- Concordia Stingers men's hockey, ranked No. 7. The season that national rookie of the year candidate Anthony DeLuca has had with the Stingers illustrates the upside of university puck. (I have no idea how one would handicap the field for those awards, but the 21-year-old frosh is leading OUA with 23 goals and 41 points across 27 games, which seems tough to surpass.)
DeLuca, a smaller-stature skilled winger, was prolific in the developmental leagues in Quebec, playing in the world under-17 challenge when Canada still sent regional squads, and blossoming into a 44-goal, 91-point scorer on a league-champion Rimouski Océanic team as a 19-year-old. He went the pro route in the Coast league last season before opting to sign on with the Stingers and second-year coach Marc-André Element. In OUA East, the 5-foot-10 DeLuca has become a star who's received an extension on making a case to play for a paycheque, or play for one again. Another endearing part of Concordia's team is that their lineup includes Philippe Sanche, who was a kind of QMJHL latter-day Theo Fleury when he played for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
Of course, any Armada reference justifies posting a Kids In The Hall link:
Concordia leads OUA with 40 special-teams goals and its power play is a semi-halfway lethal 24.8 per cent, thanks in large part to DeLuca having 13 man-up markers. With one game left, a trip west to face Queen's in a second-place showdown on Friday, the Stingers (18-7-2) have matched their combined regular-season win total from the previous two seasons.
When a team turns it around like that, credit should travel all the way from the athletes to everyone working to create conditions for success. With Patrick Boivin having left the director position to be president of the foundering Montreal Alouettes, the chain of command is presumably in flux at Con U, and it seems very unfair that people who have worked hard have that occupation stress on the front burner when they should be looking forward to preparing for some playoff games at Ed Meagher Arena (a great university barn, by the way).
- Nipissing Lakers women's hockey, ranked No. 9. Let's honour NU sports communications clerk Robb Fenton with the inaugural Michael Grobe Memorial Award For Honesty In Sports Information. The preseason preview stated, "Don't expect the Lakers to blow opponents out of the water" -- word play! -- and sure enough, they don't have a top-15 scorer. Yet here they are holding down second place with two weeks to go. Tendy Jackie Rochefort is third in OUA with a 1.38 average. Their top three scorers Bronwyn Bolduc, Kaley Tienhaara and Samantha Strassburger are each from northern Ontario, so 705 represent!
- Brandon Bobcats, both basketball teams. Under the heading of "by gar it's been a while," both of the Westman roundball concerns are playoff-bound. Canada West takes in 14 of 17 teams (as opposed to 12 of 17 in Ontario) for playoffs, so it might seem like the bar is not too high.
Please consider that the men's basketball Bobcats had one conference win last season, then imagine how much despair and transference into gallows humour there very well might have been as the losses mounted. The Bobcats (9-11 in Canada West) will have at least one more weekend after assembling around fifth-year wing Earl Thompson Jr. for a playoff push, winning 6-of-10 games since the break. Thompson had a fine Senior Night last Saturday, going for 27 points on a 54.2 eFG% during a decisive win against Manitoba.
The Brandon women's team will play in the post-season for the first time this century, since their last appearance was in 1999. The main cogs are Keisha Cox (Canada West's No. 3 scroer) and Mikaela Stanton out of Oceanside, California. Six contributors are in-province, with the off-the-bench efficient energy coming from rookie Adrianna Proulx (who judging from the stat sheet, never turns the ball over) and third-year forward Lauren Anderson (9.4 points in 19.3 minutes). Nice job by coach Novell Thomas' team.
DeLuca is in his Element with Concordia, but success can Sting: Random Ranking Remarks
Three teams, well, schools,giving us a smile and taking one's mind off of the fact that life is one long series of disappointments until you just wish Tom Brady was dead.