Wavy hair, a cheeky grin and an easy-going attitude — qualities you would expect to find with a surfer dude in Honolulu. In this case, you will find them with Corey Bellemore, a second-year criminology student and track and field runner at the University of Windsor.

Bellemore, who will turn 20 in the new year, is not your typical criminology student or even a typical trackie: he broke the Canadian junior indoor 1000-metre record at the Blue & Gold meet on December 3rd. The meet, held at Windsor's St. Denis Centre, was meant to be an early season warm-up for the Lancers. But Bellemore bested both the five-year-old previous record held by Jeremy Rae of Notre Dame (2.25:39) and the more recent 2.25.60 from Laval's Alex Bussières. It was a phenomenally fast time for Bellemore with the season so young, and it comes after a fourth-place finish in the 800m at the junior Pan Ams.

Bellemore took the time to sit down with The CIS Blog and talk about his career and the upcoming season with the Lancers.


Q: You broke the Canadian Junior Indoor record for 1000 metres in the first meet of the season for the Lancers. Can you take us through the race and what it feels like to run such a great time at this point in the season?

"Earlier that day, I decided I was just going to go for a fast time and hopefully get the meet record (2.27) at the same time. I told my teammate Alex Ullman that I was going to take it out hard and I said, 'If I die trying, do your best to pull me through.'

"So right from the gun I took it out pretty hard and although I felt like I was dying, I held on pretty decently and stayed strong. I was unfamiliar with the exact time of the Canadian record so I wasn’t even thinking about trying to capture it.

"After cross-country season, I took just over a week off running and I had only been running for a week before this meet. I only did one tempo, one hill workout and one small track session.”

Q: In an article about your victory, one commenter compared you to former 800-metre gold medallist and world record holder Alberto Juantorena. What is it like to be compared to one of the giants (literally) of the sport?

"That’s pretty funny, we do have similar structures. Alberto was an amazing runner back in the 1970’s so to be compared to him is unreal. I don’t really like to compare myself to other runners because each runner has such different strengths, but that’s very cool. I love looking up to certain runners and aspiring to be as good as them someday, so Alberto is definitely someone for me in that sense."

Q: Something I ask all student-athletes; how is it juggling competing and school?

"First year was a huge adjustment for me, but this year has been much easier. It’s obviously not easy to any degree, but it’s something you get used to. I think it’s important to work just as hard in your school work as you do in your athletics.”

Q: Why did you decide to go to the University of Windsor and what has it been like working with Dennis Fairall?

“Some people have questioned my decision to go to the University of Windsor, but it was the best fit for me. First off, my main concern was getting an education and Windsor had the program I wanted. It was also a place I found I fit in really well and the talent within the team is comparable to many U.S. schools. Working with Dennis Fairall has been awesome; he’s a very knowledgeable coach and a guy that makes practices fun and enjoyable. Dennis, Gary Malloy and our team manager Rich [Johnston] have all been amazing figures on the team to help me get where I want and need to be.”

Q: Is there one event that you are striving to better yourself in this season?

“This indoor season I’m really trying to improve my speed and strength. I haven’t really decided if I will focus on the 600m or the 1000m yet but I would like to definitely run fast times for both nonetheless.”

Q: You mentioned you have some cross-country experience so do you prefer running on the track or out on the trails?

“I love them both in very different ways. I think I am more of a ‘track guy’ but I love the challenge cross-country presents. Also XC builds great strength for the indoor season.”


Most CIS teams have stopped for the exam break. Here are some of the remaining meets in 2013:
  • McGill University Holiday Classic – Montreal, QC
  • Dino Opener – Calgary, AB
  • Dome Super Saturday Series 1 – Ottawa, ON

OTTAWA – A loss would have been a loss for the Carleton Ravens, secure as they are with their track record of peaking in March at the CIS Final 8. Conversely the Ottawa Gee-Gees, clapping those ringless fingers over the ears to block out chants of “sloppy seconds!” from the Carleton student section, are no closer to knowing if they can ever push the Ravens off their perch.

The rub with the Ravens, as always, is that they create and control the decisive moments of a ball game. The final 94-73 margin in Friday’s No. 1 vs. 2 showdown at a raucous Ravens’ Nest might make it appear little has changed. Surmising as much overlooks that the margin was a singleton early in the second quarter after Ottawa’s former all-Canadian transfer, Terry Thomas, checked in to lead an 18-7 run that cancelled out Carleton’s game-opening 20-8 burst. Invisible to the naked eye, but evident to anyone who’s seen this movie a few times, the Gee-Gees were already sporting some pinhole leaks, with super sophomore Caleb Agada and centre Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue were both in foul trouble.

That played a part in a 15-0 run that started with a big three from Tyson Hinz, one of his six on the night as he and Phil Scrubb worked the two-man, ball-reversal gambit to seize on Ottawa’s inexperience on the wing. Thomas Scrubb proved once again that he’s a 6-foot-5 Swiss army knife who can do it all, while Clinton Springer-Williams chipped in whenever Carleton was forced away from its first or second option.

Hinz shot 11-of-18 for 32 points with nine rebounds, each game highs. Phil Scrubb was held to seven on 2-of-11, but Thomas Scrubb (7-of-11 for 18 with seven boards) and Springer-Williams (5-of-11 for 16, eight boards) picked up the slack.

Berhanemeskel started slowly but led Ottawa, now 16-1 vs. CIS competition, with 17 poitns and eight rebounds. Agada (14 in 28 minutes due to foul trouble), Vikas Gill (11 in 24) and Thomas (11 in 26), also hit double digits.

By halftime, it was 54-37 and the chimera that was sustained when the cross-town rivals missed out on playing for the national title last March had evaporated. Ottawa never threw in the towel as plenty of good teams have done in the face of Carleton’s unfailing execution. Leading scorer Johnny Berhanemeskel made the play of the night with a 360-degree layup in the third quarter and Ottawa got as close as six late in that period.

It didn’t matter. With Carleton, it seldom does.

The upshot for the Gee-Gees, as much emphasis was on this earlier-than-usual Canal War renewal, is that it did control play for a stretch in the first half after Thomas checked in. The former St. FX star had to heal up both a high-ankle sprain and a wonky hamstring while sitting out the first eight OUA games before becoming eligible. But the 6-foot-4 swingman did give Ottawa a lift, if only briefly.

Carleton’s tertiary characters, such as Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles and three-point specialist Connor Wood, also chipped in with some tough D and timely shooting.

In the final analysis, Carleton has confirmed everything that was suspected about how they match up with Ottawa a few weeks earlier than usual. Ottawa has plenty of time to catch up, though.
Inspired somewhat by Ken Pomeroy's tournament odds — everything I do is inspired somewhat by something Ken Pomeroy did — here are the odds of each OUA team finishing the regular season in each playoff spot. Game results as of Wed Nov 27 are included and the rest are simulated. (For those who are interested in the details, the simulations are based on our team rankings and the log5 method, with the season being simulated thousands of times to smooth out the outliers.)


West      1    2    3    4    5    6   Elim
 1 WSR  99.2   0.7   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1
 9 UWO   0.6  64.2  21.3   9.8   4.0   0.0   0.1
11 MAC   0.1  12.7  28.3  31.0  27.3   0.6   0.0
17 WLU   0.0   9.7  21.5  29.2  38.6   0.9   0.1
 7 BRO   0.0  12.6  28.9  29.7  27.6   1.1   0.1
36 LAK   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   1.5  44.1  54.3
24 GUE   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1   1.0  52.2  46.7
41 WAT   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   1.1  98.9

Brock's 5-4 in league games, losing all four games by no more than four points or in OT (or both). That is a pretty brutal and unlucky start to the season, if I may say so. As a result their chances of finishing higher in the OUA West are reduced, even if they are still ranked highly.

Western's win Wednesday night helped them get a leg up on the others here, but they were already pretty high by virtue of their high ranking and 7-1 record against the East (Mac went 6-2, Brock 5-3, and Laurier's ranked a bit lower).

Ontario will have three spots at the Final 8 this year, so finishing in a spot to avoid Windsor for as long as possible in the playoffs is key for any OUA West team.

East      1    2    3    4    5    6   Elim
10 OTT  79.8  15.9   4.2   0.1   0.0   0.0   0.0
14 CAR  13.3  54.1  31.1   1.3   0.1   0.0   0.1
19 QUE   6.9  29.6  60.5   2.8   0.2   0.0   0.0
37 RYE   0.0   0.3   2.6  44.3  33.5  14.5   4.8
27 TOR   0.0   0.1   1.3  37.8  33.4  18.5   8.9
35 YOR   0.0   0.0   0.2   9.5  21.3  40.5  28.5
40 LAU   0.0   0.0   0.1   4.3  11.6  26.5  57.5
45 ALG   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0 100.0

The East is a little more competitive at the top, as you'd expect with the half of the conference that doesn't have Windsor. Three teams have a reasonable chance at the No. 1 seed, with Saturday's game having a lot of say in that outcome. Should Ottawa win at Carleton, they'll pretty much have it clinched (about a 90% chance); if they lose, their chances drop to around 55%. Of course they are exceedingly likely to grab a high seed either way.


West      1    2    3    4    5    6   Elim
 6 WSR  67.7  27.9   4.2   0.1   0.0   0.0   0.1
10 MAC  30.8  58.8   9.3   1.0   0.0   0.0   0.1
15 WLU   1.3  12.1  66.9  14.7   4.6   0.3   0.1
23 LAK   0.1   0.8  13.1  47.4  26.0   9.6   3.0
28 GUE   0.0   0.3   5.5  26.4  43.9  17.0   6.9
40 UWO   0.0   0.0   0.5   8.0  15.5  41.5  34.5
39 BRO   0.0   0.0   0.3   1.4   7.3  22.8  68.2
42 WAT   0.0   0.0   0.1   1.0   2.7   8.8  87.4

East      1    2    3    4    5    6   Elim
 1 CAR  98.5   1.4   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.1
 2 OTT   1.3  88.1   9.8   0.7   0.0   0.0   0.1
 5 RYE   0.1   9.6  74.6  13.8   1.7   0.1   0.1
11 LAU   0.0   0.8  12.7  70.7  11.9   3.8   0.1
19 YOR   0.0   0.0   1.5   8.7  49.5  36.4   3.9
20 QUE   0.0   0.0   1.3   6.0  35.7  50.6   6.4
35 TOR   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   1.0   6.9  92.1
44 ALG   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.2   2.1  97.7

The last time both Warriors teams made the playoffs was 2004-05, coincidentally* right before I started my first year there. Maybe it's time for them to take down the world's tiniest picture of the Queen. She can't be too pleased with what she's been seeing.

(* Or not?...)

For those wondering how the point-differential-in-home-and-home-games tiebreaker is handled...well, it isn't. Any two (or more) teams with equal head-to-head records have their ties broken randomly. It is difficult to predict exactly what the score will be in any game, so it's not that far off to assume it's equally likely to go either way, especially if you assume the teams are close enough in quality to be tied in the first place. But the pure win-loss tiebreakers are themselves incorporated here, so the Western women are up 1-0 on Brock already and it shows up in their odds to some degree.

The effort needled to handle the varying conference tiebreakers correctly is why this is just OUA teams for now. Other conferences will follow, time permitting.
It probably wasn’t the way that head coach Brett Gibson drew things up, but in the end the Queen’s Golden Gaels walked away from a difficult weekend double-header against the #7 Windsor Lancers with four points.

The weekend's game plan ultimately ended up going something like this: allow goaltender Kevin Bailie to carry the team, and then capitalize on quick flurries of offense.

That improvisation was certainly in full effect in Friday night’s game at the historic Kingston Memorial Centre.

