1. The Pesky Tigers were at it again this week. For an encore performance, the Dalhousie Tigers took the UNB Varsity Reds all the way to a shootout, and even flirted with a win in regulation time. Had it not been for the natural hat-trick from Philippe Maillet late in the third period, the Tigers would've taken this game 4-1. As you can imagine, Corbin Boes was a big part of the game winding up in a shootout, but what's even more impressive was his 48 save performance against UPEI the following night. It's interesting to imagine where this Dalhousie team would be if both Chad Duchesne and Danny Moynihan had ended up there on opening night.
2. Gardiner MacDougall saw enough of Alex Dubeau on Friday who was pulled after allowing two goals on six shots. As mentioned last week, the goaltending for the UNB Varsity Reds has been going through some rough patches lately. Etienne Marcoux rebounded with a big shutout on Saturday night, but only faced 13 shots in the process. The result is a very odd looking statline of a 1.65 GAA, but just a .893 SV%. With the kind of goaltending Dalhousie and UPEI have been getting this year, UNB might be considered average in that category this season. Describing UNB as average in any category still doesn't sound quite right.
3. The Acadia Axemen got off to a pretty average start this season, but looked anything but this week winning both games in convincing fashion. Sam Fioretti has been great for the Axemen of late with seven points in his last three games, Brett Thompson scored three times this week, Kyle Farrell has four goals in three games, and the return of Stephen Harper helps this team tremendously. On the downside, they've lost Marc McNulty to injury for the time being, and Devin Williams has run through a small rough patch, but the Axemen are starting to play much closer to their potential.
4. The Saint Mary's Huskies are in all kinds of trouble right now. A grand total of two defencemen are at their disposal this week in practice. Alex Cord received an automatic one game suspension for fighting Acadia's Taylor Makin, Austyn Hardie went down with injury on Friday, Mark Triccett still has mono, Stephen Gillard is on the shelf, and Justin Weller will not return to SMU this year. The Huskies have used 20 of their 23 roster spots, and when Triccett returns it will leave SMU with just two openings. You can bet Trevor Stienburg has been on the phone all week trying to shore up any defencemen he can get for second semester. Due to eligibility rules, Saint Mary's is basically handcuffed for the rest of the semester until they start getting bodies back.
5. A week after the StFX X-Men (specifically Holden Cook) blew the doors off the AUS offensively, they muster just two goals this weekend, both in a 2-1 win over UPEI. The line of Kristoff Kontos, Holden Cook, and Eric Locke was held off the scoresheet this weekend, which is a big reason why StFX didn't have much to offer in the goals category. There's no reason for concern in the StFX camp yet, and if anything, it's a perfect reflection of how flip-flopped the AUS has been on a week-to-week basis this season.
6. For all the talk the UPEI Panthers recruit class is getting, their goaltender Matt Mahalak has been every bit as good, if not, even better. Mahalak is incredibly crucial to the success of the Panthers this season, and that's why he's started all eight games. If the Panthers don't have Mahalak playing well, they certainly don't have the options teams like UNB, StFX, Acadia, and even SMU have in net, so two thumbs up to Mahalak for being the difference for UPEI in more than a few games this season. He held the opposition to just two goals this week, but still came away with one win and one loss.
***Stephen Harper: F Acadia Axemen
Since coming back from injury against Moncton last week, Stephen Harper has been living up to the hype as one of the best recruits coming out of the OHL this offseason. In his last three games Harper has racked up seven points, including a pair of goals against SMU on Friday, and a game-winning assist on Saturday against Moncton. Also worth noting, the Axemen are a perfect 4-0 with Harper in the lineup.
**Corbin Boes: G Dalhousie Tigers
For the second straight week Boes finds himself in the second star position, and had the final five minutes against UNB gone a little differently, he’d easily be the first star. Boes continues to make save after save after save, and it’s hard to argue against the opinion that he’s the best goalie at the varsity level in Canada right now. As one coach told me this week, “He might be the best player in the AUS conference.”
*Philippe Maillet: F UNB Varisty Reds
Philippe Maillet dressed up as a superhero this year for Halloween when he teed off for three late goals against the Dalhousie Tigers and had the shootout winner to save the V-Reds from a monster upset. Maillet has looked fantastic in this league since day one on UNB, and there’s no question he’s one of the best players in the whole AUS conference.
Key Games This Week:
Dalhousie vs StFX Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:00pm ADT
Can the Dalhousie Tigers keep up their improbable run? Their schedule doesn't get any easier after facing UPEI and UNB with the X-Men standing directly in their way on Friday night. Corbin Boes will have to be sharp again, and after a disappointing week, the X-Men will be hungrier than usual for a dominant offensive showing.
Acadia vs UPEI Sat. Nov. 5th, 7:00pm ADT
The UPEI Panthers have been one of the most watchable teams so far this season with their young and talented players. But now with a healthy Acadia team to deal with on the weekend, this could prove to be a great test for both squads. The Axemen have exploded for 20 goals in their last three games, so Saturday's showdown could be a real slugfest.
1. From seemingly out of the nowhere the Laurentian Voyageurs bust off a 3-0 week including a huge Tuesday morning victory over the East leading UOIT Ridgebacks. Blake Luscombe and Cray Roberge both had good weeks, but who's to credit with being the cornerstone to Laurentian this week? Charlie Millen. That's right, the third string goalie from last season who didn't play a game has emerged as the number one at the moment. Not only has Millen been rock solid for Laurentian, but his 1.10 GAA and .965 SV% is the best amongst OUA, Canada West, and AUS goalies. If Millen keeps this up for the rest of the season, he's the number one contender for the 'Most Improved Player' award (which doesn't exist, but definitely should).
2. Although the UOIT Ridgebacks dropped their first contest this season on Tuesday, what's not to like about the two wins they rebounded with this weekend? Perhaps the most underrated part of their success is how well STU transfer Tyson Teichmann has played, especially in the absence of Brendan O'Neill (who UOIT expects to get back next week). Teichmann's .932 SV% is fourth best in the OUA, and he's been a big reason why UOIT has been closing out games recently. Goaltending depth was something the Ridgebacks didn't have last season, but clearly, that's not the case at all this season.
3. Make it four wins in a row now for the Concordia Stingers who clearly have something going for them early this season. This week they swept away the Lakehead Thunderwolves, and Miguel Sullivan's 4-0 shutout on Saturday moves their team GAA to 2.15, third best in the OUA. That number is something special when you consider the fact Concordia has been in the bottom five for OUA GAA in the last five seasons, with the last two seeing Concordia have a lower GAA than only RMC. Philippe Cadorette and Miguel Sullivan have played a huge part in this, but credit a stronger defence and better puck possession numbers for Concordia's success this season too.
4. With a sweep of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, it looks like the McGill Redmen may have found the spark they've been looking for this season. Nathan Chiarlitti returned from injury on Friday, and the results were instant. Now the Redmen are basically back to full strength, there's no excuse for underperforming this week. I spoke with coach Kelly Nobes early last week who admitted McGill has had a bit of a transition with getting players like Christophe Lalande and Jerome Verrier set into their system, but it could be coming together now for McGill. Daniel Milne has been a quiet assassin with five goals this season, Mathieu Pompei had a mini offensive explosion this week, and the goaltending has showed signs of settling down. Those are all reasons to like McGill in the month of November.
5. The Carleton Ravens went 2-0 in one week for the first time this season, but the highlight had to be Brett Welychka's six goal weekend in his triumphant return from injury. Welychka took the league by storm last year too when he marked his first five OUA games with six goals and 13 points. There's a solid chance he may best those numbers in his first five games with Carleton this year. Mike McNamee deserves some credit here too, as of Welychka's six goals, McNamee drew an assist on five of them. These two together with the goal-scoring potential of Ryan Van Stralen make the Ravens' top line as dangerous as any other in the country. Five goals from Adam Chapman this season has been a great help to Carleton's depth too.
6. Sebastien Auger made his return to the UQTR Patriotes' net this week, but his weekend didn't go as well as planned. A 5-3 win against Windsor on Friday was nice, but Auger was chased from the net on Saturday after surrendering two goals on ten shots, and took the loss in the 6-5 Windsor victory. Auger helps fortify the Patriotes net, but UQTR has actually already done a better job of keeping the puck out of the net than last season at this point. Having Auger back is nice for UQTR, but they'd be even happier to see Guillaume Asselin join their lineup too. Another week without the league's most dangerous scorer saw the Patriotes come away with a split. Marc-Olivier Mimar, Carl-Antoine Delisle, Pierre-Olivier Morin, and Tommy Giroux have all pulled their weight offensively, but it just feels a little different without Asselin in the lineup.
7. Quick note, UQTR now has Vincent Marcoux back on the roster. After starting the season with La Tuque Loups, Marcoux had second thoughts and returned to the Patriotes lineup on Saturday against Windsor, scoring a goal in his 2016-17 OUA debut.
8. The RMC Paladins pulled out another win this weekend, downing the U of T Varsity Blues on Friday, and then holding a lead against Ryerson for a good portion of Saturday's game before eventually losing 4-2. The name of the game for RMC lately has been goaltending, with both Matthew Murphy and Austin Hannaford keeping the Paladins right in the mix. RMC's team save percentage is in the thick of the OUA picture, and in their last three games, Murphy and Hannaford have combined for a .950 SV%. That's a number that will give RMC a chance to sneak in a few more wins with guys like Owen Gill, Bennett Huber, Bruce Hornbrook, and Dylan Giberson finding ways to score crucial goals at the right times.
9. Maybe the biggest indication of how well RMC is doing this year is the amount of starting goalies they're facing. RMC has seen the likes of Kevin Bailie, Charlie Graham, L.P. Guindon, Brendan O'Neill, Charlie Millen, and Andrew Hunt. In eight of their games, the opposing team has started their number one goalie (determined by most starts) seven times. Last season, RMC saw starting goalies only 13 times in their 27 games. It's an indication that teams around the league are taking RMC more seriously this year, and says something about RMC's performance, seeing better goalies this year than last. Odd stat, but interesting nonetheless; ever since Kevin Bailie came into the league in 2013-14, Queen's has started him against RMC all but once, (Nov. 8/14, 14-4 W, Chris Clarke).
***Charlie Millen: G Laurentian
The Laurentian Voyageurs had a huge 3-0 weekend, dethroning the UOIT Ridgebacks on Tuesday, then disposing their rivals from North Bay twice. Charlie Millen was a big part of that this week, stopping 97 pucks en route to a perfect 4-0 record on the season. The consensus starter at the beginning of the season was Joel Vienneau, but that appears to be changing as of late.
**Mathieu Pompei: F McGill Redmen
This week marked a fairly monumental milestone for Pompei, as his assist on Daniel Milne's goal against Ottawa on Friday marked his 100th career OUA point. Pompei wasn't even close to being done there however, as he lead the way with a goal and four assists in Friday's win, and then followed it up by assisting on the game-tying and game-winning goals for the Redmen on Saturday ensuring their sweep of the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
*Brett Welychka: F Carleton Ravens
Having not played a competitive hockey game for Carleton since the University Cup back in March, it would’ve be reasonable to expect Welychka to have a game or two to get comfortable after his injury. You can chuck that notion out the door, as his six goals in two games against Ryerson and U of T made for one of the best comeback weekends of any player you’ll see this year.
McGill vs UQTR Wed. Nov. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
Another iteration of the classic Quebec rivalry is set to go down on Wednesday, and even though these two teams are just a pair of weeks removed from a 3-1 UQTR win, things could be different heading into this contest. McGill hopes they've found some momentum with a pair of wins against Ottawa, and if they get good goaltending, they'll be right there with the Patriotes. For UQTR, they're still dangerous, but also need a big night from Sebastien Auger, and will also need to suppress McGill's stars in order to win.
Laurentian vs Concordia Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:30pm EST
A battle of a supercharged offence in Concordia against the lock-down defence of the Laurentian Voyageurs. It shouldn't surprise anyone to see Laurentian come and try to grind out a low-scoring win, but even if the offence is taken out of the game, it'll be a great clash of styles in the OUA East, and a great opportunity to see if the Voyageurs are for real.
1. The Brock Badgers have the second best powerplay across the entire country. No, seriously, they do. The UNB Varsity Reds lead the country at 34% (shocker), but right behind them are the Brock Badgers with a sharp looking 29.6% on their PP unit. Matt MacLeod, Chris Maniccia, and Brody Silk have combined for six powerplay goals so far this season, and add Sammy Banga with Andrew Radjenovic to the equation, and suddenly you've got some pretty solid scoring depth. Last season, Brock's powerplay sat at 14.4%, 26th of 35 teams in the country. Mitch Nardi and Banga both scored often on the man advantage, but past that, there wasn't much to be said for Brock's powerplay. Their key offensive players have been exactly that this season, and that's why Brock can't be taken lightly. Just ask York how good these guys are.
2. The York Lions sit atop the country in the GAA department, at just 1.97 so far this year. The Lions came into 2016-17 with the second lowest GAA amongst OUA West teams in the last three seasons combined (all despite a train wreck 2014-15 season), so it's not a shock to see them where they are this season. But with the Perugini era over in the Lions' crease, some wondered if Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields could fill the void. It took them a few games, but so far, so good for York's goaltending. There's something to be said for York's defence too, which is amongst the league leaders in shots allowed over the last three seasons.
3. The Ryerson Rams are being ravaged by the injury bug, yet are still finding ways to win. Down to five d-men and 11 forwards against RMC on Saturday Josh Sterk, Matt Mistele, Chris Marchese, Luke Mercer, Devon Paliani, Austin Kosack, Josh Chapman, Marcus Hinds, Daniel Clairmont, and Landon Schiller have all missed time due to injury or illness. The Rams believe they'll get Mistele and Sterk back for York on Thursday, which will be a help for them, but guys like Aaron Armstrong and John Carpino have stepped up big-time in their absence.
4. Help could be on the way for the Ryerson Rams in the person of Fabrizio Ricci. I speculated a few weeks back that Ricci returning to Ryerson shouldn't be considered the most likely possibility, but I was unaware that Ricci is still enrolled at Ryerson for the first semester. So if he wants to play in 2016, it will have to be with the Ryerson Rams. Now that Ricci is skating with the team expect him to suit up for the Rams at some point this season.
5. Four wins in their last five games have the Windsor Lancers stationed just one point behind Ryerson for the lead in the OUA West. No doubt, their win on Saturday against UQTR is their highest profile victory to date. The Lancers powerplay is starting to heat up with Brennan Feasey, Julian Luciani, Justice Dundas, and Chadd Bauman all contributing goals on the man-advantage. Even though Dylan Denomme has yet to score a goal, the Lancers have the most goals in the OUA West. The offensive depth on Windsor this season has been much better than initially predicted.
6. Something doesn't seem right with the Western Mustangs. They don't have a single point-per-game player on the roster, and they've allowed 13 goals in their last three games. It's obviously still early in the season, but the Mustangs don't have the star power they once had, and they've had a few fairly poor outings already this season. Greg Dodds has more than proven his worth as an OUA starter, but if Western wants to make a run this year, they can't rely on him every single night. Out of teams that have played seven games, the Mustangs have allowed the second most shots. That's a reflection of a Western defence which hasn't found it's feet yet.
7. I spoke with one coach last week who described the Laurier Golden Hawks as having "a sneaky good offence". He's right on the money with that assessment. Laurier has a cast of players like Derek Schoenmakers, Andrew Fritsch, Danny Hanlon, and Brandon Robinson who can make you pay if you afford them the smallest of spaces on the ice. Even a guy like Luke Hietkamp has found the net four times already this year, rounding out Laurier's offensive depth. Defensive issues continue to be a problem for Laurier, especially when it comes to depth. Alex Annecchiarico and Braydon Blight can both address that issue, but they've been out of the lineup recently. Laurier definitely isn't a bad team, but their search for consistency continues.
8. Life is pretty difficult right now if you're a member of the U of T Varsity Blues. They are the final team in Canada searching for their first win, and losing to RMC on Friday followed up by a blowout defeat at the hands of Carleton does nothing to improve their morale. Right now the Varsity Blues are rolling with just three lines, which doesn't help at all either. U of T doesn't have a large roster at all, so with Ryan Kirkup and Connor Cleverley on the sidelines, their depth is being exposed up front. U of T could use a few bodies over the Christmas break to fill out their roster, but until then, it could be tough slugging for Darren Lowe's group.
