1. The UNB Varsity Reds finally dropped their first regulation game of the season on Friday night, and then proceeded to fall short against Saint Mary's the following game. Friday's game against Acadia was low scoring, at a 2-1 final, which is surprising given both team's high-power offences. But it's even more shocking when you consider the officials handed out 23 minor penalties between the two teams, and UNB went 0 for 11 on the man advantage. Acadia goaltender Robert Steeves had a lot to do with UNB's powerplay frustrations, but even then, UNB have to look at themselves. Two losses this week may end up serving as a teachable moment for Gardiner MacDougall's team. As I pointed out on Twitter, the last time UNB lost back-to-back games was November of last year, oddly against both Acadia and Saint Mary's. UNB gets a chance to reverse their fortunes this week when they take on Acadia and SMU again, but this time on home turf.
2. The Acadia Axemen are winners in five of their last six games, and now sit just one point back of StFX for second in the AUS conference. Acadia's offence continues to be one of the best in the AUS, and their powerplay is finally starting to come around at 18% in the month of November. But it's been the goaltending that has been Acadia's biggest storyline. Robert Steeves is the hero after slaying UNB on Friday and picking up another win against UPEI on Saturday. Steeves was quietly good last season too, with a .923 SV% to his credit, but simply didn't get starts behind Brandon Glover. With Acadia's goaltending having it's issues this year, the opportunity has presented itself, and Steeves has grabbed hold of it. With goaltending like this, Acadia can definitely be a top two team in the AUS.
3. Make it five consecutive wins now for the Saint Mary's Huskies as they take down both the UPEI Panthers and UNB Varsity Reds this weekend. This run is even more miraculous when you factor in SMU still only has four healthy natural defencemen. Credit to the resiliency of SMU for pushing through this stretch, and some recognition must be given to Eric Brassard who has started in all five consecutive wins for the Huskies. Hunter Garlent, Bronson Beaton, and Ben Duffy all continue to fire away on offence, all the while Calder Brooks, Anthony Repaci, Taylor Burke, and Bradley Latour have all chipped in lately too. It's been a full team effort from the Saint Mary's Huskies, and that's why they're winners of five straight games.
4. Although the Dalhousie Tigers came away with just one win this week, they have to be thrilled with their 2-0 shutout win over StFX. The occasion marks Corbin Boes' first career AUS shutout against a team that isn't Saint Thomas, and continues to pad the stats of arguably the best player in the AUS this semester. Dalhousie followed up with a 4-2 loss to Moncton, which hurts considering the standings. Fabian Walsh found the net twice this week, and without Phil Gadoury in the lineup, you can argue that Walsh should be considered Dalhousie's biggest offensive threat. They'll need him again this week against Moncton, but with the Saulnier's and J.F. Plante looming on their schedule, they'll need another air-tight start from Corbin Boes too.
5. The StFX X-Men continue to coast through their season in the AUS, as even though they were shutout by Dalhousie, they took down Moncton by a 6-2 final on Friday. While the AUS goalie spotlight has been on Corbin Boes this semester, Chase Marchand has been waiting in the shadows with his .918 SV%, second best in the AUS. Marchand started both games this weekend, and with the talented Brandon Hope at Brad Peddle's disposal, StFX arguably has the deepest goaltending in the AUS. Their offence is every bit as deep. Now with Holden Cook and Matt Needham on the sidelines, the X-Men lose some punch, but Bryson Cianfrone has put together a nice run with eight points in seven games. The X-Men go at it with Moncton again this week, a matchup they won't be taking lightly at all.
6. Things didn't get better at all for the UPEI Panthers this week, who drop another two contests, and surrender 11 goals in the process. Neither Matt Mahalak or Connor Wilkinson have been very good in net for UPEI recently, which is why their team save percentage stands at a dismal .823% in November. But goaltending isn't the sole reason for UPEI's sorrow, as the Panthers penalty kill has also been very poor in November, operating at just 64.3%. UPEI's defence should be better for a team that features the likes of Austin Levi, Brock Beukeboom, and Nelson Armstrong among others, and UPEI's top offensive producers haven't made much noise either lately. UPEI gets a pair of tough opponents in SMU and Acadia to close out their semester. The Christmas break could be what UPEI needs right now to refocus and get back on track.
7. Not much has changed for the Moncton Aigles Bleus this week, who get offensive contributions from J.F. Plante and the Saulnier twins, but still have some issues in their own zone. With Moncton's juggernaut first line dominating the headlines, Steve Lebel hasn't been getting much credit, but he's been secretly effective for Moncton. Lebel's 10 points in 13 games are the fourth most on the team, and the fourth year forward is on pace to hit a career high mark in points for an AUS season. He's part of the reason Moncton split the weekend and are starting to improve and show signs of getting out of the AUS basement.
