for head coach Mike Sirant’s team, at least the Huskies didn’t leave any scraps for Alberta to distance the Bears from the Bisons.

This coming weekend will determine whether, or not Manitoba has any chance at first, as they host the Huskies in Winnipeg.

Bears specialty teams slacking

If there’s one number that points to why Alberta lost both their games against Saskatchewan this past weekend, perhaps it’s the number five. The Bears surrendered five goals both games, but more importantly were -5 in the specialty teams department scoring only one PP marker while giving up six. Saskatchewan went 6-for-15 on the PP against Alberta, including scoring four of their five goals Saturday on the man advantage.

Those numbers don’t bode well for the Bears if they hope to make something happen in the Canada West playoffs, which in all likelihood will end in Saskatoon one way, or another.

Friday – Alberta 2 at Saskatchewan 5
Saturday – Alberta 4 at Saskatchewan 5

Basement dwellers still slumping

While both the Lethbridge Pronghorns and Regina Cougars had solid outings Friday night — the ‘Horns won 3-2 in OT against Calgary and Regina lost a close 4-2 contest to UBC — neither team put up much a fight the following night, both suffering convincing losses.

Lethbridge’s single point to the Cougars zero this past weekend means there is now a three-point gap between the two, with the ‘Horns in the lead for the final playoff spot. The southern Alberta squad should make the postseason, but with six of their final eight games against nationally ranked teams — four of the six are against Alberta — Lethbridge’s road to the playoffs won’t be easy.

Working to the Pronghorns advantage is the fact that they’ll control their destiny playing their other two games against Regina, and the fact that the Cougars still have games against Saskatchewan on the schedule (that being said Regina has played their provincial rivals tough in recent times).

Friday – Regina 2 at UBC 4
Saturday – Regina 0 at UBC 4

Friday – Calgary 2 at Lethbridge 3
Saturday – Lethbridge 1 at Calgary 4

First win continues to evade DeSerres

Rookie netminder Jacob DeSerres can’t catch a break in the Calgary net this season. The Memorial Cup champion hasn’t seen much ice in Cowtown for the Dinos, getting only his third start of the season this past Friday in the loss to Lethbridge. DeSerres wasn’t to blame stopping 35 of 38 shots, but still that’s little consolation for the former junior standout who’s .875 SV% and 3.97 GAA along with his 0-3 record aren’t picturesque.

Two poor performances from the first half of the season are largely to blame for his numbers, but for DeSerres being part of a three-headed goalie monster can’t be good for his game.

Friday – Calgary 2 at Lethbridge 3
Saturday – Lethbridge 1 at Calgary 4

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