9. The Guelph Gryphons have dropped four straight contests, all to OUA West opponents, and all of a sudden their national ranking from week one seems fairly distant. Guelph's recent losses can't be attributed to a lack of shooting, with 30+ shots registered in each of those contests, and 51 shots against Brock in their most recent 3-2 loss. In all four losses, Guelph has faced either a rock solid defence, or a very good goaltender, which explains the lack of offence. Scott Stacjer hasn't had a great time recently in net with a save percentage of .857 over Guelph's losing streak. The Gryphs will be in tough against Carleton again this week, but I'm willing to bet once Stacjer comes around again, the Gryphons can return to their winning ways.
***Alex Fotinos: G York Lions
Alex Fotinos came up big for the York Lions on Saturday when they took on the Western Mustangs in a crucial OUA West matchup. His 39 saves sealed the deal for his first career OUA shutout as Fotinos filled in admirably for Mack Shields. The Lions have the lowest GAA in the OUA West, and goaltending performances like this are a big part of the reason why.
**Matt MacLeod: F Brock Badgers
Just two points on the week constitutes a fairly quiet two games for MacLeod, but he picked his spots well, as both points came in a clutch 3-1 victory over the York Lions on Friday. MacLeod, as expected, has been a great find for the Brock Badgers, and with four goals and two assists so far this season, he's primed to contribute even more for this team through the month of November.
*Julian Luciani: D Windsor Lancers
Julian Luciani has one of the hardest and most dangerous shots on the Windsor Lancers, and this week it was in full effect, scoring twice against the UQTR Patriotes. Luciani now improves his goal total to three on the season, and remains one shy of his OUA career high of four, set back in 2013-14. It's no surprise at all to see Luciani start scoring at the OUA level, as his lone season of GOJHL hockey with St. Catharines yielded 22 goals quarterbacking one of the best powerplays in Canadian Jr. B hockey.
Key Games This Week:
York vs Ryerson Thurs. Nov. 3rd, 7:00pm EST
The last two games between these two combatants have been very tightly contested, and both have wound up going past regulation. Ryerson is expected to get some bodies back with Sterk and Mistele, while York continues to roll on the backs of Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen. This could be a real showdown at Maple Leaf Gardens on Thursday.
Laurier vs Waterloo Wed. Nov. 2nd, 7:15pm EST
Another great OUA rivalry going this weekend. Despite the poor start for Waterloo, they gave Laurier everything they could handle in their last meeting, forcing the game to OT. There's a little extra atmosphere added to this one, with the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium playing as host in front of a raucous crowd, providing all the ingredients for another tight contest between these two teams.
1. The Calgary Dinos landed the services of forward Parker Bowles for second semester. Bowles is coming off a huge 96 point season with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL, and theoretically provides a spark after Christmas for a Calgary offence which hasn't been particularly great so far. Bowles joins Blake Heinrich as the two big second semester acquisitions in Canada West, and it shows that CW teams are definitely looking at some big-time players to stack their rosters up for the playoffs.
2. The Alberta Golden Bears responded this week with a pair of huge wins against the Mount Royal Cougars. The beat goes on for Jamie Crooks whose 11 points lead Canada West, and this week Jayden Hart and Stephane Legault racked up their point totals too. For a team so young, it goes to show how important veteran production is to a team's success, with Alberta's top three scorers having seen this league before. Tyson Baillie, Luke Philp, and Trevor Cox have been producing amongst the rookies, but this week Alberta got a big boost from the returning Luke Siemens in net. In order to beat the Mount Royal Cougars, you need to be firing on all cylinders, and Siemens was as good as he had to be this week for Alberta.
3. On the side of the Mount Royal Cougars, losing a pair of games to Alberta is definitely a bit of a setback, but it's an early test that coach Bert Gilling might be glad his team goes through now rather than later. Connor Rankin was a glaring omission from the lineup this week, and in my brief conversation with Mount Royal, it doesn't sound like they're very confident he'll be returning this week. Matthew Brown was another weapon out of the lineup against Alberta on Saturday. The Cougars are in tough again this week coming with Saskatchewan twice on the schedule, a great test for Mount Royal's fortitude.
4. The Saskatchewan Huskies got a premature Halloween fright when the Regina Cougars managed to mount a two goal comeback in the third period of Saturday's showdown to tie the game. Lucky for Saskatchewan, Andrew Johnston was there to save the day with a late third period goal, his first of the season. Still no fear for the Huskies who are filling the net at a consistent rate and, of course, have air-tight goaltending. But what many don't realize is that Saskatchewan's special teams are among the best in the country, with both the PP and PK in the top five amongst all 34 teams. Saskatchewan leads the way in Canada West with 12 powerplay goals as Kendall McFaull, Jordan Fransoo, and Michael Sofillas all have a pair on the season, and their 91% PK is also best in Canada West.
5. The Calgary Dinos are bringing us exactly what we expected from them this season, low-scoring games. With Matt Greenfield getting his first taste of Canada West action against Lethbridge over the weekend, Calgary has given Greenfield, Coleman Vollrath, and Steven Stanford a shot in net this year. Stanford appears to be the go-to number one at the moment, and the fact he has two young puck-stoppers nipping at his heels should be more than enough motivation to continue to be good. Coach Mark Howell will have a challenge balancing his netminders this year, but if they're going to win him close 2-1 contests like Greenfield did on Saturday, Howell is more than welcome to the challenge.
6. The Lethbridge Pronghorns didn't come away with a point this week, but they stood toe-to-toe with the Calgary Dinos in both games. I spoke with a coach this week who remarked that Lethbridge is definitely a harder team to get two points against this year, and they've taken steps forward two seasons in a row now. Coach Sprios Anastas will be happy with the goaltending effort thus far, but the offence could use a kick start. Lethbridge haven't been generating many shots, at just 189 through their first six games, third lowest in Canada West, but keep in mind they've faced a strong defensive team in Regina, and then two of the best goaltending teams with Saskatchewan and Calgary. The picture of where Lethbridge is right now will become much clearer within the next two weeks.
7. The Manitoba Bisons and UBC Thunderbirds grinded out a split this weekend, with Manitoba taking game one, 3-2, then UBC flipping the outcome on Saturday. Manitoba's Byron Spriggs improved to 3-1 with his win on Friday, while Justin Paulic fell to 0-2 after Saturday's game. Manitoba is getting the expected production from Jordan DePape, but both Shaq Merasty and Remi Laurencelle have chipped in on the scoresheet. UBC finally managed to kill off some penalties, holding Manitoba to 1-7 on the PP for the week, which could go a ways in them staying a lot closer in games and pushing out a few more wins as they did on Saturday.
***Luke Siemens: G Alberta Golden Bears
It was very important this week that the Golden Bears got a better goaltending performance than they did last week, and coming off of injury, Siemens immediately stepped in and delivered for Alberta. Siemens made 58 saves against the Mount Royal Cougars and is a large reason why the Golden Bears went 2-0 this week.
**Anthony Bardaro: F UBC Thunderbirds
UBC's offensive struggles at the beginning of the season were well documented, and if there's any single player that broke them out of their slump, it's Anthony Bardaro. Bardaro leads the team with four goals and four assists, all coming in his last four games. His third period game-winner against Manitoba capped off a three-point Saturday for Bardaro.
*Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce had his best weekend of the season against Lethbridge with four points, including three goals over a two game span. His two goals on Friday proved to be the difference against the Pronghorns. Pearce then scored the equalizer for Calgary on Saturday, and then had a helping hand in the game-winner. Calgary hopes this is the boost Pearce needs to get going offensively.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Saskatchewan Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:00pm MDT
The reality is if Mount Royal loses both games this week, it doesn't cripple their season, but they have to treat it as though it would. The Cougars have to come away with at least one win, which won't be easy against the kings of Canada West, the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Manitoba vs Calgary Sat. Nov. 5th, 2:00pm MDT
Both teams have interesting goaltending situations right now, and with the crease Calgary has, it'll be interesting to see if they opt to go back to Coleman Vollrath for a start this weekend. The Dinos also need to get the offence going, and after a better looking week against Lethbridge, we'll see if they can build on that against Manitoba. The Bisons, on the other hand, are still a really good team on paper, but whether or not they are on ice will become a little clearer after this series.
1. Hats off to the Dalhousie Tigers for a great start to their 2016-17 season. On Friday night, they brought UNB all the way into the shootout, which is something to behold in itself, and came very close to pulling off a massive upset. One night later, the Tigers kept the roll going knocking out the UPEI Panthers, 2-1 in a shootout. Corbin Boes is unquestionably one of the best goalies in the whole country, and his 88 saves this weekend played a huge part in Dalhousie's success. The Tigers are back at it again next week against the same two opponents, however this time both games will be on the road.
2. The Dalhousie Tigers find themselves in a precarious position with Chad Duchesne and Danny Moynihan. Both showed interest in Dalhousie over the summer, but ultimately opted for pro. It's still very possible that both players have second thoughts and commit to the Tigers for second semester, but because Dalhousie is off to such a great start, they don't want to wait for too long. The Tigers have just two open roster spots, and now with Jesse Lussier out with injury, the Tigers want to plug some holes in their roster soon in order to make a run.
3. The StFX X-Men and UNB Varsity Reds delivered another classic last week Saturday night in the 2016 University Cup rematch. Chase Marchand got the start for StFX a night after Brandon Hope allowed seven goals to the UPEI Panthers, and has his first win against StFX's arch rival. Brad Peddle has clearly found something with the line of Eric Locke, Kristoff Kontos, and Holden Cook, who went off for 16 points this weekend. But the X-Men have taken more minor penalties than anyone else in the country so far, which ended up being their fate against UPEI. As they say, there's always room for improvement.
4. The UNB Varsity Reds currently have one of the lowest team save percentages of any program in the entirety of U Sports at .882. That may come as a surprise to some, especially when you consider the fact that Etienne Marcoux had a 1.40 GAA and a .932 SV% heading into his start against StFX on Saturday. Alex Dubeau hasn't been great this season either for UNB, with just a .888 SV%. At this point, it's still nothing to worry about for UNB with only three starts in the books for both goalies, but it may explain part of the reason UNB has missed out on a couple of points.
4. The offence for the UPEI Panthers continues to roll along, with Cody Payne, Brent Andrews, Sam Aulie, Kurt Etchegary, and Beau McCue all off to fantastic starts. The new recruits continue to lead the way as first year players on UPEI have already combined for 29 points, far more than any other AUS team's recruit class. I spoke with one coach this week who remarked that UPEI doesn't play much differently than they have in the past, but their offence has much more bite this season. The X-Men figured that out on Friday when the Panthers chopped them up on the powerplay late in the third. Even though UPEI ran into a wall with Dalhousie on Saturday, the Panthers continue to impress.
5. The Acadia Axemen were aided this week by the return of both Stephen Harper and Brandon Glover. The duo yielded success right away as their return was coupled together with a 7-4 win over Moncton on Saturday night, and although the team still stands at just 3-3, it's a positive sign for the Axemen. Acadia is a better team than their record indicates so far, and expect them to get better if they stay healthy as the season progresses.
6. Week three was a much better week for the SMU Huskies offensively. Now having scored four goals in three of their last four contests, the Huskies have been getting recent contributions from Bronson Beaton, Anthony Repaci, Ben Duffy, and Taylor Burke among others. If the Huskies can find a way to bring together their defence despite being short a few bodies, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to compete deep within the AUS conference.
***Alex Saulnier: F Moncton Aigles Bleus
The Saulnier's are at it again this week, with Alex registering five points over Moncton's two games, and Allain with another four assists to his credit. Now if only the Aigles Bleus could find a way to keep pucks out of their net. Goals against aside, Alex Saulnier torched both Saint Mary's and Acadia this week, and although Moncton only came away with one win, Alex Saulnier continues to build on his great AUS career.
**Corbin Boes: G Dalhousie Tigers
The great start to the Dalhousie Tigers season has undoubtedly been a team effort, but without Corbin Boes, Dalhousie probably doesn't come out of this weekend with three of a possible four points. 88 saves in two games is an outstanding accomplishment, and his .934 SV% is second best in the AUS right now.
*Holden Cook: F StFX X-Men
Cook's linemates Kristoff Kontos and Eric Locke both had great weeks, but Holden Cook has had the hand of God recently, with a whopping 10 points in his last three games. Friday's 7-3 loss to UPEI was a disappointment, but still yielded a three point night for Cook. On Saturday against UNB, it was Cook's line that carried StFX to overtime, and his fourth goal of the game wound up the as the OT winner.
Key Games This Week:
StFX vs UPEI, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm ADT
A week after letting a 3-3 game slip late in the third period to the same team, the StFX X-Men will be looking for revenge. If they can stay out of the box, this could turn into a real five-on-five duel. UPEI's offence has been much more lethal than last year and provides the ingredients for a great matchup against StFX on Friday night.
StFX vs UNB, Sat. Oct. 29th, 7:00pm ADT
StFX and UNB have the best rivalry going in AUS men's hockey right now, so why not have another rematch this week? The difference here is it'll be on UNB soil this time around, but if this game turns out anything like the last, it will be well worth your time to watch.
1. Just two teams in the country remain undefeated, and the UOIT Ridgebacks are one of those two after downing the RMC Paladins on Wednesday night. Although it was their only conference game of the week, the Ridgebacks are still the pinnacle of the league. They'll be putting that title on the table this week when they play Laurentian on Tuesday, Laurier on Friday, and Waterloo on Saturday. If the Ridgebacks come away from this week with an 8-0 record, which is definitely a possibility, that's truly a remarkable accomplishment for this team.
2. The Concordia Stingers have a great roster on paper, and just got a little better with the addition of Mickael Beauregard to the back-end in second semester. The Stingers aren't necessarily done adding, as it's worth noting that Anthony Beauregard still has a letter of intent with the Stingers. Concordia is laying off for now as Anthony Beauregard continues his pro career with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL, but if anything changes, the addition of Anthony Beauregard would make Concordia's offence even better.
3. The Concordia Stingers are also very well fortified when it comes to goaltending. Obviously Philippe Cadorette is the number one goalie in town, but Miguel Sullivan is an effective secondary option, and Antoine Marchand is another insurance policy. Now Marc-Antoine Turcotte is set to be introduced into the fray for second semester after spending last season starting for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Concordia has more than enough talent in their net right now, which is rather remarkable when you consider how far this program has come goaltending-wise in just a couple of seasons.
4. The instability in the McGill Redmen's crease has to be a candidate for one of the most surprising stories in the entire OUA so far. Just two seasons ago, the Redmen had the lowest goals against average in the entire country at 1.96 with Jacob Gervais-Chouinard and Karel St-Laurent. This season, they're ranked 27th in the country with a 3.45 GAA with Geravis-Chouinard and L.P. Guindon. Both are talented goalies, but right now something isn't clicking. Friday night's game against Carleton had a disastrous start as Gervais-Chouinard was pulled after allowing three early goals, but the Redmen fought back to win 4-3. McGill's 3-1 loss to UQTR on Saturday isn't helping, as the Redmen will be much better off once their goaltending finally finds some consistency.
5. The UQTR Patriotes come out of this weekend with another 1-1 split, and still no sign of Sebastien Auger, Mathieu Lemay, or Guillaume Asselin back in the lineup. The good news is Alex Belanger has had a few great starts, like his 40 save performance against McGill, and guys like Pierre-Olivier Morin and Carl-Antoine Delisle are playing well, but a 6-3 loss to Concordia on Friday exposed some holes. This year's start hasn't been as good as last year's, but the Patriotes are still a lethal team, even without Asselin, Lemay, and Auger.
6. Odd trend with the Carleton Ravens, as they're 3-0 in their first game of the week, but 0-3 in their second game. It's been a very average start for Marty Johnston's boys, which won't be satisfactory for a program with the potential to be nationally ranked again this season. Corey Durocher, Mike McNamee, and Ryan Van Stralen have all broken out, but the Ravens are searching for a 2-0 week. They'll need to beat both Ryerson and U of T this week to do so.
7. Is Jacob Brennan the best goalie on the Queen's Gaels right now? The stats say he is, with a .946 SV% between his two starts this season. Don't worry, Kevin Bailie, is still one of the best goalies in the league. In fact his stats this October (2.55 GAA, .925 SV%) are around what he had at this point in his fantastic 2013-14 rookie season (2.36 GAA, .914 SV%). The point here is that maybe Queen's goaltending is a lot deeper than we're giving it credit for. Brennan was a long-time starter in his QMJHL days, and didn't see much time last year in the OUA. This week, both he and Bailie are part of the reason the Gaels won twice.