***Bradley Latour: F SMU Huskies
Bradley Latour might not be putting up the most staggering numbers in the AUS, but he's making his goals count. Latour finds himself on a nice four game goal streak and has two game-winners (one against UNB) to his credit. Latour now has seven goals on his season, and the long-time Oshawa General looks to be finding his way in the AUS.
**Bronson Beaton: F SMU Huskies
Bronson Beaton has unquestionably been one of the best offseason recruits for the SMU Huskies this season. After posting some great numbers in October, Beaton was back at it again this week, putting up a four point night against UPEI, and then posting an assist against UNB. Beaton registered 29 goals and 60 points with the Quebec Remparts last year, and although he won't attain those numbers this year, his rate of production is right on par.
*Robert Steeves: G Acadia Axemen
Of all the goalies in the AUS to stop UNB in their tracks, who'd have thought it was going to be Robert Steeves? The reality is it was, and he's been Acadia's best option in net. He's won four straight games for the Axemen, and his .936 SV% in November is drastically helping what was at one point, one of the worst team save percentages in the country.
Key Games This Week:
Saint Mary's vs UPEI, Thurs, Dec. 1st, 7:00pm AST
A rare Thursday night showcase in the AUS, this game is important for a number of reasons. Saint Mary's is hot right now after beating UPEI and UNB last week. They get those same two opponents again this week. For UPEI, they've lost six straight, and although the break is a welcome sight, they'll desperately want to flip the script rather than ride a colossal losing streak into the break.
Acadia vs UNB, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 7:00pm AST
It happened last week, so why not do it all over again this week? Acadia is definitely a good team, but it's hard to imagine that UNB won't be better than they were last week when they lost to Acadia. This should be another great showdown from Fredericton and a perfect way to send the AUS into the Christmas break.
1. On one night the McGill Redmen look like an impenetrable force capable of running up the score against any opponent. One night later the McGill Redmen find themselves shutout by the Queen's Gaels' backup goalie. Granted, Jacob Brennan has played like a starting netminder all year, but the point is McGill had two very different games this week. Their 4-2 win over UOIT showed that you can ill-afford to make a mistake with the puck in your own zone against McGill, but the effort against Queen's shouldn't have been as bad as it was considering the magnitude of the game. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard sees his save percentage drop to .876, second last in the OUA, which is extraordinary given his history in the league. But make no mistake, the Redmen are still one of the best teams in the league. This weekend was not their best, and the Redmen will undoubtedly rise once again.
2. Ask any coach in the conference, and they'll all tell you the same thing. The UQTR Patriotes are as good, if not even better than they were last season. It wasn't an ideal start for the Patriotes this year, but now with the offence firing on all cylinders again, there's not a team that can hold UQTR at bay when they execute their gameplan. Sebastian Auger is finding his game lately too, with a .944 SV% in his last five games for UQTR. Both wins against RMC and Carleton were fairly close decisions, but as bountiful as UQTR's offence is, they'd rather score timely goals than have a high volume. UQTR gets RMC again this week, and will be put to the test with the stellar goaltending of the Queen's Gaels on Saturday to close out their first semester.
3. The UQTR Patriotes have an LOI from Antoine Marcoux of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for the 2017-18 season. UQTR got out to an early start on the recruit front last year when they locked up Gabriel Slight, Elie Berube, and Allan Caron all before the New Year, so it's not a surprise to see them get started this early once again. Marcoux missed a chunk of the season already with injury, but he's healthy now, and he's producing at about a half a point-per-game rate. Being a center, if UQTR keeps him there, he could put up bigger numbers in the OUA, and he's a decent face-off guy too. Marcoux adds depth and flexibility to UQTR's roster in 2017-18 if he indeed jumps to the OUA.
4. The Queen's Gaels have been back and forth since their five game winning streak came to an end, but they still find themselves in a lock on top of the OUA East, which is exactly where they wanted to be at this point in the season. Brett Gibson has told me on a couple of occasions this year that he genuinely believes he has a roster capable of hanging with the best in the OUA East and believes his team can hang around in the top three. With stars like Kevin Bailie, Slater Doggett, Eric Ming, and Spencer Abraham on the roster, there's good reason to believe they can be that team, but I'd like to see some more production from their depth players before I'm convinced this team is as good as the best in the OUA East.
5. After a hot start, the UOIT Ridgebacks have only two wins in their last five games, yet sit just one point behind the leaders in the OUA East. There's no shame in losing to McGill, and the 4-1 win against Ottawa is a source of confidence, so it's definitely not a state of concern for UOIT. However, some of the games they've lost this season are against opponents they're battling with in the OUA East, namely Concordia, UQTR, and McGill. If the Ridgebacks really want to take the next step, they're going to need to beat those other top teams in the OUA East a couple more times this season, especially if they want to parlay their season into an extended playoff run. They'll get their second shot at Concordia this Friday when the two teams meet in Oshawa, Ont.