Bailie was tested early, as Queen’s took three penalties in the first period to Windsor’s one. The Lancers managed to fire 14 shots on net, but Bailie was able to withstand the pressure. Not to be outdone, Parker Van Buskirk stopped all 10 shots he faced in the Windsor goal.

Windsor, the CIS leaders in team penalty minutes, fell back into their usual undisciplined habits in the second period, but managed to keep the pressure up throughout the second frame. Despite having four power play opportunities, Queen’s managed to put the puck on net just three times. Windsor, on the other hand, tested Bailie eight times, but he was able to stand tall.

In the third period, Queen’s came out to a flying start. Jordan Coccimiglio netted his first of the season at the 3:28 mark of the final frame, off some nice passing between Corey Bureau and Chris Van Laren.

Queen’s managed to maintain the attack through the better part of the first ten minutes of the period, but Van Buskirk stopped everything the Gaels threw at him. Then it was the Lancers turn to put Bailie against the ropes. No matter what they did, Windsor couldn’t beat Bailie, and with less than three and a half minutes to go, Patrick McEachen added an insurance marker for Queen’s on a hard slap shot from the point.

Kelly Jackson went on to slot his seventh goal of the season into the empty net, as the Gaels buried the Lancers 3-0, despite being outshot 31-28.


In the second game in as many nights, the Lancers continued to struggle to find a way to beat Bailie. The Gaels, however, didn’t have to wait until the third period to score in the rematch, as Jordan Soquila put them ahead just under eight minutes into the first period.

On a power play opportunity just over three minutes later, Windsor finally solved the Queen’s netminder. Spencer Pommells slipped one by Bailie, with assists from Kenny Bradford and Evan Stibbard.

Despite the breakthrough, Bailie wouldn’t rattle. Windsor managed to pick up 15 shots in the first period alone, but could only break through the one time.

In the second, Queen’s built themselves a lead. Taylor Clements scored his fifth of the year quickly, giving the Gaels the lead at the 4:56 mark. The Gaels went on the power play a couple of minutes later, and Patrick McGillis was able to extend the lead to two on a goal set-up by Patrick McEachen and Stephane Chabot.

With just 5:28 remaining in the middle frame, Braeden Corbeth bought the Gaels some insurance with a commanding 4-1 lead.

After some early pressure led to no results, Windsor fell back into their rough style of play. The Lancers picked up 17 penalty minutes in the final frame alone, as well as a Josh Graves game misconduct for checking from behind with just 13 seconds to go. The Gaels picked up 12 shots on the numerous power play opportunities, but were unable to extend their lead further, as the buzzer sounded with a 4-1 Queen’s victory.

Over the course of the weekend, Bailie stopped 64 of 65 shots and improved his goals against average to a commanding 1.67, which is tops in the OUA and fifth in the CIS. His save percentage also moved to .942 which is good enough for third in CIS play.

As a team, the victories moved Queen’s to 8-0-5 and they sit at the top of the conference, as they remain the only team in the OUA to have not lost in regulation. With home games against Ottawa and Laurentian next weekend, Queen’s look poised to take that distinction into the December break.

Windsor, meanwhile, fell to 9-4-0 and, having lost three of their last four, should expect to kiss their Top 10 status goodbye. The Lancers continue their road trip next weekend as they travel to London and St. Catharines to face Western and Brock. They then get two weeks off to prepare for their Hockeytown Winter Festival outdoor game against Western at Comerica Park in Detroit, as one of many undercards to the Leafs-Red Wings Winter Classic.


Join us next week as our OUA Game of the Week will cover Saturday’s afternoon matchup between the OUA West-leading Toronto Varsity Blues and the #6 UQTR Patriotes.
It's been a few years that we've been ranking quarterbacks across CIS football, and lately it's been the Kyle Quinlan Show. He was unable to top the list this year, due to the small technicality of no longer playing in the league. But there are other standout performances to highlight, and maybe a debate (again) over the Hec Crighton winner.

Jordan Heather's outstanding season made him the first Gaiter winner of the player-of-the-year trophy. Depending on how you view a QB's contribution to his team, however, he could have been only the second-most valuable quarterback in the country during the regular season. Western's Will Finch, as part of the Mustangs' steamrolling disguised as a football season, topped Heather's totals with his passing game being estimated at 4.7 wins above a replacement-level quarterback, compared to Heather's 3.6. The implication there is if you swap the QBs, Western goes 7-1 instead of 8-0.

One could argue that Western was going to win regardless of whether Finch threw for 200 or 400, whereas Bishop's needed Heather to be otherwordly (and even then, half of their wins were by one point). But in my view that's the same hair-splitting over the definition of "valuable" that sadly pervades MVP discussion in baseball. Extend that argument and nothing Heather nor Finch does is valuable, since Laval and Western were going to win their respective conferences anyway.

In the end it doesn't much matter, as our rankings include the playoffs and bowl games, and Finch was much better there than Heather (who managed just 92 yards on 20 attempts in his only game), which kind of puts paid to the whole "Finch's stats were only good because the games didn't matter" idea.

To calculate wins above replacement, we use an admittedly crude method: the player's adjusted net yards per attempt, with a strength of schedule multiplier, then compare to what a replacement-level quarterback would do in the same amount of playing time. (A replacement-level quarterback, in a CIS context, is a QB without much value who can be added to the roster without much effort. You can just think of this as "any Waterloo quarterback.") We then convert yards to points, and points to wins.

It's Finch first at +5.1; then Manitoba's Jordan Yantz, "the B.C. junior league's top offensive player for three consecutive seasons" in case anyone forgot, at +4.0; Calgary's Andrew Buckley at +3.4, showing once again it is unwise to doubt Jim Mullin; Heather at +3.2; and Billy McPhee of Queen's with +3.2 as well. Both Finch and McPhee get a boost from strength of schedule; Heather experiences the opposite effect.

The full rankings for 2013:

Idle observations:

  • As noted last year (and in previous years), there are significant team effects at play, not to mention simple variation year-to-year. Last year, there was a Calgary QB ranked second, but it wasn't Buckley. Last year, Heather was 15th. And so on.

  • A rank of seventh has to be the lowest for an undefeated Vanier Cup winner in some time, though of course after watching them play for two minutes it's easy to figure out why Laval's offence doesn't have to be pass-focused.

  • Finch is fifth in QB WAR since 2009. You may notice that he hasn't played a majority of those seasons. So to you, Rest of OUA, we bid farewell until 2017. Ahead of him in the five-year rankings are Quinlan, the OUA's Forgotten Man (known to most as Austin Kennedy), Eric Dzwilewski, and Billy Greene.
The CIS track & field season officially kicked off on Friday, November 15th with the Zoltan Tenke Classic, hosted by the University of Guelph. The Classic is an annual but low-key event that opens up each season for the Guelph Gryphons, the powerhouse of CIS cross-country and track & field.

Guelph is coming off yet another successful cross-country season, as both the men's and women's teams took first place. Since head coach Dave Scott-Thomas took over the program in 2005, his teams have won eight consecutive cross-country national titles. Their winning ways on the trails have also carried over to the track. The men won national track & field titles in 2008, 2010 and 2013, while the women took home top honours in 2008.

Also at the meet along with the Gryphons were representatives from the Waterloo, Brock and a few independents — all of whom were also kicking off their indoor seasons.

Due to the timing of the meet and the number of participants, there were only six track events; 60m, 1000m and 3000m for both men and women.

Meanwhile the field events (long jump, high jump, pole vault, weight throw and shot put) were mixed, which put the athletes in the unusual situation of having to compete against the opposite gender.

As expected, the hosts dominated, winning nine of the eleven events. The Gryphons won all of the female track events and swept the field events, but struggled by their standards in the male races.

Mo Yassin of Waterloo took home first place in the 60m dash. The third-year engineering student finished 6th last year at the OUA championships in that event.

In what was the most exciting race of the day, Tommy Land beat out Guelph teammate Adam Rowles by one-hundredth of a second in the 1000m.

In the 3000m, heavily favoured Aaron Hendrikx was upset by the relatively unknown Matt Jurysta of Speed River TFC. Hendrikx is considered one of the top distance runners in the country, winning the 2013 cross-country championships (he was also the CIS Male Athlete of the Week at the time of the race).

Another surprise came in the weight throw, as Sarah Dougherty beat two male competitors to finish second. Her personal-best throw of 16.46 metres was just a bit too short to top fellow Gryphon Brent Roubos’ mark of 16.63m.

The high jump was also an event of note. Rookie Sean Cate won with a jump of 2.07 metres which, according to the Gryphons’ website, is the second best mark in school history.

While Guelph was winning some serious hardware, nearly 1,800 kilometres away in Halifax, another meet was taking place. The Saint Mary’s Open started the year for athletes from Saint Mary’s, St. F-X, Dalhousie and Acadia. StFX won the event, but the Tigers had more first place finishes.

Upcoming events on the CIS track and field calendar include:

  • Nov. 29 – University of Toronto Blue and White
  • Nov. 30 – McGill Martlet Invitational
  • Nov. 30 – Western Season Opener
  • Nov. 30 – York Xmas Open
Until tonight, cross campus rivals St. Thomas had not beat the University of New Brunswick in men's hockey for 36 games, going back to October 20, 2006 (3-1 at the York Arena). Until tonight, the Tommies had not beat the Varsity Reds at the Aitken University Centre for 28 games, over ten years ago, since February 28, 2003 (2-1 in overtime). The Battle of the Hill (for the uninitiated that's Fredericton's College Hill that their shared campus is built on) has been pretty one-sided these last years. Until tonight.

STU took advantage of two first-period power play goals (although technically the first goal was even-strength as it came four seconds after the UNB penalty ended but before the culprit could get from the sin bin to the UNB zone), stuck to their systems to protect the lead, and from then on pretty much rode goaltender Jon Groenheyde to an improbable 3-2 win.

As UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall remarked after the game, "Give them full credit, their goaltender made the saves when he had to, they got the kills when they had to, and they protected the lead very well. They got the lead, they protected it and extended it. We came back and they protected it again."

The game was not without controversy, as UNB had two apparent goals waved off. While there's no video replay in the AUS, the V-Reds own game video left them convinced that they were good goals, which of course was the consensus of the partisan UNB fans at the time. Also concerning was the number of questionable or marginal penalties called - this was not a chippy game, but 12 minors were handed out along with three automatic 10-minute misconducts for checking from behind penalties.

Special teams and goaltending ended up being the difference in the game. UNB only managed one power play goal in 5 opportunities, and that was while they had a one-minute two-man advantage. They outshot the Tommies 44-20 in the game, but obviously didn't bury enough of their opportunities. STU was much more opportunisitic - their third goal, the eventual winner, came in the second period from Jonathan Bonneau on a stretch-pass breakaway seconds after the UNB defence jumped up into the play at the other end and forced Groenheyde to made a big save.

With the rare lead in the third period, the Tommies were able to sit back and let UNB carry the play, have Groenheyde make the first save while at the same time ensuring that the ice was so clogged in front of their goalie that the V-Reds couldn't get clean second and third shots. And it worked.

As for former Tommies defenceman and first-year coach Pat Powers, "I'm glad the streak is over for the institution's sake. I'm glad we were able to win this game for our team's sake."

For the AUS fans in Fredericton, I'm just glad we got our rivalry back.
The University of New Brunswick's men's hockey team is no longer "perfect". After seven straight wins the V-Reds lost a game Friday night in the three-man shootout phase, after a scoreless ten-minute overtime period. UNB is still in first place, just, with the surging Acadia Axemen - now the hottest team in the AUS conference - hard on their heels. The other big news this weekend was the number of rookie goalies picking up their first wins.
Considering the schools are separated by approximately ten hours of highway, one wouldn’t expect bad blood to exist between Windsor and UQTR. However, with the Patriotes visiting the #7 Lancers for back-to-back games, penalties ruled the weekend double feature.