8. The Nipissing Lakers found out first-hand how good Jacob Brennan is when he stopped them 48 times on Saturday in a 4-2 Lakers loss. But Nipissing have their own proven QMJHLer, as Domenic Graham returned to the crease after a four game suspension, and immediately posted a 43 save shutout against the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Friday. Although his performance on Saturday against Queen's wasn't great, Graham is a big help to the Lakers in net, and with five points already this season, the Lakers could turn out to be better than what they appear to be on paper.
***Mike McNamee: F Carleton Ravens
If there's been anything consistent about the Ravens this season, it's been the play of Mike McNamee. His 11 points so far this season are tied for the league lead in the OUA with teammate Ryan Van Stralen, and make McNamee one of the most productive players in the league. His hat-trick in the Colonel By Classic on Wednesday washed away the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and another assist against McGill gave him four points on the week.
**Jacob Brennan/Kevin Bailie: G Queen's Gaels
Kevin Bailie may not be used to sharing the spotlight in the Queen's net, but this week, how can we not acknowledge Jacob Brennan? Bailie got the start against Laurentian on Friday and promptly shut them out, making 44 saves in the process. Just one night later Jacob Brennan comes in and makes 48 saves of his own, helping Queen's to a 4-2 win.
*Ryan Van Stralen: F Carleton Ravens
Ryan Van Stralen lit up the OUA last year to the tune of 22 goals, second to only UQTR's Guillaume Asselin in the entire country. This year, Van Stralen is picking up right where he left off. Although he only has one goal to his credit this week, Van Stralen assisted on all of Mike McNamee's goals on Wednesday, and added another two points to his total on Friday night. Corey Durocher has been playing very well on Carleton's top unit too, making them one of the most dangerous trio's in the OUA right now.
Key Games This Week:
Ryerson vs Carleton, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm EST
The Carleton Ravens invite the Ryerson Rams to the Carleton Ice House on Friday night in what could be the best test for the Ryerson Rams so far this season. A 2-1 OT loss to York was tough, and another loss against Carleton would certainly hurt. The Ravens are floundering for consistency at the moment, and a win against Ryerson could go a long way in straightening out their season.
Windsor vs UQTR, Sat. Oct. 29th, 4:00pm EST
The Windsor Lancers are off to a strong start, and their bashful style of play could create for an interesting matchup against the fast and skilled UQTR Patriotes. UQTR was labelled as one of the softer teams from the OUA East coming into the season, but if they fight right back against the Windsor Lancers, those claims will be disproven very quickly.
1. The York Lions have recovered from a poor opening week in a very big way. Four straight wins place them just one point behind the Ryerson Rams for the top spot in the OUA West. Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen have clicked for the Lions, and Mack Shields has given the Lions a couple of great starts lately. This week the Lions played like a top four OUA West team, and they'll need to play like that against Brock and Western this week if they want to stay there.
2. The Ryerson Rams hit their first bump in the road this week with a nail-biter loss to the York Lions, 2-1 in double overtime on Saturday. But the intriguing story was when the Rams dressed just five d-men, and 11 forwards on Thursday night, and still managed to beat the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Johnny Duco made a bold move by sitting out a few healthy scratches to send a message, and it shows not only are the Rams not willing to fool around this season, but can still beat a team without some of their top players. It's been Aaron Armstrong and John Carpino providing the punch lately, as they've combined for eight of Ryerson's last 14 goals scored.
3. The Western Mustangs are off to a 3-2 start, which isn't bad at all, but the manner in which Western is beating their opponents is a little different than what this program is typically used to. The Mustangs only have 12 goals to this point in the season, but have also conceded just 12 goals themselves. Apart from the rock solid goaltending, there hasn't been anything particularly outstanding from the Mustangs so far this season.
4. The Lakehead Thunderwolves come away from their first road trip of the season with a 3-2 record on the season, after losing to Ryerson, but sweeping the U of T Varsity Blues in both games this weekend. The Thunderwolves fumbled around in a Saturday night thriller which saw the V-Blues come back from a 4-1 and 5-3 deficit late in the third to force a shootout where Matt Campagna scored a candidate for goal of the year so far, but the T-Wolves managed to close it down. They've shown some weakness in their own end so far, but if the Saulnier's are the Sedin twins of the AUS, then the Dubchak's are the Eric and Jordan Staal brother combo of the OUA, as the Dubchak boys are both off to great starts.
5. The Windsor Lancers have emerged this week as one of the top teams in the OUA West with victories against the Guelph Gryphons and Western Mustangs. Neither of those two teams are by any means an easy win, and should give the Lancers some real confidence moving forward. Dylan Denomme has yet to score, but he's piling up the assists while Justice Dundas, Todd Ratchford, and Brennan Feasey are all producing for Windsor.
6. I figured the Waterloo Warriors would have trouble offensively without Colin Behenna, Andrew Smith, and Brett Mackie this year, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. With just seven regulation goals through their first five contests, the Warriors eked past the Varsity Blues last week in a shootout for their first win, and this week goalie Mike Morrison stole the Warriors a point against the Laurier Golden Hawks in an OT loss. The Warriors don't care who steps up for them right now, they just need somebody to start filling the net.
7. The final team in Canada still in search of their first win is the Toronto Varsity Blues. It's not exactly surprising when you consider how little this team did in the offseason to compensate for losing a number of veterans. The positive side however is that Aidan Wallace has four goals to start his season, and Matt Campagna is still one of the best playmakers in the entire OUA. The Varsity Blues proved they still have some offensive bite with a late comeback against Lakehead, but they're still in dire need of a win.
8. Clint Windsor returned to the net for the Brock Badgers this week, and the difference seems to be instantaneous. Windsor made 45 saves in a 2-1 OT win against Waterloo on Thursday, in the only game Brock played this week. The Badgers still haven't fully recovered from the mess they had last week, but this week's win was a step in the right direction.
9. Just like AUS teams, OUA programs are looking to beef up for the second semester. Both the Western Mustangs and Ryerson Rams could use upgrades to add defensive depth, and the Guelph Gryphons could be a team who make a surprise late addition. They were close to acquiring Stephen Pierog and Cody McNaughton last season, but both acquisitions fell through last-minute. Don't be surprised if Guelph takes another swing at a free agent, especially if Shawn Camp feels his team is in a position to make a move into the playoffs.
***Brennen Dubchak: F Lakehead Thunderwolves
Brennen Dubchak is off to a hot start this season with three goals and five points this weekend on the road. That's a little more impressive when you consider his previous career high in an entire OUA season is eight goals from his rookie season. However, part of the credit has to be given to his brother Carson, who has assisted on seven of 12 career OUA goals scored by Brennen.
**Todd Ratchford: D Windsor Lancers
Raise your hand if you saw Todd Ratchford being the anchor on the Windsor Lancers defence this season. Given, the season is only three weeks deep, but Ratchford has impressed early on. His biggest game actually came back in week two with a four point effort against Lakehead, but he followed it up this week with a goal and an assist in both wins against Guelph and Western.
*Derek Sheppard: D York Lions
Both Sheppard and Trevor Petersen are as dangerous as ever for the York Lions. The duo has combined for 13 points in the last three games, and this week it was Derek Sheppard with a pair of clutch goals for his team including a game-winner against Ryerson. Sheppard continues to be a wrecking ball on the back-end, and will have a lot to do with any success York has going forward.
Key Games This Week:
Western vs Guelph, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm EST
A rematch from the season opener for both teams back on October 6th, both the Mustangs and Gryphons are looking to make a move in the OUA West. After a nice 3-1 start, the Gryphons have been running into some difficulty lately, and the Mustangs have looked fairly average. Both teams could use a win, but both teams are even hungrier to have an impressive showing at the very least.
Western vs York, Sat. Oct. 29th, 7:00pm EST
The heavy artillery is clicking for the York Lions, and after a disappointing opening week have rattled off four wins in a row. These two teams went back and forth last season for OUA West supremacy, and with the confidence on the Lions as high as ever, they should be ready for the Mustangs. On Western's side, goaltending has been tremendous for them lately, and if York's Mack Shields brings his A-game, this could turn into a goaltender's duel.
1. Last week was a pretty good week for Matt Hewitt of the UBC Thunderbirds. Called into action last week Tuesday to back up Jacob Markstrom on the Vancouver Canucks after Ryan Miller went down with injury, Hewitt got the chance of a lifetime to live his dream. But just a couple nights later, it was back to reality for Hewitt whose Thunderbirds wound up dishing out a reality check to the Alberta Golden Bears Friday night. After UBC came up with a huge upset 5-2 victory, Saturday was a totally different story. But the Thunderbirds needed to cure an offensive drought in the worst way, and did so by scoring nine times on the Golden Bears this weekend.
2. Friday night was a bit of an embarrassment for the Alberta Golden Bears, who take pride in being one of the finest programs in Canada West. Clearly that defeat ruffled their feathers, as they came out on Saturday with all guns blazing in a 9-4 blowout victory over UBC. The downside this weekend is that neither Kenny Cameron or Brendan Burke looked great, and the Golden Bears relied on an offensive outpouring for their lone win. This could be a sign of the growing pains to come with a young Alberta team.
3. Nick Charif now appears on the roster page for the Alberta Golden Bears after transferring from Western last season and will be eligible in January for the second semester. He adds a nice piece to the Alberta blue-line, and given the way Western's defence is looking this season, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't want him themselves. Keeping with the defence, don't hinge on Jason Fram suiting up for the Golden Bears this year, as he's signed on with the San Jose Sharks system. Finally, goalie Luke Siemens is anticipated to be back in the mix for crease-time this weekend against Mount Royal.
4. Keeping with the theme of upsets in all four conferences, the Lethbridge Pronghorns came away with three of a possible four points from their series last week against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Garret Hughson is living up to the hype so far for the Pronghorns, and captain Tim Campbell has come up with some clutch goals this season. There was a lot of optimism around this Pronghorns program after a big recruit class, but there's even more now after this weekend. For the Huskies, it's definitely a blip on the radar, but the loss on Saturday shouldn't be of great concern to them.
5. The Mount Royal Cougars continue to look extremely impressive in Canada West, this week victimizing the Calgary Dinos. Jamal Watson and Conor Rankin have made an impact in the first two weeks of the season, but this past weekend it was veteran forward Matthew Brown who was filling the net. The Cougars have had it all so far with great offence, defence, and goaltending. All three of those attributes will be put to the test big-time against Alberta later this week.
6. A week after going 0-2, the Manitoba Bisons bounced right back with a sweep of the Regina Cougars last week. Friday's matchup saw the Bisons take the final 5-1, and on Saturday, a 6-3 victory. Jordan DePape's return to the lineup for the Bisons was a big difference maker, but both Justin Augert and Brett Stovin also stepped up offensively for the Bisons. In net, it appears Byron Spriggs is outplaying Justin Paulic, but coach Mike Sirant will certainly give Paulic another shot to claim the starting job this season.
7. The Regina Cougars have just one win this season, but they're making their opponents work for the two points so far. They peppered Manitoba with 38 shots on Friday, and kept the shot totals fairly close again on Saturday. J.J. Coleshaw has lit the lamp three times already this season for Regina, and although Andy Desautels ran into some trouble this week, if he recovers his week one form, Regina becomes a more difficult team to beat.
***Chase Clayton: F UBC Thunderbirds
In a week where the UBC Thunderbirds desperately needed to find offence, Clayton lead the way with a backbreaker goal against the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday, and then followed it up with another two on Sunday despite the loss. A four point week for Clayton equals his entire offensive output from last season.
**Justin Augert: F Manitoba Bisons
A long-time Steinbach Piston, Augert was a big-time scorer in the MJHL, but it never quite translated to Canada West... until this week. Two goals and an assist on Friday lead the Bisons to victory over the Regina Cougars, and for an encore, Augert added another tally on the weekend to complete the sweep for the Bisons. With four goals on the season for Augert, he's helped Manitoba's offence in a big-way so far.
*Matthew Brown: F MRU Cougars
Matthew Brown is one of the most seasoned veterans on the Mount Royal Cougars, and he also happens to be one of the most lethal scorers. With back-to-back 13 goal seasons, Brown was back at his scoring ways this weekend when his hat-trick in game one against Calgary ensured victory for the Cougars, and his powerplay marker on Saturday wound up as the game-winner, preserving MRU's perfect record.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Alberta, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm MDT
If the Mount Royals Cougars want to catch the attention of the country as a top two Canada West team, this is the weekend to do it. The biggest test they've had on paper goes down when they take on their provincial rivals in a home and home series. Game one on Friday night should be as competitive as they come in the regular season.
Lethbridge vs Calgary, Sat. Oct. 29th, 6:00pm MDT
Lethbridge is reeling off a huge upset win over Saskatchewan last week, and they'll be rolling into Calgary with a ton of momentum. Calgary on the other hand is looking to rebound after dropping a pair of games at the hands of the MRU Cougars. This weekend could serve as a pivotal point for both teams moving forward this semester. A big week from Lethbridge shows they're for real, and a big week from Calgary saves them from a poor start.
1. Last week the Dalhousie Tigers snapped an 11 game losing streak to the SMU Huskies with a 3-1 win. This week, they beat the Huskies once again. Back to back victories for Dalhousie over SMU in CIS men's hockey hasn't occurred since they defeated the Huskies on Jan. 12th, 2007, and then again on February 17th of the same season. Big thumbs up to Chris Donnelly and his boys for being right in the mix out of the gates.
2. The SMU Huskies are the most offensively starved team right now in the AUS, but it really shouldn't be that way. Bad bounces have plagued the Huskies early on this season, and against Dalhousie Corbin Boes made the difference in net. Even so, offence may not be SMU's biggest issue right now. Stephen Gillard, Mark Trickett, and Justin Weller are all out for the Huskies on defence, leaving them seriously short on the back-end.
3. Last time we checked on the Moncton Aigles Bleus, they were having trouble keeping pucks out of the net. One week later, things haven't really gotten any better. Another nine goals allowed against the UNB Varsity Reds on Friday lead to another embarrassing defeat, and goalie Brandon Thibeau's GAA stands at a dismal 6.02 currently. The good news for Moncton is they managed their first win in OT against the UPEI Panthers on Saturday. The OT marker from J.F. Plante gives Moncton their first two points of the season, and reminds us that the first line on the Aigles Bleus is still dangerous as ever.
4. The UPEI Panthers wound up losing both games this week, but still look like a team that can contend for the top seeds in the AUS this year. Matt Mahalak was sensational against UNB on Wednesday, but the 47 shots UNB sent UPEI's way that night was just too much. The new recruits for UPEI continue to lead the way for this team as J.C. Campagna, Cody Payne, Beau McCue, and Gabe Guertler have combined for nine of the 14 Panthers goals to this point in the season.
5. The AUS got it's first look at Chase Marchand this weekend as he started for the StFX X-Men on Saturday against the Acadia Axemen. 41 saves for Marchand in a 5-3 win should silence any doubters of the X-Men crease for the time being, especially with the start Brandon Hope got off to as well.
6. Greg Betzold is back on CIS radars after being released from the Cincinnati Cyclones this past week. At the moment, there's nothing concrete to suggest that he ends up in the AUS, but some teams are certainly mulling the idea over. Bringing Betzold into a program at this point is much easier said than done, and especially with the roster cap, it's going to take a fairly bold move to get him in for second semester. The AUS is definitely a possibility for Betzold, but it's certainly no guarantee either.
7. Add Miles Liberati and Aaron Berisha as candidates for Christmas adds in the CIS. Berisha had been garnering plenty of CIS interest before turning pro this year, and Miles Liberati had been fairly dead set on giving pro a chance before considering CIS. With both players now in the ECHL, if neither gets a shot at the AHL by December, CIS teams will be pitching very hard to bring in either of these two. Worth noting, there is confirmed OUA interest in both players as well.
***Alex Pawelczyk: F Dalhousie Tigers
The aforementioned Dalhousie Tigers are off to a solid start this season, and Alex Pawelczyk has been an instrumental part of that. Brought in to add some serious size for Dalhousie, Pawelcyzk has found the net three times already, and had a pair of key goals this weekend. His game-tying goal against Acadia on Friday ensured the extra point for Dalhousie in overtime, and a game-winner against Saint Mary's the following night gave Dalhousie their second win.
**Holden Cook: F StFX X-Men
On a team featuring Eric Locke, it's hard to bet against him to put up the best numbers on the X-Men, but right now, Holden Cook is standing toe-to-toe with Locke as the team's most productive player. Another three points over two games for Cook including the eventual game-winning goal against Acadia highlight his week.