6. The Concordia Stingers didn't have a particularly great Friday night when they were shutout by the Carleton Ravens, 4-0. But their 7-1, 58 shot win against RMC the following night quickly reminds us that Concordia is still among the deadliest of teams the OUA has to offer. Offensive outpourings from Anthony De Luca and Olivier Hinse against RMC are a good sign for Concordia, and so is the return of Philippe Sanche to the Stingers lineup. Concordia plays just one more game as they round out their semester against UOIT, but given the history of this program, regardless of the outcome Concordia will be happy with their first semester as they find themselves right in the thick of the race for top spot in the OUA East.
7. The Carleton Ravens continue their trend of splitting weekends as they beat Concordia 4-0 on Friday, and then lose 3-1 to UQTR on Saturday. The aforementioned Patriotes are hot right now, so limiting them to just three goals is a pretty solid accomplishment, but after already beating UQTR once this year, Carleton will wish they had a second chance at sweeping away the Patriotes. Francois Brassard has been the clear-cut number one goalie this semester and has maintained a nice statline, which includes two assists, a testament to his puck-moving ability. Brett Welychka has cooled off since his red hot start, but with Corey Durocher scoring for Carleton, their offence isn't any less dangerous than it was three weeks ago. Carleton will hope to close things out with a pair of wins this week coming against York and Brock.
8. The Ottawa Gee-Gees emerge from the week with another impressive victory, this time over Queen's, as their hunt for the playoffs intensifies. It may seem early to talk about the postseason, but with just 28 games in the schedule, the stretch run isn't that far away. Brendan Jacome and Jacob Hanlon each had three point nights in the win against Queen's, as Ottawa appears to be starting to get some depth out of their roster. Kevin Domingue, Marc Beckstead, and Jacob Harris have all pulled weight offensively, but if the Gee-Gees get contributions from players like Jacome and Hanlon moving forward, offence won't be an issue for them like it was in October.
9. The teams from up north, Laurentian and Nipissing, didn't have the best week, but the Lakers will be happy with their 3-1 victory over the Western Mustangs. Western hasn't been very good lately, but Nipissing will still relish the fact they beat a team from last year's national championship as Colin Campbell and Brock Morrison add to their team-leading point totals. Domenic Graham has been terrific for the Lakers lately, meanwhile Laurentian's goaltending wasn't playing their best this week. Losses to Guelph and Western set them back to seventh in the OUA East, but Darcy Haines continues to put up numbers for Laurentian as he approached career-high numbers.
10. The RMC Paladins didn't win a game this week, but they managed to hold UQTR to within two goals on Friday night, which is something to be proud of. Unfortunately Saturday's game against Concordia didn't yield the same results, but if you ask opposing coaches, they'll tell you that RMC is a harder team to beat this season than they have been in previous years. Even after giving up seven goals to Concordia, goalie Austin Hannaford made 51 saves, which is an impressive feat at this level. RMC will get another big test this week coming when they face UQTR and UOIT. Although a win is unlikely, never ever count out the RMC Paladins.
***Domenic Graham: G Nipissing Lakers
If there's anything that's gone well for the Nipissing Lakers this season, it's been the play of Domenic Graham. A decorated QMJHL starter with Ivan Hlinka Memorial experience, his .930 SV% in the month of November is among the league leaders. Graham was tough to beat again this week, posting a .962 SV%, and made 44 saves against the Western Mustangs to steal a win on the road.
**Slater Doggett: F Queen's Gaels
Slater Doggett appeared on the scoresheet just once against Ottawa on Friday, registering only an assist. But on Saturday, Doggett burst out for three points, including two goals in a 4-0 shutout win over the powerhouse McGill Redmen. Doggett wasn't making the saves, but he's been pulling his weight on the other end of the rink with six points in his last four games after a small three game dry spell.
*Tommy Giroux: F UQTR Patriotes
Players like Guillaume Asselin and Pierre-Olivier Morin continue to produce for UQTR, but this week, it was the Tommy Giroux show. He added a pair of assists against RMC which turned out to be difference-makers, and then had a hand in all three of UQTR's goals against Carleton on Saturday. For a guy who scored 20 goals a season ago (fourth most in the country) and had 41 points, we haven't been talking much about Giroux, who is just as capable of lighting up a team as the rest of the UQTR lineup is.
Key Games This Week:
Ryerson vs McGill, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
This is a true clash of titans between the leaders in their respective OUA conferences. Ryerson has had substantial time off after last playing U of T on Wednesday, so expect them to be well rested and well prepared. For McGill, they're still without some weapons, but the Redmen are as hard a team as any in the OUA East to beat on any given night.