The Lancers were coming into the weekend having not lost since opening night, and looking to keep their spot atop the OUA West division. The Patriotes, meanwhile, were on a five-game winning streak of their own, and hungry to capture their first road win of the season.

The fireworks started early, with three players off to the box just 34 seconds in. Windsor quickly took three straight penalties in the first, managing to kill off all three, before UQTR made three straight trips of their own. It was the Patriotes who jumped out on the offensive, though, as Thomas Martin scored his first goal of the season on the penalty kill. The Pats took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, following a period that saw ten minor penalties and a misconduct.

Things improved in the second – briefly. Kenny Bradford scored a powerplay marker for the Lancers to tie things up just 3:12 into the second, before Anthony Verret set up Antoine Quevillon to regain the UQTR lead just seventeen seconds later.

That was the opening of the floodgates. Martin scored his second shorthanded marker of the game just four minutes later, and Jason Rajotte extended the lead to 4-1 at the end of the period to give the Pats a comfortable lead heading into the third.

With the game looking pretty well out of reach, things got out of hand quick.

Windsor’s Derek Lanoue picked up a game misconduct just over two minutes into the third, and five ten-minute misconducts followed over the rest of the frame. In total, the teams picked up 114 combined penalties, with Windsor taking 70 of those alone on 15 infractions.

Martin completed his hat trick on the powerplay in the final two minutes, while Rajotte added insult to injury, burying his second of the game on the man advantage with 33 seconds left, to give the Pats a whopping 6-1 victory.

Marc-Antoine Gelinas stood on his head for UQTR, stopping 37 of 38 shots, while Parker Van Buskirk still picked up 40 saves despite giving up six goals. Windsor’s powerplay faltered miserably, converting on just one of nine chances, while the Pats didn’t fare much better, going 2-for-8.

Grudge match exactly that

The stage was set for an all-out melee as the two teams met again on Saturday night.

Kenny Bradford launched the Lancers into an early lead though, as he blasted home the first goal of the game just over a minute into the contest.

The two teams fell into old habits at that point, as they traded trips to the penalty box. The Patriotes were able to convert on the man advantage first, as Kevin Robert nodded things up.

Under a minute later, Julian Luciani was fed by defenceman Paul Bezzo to extend the lead back to a goal, which the Lancers took into the first intermission despite being outshot 13-10. Again, penalties ruled the period as the teams combined for eight in the opening frame alone.

Windsor upped the ante in the second period, and Richard Cameron extended the lead to two goals just under five minutes in. Despite an onslaught by the Lancers that saw them outshoot the Pats 16-12 in the frame, it was UQTR’s Felix Plouffe narrowing the lead down to one on an unassisted marker midway through the period. Matt Beaudoin reinstated the two-goal lead with just over two minutes left, though, which was all the Lancers would need.

The Pats gained momentum early in the final frame, as Marc-Olivier Mimar scored just 28 seconds in. Unfortunately, Windsor wouldn’t let up and as the third period regressed back into the brawling type of attitude that dominated the previous night, the one-goal lead stood until Bradford notched the Lancers fifth with less than thirty seconds to go.

It was a valiant losing effort for Gelinas, who started back-to-back nights, and made 21 saves in the third period, alone. He stopped 43 of 48 shots, while Van Buskirk also started the second game for Windsor, and faced 40 shots, allowing only three goals.

This time around it was UQTR’s power play that faltered, converting just one of six opportunities, as the Lancers racked up thirty-six penalty minutes.

With the weekend split, UQTR slid into a tie for the third spot in the OUA East with a 7-4-0 record, while Windsor sit tied with Lakehead (who have a game in hand) atop the OUA with 18 points and a 9-2-0 record.

Tune in again next week, when we follow the Lancers on the road as they travel to Kingston to face the last remaining team to not lose in regulation, the 6-0-5 Queen’s Golden Gaels, in another weekend doubleheader.

A common expression is that when football is played in harsh conditions it usually favours the slower teams. The reasoning is that slow teams can’t get any slower. While the Calgary Dinos are not slow by any means, the snowy conditions for the Mitchell Bowl definitely deflated the high-powered Western Mustangs in Saturday's 44-3 Dino win.

Blaming injuries is often seen as excuse but when any team, minus Laval of course, loses a Hec candidate in a national semifinal game they usually will be unable to overcome that. Western, playing with an injured Will Finch, was unable to get anything established offensively.

The Dinos' defence had an excellent game plan as they were able to get pressure on the Mustangs and shut down the vaunted zone read that Western had running all season long. Once they got their hits on Finch they forced the quarterback to become one-dimensional. Many of his passes sailed and the Dinos made the Mustang receivers pay. Tanner Doll and Doctor Cassama punished the would be pass-catchers. While his injured hip certainly played a part in the lack of passing accuracy, credit needs to be given to the Dinos. Cassama added a late touchdown when Brad Friesen handed him the ball off an interception.

Finch tried to make a return in the second half but the injured sophomore was unable to overcome his ailments. While that could have been a Willis Reed moment, Finch was unable to sustain anything on offence. He finished the game with 105 yards passing on 9 for 20. In relief, Blake Huggins went 1/11, for just one yard.

As mentioned, the Calgary defence was confident with their game plan; in the first half it was easy to see they were looking to rally to all check downs. One of the most impressive plays was by Doll when he separated Justin Sanvido from the ball (I thought it was a head shot).

Offensively for U of C, Andrew Buckley and Mercer Timmis impressed. Buckley, the third year quarterback who was forced into action early in the season after an injury to Eric Dzwilewski, was tremendous. He showed zip on most passes and was able to hit all of his routes. He was especially impressive when throwing the intermediate routes over the middle. He finished the game 18/27 for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

Timmis, a second year running back, was able to show his athleticism early on in the game allowing the Dinos to establish the run. With scouts watching he was able to show some of the tangibles CFL teams look for, creating space for himself in the open field. He torched the Mustangs, finishing with 139 yards and one touchdown.

Specials show Calgary's dominance

As usual, special teams seems to play a major role in the OUA’s demise in these big games. Like McMaster last year, Western’s sloppy play on special teams lead to some big issues.

Simple things like the offensive guard not stepping down to the A gap on a field goal attempt can (and did) lead to a major play for the Dinos. And on punt plays, Western’s force (contain man who forces the punter to kick the ball) failed to rush the punt. Johnny Mark wisely called the kick off and scampered for a long first down. That wasn’t a planned fake — it was a simple read by the punter due to Western's irresponsibility.

Later in the third quarter Calgary ran a designed direct snap for a first down on a punt. Western had only two guys in from guard to guard. A significant flaw which the Dinos were able to exploit for another first down.

There was also a Mustang fumble that led to a FG on a punt return as well as Rashaun Simonise's 80-yard return which had everything to do with Calgary’s return team being so disciplined. The returner didn’t have to make a single defender miss.

Many people sleep on special teams but in Canadian football those hidden yards add up. While the "fake punts" didn’t lead to any points, they shifted field position; which is extremely important during these snow games. The OUA as a conference has been terrible on specials over the last few seasons. While it isn’t the biggest issue to have — I mean, the AUS would trade its inability to have a quarterback — it still can add up to cost teams in big games.

With Calgary finally returning to the Vanier Cup it shows the West moving to the OUA high school model. Teams need to generate money to pay for coaching now so that they can develop 18-year-olds properly. The OUA realized that the junior model was not going to work and were first to make this move. Unfortunately, the ‘5 in 7’ rule that hurts the West and the AUS does not affect the juggernauts in the Q. Maybe this year it will be different.

Notes: Punter/kicker Johnny Mark went 3 for 4 on field goals but also finished with 24 yards rushing due to his successful conversion on the punt ... Calgary also got touchdowns from Jake Harty and Brett Blaszko ... the lone points for Western came from Lirim Hajrullahu who went 1 for 2 kicking.
I am less confident in these than I am in the usual spreads due to little interconference play in one case, and none at all in the other.

Laval at Mount Allison (+20.5)
Western at Calgary (+13.5)

This is the third-straight playoff game where I have called the Mounties at least seven-point underdogs, twice making me look stupid, though something tells me they won't win this time.

As always, check out friend of the blog Jim Mullin and the crew on Countdown U:


To recap last week:

Mount Allison at Saint Mary's (-9.5) - did not cover, MtA won
Montreal at Laval (-11.5) - did not cover, Laval by 3
Queen's at Western (-18) - covered, Western by 29
Manitoba at Calgary (-14) - covered, Calgary by 15
Three years ago I pointed out that only six teams accounted for 75% of the conference champions (and therefore the bowl game participants) in the ten seasons from 2001 to 2010: Laval, Saint Mary's, Saskatchewan, Calgary, Western, and McMaster.

Since then, here are our conference winners, from west to east:

CW: Calgary, Calgary, Calgary
OUA: McMaster, McMaster, Western
RSEQ: Laval, Laval, Laval
AUS: Acadia, Acadia, Mount Allison

Notice any patterns?

The only conference to go outside of our "chosen six" group from the first decade of the 2000s cannot be applauded for helping competitive balance nationally, as they lost the first of those bowl games by 24, the next one by 35, and probably the third by 20 or more when the dust settles on Saturday. (Those scores, as you all surely know, come after semifinal losses of 28, 24, and 16 in '08 through '10 — but that is another issue entirely.) Though a tip of the cap is due to Mount A for making it this far, even if the local paper thinks their opponent is called the "Verte et Or."

Drop the AUS, and the other conference championships in the seven years since Saskatchewan last won break down like this:

7 Laval
6 Calgary
4 Western
2 McMaster
1 Manitoba
1 Queen's
All other programs tied for 0

So while previously it was our "chosen six" taking 75% of the bowl game spots in ten years, now our new "chosen four" (Laval, Calgary, Western, McMaster) take 19 out of 28, or 68% overall, and 90% of the spots in their three conferences alone.

In that post in 2010 I asked you to imagine putting six teams in one division and awarding them three of the four Mitchell and Uteck Bowl berths every year, giving the other spot to the best of the remaining 20-something programs. Madness, right? Nobody would go along with that.

Now it's down to just four teams, and the rule is something like "award them three berths, except in leap years when they get two." Or "award them three berths every year and the other one goes to a team they can all beat by multiple touchdowns."

Maybe there is no problem here, maybe CIS football is better with the big programs always playing at the end. But whatever is going on, over three years we haven't seen much change.
The CIS has just released the men's hockey roster for the 2013 Universiade in Trentino, Italy. It will probably be on their website shortly. (Update: here it is.)