* Stephen Anderson: F UNB Varsity Reds
Philippe Maillet and Jordan Murray have been stealing the show for the V-Reds offensively, but let's give Stephen Anderson some credit this week. A fairly reputable scorer in the QMJHL who had a relatively quiet rookie season last year with UNB, Anderson has broken out early with seven points in four games. Anderson's speed and skill has been on full display lately, and he hasn't looked out of place at all with UNB's top threats.
Key Games This Week:
UPEI vs Dalhousie, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm ADT
This matchup features a pair of programs off to solid starts this season and could feature a great goaltending matchup if both Matt Mahalak and Corbin Boes get the start for their respective teams. UPEI's rookies should be on full display again, and seeing how Dalhousie counters that could make for a very entertaining affair.
UNB vs StFX, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm ADT
Breakout your split-screen folks, because this is a can't miss game. A rematch of the 2016 AUS and University Cup final, the V-Reds and X-Men have one of the best rivalries going right now in the CIS. Some elements from what made last year's rivalry so great are now gone, but game one between these two teams offers the chance for anyone in the lineup to step up and be a hero. Expect nothing short of a classic.
1. The instability in the OUA East early on may be the most surprising storyline from this conference at the start of the season. Every team has shown weakness, and even the 4-0 UOIT Ridgebacks blew leads late this weekend to both Laurentian and Nipissing forcing overtime. Perhaps the power in the OUA East isn't as top heavy as we thought it would be this season.
2. The Concordia Stingers came away with a big win this week over the Carleton Ravens on Saturday. Even after losing to the McGill Redmen the night before and allowing six goals, the Stingers rebounded very well to stymie the Ravens, holding them to just two goals. Philippe Cadorette had his first hiccup this season on Friday, but was rock solid again the following night. Anthony DeLuca, Antoine Masson, Olivier Hinse, Scott Oke, and Dominic Beauchemin all got the ball rolling this week for the Stingers offensively.
3. The Carleton Ravens responded to the RMC loss by defeating the UQTR Patriotes rather convincingly 5-1 on Friday night. Francois Brassard appears to be emerging as the early favourite out of the Carleton crease, now with a .929 SV% to his credit, and a 2-1 record. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the momentum from the win against UQTR was counteracted by a 3-2 loss to Concordia on Saturday. Losing to Concordia this year is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Ravens would've loved to get the 2-0 weekend. Either way, better terms for Carleton this week than last.
4. The UQTR Patriotes have had a somewhat disheveled start to their season. Sebastien Auger is still on the shelf, and now Guillaume Asselin joins him after missing Friday's game against Carleton. Luckily for the Patriotes, Carl-Antoine Deslisle has been off to a hot start, and they're still towards the top of the standings. Still lots of time for the Patriotes, but without Auger and Asselin at the moment, this could be the weakest UQTR has been in the last two seasons.
5. The McGill Redmen have had an eventful start to their season, but for the wrong reasons. L.P. Guindon got the start this week against Concordia, and held the fort for about two and a half periods. After going up 6-1 on the Stingers, the Redmen let the flood gates open as Concordia sniped four unanswered past Guindon to make the score a frightening 6-5 final for McGill. The schedule doesn't get any easier for McGill who see Carleton and UQTR this coming weekend. Don't be shocked if coach Kelly Nobes throws Joe Fleschler out for a start sometime soon if things don't settle down.
6. A week after the biggest upset of the season, the RMC Paladins came back down to earth losing to Ottawa and Laurentian. The game against the Gee-Gees wasn't ever close, but the Paladins put together another formidable effort against the Voyaguers on Saturday, losing by a score of 3-1 after conceding a late empty-netter. Early indications are the Paladins are definitely a bigger team than last season, and in some ways, deeper too. Blowouts like what happened against Ottawa on Friday still aren't a surprise, but expect more tight games out of the Paladins like we saw on Saturday against Laurentian.
7. The UOIT Ridgebacks made some program history last week when they became nationally ranked for the first time in men's hockey program history. After going 2-0 again this week, they'll remain high in those rankings. Tyson Teichmann and Brendan O'Neill are statistically the best one-two goalie punch in the OUA right now, which may come as a surprise to some, especially given Teichmann's previous numbers in the CIS. But as one AUS coach told me this week, he can be a good goalie given a stable defence that allows him to see the puck. The Ridgebacks are unquestionably one of the best defensive teams, but guys like Connor Jarvis, Ben Blasko, and Danny Elser have given them some heavy-duty offensive punch too.
8. The Nipissing Lakers are scheduled to get Domenic Graham back from suspension this week. That should help them in net, but credit to Jeremy Pominville who filled in quite well after sitting out the entire 2015-16 season. The Lakers upset Queen's in double OT on Friday, and nearly did the same to UOIT on Saturday. They can be a dangerous team when they skate well.
9. The Ottawa Gee-Gees muster their first win back as a revamped program, downing the RMC Paladins by a convincing 7-2 score on Saturday. It's been a far from perfect start for the Gee-Gees who have seemingly struggled to carry momentum over from the preseason, but they hope the multi-point games from Jacob Harris, Jacob Sweeney, Mathieu Newcomb, and Cody Drover spark something offensively going forward.
***Nick Esposto: F Laurentian Voyageurs
Early indications show that the Laurentian Voyageurs are a much improved team from last season, despite the 1-2-1 record, and this week it was Nick Esposto who provided some offensive punch. Laurentian doesn't have many offensive threats, so it's extremely important Esposto helps deliver timely points this year for Laurentian, and his three point weekend suggests he's ready for the task this season.
**Jimmy McDowell: D Nipissing Lakers
Although held silent against UOIT on Saturday, Jimmy McDowell was the difference maker for the Lakers on Friday night against the Queen's Gaels. A pair of second period goals gave his team the lead, but it was his double OT winner and hat-trick completer that sealed it for Nipissing. 12 career CIS goals in two seasons prior to his big night against Queen's shows McDowell is no slouch offensively for the Lakers on the back-end.
*Scott Oke: F Concordia Stingers
Four points this week for Oke, who was a part of the charge which saw Concordia make a late run against McGill, and had another two points against the Ravens in a big 3-2 win. Oke is no stranger to scoring in this league with 18 career goals to his credit, but he looks to rebound this season after scoring just six a year ago.
Key Games This Week:
Carleton vs Ottawa Wed. Oct. 19th, 7:00pm EST
On paper, this one looks like a mismatch in favour of Carleton, but you could've said the same thing about Carleton's home opener against the RMC Paladins, and look how that turned out. If anything, the atmosphere will be great for this game, with TD Place playing host to what they call, "The Colonel By Classic". Let the Carleton vs Ottawa men's hockey rivalry (re)commence.
Concordia vs UQTR Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:30pm EST
The Concordia Stingers continue to be one of the most watchable teams in the country, and with the UQTR Patriotes weakened with some key injuries, this is the perfect time for the Stingers to strike. Two of the best offences will shine Friday night, and that combination could make for a real flashy battle for supremacy in Quebec.
McGill vs UQTR, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm EST
Anytime McGill and UQTR meet, it's always set to be a classic matchup. Passionate fans on either side, and two teams stockpiled with major junior talent essentially make this a QMJHL game. McGill needs to sort out goaltending early, and who knows what we might see from UQTR. Lot's of questions to be answered for both these teams on Saturday.
1. The strangest game I've ever attended in my life happened this past Wednesday between the Ryerson Rams and the Brock Badgers. An 11:30am puck-drop at Meridian Centre in front of a non-existent crowd with a final score of 8-6 made for one head-scratcher of a game. Odd decision to have an 11:30am puck-drop for a non-school day game.
2. The 15 goals conceded by the Brock Badgers this week shows that the goaltending depth may not be as deep as initially thought. Clint Windsor went down with injury last week against Western, and sat out both games this week. Both Adam Beukeboom and Alex Brooks-Potts did little to help Brock out in both losses against Ryerson and Guelph. Disappointing week for the Badgers who looked much less impressive than they did in week one.
3. On the Ryerson Rams' side, they've definitely proven they have as much talent offensively as anyone in this league. They got away with a slugfest against Brock on Wednesday because of offensive talent, and with Chris Marchese returning on Thursday against Lakehead, and Matt Mistele close as well, the Rams will get even stronger on offence. Wednesday's victory also marks the first time in program history the Rams have gone 3-0 to start a season.
4. The Guelph Gryphons dominated the Brock Badgers in a disappointing rematch of the Steel Blade this week, but were more notably stopped by Laurier, 5-1 on Friday. The Gryphons had an offensive hiccup, and Scott Stacjer didn't have his best showing in net, but the Gryphons are still a strong-looking team early on. Chemistry seems to be oozing out of this team right now.
5. The Laurier Golden Hawks should have come away with two wins this week, but handed a 4-3 decision to York on Saturday. The Golden Hawks surrendered four second period goals to the Lions and never recovered, moving to 2-2 on the season. Andrew Fristch, Danny Hanlon, and Derek Schoenmakers all seem to be clicking offensively for the Golden Hawks, but the rest of the team needs to stay consistent in order to close out teams like York.
6. The York Lions rebounded from a disappointing 0-2 start with a pair of clutch wins this week. They barely skimmed by U of T, 1-0, on Friday after being stoned by Andrew Hunt for most of the game, but came up big against Laurier on Saturday. Both Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen seem to have found their feet this week for York, and with them clicking, the Lions become marginally better. What the Lions need to stop doing is sacrificing early leads, something they've done in three of their four games this season.
7. The Lakehead Thunderwolves kicked off their season this past weekend with a back-to-back against the Windsor Lancers in front of 2000+ fans each night at Fort William Gardens. The Thunderwolves actually looked pretty good in their first two games, coming back late to beat Windsor in game one, but losing 6-3 to the Lancers on Saturday. Brennan Feasey torched Lakehead on Saturday with his first career CIS hat-trick, and keeping goals out of the net may be a challenge for Lakehead this season. The good news is, the offence doesn't look half bad at all for the Thunderwolves, especially with a returning Kellin Ainsworth.
8. Fabrizio Ricci was recently cut from the Missouri Mavericks this week and is officially a free agent. If he plays CIS, he won't be eligible until second semester, but still offers a good quality add if an OUA team wants to pick him up. Although initially committed to Ryerson, don't expect Ricci to land back there with a lineup already bursting at the seams with forwards. Ricci and the Waterloo Warriors had talks this offseason, so if he lands with a CIS team in second semester, Waterloo may be a serious contender for his services.
***Aaron Armstrong: F Ryerson Rams
Aaron Armstrong's first career CIS hat-trick came at the right time for the Rams this week who needed as many goals as they could get against Brock on Wednesday. Armstrong also set up his teammate John Carpino late for a crucial marker. Maybe the ex-Junior C star finally found his offensive spark at the CIS level.
**Justice Dundas: F Windsor Lancers
After a relatively quiet opening week for Dundas, he left his mark on the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Dundas had the go-ahead goal in a two-point effort despite the loss on Friday. Although Brennan Feasey stole the show on Saturday night, Dundas had a pair of helpers, crucial to his team's 6-3 win over Lakehead.
*Derek Sheppard: D York Lions
Derek Sheppard looked fantastic this preseason, and it's clear he put in the work this offseason to make this year his best of his CIS career thus far. His big four-point night against the Laurier Golden Hawks fueled the comeback for the Lions in the second period. Sheppard is certainly York's number one d-man this season and can make a serious case for OUA First Team All-Star honours if he keeps this up.
Key Games This Week:
Guelph vs Windsor, Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:30pm EST
The three-game playoff series these two teams had in the first round of last year's OUA playoffs was an absolute war. A very physical series capped off by a classic decisive game three lead to some great entertainment, and inevitably, some bad blood.
Laurier vs Waterloo, Sat. Oct 22nd, 4:00pm EST
It's been a tough start to 2016-17 for Waterloo, but anytime they meet their bitter rivals at Laurier, the result is usually a pretty spirited affair. The Golden Hawks on the other hand have been hot and cold in their first four games, so they'll search for some consistency this upcoming weekend.
1. It's not everyday you can say a team scored two goals all weekend and still came out on the other side with a 2-0 record. But that's the situation this week with the Calgary Dinos. Certainly not the most graceful way to sweep the UBC Thunderbirds, but Steven Stanford was perfect in net, and Dryden Dow and Logan Fisher supplied all the offence necessary. Odd way to start the season for Calgary, but they'll gladly take it.
2. The UBC Thunderbirds haven't scored a goal in precisely 204:05 of Canada West game action. You really have to feel for coach Sven Butenschon and his team, because to not score for that period of time with the shot totals UBC has takes some bad misfortune too. Luke Lockhart has the only goal so far for UBC this season, and that needs to change this week against Alberta. On the upside, Matt Hewitt and Derek Dunn have both shown positive signs in net for the Thunderbirds.
3. The Saskatchewan and Alberta series this weekend totally lived up to expectation. In my opinion, it's the best rivalry going right now in CIS men's hockey. Jamie Crooks capped off a thrilling comeback OT win for Alberta on Friday night, but on Saturday the Huskies got their vengeance, beating Alberta 4-2. Watching these two teams duke it out all year will be an absolute pleasure to watch.
4. Interesting start for the Alberta Golden Bears who wound up turning to Kenny Cameron in net for their first two games. Brendan Burke will get a shot this season, and with Luke Siemens in the mix, it's difficult to remember a time when the Alberta Golden Bears crease was this wide open. From top to bottom there's still a ton of talent on paper with Alberta, but it may take awhile for it to all come together this season.
5. Rough start to say the least from the Manitoba Bisons. Outscored 8-2 this week by the Mount Royal Cougars, the Bisons were looking great on paper, but it clearly didn't translate on ice this weekend. Part of that was due to the absence of Jordan DePape, but he is expected to return this weekend. The Bisons are better than what they showed this weekend, but it's certainly not a triumphant start to their season. If they don't find their offensive groove against Regina, they could be in for a tough weekend ahead.
6. The Mount Royal Cougars on the other hand looked very solid against the Bisons. Goalie Colin Cooper was big for the Cougars last year, and doesn't seem to be any different early this season. Connor Rankin appears to have finally arrived on the CIS scene, notching three goals and an assist this weekend to jumpstart his season, and rookie Jamal Watson chipped in with a pair of goals himself. Great start for the Mount Royal Cougars who may end up knocking on the door of the top two this year if Alberta or Saskatchewan slip up.
7. The Regina Cougars and Lethbridge Pronghorns kicked off their seasons with a bit of a dogfight out west. Splitting the weekend, the Cougars got the better of Lethbridge in a 2-1 final on Friday, but the Pronghorns got back at Regina the following day, winning 4-2. Andy Desautels got the nod in both games for Regina and looks good early on for the Cougars. If Regina finds a number one goalie with Desautels, that's huge for them moving forward. We'll find out for sure in the coming weeks if Desautels is the real deal at this level.
8. Parker Bowles was released from his try-out with the Iowa Wild last week and has yet to land anywhere in the pro ranks. The deadline for players to suit up in first semester has now passed, so if a CIS school wants to bring him in, they'll have to wait until second semester to do so. It was rumoured over the summer that U of C managed to get an LOI from him, but I have yet to receive comment from the Dinos, so until that happens, it's purely speculation.
***Jamie Crooks: F Alberta Golden Bears
Crooks finishes his week with two goals and an assist, but none of his points were bigger than his OT winner against Saskatchewan in Alberta's season opener. Not to mention, Crooks' first goal with nine seconds remaining in regulation was the reason the game even went to the extra frame. On a team littered with young stars, Jamie Crooks should lead the charge as the veteran presence on Alberta this season.
**Connor Rankin: F Mount Royal Cougars
Big week for MRU's Connor Rankin, who according to coach Bert Gilling has taken another step forward this season. Three goals and an assist against Manitoba show MRU fans that even without Tyler Fiddler, this Cougars team is more than capable of filling the net. I get the feeling this isn't the last you'll see of Rankin on the three stars list.
*Steven Stanford: G Calgary Dinos
A perfect week for Stanford in net, stopping all 54 shots he faced. The Dino's have another pair of back-stoppers in Coleman Vollrath and Matt Greenfield who garnered great reviews from junior last season, but if Stanford keeps playing like this, crease-time in Calgary could be very, very hard to come by.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Calgary, Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:00pm MDT
The Cougars and Dinos have a great rivalry going on right now in Canada West, and both their men's hockey programs are fit to be very competitive with each other. We'll see how Calgary deals with a more dangerous offensive team in Mount Royal, and if the Dinos have a strong showing this weekend, they may warrant more credit than given after the offseason.
Manitoba vs Regina, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 3:00pm CST
The Bisons are in dire need of at least one win this weekend, and after their first week, who knows what will happen in the second game of their mini-series against Regina. The Cougars are a defensively tough team, and if goaltending comes through again for them this week, they are definitely capable of beating the Bisons at least once.
Written by: Victor Findlay
What a wild week in CIS hockey… and seven teams haven’t even played yet. It was a week where we saw the RMC Paladins defeat the Carleton Ravens on the same night UOIT tops McGill 5-2, and UPEI knocks off UNB in a shootout. To sort out and digest everything from around the CIS this past opening weekend, here’s the Tuesday morning skate.
1. Huge win for UPEI this past week against UNB in a shootout, and the Panthers now find themselves 2-0. I always fancied UPEI as having one of the most underrated recruit classes in the CIS, and that's holding to be true early on, with four of their top five scorers being first year players. As long as the Panthers get good goaltending this season, there's no reason to believe they can't hang around as one of the better teams in the regular season.
2. From the UPEI vs UNB game, we got our first look at the AUS five minute three-on-three overtime format. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say about it. Both teams played it very hesitantly, and as a result, minimal risks were taken. The jury is still out on whether or not this rule change was a good adaption to the AUS, but as one coach told me this week, "it's still better than four-on-four for 10 minutes".
3. Brad Peddle's StFX X-Men are off to a flying start, downing the Dalhousie Tigers and the Acadia Axemen. Brandon Hope got the start in both games and looked great, while Holden Cook carried the weight offensively with a pair of goals and assists. Bryson Cianfrone, Anthony DiFruscia, and Sam Studnicka all ended up reaching the scoresheet for the first time in their CIS careers.
4. It's a good thing Darren Burns brought goaltender Devin Williams into the program in late August, because with Brandon Glover on the shelf at the moment, Williams got serious playing time this weekend. Robert Steeves was yanked fairly quickly against StFX, and Williams kept them in it the rest of the way. More bad injury news as well for the Axemen who lost Stephen Harper about three shifts into their season opener against SMU, and did not play the following night against StFX. Acadia hopes both players will be healthy this weekend.
5. The Moncton Aigles Bleus could be in for an topsy turvy season this year. J.F. Plante, Allain Saulnier, and Alex Saulnier combined for a ridiculous 13 points against UPEI on opening night, and then were promptly shut down by UNB 9-0 on Saturday. Moncton's certainly feeling the effects of not having goalie Adrien Lemay back this year, and need to find a way to keep pucks out of their net, quickly. The offence is clearly there, but 16 goals allowed in your first two games is a terrible start.
6. NHL/AHL/ECHL teams are releasing players left, right, and centre, and as a result, it's becoming harder than ever to land a stable spot in pro as an undrafted over-ager in junior hockey. The trickle down comes all the way to CIS, and as a result, there could be some very good players available at Christmas. Keep your eyes on Aaron Berisha and Mathew Santos. Both will certainly get AUS interest, but OUA teams will be in on them too if they choose CIS.
***G Brandon Hope: StFX X-Men
Excellent start to the season for Brandon Hope. After getting the call on back-to-back nights, Hope slammed the door shut on Dalhousie, and then only allowed one goal to Acadia the following night. Goaltending will be huge if StFX has a chance at an AUS title this year, and so far, so good from Brandon Hope.
**F Allain Saulnier: UdeM Aigles Bleus
How rare is five assists in a single CIS hockey game? So rare it’s impossible to find the last time it happened in UdeM history. Unfortunately, the Aigles Bleus are off to a very rough start, but Allain Saulnier’s five assist effort against UPEI on Wednesday is worthy of recognition.
*D Jordan Murray: UNB Varsity Reds
Fantastic start for the defending CIS defenceman of the year. Clearly he’s picked up right where he left off, registering four goals and an assist in his first two games of the season. However, I’m sure he’d rather have won the game against UPEI than be on this list.
Key Games This Week:
Wed. Oct. 12th, 7:00pm AST: UPEI Panthers vs UNB Varsity Reds
After taking down the Varsity Reds earlier this week, the timing of this rematch couldn't be better for either squad. This gives UNB the chance to figure things out after dropping a decision to UPEI this past weekend, but if the Panthers pull out another big win on Wednesday, their confidence should be through the roof.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm AST: StFX X-Men vs Acadia Axemen
Another quick turnaround rematch, this could be a tougher game for StFX to close, especially if Stephen Harper is ready to go for the Axemen. Worth keeping an eye on Brandon Hope to see if he can keep up the standard he set this past weekend.
1. Great starts for both the Ryerson Rams and Guelph Gryphons. The Gryphons clearly don’t have many ill-effects from losing a number of players to pro, and goaltending from Scott Stacjer has been great to this point. Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine both got involved on the scoresheet, and expect both of them to stay there for the rest of the season.
2. On Ryerson’s side, they managed to down Laurier in the opener, then grinded out a big win against Windsor after falling down early, 2-0 to the Lancers in the first period. Charlie Graham made all the saves he needed to this week, and the Rams talent on offence is certainly showing. Unfortunately for Ryerson, they're already starting to get hit with the injury bug as Matt Mistele, Josh Chapman, Luke Mercer, Devon Paliani, and Chris Marchese have all been banged up this week.
3. The York Lions stumbled out of the gates this week, dropping games to both Brock and Laurier. In both games, York made a late surge, but it was too little too late. The Lions also flipped between Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields in net, showing there’s no clear number one goalie on campus at the moment. This definitely wasn't the start Chris Dennis was looking for out of his team.
4. The Western Mustangs were in tough for both games this weekend, losing their season opener 3-2 at the hands of Guelph, and then inching past Brock 4-3. Western’s defence has undergone a dramatic makeover this offseason, and it could definitely take a while for them to sort things out on the back-end before they make a run this year. For now, Greg Dodds and Lucas Peressini could be seeing a lot of rubber.
5. A couple early favourites for the classic ‘where did he come from’ recruits. Danny Hanlon looked good for Laurier against Ryerson, and then snuck a pair of goals past York on Saturday. Despite losing to Ryerson on Saturday, goalie Kris Joyce looked very solid for the Windsor Lancers. Don't be surprised if either of these players wind up as integral parts of their teams by the end of the season.
6. The Laurier Golden Hawks had a fairly poor showing against Ryerson on Thursday, but rebounded with a win against York on Saturday. They look better defensively at the moment, but with so many new players in the fold, it may take a while before this program actually hits their stride this season. Coach Greg Puhalski told me earlier this week that his team had some great outings in preseason, but also some pretty bad ones. That could turn out to be the story of the Golden Hawks this season.
7. The Brock Badgers picked up a huge win on Wednesday against York. Even after losing to Western on Saturday, Brock’s confidence should be pretty high. Great starts for Adam Lloyd, Chris Maniccia, and goalie Clint Windsor have definitely helped, but if Brock continues to be a difficult task for opponents this year, it will be because they play well as a team. Definitely some individual talent here, but if they hit the ice trying to win the game for each other, they'll be ten times better this season.
***F Jamie Lewis: Ryerson Rams
Tied atop the scoring leaderboard in the OUA West with fellow Ram Alex Basso at four points, Jamie Lewis is picking up right where he left off for the Ryerson Rams. Five points in as many playoff games last year made him the second most productive player on the Rams, and his 2016-17 season is off to a hot start.
**F Adam Lloyd: Brock Badgers
Big week for Adam Lloyd, as with a goal and three assists, he is rolling out of the gates. All three assists came in Brock’s statement win against the York Lions on opening night, and although Brock couldn’t take down Western over the weekend, Lloyd tagged on another goal for the Badgers.
*G Scott Stacjer: Guelph Gryphons
The Gryphons had a good week from a few players like Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine, but Scott Stacjer’s statline is the best among OUA West goalies at the moment. A shutout on Wednesday against Waterloo got things started, but his 36 save performance against Western showed he can be depended on when the Gryphons need a big save.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: York Lions vs U of T Varsity Blues
The first regular season matchup between the two since the V-Blues knocked the Lions out of the first round of last season’s playoffs in shocking fashion. After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, this is already a very, very important game for the Lions.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm EST: Brock Badgers vs Guelph Gryphons
After the way the SteelBlade turned out, do I really need to say anything here? You better believe the Gryphons are out for vengeance, and should be fired up by a great start and a homecampus crowd at the Gryphon Centre.
1. The RMC Paladins are atop the headlines across the country this week with their gigantic upset win over the Carleton Ravens. Despite a typically quiet recruit season, perhaps we need to be giving this Paladins team more credit. As one coach said in reference to RMC, “They have much better depth this year.”
2. A bit of a disaster here on Carleton's side. Justin Nichols got the call against RMC, and got the hook before the end of the game. It's way too early to press the panic button if you're Carleton, but it's a serious wakeup call. Worth noting also that Brett Welychka did not dress against the Paladins, and could have been a huge difference maker. Welychka is hoping to return this weekend against Concordia at the latest.
3. Worth noting that the Paladins also gave McGill a bit of a run after Bruce Hornbrook scored 50 seconds into their game on Friday night, and held the lead for most of the first period. Tough way to start your CIS career if you’re McGill goalie L.P. Guindon, but he rebounded nicely for the win.
4. Speaking of McGill goalies, L.P. Guindon and his fantastic .948 SV% in the preseason could be giving Jacob Gervais-Chouinard a serious run for his money in net. Especially after Gervais-Chouinard allowed four goals on 29 shots to UOIT in a 5-2 loss.
5. For UOIT, what a fantastic start for them. A shutout victory over Ottawa was a perfect start to their season, and a huge 5-2 win over McGill is a big-time statement. UOIT is now 19-10-0 under coach Curtis Hodgins, and could be one of the best defensive teams all year long if they keep up their pace.
6. Another team off to a great start is the Concordia Stingers. A perfect 2-0 after downing Nipissing in a pair of games, outscoring the Lakers 9-1. The 70 shots Concordia conceded this weekend is probably more than they’d like, but so far, Philippe Cadorette is definitely living up to the hype in goal. It’s also fairly clear that Concordia’s offence hasn’t missed a beat either.
7. On Nipissing’s end, this certainly wasn’t the start they were looking for. A four game suspension to starting goalie Domenic Graham doesn’t help, but being outscored 9-1 this weekend can’t be entirely blamed on the absence of Graham. Strange note here as well, as Colin Campbell’s first and only goal for Nipissing so far this year was scored at 19:59 of the 3rd period, as per OUA Leaguestat. Talk about a shutout spoiler….
8. How about the Laurentian Voyageurs this weekend. Despite losing both games, they get thumbs up for a great effort against the UQTR Patriotes. Friday night was the better of the two games they played, as for sections of the game, they lead UQTR in both shots and goals. Eventually Marc-Olivier Mimar saved UQTR from what would’ve been another humungous upset after he scored late in the third period to secure the 3-2 victory. Keep your eyes and ears open for Laurentian this year, they’re poised to be much better than last season.
9. Finally, the Ottawa Gee-Gees hit a bit of an offensive wall as it took them just over five periods to find the net. Connor Sills gets credit for the first goal of the resurgent Gee-Gees, but Ottawa came up short against both UOIT and Queen’s. After a strong preseason, perhaps some of the new Gee-Gees are just finding out right now what CIS hockey is all about.
***F Danny Elser: UOIT Ridgebacks
As mentioned, big week for the Ridgebacks, and Elser had a lot to do with it. His two goals against the Gee-Gees in the season opener ensured their victory, and his goal against McGill was the backbreaker that made the game 4-2 in the third period. After scoring just two goals in nine games of action last year, Elser has been a great early spark-plug for UOIT.
**F Eric Ming: Queen’s Gaels
This spot could’ve easily gone to Ming’s teammate, Slater Doggett, but Ming had a pair of crucial goals this week. After going down 3-0 to Carleton on Friday, Ming made the game close with a pair of goals, and his two markers on Saturday lead to a 4-2 victory for Queen’s over Ottawa. Four goals this weekend from Ming lead the way in the OUA.
*G Philippe Cadorette: Concordia Stingers
One second away from perfection. Tough way to end the second game against Nipissing, but regardless, Philippe Cadorette looked fantastic for the Concordia Stingers. A .986 SV% and 69 saves on 70 shots makes Cadorette the first star out of the OUA East this week, and Concordia hopes this was just a precursor for what’s to come from their young goalie.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs UQTR Patriotes
After a nightmare of a Saturday night in front of their hometown fans, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Carleton Ravens. In some ways, rebounding against the defending OUA champs would be great for morale, but that’s not going to be easy. Very important game for the Ravens on Friday.
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: McGill Redmen vs Concordia Stingers
Much like Carleton, McGill needs a bounce-back game, and this should also be a great test to see where the Concordia Stingers are at after last week. If the Stingers aren’t careful defensively, McGill will punish them, and Cadorette will end up seeing more rubber than he saw against Nipissing.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs Concordia Stingers
Another great test for both teams here, this could be a fantastic showdown given the circumstances. If Concordia pulls out even one win this weekend against either McGill or Carleton, that’s huge for them moving forward.
1. Not much out of Canada West this week, as just two games, both between UBC and Saskatchewan are in the books. The Huskies took both games and looked like the better team overall in both contests. Just in case you were wondering, Jordon Cooke hasn't missed a beat.
Stand by until next week, Canada West will get the same treatment as the other conferences, it's just a matter of getting their season kickstarted.
The UQTR Patriotes are set to defend their OUA titles out of the East this year, and as usual this conference provides us with some top-heavy talented teams. UQTR, McGill, and Carleton are all favourites to stay on top of the standings, but the league behind them continues to get deeper this season.
1. McGill Redmen: 2015-16, 22-6-1 (43 pts)
Team Strengths: The McGill Redmen are covered on all of their bases this season. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, Joe Fleschler, and L.P. Guindon make a case for the best goaltending trio in the CIS this season, Mathieu Pompei highlights a star-studded offence, and AUS transfer Nathan Chiarlitti fits into a top-end defence including Dominic Talbot-Tassi, Gianluca Curcuruto, and Etienne Boutet. The Redmen have it all this season, and are perhaps the team best suited to dethrone UQTR. The Redmen have always been a talented offensive team, but now with the acquisition of players like Alexandre Sills and Samuel Tremblay, they are deeper than ever in the bottom half of their lineup.
Team Concerns: Tough to find one on McGill, but perhaps the biggest concern might be staying the course this season. If the Redmen look too far ahead, they could find themselves in trouble. Coach Kelly Nobes however is not the kind of coach to lose sight of the one step at a time approach, and a successful veteran of this league, he'll find a way to bring McGill back even if they do start to veer off course. On paper, this team is nearly flawless, but teams don't usually stay that way when the regular season gets going.
Recruit Class: Fantastic job from top to bottom in bringing in some of the best talent the QMJHL had to offer this offseason. Jasmin Boutet, Samuel Tremblay, and Alexandre Sills will all come into their first years of CIS hockey as effective bit-pieces, and will function as the classic 'type of players you win with' this year for McGill. Guillaume Gauthier possesses great potential to be a dominant offensive force in this league after scoring 86 points last year in the QMJHL. Nathanael Halbert has been spoken well of as a hard-nosed defenceman from the QMJHL, and as mentioned, L.P. Guindon comes into a crowded crease, but has had a standout preseason for McGill. Harlan Orr joins the team out of the BCHL, and finally, two-time AUS second team all-star Nathan Chiarlitti comes to McGill to close out his CIS career. The Redmen have had a fantastic offseason.
Verdict: It's impossible not to buy into McGill after what they've done this offseason. On paper they look amazing, but we'll find out for sure if they can back it up when they hit the ice. There's still a lot of time for things to change as the season progresses.
2. UQTR Patriotes: 2015-16, 24-3-1 (49 pts)
Team Strengths: The UQTR Patriotes were the best offensive team in the OUA last year, and what's scary is the fact they have a minimal roster turnover. Guillaume Asselin, Tommy Giroux, Martin Lefebvre, Marc-Olivier Mimar, and the usual suspects return again for UQTR, and make them undeniably one of the deadliest offensive teams on paper in the country. The Patriotes will be flying up and down rinks again this year, torching teams who come ill-prepared on defence. In net, Sebastien Auger returns again after a stellar first season and there shouldn't be any questions about his ability to be a game-changing goaltender in the CIS.
Team Concerns: As the saying goes, perhaps too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That good thing in UQTR's case is offence. Offseason acquisitions Elie Berube and Allan Caron should stabilize UQTR's defence a little more than last year, but players like Charles David-Beaudoin and Jeremy Beaudry can't afford to let their guard down this season defensively. Some questions exist about UQTR being a soft team, but they hope players like Gabriel Slight solve any problems in that regard.