NameUniversityElig.HometownAcademic Program
Jonathan GroenheydeSt. Thomas2Surrey, B.C.Arts
Anthony PetersSaint Mary’s3Blyth, Ont.Commerce
Wayne SavageUPEI4St. Thomas, Ont.Arts
Josh DayStFX5St. John’s, Nfld.Arts
Marc-Antoine DesnoyersUNB4Saint-Hippolyte, Que.Business Administration
Michael D’OrazioSaint Mary’s3Richmond Hill, Ont.Commerce
Simon LacroixMoncton4Orleans, Ont.Accounting
Matthew MaioneUPEI4Unionville, Ont.Arts
Christopher OwensAcadia4St. John’s, Nfld.Business Administration
Alex WallUPEI3Mount Pearl, Nfld.Science
Lucas BloodoffSaint Mary’s4Castlegar, B.C.Commerce
Tyler CarrollUNB3Strathroy, Ont.Rec. & Sports Studies
Mike CazzolaAcadia2Guelph, Ont.Kinesiology
Chris CulliganUNB5Howie Center, N.S.Rec. & Sports Studies
Chris DesousaUPEI3Mississauga, Ont.Arts
Eric FailleMoncton4Lachine, Que.Accounting
Liam HeelisAcadia3Georgetown, Ont.Science
Michael KirkpatrickStFX3North Sydney, N.S.Business Administration
Nick MacNeilUNB4Creignish, N.S.Business Administration
Rob SlaneyStFX4Portugal Cove, Nfld.Human Kinetics
Cory TanakaSaint Mary’s5Stouffville, Ont.MBA
Pierre VandallDalhousie4St-Louis-de-France, Que.Engineering
Alternate (forward)
Jason BastStFX4Regina, Sask.Human Kinetics

General Manager: Danny Lynch (UNB)
Head Coach: Gardiner MacDougall (UNB)
Assistant Coach: Brad Peddle (StFX)
Assistant Coach: Forbes MacPherson (UPEI)
Video Coach: Todd Sparks (UNB)
Equipment Manager: Serge LeBlanc (Moncton)
Therapist: Joe Glenn (UNB)
It was a short week in AUS men's hockey play; each team had one mid-week game and then 42 selected players were off to Fredericton for the Friday night All-Star game. 29 of those players got to stay the rest of the weekend in snowy and blustery Freddy Beach for the two-day Team Canada orientation camp to prepare for the FISU World Universiade in Trentino, Italy from December 11-21.

The big game Wednesday night was between first place UNB and third place UPEI on the Island. New blog contributor Graham Neysmith has the game story, which saw the V-Reds play their first overtime game in two seasons, and win 2-1 in an OT shootout thanks to the snipe of Taylor MacDougall, son of UNB head coach Gardiner.

Also on Wednesday Moncton was in Fredericton to play St. Thomas, and came away with a much needed 4-1 win. UdeM's Pier-Antoine Dion was the game's first star with a power play and empty net goal.

There were back-to-back games at the Halifax Forum, home rink for both Saint Mary's and Dalhousie. Wednesday evening StFX jumped to an early lead and cruised to a 5-2 win over Dal, outshooting the Tigers 46-19 in the game. Thursday was a much closer match as Acadia and SMU exchanged goals until Michael Clarke scored the winner in the third period. Though the Axemen earned the 4-3 win, and stretched their winning streak to five games, they lost forward Joe Gaynor to a possible concussion. He was also unable to attend the All-Star game on Friday.

Just over 500 fans showed up for Friday's spirited AUS All-Star game at the Grant*Harvey Centre, the first since 1999, and coming only 25% of the way into the season. The early date was mandated by the design of using the all-star game as the final identification camp for those players on the bubble to make Team Canada. Matt Tidcombe has a game summary on the AUS website. The game was played in four periods of unequal length. Head coach Gardiner MacDougall had his black-sweatered squad up 2-1 at the halfway point in the game. He then switched benches and Team White promptly took over the lead, and finished the game with a 4-2 win.

The original plan was that the next morning, Saturday, MacDougall and his two assistants, UPEI head coach Forbie MacPherson and StFX head coach Brad Peddle, would announce their overnight cuts down to the final 22-man roster and begin their two-day mini camp on the Grant*Harvey's secondary Olympic-sized ice surface. Well it didn't quite work out, because AUS math got in the way.

The AUS rule for their version of Team Canada is that each of the eight schools will have at least one player on the team, and no school shall have more than four players. Fair enough, but three players who would normally be shoo-ins for the team -- SMU goalie Anthony Peters, UNB forward Tyler Carroll and Dal forward Pierre-Alexandre Vandall -- are injured and have yet to play a conference game this season. All are apparently close to coming back, and may play next weekend.

Instead of completely committing themselves to those injured players Saturday morning, the coaching trio decided after a late night of discussion to pare the team from what was a working list of 35 down to 29 players -- 15 forwards, 9 defencemen and 5 goalies -- so as keep their potential alternates up to speed as they build the team and to give the coaches more time to evaluate those alternates.

As of now, the final 22-man roster has not been announced, but MacDougall and company will have to lock down his team real soon and make the tough decision on what to do about the injured players. We'll post that list when it becomes available.

Next weekend we'll get the final first-meetings of the season finished up. Friday night Acadia is at UNB, where a regulation-time win would put the Axemen in a first-place time with the V-Reds, while Dal is at Moncton. Saturday night the visitors swap New Brunswick hosts.

In Nova Scotia on Friday night St. Thomas is at StFX while UPEI is at Saint Mary's. Saturday night the Panthers are at the X-Men while the Tommies are at the Huskies.
It was a cold, brisk evening in the city of Montréal on Saturday night, but inside McConnell Arena things better resembled the Wild West, as an all-out barnburner took place between the #5 McGill Redmen and #7 Western Mustangs.

Western was entering the game coming off of a tough loss in Ottawa against the Gee-Gees the night before where they were held off of the scoresheet until over midway through the second. In this one, they got started quickly to try to remedy that as Steven Reese scored just three and a half minutes in to get the Mustangs out in front early.

Following the goal, both teams started a long and lengthy parade to the penalty box that endured throughout the entire game, as special teams became a crucial part of both sides’ strategies.

And just under seven minutes after Reese gave Western the lead, McGill’s Neal Prokop scored on the powerplay to even things up. The goal came after Julian Cimadamore took a cross-checking penalty, the first of three straight calls against Western.

As the period began to draw to a close, it was McGill making two straight trips to the sin bin, giving Western’s Zach Harnden the opportunity to deflect a Matt Clarke point shot past Andrew Flemming and into the McGill cage, giving the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.

It looked like Western scored again just seconds later, but the goal was called back for a hand pass, much to the ire of the Mustangs bench. With that, the period came to an end with Western ahead 2-1, but not before some extracurricular activity saw Shaun Furlong head to the box for a roughing minor.

That late penalty turned out to be a big advantage for McGill, as they came out on the offensive to start the second. The post came to the rescue early as David McKiernan rocked a slapshot off the iron and over the glass, but shortly afterwards, David Rose was able to bang home the rebound off a Hugo Laporte point shot to tie things up at two.

Less than three minutes later, McKiernan got some redemption, as he floated in a knucklepuck from the point that handcuffed Western’s Josh Unice and found twine, putting the Redmen up 3-2.

The period began as a disaster for Western, not only because of the two goals but just sloppy play in general.

A mad goalmouth scramble at the other end finally gave Western some momentum, as Daniel Erlich had Flemming sprawling on the ice trying to stack his pads, and was able to get the puck over Flemming and into the net, tying the game up at 3-3.

McGill kept the pressure up, but Unice was able to keep Western in the game, making save after save, and stopping 15 of 17 shots in the period.

His play resulted in late momentum for the Stangs, and on the powerplay Clarke was able to tee up another blast from the point and put it just under the crossbar, giving Western a 4-3 lead with just eight seconds remaining.

They’d take that score into the intermission, but again the period ended with some rough stuff. All ten players on the ice got involved in pushing and shoving, with a few gloves-on punches thrown. By all accounts, it was the CIS version of a line brawl, and ended with two minors and a ten-minute misconduct to each team as they prepared for the third.

Entering the third, McGill pulled Flemming from the game, and Jacob Gervais-Chouinard came into hold down the Redmen net for the final twenty minutes.

Again, penalties played a key part of the game, and McGill capitalized on an early powerplay. Carl Gelinas tapped the puck home on a goalmouth scramble, and just like that things were tied up.

McGill were then able to kill off a big penalty kill midway through the period, and just thirty-five seconds after the penalty expired, Cedric McNicoll scored the go-ahead marker, putting the Redmen ahead 5-4.

The game took an ugly turn from there, with McGill’s Patrick Delisle-Houde sent to the dressing room with a checking to the head misconduct. McGill were able to kill off the minor penalty that accompanied it, and then Western took some undisciplined penalties as they scrambled to get back into the game.

Kyle de Coste took an interference penalty, but Clarke was able to speed in on a shorthanded breakaway with a great chance to tie things up. He was hooked lightly, causing a weak shot, and Western became enraged that there was no call. Cimadamore took matters into his own hands, as he ran Laporte into the boards from behind, and received a minor and ten-minute misconduct of his own.

With that, McGill looked poised to simply walk away with a win, as they held a brief two-man advantage and then a powerplay to end the game. However, after the first penalty expired, some bizarre action took place on the ice. Max le Sieur made contact with Unice during play, and after the whistle Unice gave le Sieur a bit of a face wash. After the ensuing scrum was broken up, le Sieur chased Unice into the corner, sharing some words, and was called for a potentially-disastrous unsportsmanlike misconduct penalty, giving Western a 5-on-4 advantage with the net empty and 35 seconds to go.

Ultimately, though, Western was unable to put together any type of challenging attack, and McGill were able to survive and escape with a 5-4 victory, in a wild game that saw 84 total penalty minutes, and the Redmen outshooting the Mustangs 49-38.

With the win, McGill moves to 7-1-1 on the season and sit atop the top of the OUA East, and Western fall to 8-3-0, and after the two losses on the road trip now find themselves in the middle of the pack of the OUA West.


Join us for next week’s matchup as the 6-3-0 UQTR Patriotes travel to Windsor to face the OUA-leading 8-1-0 Lancers.

If this isn't the year Greg Marshall beats Laval, then when will it be? Framed against the cold steel bleachers of a less than sold-out TD Waterhouse Stadium, the Western Mustangs made the gap between No. 1 and No. 4 look wider than the lack of understanding between Ford Nation and an urban hipster.

By the end of 15 minutes, after the Queen's Golden Gaels had failed to make hay off two Mustangs miscues, Will Finch and friends were primed to produce the most definitive Yates Cup win among Marshall's eight as a head coach. Western, with Finch goings bombs-away to fellow superlative sophomore Matt Uren, controlled the middle two quarters and won 51-22 to retake the summit in the OUA.

They might be there for a while. Finch, game MVP Uren, running backs Yannick Harou, Tom Marshall and Garrett Sanvido, pass rusher Dylan Ainsworth, linebacker Preston Huggins and starting O-linemen Kadeem Adams and Matt Van Praet each have at least two years' eligibility remaining. Western, which led by as much as 43 points in the first 45 minutes on Saturday, could be poised to match the run the Marshall-made McMaster Marauders had at the outset of the millennium, when they won 41 of 44 games against Ontario teams during a four-year Yates reign from 2000-03.

"Against Ontario teams" is the operative part. Marshall is 0-for-3 against Laval in university football's cruelest month — agonizingly close semifinal losses in 2003 and '10 sandwiched around a no-doubter Vanier Cup loss in 2008. Those McMaster and Western teams had their shortcomings, but through 10 weeks this fall, no OUA squad came close to finding one in Western. It was just the sixth time a team hung a half-a-hundred on an opponent in the Yates. The 29-point margin was the largest in the Yates since 1992, when Wally Gabler Jr. and Guelph drilled, coincidentally, Western 45-10.

Perhaps Calgary, with home field for the Mitchell Bowl next week, can do so. Laval, which will play Mount Allison at an undisclosed location in the early Uteck Bowl, didn't look like a world-beater while escaping with a 14-11 Dunsmore Cup win over Montreal.

Finch was uber-efficient on Saturday, throwing 20-for-27 for 252 yards with three TDs while rushing 12 times for 77 more, without turning the ball over. That makes him the winner of the Battle of Burlington vs. Queen's Billy McPhee (21-for-35 for 275, two TDs and two picks) if you feel a need to be superficial about it. Western bent Queen's more than it broke it along the ground, where Sanvido toted the rock 20 times for 98 to lead a 220-yard output. Defensively, the Mustangs held firm, holding Queen's all-time leading rusher Ryan Granberg to 44 yards in his final OUA game. McPhee's interceptions weren't egregious; the first was on a nothing-to-lose second-and-long deep ball and the other by Huggins came on a ball that Pawel Kruba tipped into the air.

One stat note for Queen's: Justin Chapdelaine finished with seven catches for 82 yards and a TD in his final game.

Queen's gets tight

Western's second- and third-quarter play, when a Groundhog Day-like circuit of sustained drives, booming wind-aided Lirim Hajrullahu kickoffs and Gaels two-and-outs led to the score climbing higher and higher, likely renders second-guessing Queen's approach academic. It needs to be said, though, that the Gaels had the mien of a lot of basketball teams who go up against Dave Smart's Carleton Ravens, knowing the big onslaught is just a matter of when. Pat Sheahan, whose best Tricolour teams — the Tom Denison teams that played Sisyphus by rolling their boulder up Mt. Marshall in 2002-03 and the team that traversed the Golden Mile in '09 — got off the bus spreading the ball around to receivers. Yet Queen's didn't seem ready to take that chance on McPhee by putting it all on their fourth-year QB. That meant a lot of unsuccessful first-down runs and a lot of second-and-longs instead of the second-and-mediums that Danny Brannagan seized on so well four years ago.

Queen's star linebacker Sam Sabourin, who might be in the CFL come next September, fell on an early Uren fumble and the Gaels also sold out to block a Hajrullahu punt in the first quarter. Queen's only converted those gifts into a 5-3 lead. After that, Western scored the next 45 points.

There's no knowing whether Queen's getting more on the board early would have made any difference. Western mooted that but good. Now the Mustangs are two stages away from the peak that four other Ontario teams have scaled during the Laval era. Otherwise, all the OUA records written in purple ink will seem pretty moot, too.

Mount Allison at Saint Mary's (-9.5)
Montreal at Laval (-11.5)
Queen's at Western (-18)
Manitoba at Calgary (-14)

Not a terribly close set of games by the look of it, but there are always deviations from the predictions.

At 26:54 of Countdown U (video below), the members of the panel choose their Games of the Week. All games but the Hardy get one vote.

As for last week, five of the seven conference semifinals were within a touchdown of their predicted spread, with two big misses in the Montreal blowout win and Mount A's win despite only 154 yards of offence.
In a top-10 matchup that did not disappoint, the Varsity Reds kept their season-opening winning streak alive with a 3-2 shootout win over rival UPEI.

UNB has been known to field a competitive team year in and year out and 2013-14 appears to be no different. Gardiner MacDougall’s boys have already established themselves as front runners to repeat as CIS champions.

Meanwhile on the island, the Panthers are enjoying early-season success and were ranked 4th in the national rankings going into Wednesday night’s game in Charlottetown.

The home squad started off the contest with loads of pressure and peppered goalie Charlie Lavigne with shots.

However, it would be the Varsity Reds who opened the scoring. Matt Petgrave broke out of his zone with Dylan Willick and Antoine Houde-Caron on an odd man rush. Petgrave fanned on his shot but it beat goaltender Wayne Savage 5-hole. Savage will no doubt want that one back.

Even after the goal, UPEI kept the hammer down and it nearly paid off. Defenseman Matthew Mainone made a P.K. Subban-like spin-o-rama at the red line and sprung Jordan Mayer all alone on a breakaway. Unfortunately for the rowdy crowd of 1050 at MacLauchlan Arena, Mayer was just a step too quick and was offside. He took the shot anyway, much to the disdain of his opponents, and some pushing and shoving ensued.

The Varsity Reds headed to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.

Their lead would not stand for long, as the Panthers had many golden opportunities on the power play and Tyler Brown finally broke through with his fifth of the season. Mayer and Dana Fraser were credited with assists.

It appeared as though the game was going to tighten up but then the Varsity Reds showed why they were the three-time defending AUS champions. Petgrave cut into the slot and backhanded home his second of the game over the blocker of Savage.

The Panthers would respond before the period was out, though. Mayer and Mason Wilgosh were on a two-on-one and Mayer attempted to step inside to his backhand, but lost control of the puck and it somehow ended up in the back of net. It was ugly, but it counted and that’s how the second period would end.

The third frame began with more chances for the Varsity Reds and Savage had to be called on to make some spectacular saves. It seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before the number two team in Canada broke through.

The Panthers were determined not to let that happen. They let fire a good five shots in the span of about ten seconds. Lavigne turned away all of them however, including going post-to-post to stone Mayer with what was the save of the night, hands down.

Back and forth hockey followed. In the final minute, Brown dangled around Lavigne and tried to flip the puck over him. Lavigne managed somehow to get his blocker on it and Petgrave carried it right back down the ice. He saucered the puck in front of the net and it was whacked towards goal. Savage was sliding the wrong way in his crease but threw out the pad to toe-poke it wide and send this contest to overtime — the first time this year an AUS team has taken a point against UNB.

While the overtime period did yield some great chances for both sides, it would not break the dead-lock and a shootout was required. UNB got up 2-1 and Cody McNaughton needed to score to extend it, but couldn’t get it past Lavigne and the Reds were victorious.

The game lived up to its billing and the fans probably went home happy to have seen such a great display of hockey, despite the result.

Up next for the UPEI Panthers (now 4-1-1 and 3rd in the AUS with 9 points) they will be visiting Saint Mary’s on November 15th while the Varsity Reds (7-0-0, 1st in the AUS with 14 points) will be welcoming Acadia on the same night.
I've kind of dragged out writing this post waiting for more details to firm up (such as rosters) for Friday's AUS Men's Hockey All-Star game, but enough with the procrastination.

We were short one game this past weekend, as high winds closed the Confederation Bridge and prevented UPEI from traveling to Moncton Friday night. I go back long enough to remember travelers being marooned on ferries back in the day (but fortunately not me), so not the worst outcome. Despite that, the Panthers managed to maintain their hold on third place in the AUS and #4 ranking in the CIS. Will Wednesday night be the night they hand UNB their first loss? Certainly the game of the week to watch.

V-Reds continue to win despite their power play power outage

UNB had an unusually hot power play going into the weekend (albeit based on a small sample size of four games), and the more expected reality returned; hot is usually followed by cold. The V-Reds were 0-for-the-weekend with the man advantage, and it prevented them from pulling away from St. Thomas on Friday (that and three crossbar clangs) and it allowed Moncton to get back into the game on Saturday. Fortunately for UNB the other half of the special teams, the penalty kill, was flawless on the weekend and snuffed out a potential momentum shift for their opponents. We all know the hockey maxim: special teams and goaltending win you championships. UNB has most of that working so far, but not all of it. If and when they do, look out. Oh, and we also learned that d-men Ben Shutron and Adrian Robertson are both equally able at stopping pucks that get by their acrobatic goalie.

Friday: UNB 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: UdeM 1 @ UNB 4

Axemen are 2nd hottest team in AUS, and in 2nd place. Coincidence?

While some may focus on UNB's 6-game win streak, Acadia has won their last four straight. On Wednesday the cruised to a win at home against Dalhousie, with Liam Heelis scoring two more goals (he now has 7 goals in 6 games) and rookie netminder Brandon Glover picked up his first shutout. Saturday was a closer affair, with Joe Gaynor scoring in the 1st and 2nd period before SMU put on a push in the 3rd period but only creating one goal.

Wednesday: Dal 0 @ Acadia 5
Friday: SMU 1 @ Acadia 2

Panthers make the most of their single game

UPEI scored two games worth of goals in their game against STU. The well rested Panthers, unable to get off the Island Friday night, made short work of the Tommies, scoring four times in the first period and five times in the second period. Rookie Cody McNaughton had a hat trick during that onslaught.

Friday: UPEI @ UdeM (postponed)
Saturday: STU 2 @ UPEI 10

Aigles Bleus didn't respond as well to night off

UdeM was supposed to be the fresher team Saturday night, but whether it was bus legs or rust the V-Reds jumped all over the them and were up 3-0 just past the 12 minute mark. UNB's roving goalie Charles Lavigne (what trapezoid?) gifted Eric Faille a goal very early in the second period, but was solid outside of that in frustrating any potential Moncton comeback.

Friday: UPEI @ UdeM (postponed)
Saturday: UdeM 1 @ UNB 4

Welcome back Huskies

In the log jam for fourth place you will also find Saint Mary's. They still don't have Anthony Peters back in nets, but Curtis Black didn't cost them the game against Acadia and got the win against StFX. The SMU power play has been shockingly bad all season (worst in the AUS) and didn't disappoint on the weekend. Fortunately for them, their equally bad penalty kill turned around, as least for the weekend.

Friday: SMU 1 @ Acadia 2
Saturday: SMU 4 @ StFX 1

What's up with the X-Men?

Consistency is not StFX's strong suit right now. It seems like every game they have good periods and no-so-good periods. After spotting Dal the first goal Friday night, they score three of their own before the end of the first period, and yet found themselves having to win in overtime. Saturday they scored first, but SMU replied with four unanswered goals. Sure it is early in the season, but you would want to sort this out before too long. Kudos should go to the X-Men for staging a Military Appreciation Game Saturday.

Friday: Dal 4 @ StFX 5 (OT)
Saturday: SMU 4 @ StFX 1

Tommies in the mix

I would have never imagined that the three "Saints" would all have the same number of wins, two, after three weekends of play. To STU's credit, they played a disciplined, structured game against UNB on Friday, and they made it a one goal game after the V-Reds scored two early goals. They also refused to play into the V-Reds hands and open it up in the third period. Rookie netminder Alex St. Arnaud made 45 saves to keep his team in the game, but still the V-Reds ran their win streak to 36 games in the Battle of the Hill. After that bruising, give-everything game, it was not a surprise that the short-staffed Tommies got beat on the Island by the rested Panthers who avoided their normal grudge match with Moncton. However, the margin of victory did look more like last season than this season.

Friday: UNB 3 @ STU 2
Saturday: STU 2 @ UPEI 10

One point is better than no points

While Dal has yet to win this season, they did recover from a blanking at the hands of the Axemen to force a comeback tie with the X-Men, before eventually losing in overtime. The Tigers offence has really suffered this season without the injured Pierre-Alexandre Vandall, and Ben Breault opting to turn pro.

Wednesday: Dal 0 @ Acadia 5 
Friday: Dal 4 @ StFX 5 (OT)

This week

It is a condensed schedule in conference play as each team gets one mid-week game before Friday's All-Star "break". Wednesday UNB is at UPEI to renew acquaintances for the first time since their chippy playoff series in late February. A much anticipated game that could be a sell-out. Moncton is at STU for the first time, and both are looking for a win after last weekend. StFX is at the Halifax Forum to play Dal on Wednesday, while Thursday SMU hosts Acadia at the Forum.

Friday is the previously mentioned all-star game, which will serve as the final audition for players hoping to make the AUS version of Team Canada for the World University Games in December. It won't be easy for the coaching trio of UNB's Gardiner MacDougall, StFX's Brad Peddle and UPEI's Forbie MacPherson to decide on their squad; AUS rules mandate that the eight teams must have at least one representative each on the 22 man squad, and no team shall have more than four reps.

Saturday morning everyone will check out of the hotel, and those who make the cut will check into a different hotel together and begin two days of practices and team-building on the Olympic ice surface at the Grant*Harvey Centre. It should be fun for fans, but it is competing for attention with UNB's hosting of the CIS men's soccer championship from Thursday through Sunday. Not to mention many students and Frederictonians will be bailing out of town for the long weekend.
Some of the top men's and women's basketball programs in the country opened their seasons in Ottawa this past weekend, including both defending CIS champions. Here's our recap of those games:

Tough Start for Windsor

Following a strong regular season that saw them finish atop of the OUA West last season, the Windsor Lancers looked to rebound from a disappointing missed opportunity to play in the CIS Final 8 basketball championship last season as they lost to Lakehead in the OUA bronze medal game. However, things looked optimistic for the Lancers, who entered the season ranked sixth in the nation. Unfortunately for them, the schedulers weren’t so kind, forcing Windsor to open their season on the road at the opposite end of the province against the no. 1 Carleton Ravens and no. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Coming off of their ninth national championship in the past eleven years, it should be no surprise that the Ravens entered the season ranked atop of the CIS Top Ten. Led by legendary coach Dave Smart and a returning class of standouts including Phil and Thomas Scrubb, as well as Tyson Hinz, Carleton looks poised to contend in achieving their campaign of “Again for Ten.”