Recruit Class: UQTR didn't do a whole lot this offseason, but they really haven't needed to do much at all. Deven St-Hilaire and Timothé Simard will both likely be depth pieces this season, and Gabriel Slight should help them with size and physicality on their forward unit. Allan Caron and Elie Berube are decent defensive recruits from the QMJHL, and goalie Alex Belanger is expected to head back to UQTR after giving pro a chance first.
Verdict: UQTR will be every bit as deadly this year as they were last, and in theory, even got a little better with their offseason recruits. The Patriotes will inevitably be in the chase for the top seed in the OUA East, and once they make it into the playoffs, who knows what could happen.
3. Carleton Ravens: 2015-16, 20-7-1 (41 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ravens retain their top three scorers from a year ago and hope to get just as much this season from Mike McNamee, Ryan Van Stralen, and Brett Welychka. Brent Norris was an underrated contributor last season, and with Corey Durocher compose a very reputable top six in the CIS. The Carleton Ravens have had possession numbers in the stratosphere recently, with a shots for/against differential of a whopping +1169 in the last three years. To put that into perspective, UQTR's differential is +340 in the same time period. The Ravens also had a fantastic defence last season, most of which returns in 2016-17.
Team Concerns: It feels weird putting Carleton goaltending in this category after they've been the envy of the league for the past few seasons. With a grand total of zero games of CIS experience, nobody really seems to know for sure what Justin Nichols, Francois Brassard, and Matt Jenkins can offer the Ravens this year. Nichols and Brassard are both accomplished goalies from major junior, but will it translate to CIS? The Ravens lose their captain Joey West for this season, but leadership shouldn't be much of a concern with players like McNamee and Durocher still on the roster.
Recruit Class: The Ravens were another OUA East team with a small recruit class, but again, didn't really need to add much. The void in net has been taken care of with Brassard and Nichols, and both Josh Burnside and Evan De Haan come into the program out of major junior. De Haan gives coach Marty Johnston another option on defence, and Josh Burnside is the ultimate utility player from the OHL. The Ravens will wish they had been able to hang on to Nathan Todd, but they're still a top team even without recruiting him from the Ottawa 67's.
Verdict: The biggest question mark here is in net, and if it's answered early on, there's no reason the Ravens can't contend for OUA East supremacy again. We saw last year that this team was very worthy of being at the University Cup, but if the Ravens can't solidify their crease in the regular season, they could possibly slip as low as fourth in the conference.
4. Queen's Gaels: 2015-16, 17-7-4 (38 pts)
Team Strengths: As long as Kevin Bailie is with this team, you cannot count out the Queen's Gaels. Among the cream of the crop at this level of goaltending in the country, Bailie can keep Queen's in any game and if he retains form this year, will be the main attraction on the Gaels. Defenceman Spencer Abraham is a great player in his own right, and is primed for another great season at Queen's. Forwards Eric Ming and Slater Doggett have flexed their muscles in this league, and with help from a resurgent Darcy Greenaway solidify a very talented top six.
Team Concerns: The Gaels ran into some depth exposure issues last season, and although it's something they believe they've addressed this offseason, we won't know for sure until this team hits the ice. Some defensive issues have also risen in the past for Queen's, and as good as Kevin Bailie is, they'd rather not have to rely on him to steal a game every week. A returning Warren Steele could help, but the Gaels could use their whole defence to take a step forward if they want to improve in the standings.
Recruit Class: You can tell by the sheer volume of players that coach Brett Gibson is looking at a number of options to find scoring depth. Brothers Luke and Brock Edwards from the NCAA could be the answer, but Dylan Anderson, Luke Bertolucci, and Francesco Vilardi may also help. Andrew Ming, Ted Hunt, and Eric Margo all hope to eventually be what Patrick McGillis was for Queen's last year. Nevin Guy and Graeme Brown hope to help Queen's out defensively this season. Overall not a bad recruit class for Queen's at all, but no particular standouts either.
Verdict: Brett Gibson must know he's in a unique window where the time limit on Kevin Bailie and Spencer Abraham in the CIS is being to draw near. For years the Gaels have been close, but just outside the picture of the big three in the OUA East. With some serious star power on his team, Gibson must be chomping at the bit to catch the top teams in this league.
5. Concordia Stingers: 2015-16, 10-12-6 (26 pts)
Team Strengths: The Concordia Stingers are a program on the rise, and after a successful offseason, have to be taken seriously this year. Over the past three seasons, the Stingers have the second highest shooting percentage in the conference, trailing only UQTR in that regard. It's a reflection of how deadly this team has always been. The returning Olivier Hinse is one of the most dangerous forwards in the OUA, and will be Concordia's shining star once again. With Philippe Hudon, Dany Potvin, Scott Oke, and Dominic Beauchemin back for another year, offensive fire power will be Concordia's strength once again.
Team Concerns: Historically, the Stingers have been held back by goaltending and poor defence. This season, coach Marc-Andre Element hope he's found the solution to those problems. Philippe Cadorette manning the crease this year is huge for Concordia if he lives up to the hype. Defensively, Concordia needs to play better team defence and can't afford to go all-in all the time on offence. They can fly around the ice, but need to sort out any defensive deficiencies before they can improve as a team.
Recruit Class: Hats off to Concordia for a great job of brining in some serious fire power with Anthony DeLuca and Philippe Sanche. Already a deadly team up front, the Stingers got even better with these two. Alex Gosselin, Mathieu Desautels, Anthony Gingras, and Philippe Bureau-Blais are all brought into the overhauled defence, and hope to stick as key cogs. In net, the aforementioned Philippe Cadorette may turn out to be Concordia's saving grace if he pans out the way his resume suggests he might.
Verdict: The Stingers definitely got better on paper in the offseason, and that's a step in the right direction for a program that seemed to be floundering in the OUA East for too long. Rumours still exist that Anthony Beauregard may wind up at Concordia before season's end and make this team even better offensively. Stacking the offence to max capacity worked for UQTR, maybe the same happens for Concordia.
6. UOIT Ridgebacks: 2015-16, 18-8-2 (38 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ridgebacks contain a unique identity in the OUA East as one of the most physical teams the league has to offer. There's rarely an easy win against this squad, who will take any chance to punish you. Coach Curtis Hodgins clearly found something that worked for this team last year when they went on a run into the second round of the OUA playoffs. Ben Blasko showed what he's capable of offensively, but it's the gritty players like Loren Ulett, Mitch Bennett, and Jake Logan that make them so hard to play against.
Team Concerns: The Ridgebacks are already off to an unlucky start despite looking good in preseason action. Loren Ulett looks to be out long-term with an upper-body injury, and UOIT wound up losing Mark Petaccio, Jesse Stoughton, and James Woodcroft from their top six. Blasko remains, and nine goals last season from Connor Jarvis offers some promise, but the Ridgebacks will desperately need to find offence from somebody else if they want to stay afloat in the OUA East.
Recruit Class: Definitely not the most star-studded, but UOIT has seemingly done a nice job of finding guys to fit into their system. Defenceman Kyle Locke was one of the most physical players in the OJHL a year ago, and forward Malik Johnson should fit right into UOIT's style of play. UOIT hopes Anthony Latina or MacKenzie Brown can be a source for offence, while Josh Carrick adds major junior experience to the back-end. Jack Patterson is an experimental player, and goalie Tyson Teichmann adds better depth in net and rounds out UOIT's recruit class.
Verdict: UOIT could be up against it this year offensively. If Curtis Hodgins can keep the Ridgebacks solid defensively and a tough, rugged team to play against, then the Ridgebacks definitely have a chance to stir up the standings in the East like they did last year, but it won't be easy.
7. Ottawa Gee-Gees: 2015-16, N/A
Team Strengths: It's tough to evaluate a team full of players who have never played a regular season game against any of the teams in this league before (except Gabriel Vermette). So essentially, your guess as to what the Gee-Gees will do well this year is as good as mine. They've managed to bring in some seemingly talented junior hockey players, but on a team full of first years, it's impossible to tell for sure how they'll all come together.
Team Concerns: Well... I suppose I sort of underlined the biggest concern this team has in the strengths section. Forgive me, it's been a long week.
Recruit Class: Overall, I give coach Patrick Grandmaitre two thumbs up for the work he and his team have put in to making the Gee-Gees a reality once again. Building a team from scratch is a tall task, especially when you have to deal with the powerhouses of the OUA East taking the majority of the talented major junior players. Regardless of all that, Ottawa managed to bring in reputable names such as Jacob Sweeney, Anthony Brodeur, Jacob Harris, Quinn O'Brien, and Marc Beckstead.
Verdict: The Ottawa Gee-Gees: the great unknown of the CIS this season. It's not like first year programs haven't done well before. Nipissing, Carleton, and Lakehead all had successful first seasons, and with how the Gee-Gees have looked during the preseason, it shouldn't come as a surprise if this team leapfrogs right into the playoffs.
8. Laurentian Voyageurs: 2015-16, 7-15-6 (20 pts)
Team Strengths: Laurentian believes they've made themselves a better defensive team this offseason, and in the end, that will be what wins them games. Joel Vienneau holds down the net, and although he's barely played in the last two seasons, he wasn't a UNB Varsity Reds recruit for no reason. Long-time Voyageur Vincent Llorca returns to the defence and is joined by another CIS veteran Elliot Richardson. Andrew Tessier becomes eligible after transferring from Lakehead, and now Jayme Forslund will also play for Laurentian. All together, not a shabby looking defence on paper.
Team Concerns: Offence was the kryptonite for the Voyaguers a season ago, and there's no guarantees they got substantially better in that category this offseason. Brent Pedersen was an offensive highlight last year, but it's imperative the Voyageurs get more contribution from other players. Nick Esposto could potentially provide that assistance, but players like Brandon Francisco, Dylan Fitze, and Sebastien Leroux could also step up.
Recruit Class: Laurentian's best bet offensively out of the new group could be Blake Luscombe, who put up some solid numbers in Caledonia a year ago. Cray Roberge, Derek Varrin, and Ryan Wildman were all serviceable players at the junior level, but come with some question marks into CIS. Scott Pedersen represents the only pure recruit on defence (not counting Tessier or Forslund), and finally Gunner Rivers gives Laurentian a three goalie rotation. No particular standouts in Laurentian's recruit class just yet.
Verdict: Laurentian's defence should be the highlight of their season, and although they won't be the most fun team to watch, if they get the job done, that's all they care about. Not convinced they are again the fourth place OUA East team from 2014-15, but can be better than they were last season for sure.
9. Nipissing Lakers: 2015-16, 12-12-4 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: The Nipissing Lakers believe they are anchored by a strong goaltender in Domenic Graham this season, and expect to be a harder team to score on than they were last season. Defenceman Jimmy McDowell is one of the tougher players in this league to play against, and will be relied upon this year to matchup with the best forwards in the OUA. Erik Robichaud and Colin Campbell both return for Nipissing and will have to carry the weight again this year offensively for this team to do well.
Team Concerns: Both offence and defence were issues at times last year for the Lakers. More consistent defence will be necessary this year, and they'll need to get scoring past guys like Robichaud and Campbell. Most importantly, Nipissing needs to figure out an identity here. Right now it's tough to place a particular style with this team, and because of that, it's very hard to predict which version of Nipissing you're going to get on any given night.
Recruit Class: Nipissing brings an assortment of players in from across the country to comprise a fairly large recruit class. Taylor Davis has the OHL experience on defence, whilst Tyler Edwards is a defenceman from the MJHL. Adam Clements is a nice puck moving d-man from the Trenton Golden Hawks, and forwards Deverick Ottereyes and Jeremy Butterworth have experienced various levels of success out east. The biggest highlight for Nipissing this offseason was bringing in Danny Desrocher, captain of the Sudbury Wolves. He adds front-end talent and leadership. But perhaps the biggest story is who Nipissing didn't get, as Jordan DaSilva, Brett Jeffries, and Drake Lindsay were all announced as recruits, but are strangely absent from Nipissing's roster page. It certainly throws up a few red flags when three players mysteriously disappear from a team's roster.
Verdict: It's tough to get a solid reading on Nipissing right now, and the sense I get is that this could be an on and off again team this season, much like they were in 2015-16. The Lakers will need a big contribution from Domenic Graham and will need to find alternate contributors on offence if they want to have playoff success this year.
10. RMC Paladins: 2015-16, 4-21-3 (11 pts)
Team Strengths: No strangers to being the underdogs, the RMC Paladins always seem to find a way to upset at least a couple of teams each season. Believe it or not, the Paladins have also improved statistically in the last three seasons. Their possession numbers have seen increases in each of the last few seasons, and the argument can be made that they have continued to become more and more competitive. If they can take another step forward this year, it'll be a great sign out of a program with more obstacles than any other team in the CIS.
Team Concerns: As usual, can RMC just be good enough to contend with teams this season? Talent-wise, they don't compare to most teams in the league, but that hasn't stopped the Paladins from pulling off upsets in the past. RMC will struggle throughout the season to keep up stats-wise with the rest of the league, but the question is how many times will this team catch other opponents off guard?
Recruit Class: Pretty much the usual here for RMC, an assortment of tier II players from around the country. Seamus MaGuire's 71 points last year in the NOJHL is an acquisition the Paladins will be very happy about, and brining in Mathew Michie after a full season in the BCHL is pretty good too. Goalies Austin Hannaford and Michael Desgroseillers will jostle for crease-time this season. Defencemen Colton Keuhl, Matthew McGall, and Matthew Muller join forward recruits Scott Emerson and Torin O'Brien to complete RMC's 2016-17 recruit class.
Verdict: Bruce Hornbrook and John Livingston should both be good again for the Paladins, but it takes some serious stones to predict RMC as a playoff team this season. But as always, RMC seems to sneak out a few wins here an there which can really upset a season for an OUA East team searching for a playoff spot. The Paladins are well coached by Richard Lim and hope to continue to improve their program this season.
Last season proved that the OUA West can be the wildest conference in the CIS, with teams one through six jockeying for positions on the final day of the season. With 2016-17 on the horizon, you should definitely expect the unexpected again from the OUA West, which remains wide open once again.
1. Western Mustangs: 2015-16, 18-10-0 (36 pts)
Team Strengths: With Greg Dodds and Lucas Peressini tending the net this year at Western, the Mustangs have the best one-two goalie punch in the OUA West. Dodds is a proven winner in this league, and the reviews of the 2014-15 OHL goalie of the year, Lucas Peressini, have been very good. Mike DiPaolo will return to the Mustangs this year giving them some truculence, and the prospect of getting Robert Polesello in a top six role early in the season could give Western an offensive boost. Matt Marantz, Spenser Cobbold, Andrew Goldberg, and Ray Huether all return to Western's forward unit and look to build off strong showings in 2015-16. The Mustangs are notoriously well coached, and always seem to find ways to win games.
Team Concerns: Western loses some very key players in David Corrente, Stephen Gaskin, Shaun Furlong, Alex Micallef, Stephen Sanza, and Noah Schwartz. Not only were they point producers, but great leaders with substantial CIS experience on their side. Western will now need players like Sean Callaghan and Jonathan Laser to take a step forward this season on defence. If they don't, their defence could run into some trouble. After not having a single player reach double digits in goals last year, Western wouldn't mind someone taking control of the offensive squad this year, but the fact they still managed to score 103 goals in the regular season a year ago shows how deep they are.
Recruit Class: It's very strange seeing just one player coming to Western directly out of the OHL. However, Lucas Peressini is one heck of an OHL player, and any team would be thrilled to have his services. Defencemen Rylan Bechtel and Austin Adam are two big bodies who looked good in preseason, and Rylan Ball can fit in with Western too. Mitch Brooks and Mitch Fitzmorris both have a certain tenacity about them that make Western a little tougher up front, but certainly don't replace the scoring of Furlong or Schwartz. Western's recruit class includes a few solid players, but by Mustang standards, there's a strange absence of star power.
Verdict: Western has every right to be considered the team to beat in the OUA West again this year. Had it not been for a roster riddled with injuries last season, Western would have inevitably had a better regular season. But they still managed to put the pieces together late in the season and wound up at nationals in March. This year it's a different Western team, but don't expect anything less than the usual from the Mustangs this year.
2. Ryerson Rams: 2015-16, 14-13-1 (29 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ryerson Rams have arguably the most talented roster in the OUA West this season. After two offseasons with major-junior heavy recruit classes, the Rams have more than enough offensive and defensive talent to contend with the powerhouses of the OUA. Michael Fine returns for his fifth season, poised to break a number of franchise records, and with players like Matt Mistele and Josh Sterk on his wing, the Rams top six has a ton of potential. Defensively, Alex Basso comes back fully healthy, and Brandon Devlin looks stronger than ever after a great finish to his 2015-16 campaign.