It was a high-profile affair to kick off the season at the Raven’s Nest, with a good-sized crowd walking into the arena on a red carpet draped with Ravens cheerleaders on either side while the band provided a traditional university sport soundtrack. A rendition of the national anthem before the game topped off the classy beginning, and the game began.

It took only four seconds for Carleton to put up their first points of the season, as Thomas Scrubb dunked the ball on a fast break off of tip-off. From there, Carleton never looked back, in a game that didn’t see a single lead change. Windsor was able to keep it close through the first quarter, trailing only 23-16.

In the second quarter, however, Carleton began to pull away, in particular dominating the boards, outrebounding the Lancers 23-14 at the half. Carleton also worked the outside shot, which led to them outscoring the Lancers 24-11 in the second quarter. Carleton’s 47% FG%, compared to Windsor’s 36%, gave the Ravens a 47-27 lead to start the third.

In the third, the Scrubb brothers continued to dominate, while Windsor saw some flashes of brilliance from senior Lien Phillip. Windsor tried to claw back into the game, but both Mike Rocca and Enrico Diloreto found themselves in early foul trouble. With three quarters gone, Carleton maintained a 70-51 lead.

In the fourth, Carleton kept the pressure up causing lots of frustration on the Windsor side, resulting in some unusual mistakes such as bad turnovers and travel calls. Coach Smart got the bench players some work near the end of the contest, when Carleton had taken a commanding 27 point lead. The Ravens went on to take the game by a final of 95-74, with strong performances by both Scrubb brothers. Phil scored 24 points with five assists, while Thomas had 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Phillip remained the standout for Windsor, scoring 20 points and nine rebounds in an otherwise unspirited effort.

In their second contest of the weekend, Windsor headed downtown to face the third-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees, hoping to bounce back from the previous night’s loss.

The game got off to a flying start, with both teams trading scoring runs in the first quarter. The Gee-Gees jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, before Windsor turned things around on a 12-0 run of their own. Ottawa found their second big momentum swing in the first quarter following a pair of dunks by sophomore Caleb Agada, which led to 15 consecutive points for the Gees. Windsor was able to right the ship, however, closing the gap to 26-18 after the first intermission.

In the second quarter, things settled down a bit as the teams more consistently traded buckets. The Gee-Gees were able to get out to a 14 point lead, but Windsor’s Enrico Diloreto, who scored a team-high 29 points on the day, led a Lancers run at the end of the quarter to halve that lead, to 47-40 at the half.

In the third quarter, Windsor showed the hunger that was missing in the previous night’s game, as Josh Collins worked from beyond the arc and the Lancers were able to tie things up at 62 apiece, before taking a 66-65 lead into the final quarter.

A hot start to the fourth put Ottawa back ahead, though, and they didn’t look back. The Gee-Gees jumped out to a quick 9-0 run, and then it was Johnny Berhanemeskel who put the finishing touches on the game, with a pair of three-pointers and a deep field goal.

The Gee-Gees outscored the Lancers 31-19 in the final frame, en route to a 96-85 victory, but at the end of the night all of the attention was on Berhanemeskel. He set a new school record for career three-point scoring, by draining five and attaining 200 over his career. He led the Garnet and Grey offensively, picking up a game-high 34 points in the contest, in addition to snagging six rebounds.

Mustangs Suffer Blowouts

The other team that was in the national capital this past weekend was the unranked Western Mustangs, who finished last season in the basement of the OUA West in a season that saw only three wins.

Things didn’t look good for the Mustangs with the tough opening schedule, and neither Ottawa nor Carleton left room for any surprises.

On Friday, Ottawa found themselves with another hot start, putting up 26 on the Mustangs in the first. In the second quarter, the lead expanded as Ottawa outscored Western 29-19, to take a 55-37 lead into halftime.

The Gee-Gees continued to shoot well from beyond the arc, sinking eleven three-pointers and shooting 42% from three-point range. As the Mustangs fought to get back into the game, things got worse, as Western committed a whopping 24 turnovers in the contest.

Finally, the buzzer ran out with the scoreboard reading a final of 104-76 in favour of the Gee-Gees.

Most teams would look forward to the opportunity to bounce back from such a devastating loss, but that’s just not true when it’s Carleton waiting to face you.

As expected, things got even worse for the Mustangs in Saturday’s match-up.

Carleton came out firing on all cylinders, and Phil Scrubb and Clinton Springer-Williams each nailed a pair of three-pointers, helping the Ravens jump out to an 18-4 lead. By the time the first quarter ended, that lead had been extended to a 33-10.

There were no real changes in the second quarter, and by the time Phil Scrubb made a jump shot to hit the half-century mark for the Ravens, their lead was extended to 33 points. Heading into halftime, Carleton was leading 57-21.

In the second half, Western could only muster an additional 23 points, while Carleton hit the century mark with about seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the lead at that point being 100-36.

Perhaps in retribution for a 71-4 licking that the Mustangs football program laid on the start-up Ravens, Carleton’s basketball team went on to win by 75 points, 117-42. In a game that saw scoring dispersed evenly between the key starters and bench players, Springer-Williams finished with a game-high 17 points.

Lancers Drop Opener

Meanwhile, in women’s hoops, the roles were reversed in Friday’s Carleton-Windsor matchup. The Lancers entered ranked first in the country following three consecutive championships, and many believed they would have little problem jumping to a quick 2-0 start.

The Ravens, playing at home in front of an electric crowd, had other plans.

After an even first quarter, Carleton was led by Lindsay Shotbolt and McKenzie Sigurdson in the second quarter, scoring double the Lancers' nine points to take a 36-24 lead into halftime. Sigurdson had an explosive start, scoring 11 points in the first half alone.

Carleton fought to withhold the Windsor attack in the third quarter, and were able to equal the Lancers' offence and take a 51-41 lead into the fourth.

That’s when Windsor upped the ante, and began to claw back into Carleton’s lead. Korissa Williams scored five points to help the Lancers jump out to a 7-0 run to start the quarter, closing the lead to three. Sigurdson hit a clutch three to extend the lead, but Windsor again closed the gap, Miah-Marie Langlois three-pointer with 4:34 left shrunk the lead to a point.

With just over two minutes left, Windsor were finally able to restake the lead, and had momentum on their side. However, Sigurdson just could not be contained, as she sunk another shot from beyond the arc with 1:25 left to give Carleton a 60-58 lead. The Ravens clamped down on defense, and a pair of free throws following an intentional foul was enough to allow the Ravens to escape with a massive 62-58 upset to start the season.

Unsurprisingly, Sigurdson led all players in scoring with 20 points, and shot 100% from beyond the arc.
For the 2013-14 OUA preview, I've divided all the teams up into tiers. Ontario is deep this year with four teams being in the conversation for nationals. There are other teams who could surprise too, if they get a few lucky bounces and some transfers pan out. Then, we have some programs floundering in the basement without a shred of hope of making noise. For each team, I've given a projected finish and a player to watch. That player is a combination of on-court entertainment while also being a barometer for the success a team will have.

CIS Title Contenders

Carleton Ravens

There is no weakness in the Ravens’ game. Sure, their jerseys are lacking in creativity, but that’s the most significant criticism I can find. The team that claimed its ninth CIS title in 11 seasons this past year, Carleton will put more distance between themselves and the rest of the pack come March 2014.

Behind Tyson Hinz, the Scrubb brothers, and transfer Victor Raso there is just no way another team beats these guys. We’re talking about a team that nearly beat the Syracuse Orange.

Phil Scrubb is the best player in the country — this much is tough to debate and until he shows any signs of slowing down, Carleton is a lock to compete for the W.P. McGee Trophy. Scrubb led the conference in PER (with Tyson Hinz and Thomas Scrubb right behind him) and he shoots 47 per cent on two point shots and 41 per cent on three point shots. (Unless otherwise specified, all statistics refer to the 2012-13 season.)

Last year, Dave Smart orchestrated the best offence and defence in the country. Not just the OUA — the entire CIS. The Ottawa Gee-Gees had an offensive rating of 107, second in the country to Carleton’s 122 (!). The gap between the Ravens and the field for defensive was closer — Carleton put up a defensive rating of 84, with the next closest figure being 89 from the Ryerson Rams.

Carleton owns the best REB% in the league at 41 per cent. They get to the line at a great pace – second to McMaster – and shoot the highest 78 per cent at the charity stripe. The Ravens hold teams to a 40 per cent eFG% too.

If you haven’t caught on yet, Carleton can do it all and their key players all fall somewhere in the top ten in the nation. Expect another dominating season from the Ravens.

Player to Watch: Phil Scrubb. I just want to know what this guy’s ceiling is. He opened the year with 38 points on 13 shots through two games.

Projected Finish: CIS Finals – Wilson Cup Champions

Windsor Lancers

This is a veteran team. Josh Collins, Enrico Diloreto and Lien Phillip are all in their fifth year of eligibility. They are this year’s version of the 2012-13 Lakehead Thunderwolves, relying on experience through the long season.

Windsor’s strength lies in their defence, which plays a suffocating press that forces turnovers at the highest rate in the conference. Phillip grabs 28% of the Lancers’ defensive rebounds, good for No.1 in that category. He’s also a highly capable defender on the block and while not a player who blocks shots (he only had 14 blocks last season), Phillip can bother shots in a help situation.

The concern for this team will be how they function on offence. Michael Petrella played a ton of minutes at guard for the Lancers last year, but with his departure, Windsor has to look elsewhere to get the ball moving on offence. Collins is a top-level point guard, great at distributing the ball to his teammates. His average of 4.1 assists per game put him at 15th in the country. But the issue here is his turnovers.

The talented teams in the OUA prey on turnovers, and if you can’t control turnovers — as Collins has shown — you’re not going to win. Last year, take a look at the OUA teams who made it to the CIS Final 8: Lakehead, with Greg Carter and Dwyane Harvey leading the charge; Carleton, with the Scrubb brothers and Clinton Springer Williams wreaking havoc on ball-handlers; Ottawa, with Johnny Berhanemeskel and Warren Ward finishing top-five in total steals, and the Lancers. Windsor as a team has a low TOV% (20 per cent) but Collins owns a 24 per cent TOV%. It’s tough to build a successful offence around that, proven by their lowly 98 O-Rtg.

Another key to shoring up their offence will be reigning in Diloreto. He’s a talented offensive player, but he shoots an abysmal eFG% of 44 per cent. His shooting is only compounded by his USG%, which ranks 13th in the league among qualified players. If coach Chris Oliver can move some of those possessions to Rotimi Osuntola Jr. - a hyper-efficient guard with range - Windsor should be able to come out on top of the OUA West.

Lastly, they need to improve in all areas of free throws — both getting to the line and knocking them down. Their free throw to field goal attempted ratio is second worst in the OUA (to Western), and their free throw percentage is the worst, at 65%. If they can do a better job at getting to the line and setting up that hellacious press that Oliver has crafted, the O-Rtg should improve greatly.

Player to Watch: Lien Phillip - Professional-level talent, will be key to maintaining their defence.

Projected Finish: Medal at the CIS Championship - potential Wilson Cup finalist

Contenders for a Final 8 berth

McMaster Marauders

The talk in Hamilton has been about nationals, and I think that’s a fair conversation to have.