Team Concerns: No more Troy Passingham in net for the Rams, who turn to Taylor Dupuis, Charlie Graham, and Brodie Barrick in the net. It's a relatively inexperienced crease without a clear-cut number one at the moment. Someone needs to step up and be a brick wall if the Rams intend to go on an extended playoff run. Much like last season, there's definitely star power on the Rams, but can they find chemistry early in the season? Chemistry was a problem at times for the Rams in 2015-16 when they stumbled through a few tough stretches in the season. The sooner the Rams figure out their chemistry, the better they will be.
Recruit Class: Hard not to consider what Ryerson has done on the recruit front this year as some of the best offseason work in the OUA. Matt Mistele is debatably the most notable recruit in the school's history, and Josh Sterk was highly sought-after out of the OHL. Landon Schiller and Devon Paliani both add depth and more grit to the team, while NCAA transfer John Carpino offers speed and top six potential. Defensively, Austin Kosack and Daniel Poliziani add puck-moving presence, Matt Nosella will be a project player, and Josh Chapman adds another element of toughness to the lineup when he gets healthy. Finally, Charlie Graham in net had a very nice training camp, and will be in tough competition with Dupuis and Barrick this season.
Verdict: Call it a homer pick if you want, but the Ryerson Rams have the tools to contend for top spot in the OUA West. The potential has existed for a while, but the Rams have never been able to put it all together over a full regular season. Despite that, there's good reason to bet this is the year the Rams finally hit their stride.
3. Windsor Lancers: 2015-16, 14-11-3 (31 pts)
Team Strengths: The Windsor Lancers were quietly the second best offensive team a season ago in the OUA West. Their 101 goals ranked second only to Western, and Windsor had the best possession numbers in the OUA West as well. Eric Noel and Ryan Green are both substantial losses, but Dylan Denomme has proven over his two years with the Lancers that he's one of the most gifted scorers in his conference. Justice Dundas scoring 14 goals a season ago was a surprise to many, and will be given the chance to prove he's no fluke. In net, Windsor will get Blake Richard back after his OUA all-rookie team honours from last season, get the SJHL MVP in Kris Joyce, and long-time LaSalle Vipers goalie Paolo Battisti. The Lancers have historically been one of the hardest teams to beat in the league, and will be so again in 2016-17.
Team Concerns: Losing Kenny Bradford and Paul Bezzo was definitely a blow to them defensively, and the Lancers will have to look elsewhere to replace their leadership and physicality. The Lancers always seem to strike gold finding players from Jr. B, but this year their defence is full of them, and they'll have to find a way to get them up to speed in this league very quickly. Some scoring depth was also lost from last season, and the Lancers will again have to turn to a group of youngsters to supply a secondary punch.
Recruit Class: The Lancers didn't bring much in the way of major junior experience, but Kevin Hamlin has a knack for finding successful CIS players from the junior hockey ranks. LaSalle Vipers captain Nathan Veres could turn out to be a nice find on defence, and joined by Todd Ratchford and Chadd Bauman give coach Hamlin a solid toolset to work with on the back-end. Ian Faubert was a big-time scorer in Chatham last year, and Konnor Haas put up some good numbers in the MJAHL. Marcus Messier also comes into this program after a year out of hockey. In net, Paolo Battisti and Kris Joyce are both interesting players who could turn out to be nice finds for the Lancers down the road.
Verdict: The Lancers are experiencing a pretty big roster turnover on defence and lose some scoring, but they still have the capability of being a top four team in the OUA West. No matter how much they do or don't score, Windsor will make you work for every last inch of ice and will be one of the most physical teams in the CIS all year long.
4. York Lions: 2015-16, 16-7-5 (37 pts)
Team Strengths: Chris Dennis proved to be a complete game changer for the Lions last season as he completed the 'worst' to 'first turnaround in 2015-16. Having had a season to fully understand his roster, Dennis will get a chance to attempt some more advanced tactics in 2016-17. In recent history, York has had one of the best defensive teams, having allowed the second least amount of shots of OUA West teams in the last three seasons. Derek Sheppard remains one of the best defenceman in the conference and is joined by a steady cast of reargaurds again this season.
Team Concerns: No Justin Larson this year, and that may wind up taking a serious chunk out of York's offence. Last season was a much better offensive year for the Lions who had poor offensive showings in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Trevor Petersen obviously provides a big punch for the Lions, but no other forward came close to Larson's 21 assists a year ago. No Andrew Perugini in net for the Lions either, who now turn to Mack Shields, Mitch Maraschiello, and Alex Fotinos. Much like Ryerson, the Lions don't have a clear-cut number one at the moment, and the sooner someone steps up, the better.
Recruit Class: Daniel Nikandrov was a nice snag out of the OHL, and if Steven Janes puts it all together this year, he offers some promise for York's forward unit. Bryce Milson brings CIS experience and stability to the table, Aaron Spivak has proven to be a great team player in the past, and both Dexter Bricker and Scott Feser have been drawing solid reviews from sources out west. On defence, Jack Goranson and Nick Zottl are both big bodies, but will need to prove their worth at the CIS this season. Goaltender Alex Fotinos is coming off hip surgery and Mack Shields bring starter experience out of the WHL. Overall, it's an interesting assortment of players from across the country and shows a clear effort by York to find good players.
Verdict: Not many, including myself, would have seen the Lions winning the OUA West last year, but it turned out to be all for naught after a disappointing first round exit at the hands of the U of T Varsity Blues. York doesn't have the star power that Ryerson or Western have, but with strong defence and good goaltending, the Lions can definitely find a place in the division's top four.
5. Brock Badgers: 2015-16, 6-15-7 (19 pts)
Team Strengths: If the Brock Badgers buy in, they will be one of the most difficult teams to beat this season. The key here is they have the elements to be a difficult team to close, and now with some extra offensive firepower added to the equation this offseason, the Badgers have to be taken seriously. Players like Brody Silk and Mack Lemmon pose nightmares for opponents to deal with, and players like Andrew Radjenovic, Sammy Banga, Mitch Nardi, Matt MacLeod, and Chris Maniccia can torch you on the scoresheet.
Team Concerns: Last year, the season fell off the rails for Brock at about the halfway point. By the end of the year, it looked like everyone including coach Murray Nystrom was taxed, and understandably so after a second half which saw all the offence dry up. If the Badgers are going to have a better year in 2016-17, they simply cannot have a repeat of last year's second semester. Defensively, they lose Jake Cardwell and Dan Tanel. Two very different players, but both serving a purpose on the Badgers last year. They'll need to be replaced for Brock to have success this year.
Recruit Class: Defenceman Dexter Weber and forwards Matt MacLeod and Andrew Radjenovic highlight Brock's offseason. Weber is a well thought of all-around defenceman from the QMJHL, and Matt MacLeod was a bright spot on an otherwise punchless Saint Thomas Tommies team. Andrew Radjenovic returns after a year away from CIS, and has looked fantastic as captain of the Badgers in preseason. NCAA transfers Braden Pears and Sam Quaranta join the Badgers blueline, and Matt Manella, Nicholas Santoro, Jesse Blais, and Brandon Cercone are coming out of various junior leagues. Alex Brooks-Potts and Adam Beukeboom will backup Clint Windsor this year, and all together cap off a class with a few respectable pieces, but a lot of players who have a lot yet to prove.
Verdict: There's no reason Brock can't be right in the thick of the OUA picture this season. They'll pose a challenge for everyone from Laurier to McGill, but only if they buy in right from the get-go. If Brock stays the course, expect a much better season out of Murray Nystrom's boys in 2016-17.
6. Laurier Golden Hawks: 2015-16, 14-14-0 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Derek Schoenmakers comes into 2016-17 as the leading active scorer amongst OUA West players. His 40 career CIS goals in essentially only three season confirm his place as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the West. Past Schoenmakers, Will Cook and Christian Mroczkowski emerged as effective offensive set pieces last year, and if Andrew Fritsch and Brandon Robinson can put things together at Laurier, they suddenly become one of the better offensive teams in the OUA West. Colin Furlong, Vinny Merante, and Chris Festarini have all played well in the past, and especially if Festarini stays healthy this year, Laurier should be able to find someone who can give them a chance to win between the three of them.
Team Concerns: If Brandon Robinson and Andrew Fritsch don't figure things out at Laurier, this team could be in some offensive trouble. Mac Clutsam was one of the better defenceman in the conference last year, but overall Laurier's team defence last year wasn't great, and they had among the worst possession numbers in the OUA West. If Laurier can find someone either from within, or out of their recruit class to step up and help out Clutsam, that would be huge. But first and foremost, they need to play better team defence this season, which they are definitely capable of.
Recruit Class: Laurier threw in a lot of players this year in hopes that some will pan out to be great pieces. Neil Aird, Jacob Hetherington, Cole Porter, Jeremy Leclerc, and Alex D'Oliveira are all picks out of leagues from across the country. Danny Hanlon offers some offensive flair out of the Trenton Golden Hawks organization, as does Lucas Batt with the Carleton Place Canadians. Alex Annechiarico and Braydon Blight are a pair of big bodies with major junior experience who Laurier hopes can add more of a physical edge to their blueline. Jimmy Soper is a good player who produced in the MJAHL, but Andrew Fritsch and Brandon Robinson are the real wild cards. If they both pan out to their potential, they certainly take Laurier to the next level.
Verdict: Laurier goaltenders ended up getting shelled a lot last season. That showed us that a) Laurier has some resilient goalies capable of stealing a game every now and then, and b) they need to spend less time in their own zone if they want to be consistent. Consistency will be key for Laurier this year, and if they find it, can upset the power balance in the OUA West.
7. Waterloo Warriors: 2015-16, 16-11-1 (33 pts)
Team Strengths: The Waterloo Warriors had one of the best defences in 2015-16, and now even without Joe Underwood, still have one of the best defensive groups in 2016-17. Cam Wind continues to be as steady as they come in the OUA, Stephen Silas is one of the best puck-movers, and there isn't much between Michael Moffat and an OUA first team all-star selection. Eric Diodati comes into Waterloo as a nice fit on defence, and solidifies a top four that will be able to compete with the best forwards in the league. Goalie Mike Morrison has also been known to be air-tight from time to time, making Waterloo a very frustrating team to try and score on.
Team Concerns: No more Colin Behenna, Andrew Smith, or Brett Mackie at Waterloo. Behenna is the biggest loss of the three as the reigning OUA West MVP, and Waterloo will have a hard time outscoring opponents like the used to. Joey Champigny offers promise offensively, and 13 goals out of Riley Sonnenburg last season was a pleasant sign, but Waterloo simply won't have the wealth of offence that they had last season.
Recruit Class: Waterloo is taking a stab at brining in some junior A scorers with Michael Morgan, Cole Murphy, Nick Halagian, Kenny Turner, Michael Siddall, and Zac Coulter. It's possible they hit a homerun with one of these guys, but it's going to take awhile to know for sure. Eugene Makarski will be the third string goalie, and Nik Knezic returns to hockey after multiple years away from the game battling cancer. Eric Diodati stands out as the most notable recruit for Waterloo this offseason.
Verdict: Waterloo will need some time to recover from losing the offensive power they did last season. Waterloo will win games this year by shutting down their opponents, and will need Mike Morrison to give them everything he's got this season. If the Warriors are able to adapt to life without the luxury of having the OUA West MVP on their side, they can still play a factor in the OUA West.
8. Guelph Gryphons: 2015-16, 16-11-1 (33 pts)
Team Strength: The Gryphons have a quietly solid defensive group with the likes of Mac Nichol, Tom Kohler, Reilly O'Conner, and Josh McFadden among others in a cast of steady defenceman. The Gryphon's 69 goals allowed last season was best in the OUA West, and although a big part of that was due to Andrew D'Agostini, he'll be the first to tell you his defence helped him out all year. The Gryphons are comfortable with being the underdog team, and for whatever reason coach Shawn Camp always seems to get the absolute best out of his players every year.
Team Concerns: Guelph is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the CIS for sending players to pro, and although that's great for some guys, it can hurt the team after an offseason like this which saw eight players move on to pro. A number of key players are gone, and it may take another full season for Guelph to fully replace them. The Gryphons lost contributors offensively, defensively, and in net too.
Recruit Class: Guelph had been silent for most of the offseason, and most recruits didn't become public until the end of August into September. Blaize Bridges comes into Guelph after tearing up the MJAHL, and although a small player, holds offensive potential. Ryan Migliaccio finds his home with the Gryphons after playing on the local circuit for years, and joins another former Guelph Storm player in Marc Stevens this year. Nick Boyer transfers from the NCAA, and Guelph also brings in defenceman Max McCutcheon from the Windsor Lancers who should add some size to the d-corps. Josh McFadden stands above the rest as the most recognizable recruit, with AHL games to his credit, and will make a big impact on Guelph's defence.
Verdict: This could be a tough season for Guelph, but as mentioned, Shawn Camp always has a tendency to get the most out of his players. The still have some stable defensive pieces, and if Scott Stajcer regains his pre-CIS form he had with the Owen Sound Attack in net, or even his stint in pro, there's reason to not count the Gryphons out just yet.
9. Lakehead Thunderwolves: 15-16, 8-16-4 (20 pts)
Team Strengths: Lakehead returns for 2016-17 with nine of their top ten scorers from last season. Billy Jenkins proved he's a force to be reckoned with in this league, and having Kelin Ainsworth back this season is a huge offensive boost for the Thunderwolves. Carson Dubchak returns with his leadership, Cody Alcock hopes to stay healthy this season and the Thunderwolves still have ex-OHLers Jacob Ringuette and Justin Sefton on the back-end. All-together, the top-end talent definitely still exists on this Thunderwolves team.
Team Concerns: Without Jeff Bosch in net, the Thunderwolves will need Devin Green, Justin McDonald, or Riley Corbin to step up. Green seems to be the logical choice at the moment, but that may change very quickly if things don't start well for Lakehead. The Thunderwolves allowed the most goals in the OUA West last season, and will need better defence to aid their goaltending as well this year. Now especially without Luke Maw, the Thunderwolves will have to find some more bodies to step up and be defensively responsible all year long.
Recruit Class: Fairly quiet offseason for Lakehead, who don't lose a bunch of players, but after a poor regular season in 2015-16, perhaps could have done a little more. Jonathon Masters, Dillon Donnelly and Patrick Murphy theoretically give the defence a much needed boost. If they all play to their potential, Lakehead should be keeping more pucks out of their net. Evan Mignault, Zack Whitlock, Grant Valiquette, Devin Fullum, and Liam Alcalde will all look to help Lakehead's low goal total last year, but we'll find out for sure what roles they fill come opening night.
Verdict: Lakehead has no excuse to be as bad as they were in the first semester of last year. They have top-end talent, but need to find much more consistency this year. Lakehead is still trying to get back on track to where they were before, and it may still take more time for them to get there.
10. U of T Varsity Blues: 2015-16, 11-15-2 (24 pts)
Team Strengths: The U of T Varsity Blues don't necessarily have to have a great regular season in order to have a solid playoff run. They proved that last season when they snuck into the playoffs, proceeded to knock off the #1 seed York Lions, and then brought the Western Mustangs down to the wire. Game stealer Andrew Hunt returns in the net for the Varsity Blues, and it doesn't matter what team you put him on, Matt Campagna is a standout forward. Accompanied by Connor Cleverley, Toronto has a quick-strike offence and the lock-down ability to take the occasional game they shouldn't.
Team Concerns: The U of T Varsity Blues had two of the most lethal weapons in the conference last year with Christian Finch and Patrick Marsh. Without those two this year, they lose scoring talent out of their top six, which they haven't seemed to replace in the offseason. Defence was troublesome last year for U of T, and now without veterans Matthew Oakley and Dylan Heide, there are some serious questions. Luckily for U of T, Josh Hanson is a great defender, but he can't hold down the fort himself. With a big-time loss of veterans, there's no immediate answers for U of T's holes on paper right now.
Recruit Class: For a team that lost as many players to graduation as they did, it was a little surprising to see U of T add so little this offseason. Willy Paul and Evan MacEachern hope to help out the defence, and the hope is that Connor Bebb will turn out to be a classic case of an OJHLer turned CIS sniper. Evan Johnson has been brought in as another option in net along with Mark Manolescu, but who knows how much playing time they'll see if Hunt continues to play well. Connor Graham was a nice late add from the Ottawa 67's, but you can't help but feel like U of T could've done more this offseason.