Adam Presutti had a rough sophomore season, riddled with injuries causing him to never catch on in the lineup. Outside of that, McMaster’s roster all made significant strides; Joe Rocca become a reliable offensive weapon, Taylor Black emerged as one of the best players in the conference (and nation), Rohan Boney won a Rookie of the Year award and Nathan McCarthy proved himself to be a top defensive big man.

With all of those players back, the Marauders seemed poised to build off a good season in 2012-13. It started off rough, with only two wins and five losses after the interlock period. But the team would turn it around and finish 13-8 and were this close to getting to the Final Four before succumbing to Lakehead in the Thunderdome.

McMaster had an average offence, but that was largely a product of Boney and Redpath having to take control when Presutti missed games. When the 2011 CIS Rookie of the Year did play however, he improved the offence with his playmaking ability. Presutti posted a 26 per cent AST% last season, good for second in the conference.

Where McMaster hangs their hat is on defense, and don’t expect a regression there. Boney is a great defender, Black and McCarthy can handle nearly any frontcourt and head coach Amos Connolly has added some other talent to beef up the defense. Trevon McNeil, Hamid Nessek and Leon Alexander — all in their first year with the program — are solid players who are overwhelming when defending the perimeter.

Black could take the next step and be in the conversation for an All-Canadian spot. He posted the best PER for players not from Carleton and has shown a knack for scoring at the right time and taking over quarters.

I’m very high on this team because I’ve already said a couple hundred words about them and haven’t even talked about some players who won't be playing major minutes for them. They lost Scott Laws, an emotional leader for the team, but as the team matures, they should have been able to replace the void.

They’ll need to knock off a ranked team to get to the CIS Final 8, but don’t be surprised if they do. This team is ten players deep and capable of playing with any team in the conference.

Player to Watch: Taylor Black. He is only in his fourth year of eligibility and has already made noise through the beginning of this season. Just how good can he be?

Projected Finish: Second in the OUA West, potential Wilson Cup finalist.

Ottawa Gee-Gees

With the departure of Warren Ward — a player who received NBA camp invites and praise from professional hoops writers — to Germany, it’s easy to sweep the Gee-Gees out of the conversation. But there is more to the Garnet and Grey than Ward. Johnny Berhanemeskel is the league-leader in three-pointers made, Vikas Gill is an efficient option to take some more of the offensive load and Mike L’Africain has been stellar through the Gee-Gees undefeated pre-season.

To say L’Africain struggled through his sophomore season is putting things gently. Offensively, he was unable to be efficient while playing off Ward’s double teams and was an average defender with a D-Rtg of 98. But L’Africain has all the tools to be an effective point guard for an electric offence.

Head coach James Derouin has looked to increase the tempo of the game, and that lends to L’Africain’s ball handling abilities and decision-making. Last year, the second-year guard finished 16th in the OUA for assists. Playing alongside Gill and Berhanemeskel gives L’Africain two lethal weapons on the perimeter, so his assist numbers should improve this year.

I mentioned earlier that the Ottawa offence is second in the conference and while it will regress due to the loss of Ward, it will still be up there with the best. The defence is what’s suspect here.

Matt Nelson, a six-foot-nine centre, hardly played last year after suffering multiple injuries. In fact, he even doesn’t show up on the CIS roster for last year’s team. But he’ll be the key to keeping the Gee-Gees defence in the upper echelon of the OUA ranks. Ottawa played a small-ball rotation, with Gill at six-foot-seven being the largest player on the court. While this rotation led them to a CIS bronze, it’s hard to imagine this being sustainable after losing a strong perimeter defender in Ward. If Nelson can come in and become a fearsome paint presence, Ottawa’s defence could take a leap. But that’s a tall task for a second-year player with minimal on-court experience.

Another key piece to the defensive puzzle is Caleb Agada, who showed himself to have a little something during the Gee-Gees CIS Final 8 run. He has been getting a lot of minutes early in the season and I'm bullish on his perimeter defence being able to slow some offences down.

Nelson should have time to grow, however. Last year, Derouin had his team forcing opponents into difficult shots, gang-rebounding and forcing turnovers. All of those skills do not require height; they require extreme amounts of will and no player missing a beat.

With Derouin behind the bench, L’Africain poised to become a top OUA point guard and the majority of the parts from a CIS medal finish still in tact, the Gee-Gees could be in the hunt for a CIS wild card berth.

Player to Watch: Mike L’Africain. With Ward gone, someone will have to take over on offense and orchestrate. Can L'Africain pick up the slack? My quick answer is yes.

Projected Finish: potentially in the OUA bronze medal game - CIS wild card conversation

Ryerson Rams

You could make the case for Ryerson to be a CIS contender. They have the pieces; they only lost one player from last year’s team and added some intriguing talent.

But I’m pessimistic about this Rams squad. Their offence earned a pedestrian O-Rtg of 100 despite having Jahmal Jones, Aaron Best and Jordan Gauthier. Those players though, might be the reason that their offence struggled.

Both Best and Jones have been efficient on two-point shot attempts: Best shot 55 per cent from inside the arc while Jones shot 45 per cent last year. That figure from Jones is a dip in production from his first three years in OUA play, when he shot 48.3 per cent in 2011-12 and a scorching 52.4 per cent in 2010-11. His shot totals through those years were all within 11 FGA of each other.

Gauthier shot 51 per cent on non-threes last year, but 122 of 266 shot attempts were threes last year, where he only made 40 — or 32 per cent of his attempts.

It’s the three-point shots that are killing the Rams. Through twenty games last year, 38 per cent of Ryerson’s shots were threes and they only shot 29.0 per cent behind the arc. That’s a lot of threes for a team that isn’t particularly good at it.

Teams with similar three-point shot rates? Carleton with 39.5 per cent and Ottawa with 39.7 per cent. But those squads are really, really good at threes. The Ravens knocked down 40.2 per cent of threes and Ottawa knocked down 40.1 per cent.

I’m not saying that Ryerson should abandon the three-point shot. My point is that they’ll need to make better decisions in the half court. The three aforementioned guards lead the team in USG% and if they want to make it to the Final 8 tournament, head coach Roy Rana is going to have to reign their shooting in.

Instead, they should look to Bjorn Michaelsen. He is a solid big man and shoots a team-best eFG% of 56 per cent. He is polished in the post and should receive more touches than he did last year.

Ryerson is capable of making nationals, but it will take a major shift in player tendencies to get there. Can Rana change the established player styles of his three guards?

Player to Watch: Aaron Best. In his third year, he has the opportunity to climb into the top five scorers of the OUA.

Projected Finish: potentially in the OUA bronze medal game - Wild card conversation


Laurentian Voyageurs

Manny Pasquale is gone, but this team has the ability to rework itself and make noise in the OUA East. Don’t expect them to be challenging Ottawa or Carleton at the top of the standings, but they should have upset potential in the playoffs.

Georges Serresse, Jamie Weldon and Stephen Williams have all moved on from the program but Josh Budd, Nelson Yengue and Tychon Carter-Newman should have no issues filling those minutes.

Budd has already shown a scoring prowess, leading the team in scoring over Waterloo in the season opener. Carter-Newman is a defensive monster and able to clean up some plays on the offensive glass too. Nelson Yengue didn’t use a ton of offensive possessions last year, but made good on the times he did, shooting a 52 per cent eFG%.

This team is balanced, with an O-Rtg and D-Rtg of 101. Alex Ratte had a great year last year while leading the team in USG%, but it’ll be interesting to see how the loss of Pasquale impacts the defenders he faces.

I’m buying Voyageur stock because of that Sudbury advantage and returning players who are capable of filling in for the losses. The only thing that worries me about this team is what happens when Ratte has an off night or takes on an elite defender. Who takes on the shooting responsibilities? It looks like Budd, but he only averaged 7.2 points a game last year in 24 minutes per game. Will he be able to carry the offence?

Player to Watch: Josh Budd. I hinted at it before, but I’m really curious to see if the fourth-year can take these offensive units to new heights in the post-Pasquale era.

Projected Finish: Third in OUA East

Queen’s Golden Gaels

Queen’s has never made the national tournament. For a school with rich history and enough spirit to support a handful of OUA competitors, that’s a jarring fact.

But the Gaels seem to be building towards something now. Last year, rookies Sukhpreet Singh and Roshane Roberts were second and third in minutes played per game. Fourth-year Greg Faulkner led the team in minutes and scoring before going down with an injury. His strong debut in tricolour after transferring from Carleton put Queen’s at 6-3 heading into the winter break. The wheels fell off later in the season, going 1-4 in their final five games without Faulkner to finish 10-10.

It’s those outstanding rookies that put the Gaels in the up-and-coming conversation. Both were thrust into high usage situations, tasked with carrying the offence. The adjustment from high school to the OUA got the best of the two, with Singh putting up an eFG% of 46 per cent and Roberts hitting at a 40 per cent clip. Those are two sobering numbers, but there are positives.

Singh got the line at an all-OUA level. His free throw rate of 0.37 was good for ninth in Ontario. He only made 74 percent of his free throw attempts, but for a rookie to come out and make a habit of getting to the charity stripe is nothing short of impressive. Singh also has an elite play-making ability, finishing his first-year campaign with a 21 per cent assist rate to put him at tenth in the conference.

For Roberts, there are not many redeeming offensive numbers. All around, it looks pretty bleak. He’s not a great shooter from anywhere, doesn’t do well at the line (71 per cent last year) and averaged just over an assist a game. Those numbers will definitely turn around as he gains experience.

Where Roberts could redeem himself is to grow on the defensive end. He showed promise; he averaged a hair over a steal per game last year and owned an impressively low 2.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes.

Mike Mullins — brother of Columbia University and member of the Canadian development team Grant Mullins — joins the team and should take some of the scoring load off of Roberts. 

Nikola Misljencevic has had a strong pre-season, including 20 points over No. 8 McGill to lead his team to an OT victory. He only averaged seven shots a game, but it’s likely that he’ll take more possessions too.

Don’t expect a breakout season though. This team will likely be building off of last year’s success and give their young players more on-court experience.

Player to Watch: Greg Faulkner. He is a savvy player with range who has the potential to go for 30 if the defence is sleeping on him.

Projected Finish: Loss in OUA quarterfinals

Laurier Golden Hawks

This one is a tough call. Their roster screams "average" as evidenced by last year’s O-Rtg of 94 and D-Rtg of 101. Both marks are just middle of the pack, but more importantly, they are far off from the mark of teams that compete for the Wilson Cup year-in and year-out.

Still, they have a chance to make a run. Max Allin, in his final year of eligibility, is one of the best scorers in the country. He plays an efficient style; good three-point shooting and a ton of free throws. Third-year Will Coulthard has one of the quickest triggers in the conference, willing to throw it up at any second. Consistency is still an issue for him, though. He used the most possessions out of any player on his team, but only shot at an eFG% of 45 per cent.

While those two players are good on the offensive end, there are not many other players to rely on and that’s where we see the difference between them and true contenders. Allin and Coulthard combine for many of the team’s possessions per game but the others go to players who simply are not efficient enough to be deemed worthy of using a possession.

The next two leaders in USG% are Patrick Donnelly and Jamar Forde, at 20 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Donnelly, who left the team late last year for unknown reasons but is back now, shot a horrific 39 per cent eFG%. That’s 96th worst among players that played at least one-third of team minutes. There were only 107 players that qualified. Forde isn’t much better - he ranks 85th in the category.

Head coach Peter Campbell will have to either move those shots to Coulthard and Allin or find new sources of offence. Matt Chesson, OUA Rookie of the Year, and incoming rookie Jack Simmons could give them that offence. Chesson has size and a post-game, while Simmons has put up 11.6 points through five preseason games.