Verdict: Tough to buy into U of T right now with so many unanswered questions. It's possible that Darren Lowe's tier II recruits blow the doors off the league and make him look like a genius, but it's a bit of a long shot. U of T will need to grind out wins this year, and if things don't go their way this season, it might be time to reevaluate.
The CIS season is just days away from being upon us, and the Canada West conference is set to be as competitive as ever. Last year the fourth and seventh place teams were separated by just four points, and this year may turn out to be just as tight.
1. Saskatchewan Huskies: 2015-16, 22-6-0 (44 pts)
Team Strengths: They have a brick wall in the net named Jordon Cooke. Daniel Wapple is a nice acquisition in the backup role as well and makes the Saskatchewan Huskies crease air-tight before the start of the regular season. This Huskies team may also be the deepest they've had in recent years, with an excellent recruit class joining a number of returning veterans who know this league well. Leaders such as Kendall McFaull, Jordan Fransoo, and John Lawrence among others really stabilize this lineup and make them one of the best on paper in the entire country.
Team Concerns: Tough to find one on this roster, but if anything, some inexperience may come into play. With such a large recruit class, especially up front, the Huskies will have to rely on some youngsters who will inevitably go through a transition period in this league. It's certainly possible that Saskatchewan hits a wall at some point this season as their young guns adjust to CIS hockey, but as evidenced by the first line of Kohl Bauml, Andrew Johnson, and Levi Cable last season, experience doesn't always trump talent in this league.
Recruit Class: Certainly one of the best in the country. Colby Harmsworth and Tanner Lishchynski both offer short-term assistance and provide great potential to be leaders deep into their CIS careers. Anytime you get a 90+ point scorer from the CHL, you're going to be extremely happy. The Huskies get exactly that with Alex Forsberg, but also bring in proven WHLers Connor Gay, Wyatt Johnson, Jordan Tkatch, Carson Stadnyk, and now having Lukas Sutter on the roster gives coach Dave Adolph another option.
Verdict: The Huskies are a fantastic team on paper, but perhaps what will separate them from everyone else in Canada West is how they went out of the University Cup a season ago. Their veterans will want it more than ever now, and after finding a way to beat Alberta in the Canada West final last season, they have the confidence to beat anyone in this league on any given night. This team contains a number of excellent leaders, and it could be those key veterans that allow the youngsters on this team to really shine. If that happens, the Huskies will be at the top of the standings all year long.
2. Alberta Golden Bears: 2015-16, 19-7-2 (40 pts)
Team Strengths: Talent, talent, and more talent. When it comes to CIS hockey, there's a definite disparity in talent between this league and junior hockey with the top junior players going to pro. But the Alberta Golden Bears always seem to find a way to reel in some extremely talented players, and even with a large roster turnover, still possess one of the league's most talented rosters. Tyson Baillie, Jamie Crooks, Trevor Cox, Stephane Legault, and Luke Philp headline Alberta's offensive cast. There's certainly no shortage of offensive potential or creativity this year, and once they settle into their own game, Alberta will be as dangerous as ever.
Team Concerns: It's been the talk of Canada West all offseason; the huge roster turnover for the Alberta Golden Bears. It doesn't seem to matter which team and what players they get, there are always questions about the transition period for rookies in the league, and Alberta is no exception to that this season. Relatively inexperienced at forward, defence, and goaltending up in the air too, the Golden Bears certainly need to get their rookies adjusted to CIS as quick as they can. It's not hard to imagine Alberta hitting a few bumps in the road this season, and how they bounce back will define their season in 2016-17.
Recruit Class: The Golden Bears took total advantage of a fantastic WHL overage group which was the deepest of any junior hockey league this season. Jason Fram, and Ryan Rehill were both top five d-men available to CIS teams this offseason. Ben Carroll provides stability, and Graeme Craig could emerge as a go-to defenceman early this season. Up front, Tyson Baillie is an A-list recruit, as is Trevor Cox and Luke Philp. Cole Linaker is a great piece, and Taylor Cooper adds some depth up front too. Todd Fiddler may turn out to be the biggest X-factor if he can return to his 50 goal season form, but needs to recover from the pro-hangover first. In net, Brendan Burke and Kenny Cameron will challenge Luke Siemens, but are they Canada West championship goalies? Time will tell.
Verdict: As always, the Golden Bears will be in the mix for another Canada West title, but this year may provide more challenges and obstacles than they've ever had before. Regardless of how the Golden Bears finish their regular season, watching them duke it out with the Saskatchewan Huskies all year will be a blast to watch, as Canada West's battle of the titans has never been more competitive.
3. Mount Royal Cougars: 2015-16, 17-8-3 (37 pts)
Team Strengths: Lead behind the bench by two-time Canada West coach of the year, Bert Gilling, the Mount Royal Cougars are one of the best examples of a well run program still relatively new to the league. Now with Wyatt Hoflin joining Colin Cooper and Cam Lanigan in the crease, goaltending should not be a problem this season at all. Even after losing Jordan McNaughton and MacKenzie Johnston on defence, they still have a fairly deep group on the back-end. Brett Zarazun and Grant Baker both return on defence after full seasons, but it's the new faces MRU brought into the program that make the biggest difference. They don't have the offence on paper that Alberta or Saskatchewan has, but a deep defence and strong goaltending will keep them in the picture all year long.
Team Concerns: No more Tyler Fiddler at Mount Royal, and they haven't exactly brought in many recruits who immediately jump off the page as someone who can immediately fill that void. Having the point-per-game version of Devin Gannon this season would be nice, but who knows where his game is at after taking a year off from hockey. Inexperience on defence may come into question too, but overall shouldn't be a huge concern. Mount Royal is a solidly built team all-around, but the lack of star power may be what holds them back from the top of the standings.
Recruit Class: As mentioned, the defensive group brought in looks great on paper, with Jesse Lees and Colton Waltz coming in as seasoned WHLers, and Dominic Thom, Maddison Smiley, and Taylor Green bringing in more reliability. Devin Gannon is a bit of a wild-card who could turn out to be great after sitting out a year, and the same applies to NCAA transfer Luke Simpson. Jamal Watson is the most accomplished forward coming into the program, and as a former captain of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, could add some valuable leadership down the road. Finally, Wyatt Hoflin is a decent acquisition in net, but if Colin Cooper continues to get better, Hoflin may have to wait to get the coveted starts.
Verdict: All-around a very solid roster. Certainly don't have the flair that Saskatchewan and Alberta have, but they don't need to have it in order to beat them. Bert Gilling knows his team well, and it's clear he's assembled this team around his own gameplan to knock off the top seeds in Canada West. Even without Tyler Fiddler, the Mount Royal Cougars can absolutely contend for the top spot again in 2016-17.
4. Manitoba Bisons: 2015-16, 13-13-2 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Lots of returning talent this year for the Bisons who retain their top five scorers from a season ago. Obviously Jordan DePape headlines this group as one of the most talented goal scorers in the CIS, and will pack a definite punch again this season for Manitoba. Plenty of returning talent on defence as well for the Bisons who get Lee Christensen back for a fifth season, Channing Bresciani and Rene Hunter return, and Adam Henry is expected to take a step forward as well. The Bisons don't have an abundance of offensive talent, but much like Mount Royal, don't need it in order to win.
Team Concerns: It could very well be the goaltending that makes or breaks the Manitoba Bisons this season. Just like the defence and forwards, the crease has a wealth of CIS experience. Experience is great, but it means nothing if the goalies don't play well, and although the Bisons have a very solid defensive group, their goaltending will be relied upon in games against the best teams in the league. Justin Paulic is the public favourite to carry the workload this season, and rightfully so, as he played well in a number of games for Manitoba last year. But if things get shaken up, Byron Spriggs will need to step up, which could be a tall task against the powerhouses of Canada West.
Recruit Class: Despite not bringing in a haul of WHL talent like Saskatchewan and Alberta did this offseason, coach Mike Sirant will be happy with his recruit class. With so many returnees, there wasn't a gaping need anyways, but players like Nick Zajac, Remi Laurencelle, and Hudson Friesen can all make this team better right away. Quintin Lisoway and both Shawn and Brad Bowles could turn out to be interesting experiments. Defensively, Garrett Johnston rounds out a solid defence, but if Blake Heinrich indeed ends up with the Bisons, he'll be their most notable recruit this season. A Manitoba defence with Heinrich in the lineup in addition to all their experience certainly takes them to another level.
Verdict: Another really solid all-around roster here. The Bisons have the potential to nose their way into the top three if the goaltending shines for them this season, but it's hard to picture them as a top two team in this league by season's end. All the Bisons need is a decent regular season, and with a full roster in the playoffs, will certainly make some noise.
5.Lethbridge Pronghorns: 2015-16, 11-15-2 (24 pts)
Team Strengths: There's a lot of optimism around a Lethbridge team coming off of one of it's most successful recruit classes in recent years. Not only is there an injection of WHL talent coming into this program, but eight of their top ten point-getters are returning for 2016-17. Lethbridge narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year in a season that came right down to the wire, and guys like Mitch Maxwell and Brandon Clowes won't forget that anytime soon. Another example of a strong defensive squad in Canada West, Ayrton Nikkel and Evan Wardley continue to add to a stable and experienced defensive group in Lethbridge, which will be their biggest strength this season.
Team Concerns: The leading scorer on the 2015-16 Lethbridge Pronghorns was defenceman Tim Campbell. His 12 goals aren't anything to scoff at, but ideally you'd like to get more production out of your forwards, and coach Spiros Anastas will be pushing for that this season. We know Maxwell and Clowes can put pucks in the net, but can a guy like Connor Sanvido come over from STU and make an impact on the scoresheet? If it comes down to the wire again this season, it could very well be as little as one goal that separates a team from the postseason. In net, Garret Hughson provides promise after a stellar playoff run in the AJHL, but needs to prove himself at the CIS level too. Both Damien Ketlo and Warren Shymko will also need to step up their game if they get called on.
Recruit Class: As mentioned, very nice class for a program who has been fighting to stay out of the basement of the league for a number of years now. Ayrton Nikkel and Evan Wardley are prized possessions on defence, and Clint Filbrandt adds flexibility too. Forward-wise, Russell Maxwell has scored before, but we'll see how much of an effect a couple of seasons away from the game has on him. Connor Sanvido holds potential, and both Torrin White and Ryan Chynoweth will both be project players. Corey Millette is their most reputable forward acquisition and can make a difference in this league right away. Netminder Garret Hughson could prove to be one heck of a steal, but we'll have to wait and see for sure.
Verdict: Another step in the right direction for Lethbridge, and after being right in the midst of the playoff race last year, will be right back there again this season. They're still steps behind the best teams in this league, so it'll be extra crucial for Lethbridge to win their games against teams like UBC and Calgary.
6. Calgary Dinos: 2015-16, 12-12-4 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Elgin Pearce, Chris Collins, and Cain Franson all return to the Dinos this year. A combined 31 goals between them last year equated to 36% of the team's entire offensive output from 2015-16. Those three players will be relied on heavily for the Dinos, and all having CIS experience on their resume suggests they're safe bets to play well. Goaltending has also been a point of discussion with Calgary in the preseason, as their crease consists of CIS veteran Steven Stanford, RBC Cup champion Matt Greenfield, and highly valued WHL starter Coleman Vollrath. Stanford's numbers last year were well off the mark for what he's capable of, so if he's unable to recover his old form, Vollrath and Greenfield provide great insurance policies.
Team Concerns: There were times last season when a lack of offensive depth was noticeable with Calgary, and that may show now more than ever with some good teams getting even deeper in Canada West. Both Kevin King and Spencer Edwards are not returning for Calgary this year, so they'll need to find somebody to produce secondary scoring as they did last season. Max Ross and Alex Dzielski's absence from the blue-line leaves a couple holes that Calgary has the material to patch back up, but it could take some time. Time could very well be what hinders Calgary the most this season, as the short regular seasons don't leave much time for the Dinos to settle into a comfort zone with their roster.
Recruit Class: 13 recruits make Calgary's class the largest in the CIS (apart from Ottawa). In a year with great WHL talent available, Jared Hauf, Luke Harrison, Logan Fisher, and Coleman Vollrath are good pickups, but you can't help but think Calgary wanted a little more out of the WHL given what some of the other teams came away with. Taylor Dumonceaux and Brayden Sherbinin are a pair of NCAA transfers who hope to fit in with the Dinos, and the rest of Calgary's recruit class consists of some successful junior players from tier II. It's a large class containing some decent talent, but also leaves many questions to be answered.
Verdict: Last year was a step back for Calgary after 20 wins in the 2014-15 season. This year will likely act as another step towards recovering their old form. They're not quite there yet, but Calgary's large recruit class shows they're willing to try anything at the moment to find what sticks.
7. UBC Thunderbirds: 2015-16, 11-13-4 (26 pts)
Team Strengths: After an off-year for recruiting in 2014-15, UBC comes back with a much better recruit class this year and hope to stay as healthy as possible all season long. Last year it was the injuries that hurt them down the stretch, and it's very believable that UBC could have had a few more wins if given a healthy roster all season. This year they come back with an even deeper defensive corps including Kyle Becker, Josh Connolly, Brandon Underwood and new recruits Joseph Carvalho and Tanner Faith. Their back-end depth will make them a difficult team to beat all season long.
Team Concerns: Injuries last year exploited a few depth issues, and the Thunderbirds hope to be better off in that regard this year. Luke Lockhart, Austin Vetterl, and Anthony Bardaro will lead this team again offensively, but if they want to take the next step forward, UBC will need to find more scoring deep into their lineup. Rookie head coach Sven Butenschon will be put to the test this year and will have a chance to prove to himself and everyone else he deserves to have the reins at UBC. No matter how his season goes, it's inevitable Butenschon will learn a lot by the year's end.
Recruit Class: UBC definitely got in on the wealth of talent from the WHL this year by grabbing Carvahlo, Faith, Jerret Smith, and Carter Popoff. Faith is a big defenceman who can be a big-time player if he stays healthy, and can be one of the best defenceman in his conference. Jake Lebrun comes in as a forward from the BCHL, and UBC brings along three NCAA transfers in forward Michael Stenerson, goalie Derek Dun, and forward Justin Rai. Finally, Kyler Nachtigall, originally committed to NCAA, will come into UBC's program and has impressed in the preseason.
Verdict: Even though I don't have UBC marked down as a playoff team here, they absolutely can be. If Lethbridge or even Calgary run into injury issues or UBC simply outplays them, they're every bit as much of a playoff team. Much like last year, the separation between seventh and sixth is going to be very, very close.
8. Regina Cougars: 2015-16, 7-21-0 (14 pts)
Team Strength: The popular strategy to beat the top offensive teams in Canada West these days seems to start with building a strong defensive group, and Regina is no exception to that. As evidenced by the four defenceman brought into the program this year, the Regina Cougars are aiming to be a tough, rugged team to play against. There's good reason to believe they'll be just that with a defence featuring Carter Hanson, Tyler King, Isaac Schacher, Landon Peel, and Tyler Bell among others. Regina's toughness and grit will be what makes this team capable of upsets on any given night in the CIS.
Team Concern: Scoring at Regina right now is certainly not their strongest attribute. Ian McNulty and Miguel Pereira have both found ways to score goals, but overall Regina is not a deadly offensive team. Their 73 goals for last season wasn't horrible, but given the fact they allowed 134, most in Canada West, that's not a formula for success. Goaltending needs to be better for Regina this year too. A strong defence will help, but it doesn't matter if it's Andy Desautels, Mitch Kilgore, or Dawson MacAuley, one of them needs to step up to the plate this year and play well. MacAuley in particular has shown some promising signs, but it's now or never for the three Regina goalies to prove they belong as starters in this league.
Recruit Class: The Cougars will definitely be happy with who they brought in on defence. They don't all have flashy numbers, but Regina is simply looking for guys who'll get the job done. Offensively, it's clear that due to their 11 player recruit class, the Cougars are willing to try some new things and give players an opportunity to prove themselves as capable scorers. Players like Brandon Halbgewachs, and Tristan Frei have succeeded well in their respective levels of junior hockey, but will need to take a big step forward to compete in this league. Tyson Predinchuk is another meat and potatoes type player who fits into the system, and Colton Sparrow, Corey Kosloski, Logan Harland, and Gray Marr will also get chances up front.
Verdict: Regina should be harder to score goals against this year, which is how they are going to win games. They'll have to work very hard and get solid goaltending to be in the playoff conversation, but the Cougars shouldn't be considered a doormat in this league. They possess upset potential.