Their defence is average but should be better with Donnelly back, Chesson playing more minutes and Allin maintaining a low foul rate. Turning that offence around is more important than making that defence on par with team’s in the running for the title.

Player to Watch: Max Allin. He broke the school scoring record last year in his first game back after the passing of his father. Allin can light it up with the best of them and is always worth a look.

Projected Finish: Fourth in OUA West - OUA semifinal loss

Lakehead Thunderwolves

I refuse to put Lakehead in the basement. Yes, Scott Morrison is on a professional leave of absence, scouting for the NBA D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Yes, the group of players like Joseph Jones, Greg Carter, Yoosrie Sahlia, Ben Johnson, and Matthew Schmidt who took this program to a new level are all gone. But the Thunderwolves will find a way, as they always seem to.

Lakehead had a surprising preseason, playing the Victoria Vikes tough and grinding through a game against Carleton. They dropped some games to inferior opponents, but once this team plays gets their feet wet and uses that Thunderdome advantage, they’ll be back in the conversation for the top of the OUA West.

Since the majority of players who played for this team are gone (and Ryan Thomson is sitting out the year to recover from knee surgery), I’ll shy away from putting stock in team stats. However, we can look at some players with increased roles that will try to get Lakehead back in the CIS Final 8.

Anthony McIntosh is a fourth-year player who has been asked to take on increased importance for this squad. He did not log major minutes last year — his highest minute total was in the final game of the regular season with 13 — but has already played a ton in the preseason.

Igor Lebov is a transfer from Franklin Pierce University and he has a wealth of talent. Lebov could another one of those players that Morrison has plucked out of seemingly nowhere and has potential to lead this team in scoring.

Justin Bell is in his final year of eligibility after bouncing around the OUA. He’s played for Ottawa and York but looks poised to grab a starting forward spot on the roster.

With so many moving parts, this season could go very right or very wrong for the Thunderwolves. Not having Morrison behind the bench puts a damper on my optimism slightly. What will kill this team’s chances is a slow start in the difficult interlock period.

Player to Watch: Igor Lebov. The transfer is a talented player on offensive who can hit from anywhere on the court. He could give below-average defenders nightmares.

Projected Finish: Third in the OUA West, loss in the semifinals

Playoffs, but barely

York Lions

Head coach Tom Olivieri has built a good roster here, with a lot of depth and experience. True, this team is competing in a tough conference, but I like their chances.

Aaron Rados is leading this squad as a fifth-year forward. He plays tough and led the team in minutes last year, although just barely beating out David Tyndale. Rados will be asked to take on more of the offensive load this year since Tyndale was a major source of their scoring.

This could be a good shift though, as Rados had a 52 per cent eFG% last year, a respectable mark in the top-third of the conference. He spreads his shots well; taking just under half his shots from three while shooting a decent 35 per cent and getting to the line consistently.

The Lions’ defence was respectable last year too, posting a D-Rtg of 103. A lot of that can be credited to Nick Tufegdzich, a fourth-year forward who anchors this defense. Olivieri has to hope that his presence inside can push that D-Rtg south of 100.

I’ve put this team in the "up-and-coming" section because I think their experience will pay off. But there is no time for growing pains and the loss of Tyndale can’t linger on the offence. Tyndale was an "oh no the shot clock is running down, here just take the ball" guy and did a decent job in that role. But do they have the pieces to replace that? They should, as Olivieri seems intent on playing nine guys in his rotation, according to a York Lions website video.

Player to Watch: Aaron Rados. With more possessions heading for his hands, he is one of the most intriguing players in the OUA East.

Projected Finish: Sixth in OUA East, lose in quarterfinals.

Western Mustangs

I’m expecting this team to squeak into the playoffs but only as a product of a weaker lower half of the OUA.

I’m not a fan of this team whatsoever, as they play a rough style that is not exactly fun to watch. Last year, in a regular season match-up against McMaster, the Mustangs could not hit a shot from anywhere on the court. Mac was running them out of the gym and instead of accepting that the game was lost, Western decided to just start playing dirty. They began to hit players at every possible second and it became a safety concern.

That Mustang squad is the proud owner of the worst O-Rtg in the conference, at 86. The leader for that offensive unit was Peter Scholtes, who used 27% of the possessions but put up an eFG% of 41 per cent. He is back to lead the offensive, which is not an encouraging sign. Western also turned the ball over on 25% of their possessions last year.

Alongside him on offence is Quinn Henderson. He too used a lot of possessions for them and shot a better percentage at 47 per cent, but that mark is not something to structure an offence around.

Defensively, this team was bad. They posted a D-Rtg of 106 and turned the ball over at an OUA-worst rate of 25 per cent of possesions. There is reason for optimism, though. Greg Morrow is back for a third-year and he was the strongest defensive player for the Stangs last year. He also shot a great percentage from the field with a 58 per cent eFG%, so if you’re looking for a bright spot, here it is.

Eric McDonald is a transfer from Guelph and could provide more offence for the squad. He had a strong preseason, including 18 points against Acadia.

Brad Campbell has added some recruits but it’s yet to be seen how many minutes they will play.

Western’s experience could pay off and they should prey on weaker OUA teams like Waterloo, Guelph, Toronto and Algoma.

Player to Watch: Greg Morrow. He shoots the best percentage (by far) on this team and can get his own shot. Will he be given the keys to the offence over Scholtes though?

Projected Finish: Fifth in the OUA West. Quarterfinal loss.

Guelph Gryphons

Guelph is just too young of a team to put in a category other than the basement. Zach Angus is one of my favourite players to watch in this league, but he can only do so much. Angus and Michel Clark are two returning players who logged major minutes, but the rest of the returning cast are relative unknowns. 13 (!!!) players averaged double-digit minutes per game last year too, and they need to figure out their rotation.

Their O-Rtg and D-Rtg were so bad last year, I contemplated not putting them in to save the horror. For offense, Guelph was tied for third worst in the league with 92 and for defense, they were second worst in the league, with 107. What’s scary is that Dan McCarthy — one of the team’s best defenders — is gone. Adam Kemp is a six-foot-seven forward and has a year of experience under his belt. They will need him to anchor the defence.

Offensively, McCarthy’s departure means that the team will need to look elsewhere for offence. He used a lot of possessions for the team last year and the Gryphons will miss his production. For a player using as many possessions as McCarthy did, you would want his eFG% to be higher (it was 46 per cent) but Guelph needs whatever they can get.

They have a fresh crop of rookies, with 12 first-year players listed on their 2013-14 roster. It’ll be a rough start for the season to them if head coach Chris O’Rourke spreads the minutes as much as he did last year.

Guelph has committed themselves to the development of athletics, with a new indoor complex, brand-new football stadium and revamped soccer complex. They have some highly competitive teams in soccer, rugby, football, field hockey and cross country (to name a few). Basketball has been lacking though. Could this be the year where they start to turn that around? Probably not on paper, but through the development of their first-years, it could be the beginning.

Player to Watch: Zach Angus. He is a tough player with solid stroke and ability to get to the hoop. He’ll get more touches this year and it’ll be fun to see what he does with it.

Projected Finish: Sixth in the OUA West. Quarterfinal loss.

Basement Dwellers

Toronto Varsity Blues

I’ve put Toronto here because of the conference they play in, but I’m optimistic about the future of this team.

For one, John Campbell is the new coach. He is leaving Dalhousie, where he took two teams to the Final 8. He has implemented a new system, but said that it’s been "challenging" to introduce.

Then there is the new Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport opening in 2014. If you’ve seen the promotions for it, you know that Toronto has laid the foundation to host a CIS-best athletic department.

But for this year, they have Alex Hill returning, Matt Savel should hopefully be healthy and Dakota Laurin should get more shots since Arun Kumar has left.

Last year, Kumar and Hill used a large proportion of the team’s possessions and neither was even close to efficient. Losing Kumar is a blessing for Campbell, as he stopped any and all ball movement. If he can rein Hill in a bit, Toronto will improve on offence.

The defence was an issue last year, but again that comes from Kumar. He is a short guard and let a lot of guys get by him. If your point guard can’t defend in the OUA, you’re going to have a bad time.

These guys will be worth a watch to see what Campbell can do, but you won’t see these guys making much noise in a loaded OUA East.

Projected Finish: Eighth in the OUA East.

Algoma Thunderbirds

The newest OUA team could turn into a Lakehead-lite. Their coach, Thomas Cory, casts a wide net in recruiting — he grabbed recruits from British Columbia and Michigan — and he has been the team’s coach through their college competition. Throw in the travel factor, where teams are playing in Sudbury the night before and you’ve got a distinct advantage. The two schools even share the same weird "Thunder" prefix.

McMaster’s Joe Rocca said that the team is ultra-athletic and will look to just run teams out of the gym, a sentiment Mac coach Amos Connolly echoed in a separate interview.

They’ll be able to surprise some teams too, with teams having to do so much travelling to get there.

Player to Watch: Terrell Campbell. Athletic player who can get up and down the court as fast as anyone.

Projected Finish: Seventh in OUA East.

Brock Badgers

The new head coach in St. Catharines has already called this a rebuilding season, but Brock seems to finally be having a positive rebuild.

For the past couple of seasons, the Badgers have fielded teams that struggle to mesh on the offensive end. Last year, they put up a brutal O-Rtg of 90. With Charles Kissi in charge, the offence already looks better when I watched a preseason game against Niagara College. The ball moved a lot quicker and they were playing an inside-out style instead of the iso-ball of years past.

Mike Luby, Brian Nahimana, Jameson Tipping and Mark Gibson have all moved on from the program. Tipping had two years of eligbility remaining but left the program to play for the Brampton A’s — where Tipping’s older brother is the president and his father is the owner. Tipping used a lot of possessions for this team but was a treat to watch, as he could get to the hoop with ease, back you down in the post and hurt you from outside — evidenced by his 34 per cent mark from three.

Tshing Kasamba and Issack Egueh played the most minutes of returning players and are set to lead this squad. Alongside them is Dani Egaldi, a six-foot-seven rookie with long arms and scoring touch. He doesn’t have the size to handle older players on the defensive end but his quickness is a plus if Kissi wants to switch him on to a guard.

You don’t want to look too much into last year’s team stats because the roster will be comprised of a whole new crew. I’m looking forward to seeing where this team ends up in February because they could be really coming into their own. Egaldi is a player with OUA Rookie of the Year potential and Kissi is a coach who seems intent on changing the culture at Brock.

Player to Watch: Dani Egaldi. I can’t say enough about him. He looks like he could really give defence problems with his size and ball handling abilities. Needs to find a three point shot, though.

Projected Finish: Eighth in OUA West

Waterloo Warriors

The Warriors only lost two players — Brendan Smith and Kyrie Coleman — but having so many players return is exactly what I don’t like about this squad.

Waterloo was just as bad as Western was last year offensively and marginally better defensively. Their offence lacks any balance and their defence is susceptible to foul trouble, with abysmal fouling numbers for their major players.

I’ll highlight some positives for the team, though: it’s Greg Francis’ second year with the program, and perhaps that will give the team a little more stability. Jaspreet Gill has potential to be a dynamic offensive weapon too. But I’m running low on positives.

Simply, this roster lacks the talent to compete. In losing Smith, they lost their best rebounder, a loss that is already showing signs of problems as they nearly got doubled in rebounds in their season opener.

To get back to the playoffs, players need to have worked hard at becoming better defenders and cleaning the defensive glass. Otherwise, this team is going to be lucky to reach the quarterfinals again.

Player to Watch: Jaspreet Gill. He could be asked to take even more shots than he did last year, and that could lead to some eye popping stat totals.

Projected Finish: Seventh in the OUA West.
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