UQTR vs Queen's, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 7:30pm EST
UQTR downed Queen's in their first meeting a couple weeks back by a comfortable 5-2 margin. The Patriotes look as good, if not better than they did last season, and the Gaels will have to summon all their might to take down UQTR. But of course you can never count out Queen's with Kevin Bailie in the crease. If he comes with his A-game, this game could be a real battle for supremacy in the OUA East.
1. It wasn't that long ago that the Guelph Gryphons were losers of four straight games, and teetering on the edge of a playoff spot. One month later, Guelph has four wins in a row, and are just outside the top two picture in the OUA West. If the Gryphons taught us anything a few seasons back, it's to never count out a team coached by Shawn Camp. He's getting the most out of his players again, as Robert Lepine, Cody Thompson, and Seth Swenson lead the way for Guelph, and right on their heels is Trevor Morbeck, who has been surprisingly offensive this season. Scott Stacjer still isn't playing to his full potential, but the Gryphons' offence has been shooting out the lights recently, and that's why they find themselves third in the OUA West. This week saw them eek out a pair of close wins against Nipissing and Laurentian.
2. The York Lions were announced as the opponents of the UNB Varsity Reds for the Pete Kelly Cup coming up on December 29th and 30th. That should be a great test for the York Lions and could show us whether or not York should be in the conversation as one of the best teams in the country. At the moment, they're certainly one of the best in the OUA. Another two win weekend have them within striking distance of the Ryerson Rams, and with at least one Ryerson loss, the Lions can take control of the division before the semester's end. York's team save percentage in November was a fantastic at .931%, and the Lions have also received key contributions from Greg Milner and Kyle Campbell this month. They'll see both Carleton and Waterloo next week.
3. The Ryerson Rams had a quiet week with just one game against U of T on the schedule, but they made the most of it, winning 5-1 over their crosstown rivals in the 100th iteration of the downtown showdown. The Rams have scored four or more goals in seven of their last eight games, as they sit second to only UQTR in OUA goals this season. Aaron Armstrong had another multi-point game, and Matt Mistele continues to impress with seven points in his last five games. Only York and Carleton have been able to stop Ryerson this year, but apart from a four game stretch, the Rams have been fantastic all season. They'll get a big test this weekend when they visit McGill and Ottawa on the road.
4. The Lakehead Thunderwolves are good at winning one-goal games. Only one win (7-2 over UOIT) for Lakehead this year has been by a margin of more than one goal, and this week Lakehead was pushed to the limit by the Laurier Golden Hawks. Friday night saw the Thunderwolves score three goals in the third period to tie the game, and eventually capped it off with a double OT winner from Carson Dubchak. Lakehead grinded out another close contest on Saturday, winning another 4-3 game, but this time in regulation. Kelin Ainsworth continues to be one of the best players in the conference and leads a Lakehead team which has an average record, but are also one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
5. The Brock Badgers are marred amidst a nasty five game losing streak which saw them drop contests to both Windsor and Waterloo this week. The Badgers are starting to show signs of last year's team, with an offence that's been starved for goals lately. The Badgers are missing two key contributors in Matt MacLeod and Andrew Radjenovic, but they shouldn't be as bad as they are right now, even without those two. Having Clint Windsor sidelined hasn't helped at all either, as the Badgers are a lowly 1-7 without their starting netminder. Their relief goaltending continues to be spotty, and have allowed 26 goals over Brock's five game skid. If Murray Nystrom is able to keep his roster invested in the team this season, this will only be a road bump for the Badgers who are capable of much more. But Nystrom can ill-afford to have a repeat of last year.
6. On the topic of losing streaks, the Western Mustangs finally stopped their dismal seven game losing skid with a 6-3 win over Laurentian. But just one night later against the Nipissing Lakers, the Mustangs wound up with another loss, losing 3-1. It's just so uncharacteristic to see Western have so many offensive difficulties. They ran into a hot goaltender in Domenic Graham on Saturday, but it doesn't excuse their lack of production for the season. Even the goaltending has been shaky in the absence of Greg Dodds, as Lucas Peressini has a disappointing .884 SV% on the season. It's inevitable that the best is yet to come for Peressini, but now with Dodds back in the lineup, Clarke Singer's decision on a starting goalie won't be difficult this week.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks struggle for consistency continues after they lost a pair of games to Lakehead, one of which was a very winnable contest. One thing Laurier has done consistently this year is shoot the puck. The Golden Hawks' 539 shots on the season is third most in the OUA, but I've said it before, offence is not the problem for Laurier. Goaltending has been hit or miss this season, and the defence has struggled to contain the top offensive threats in the OUA West at times this year. It's becoming an old theme at this point, but if the Golden Hawks simply played better defence, they can be a top five team in the OUA West by season's end.
8. The Windsor Lancers have been a fairly quiet team this month, yet they carry right along in the OUA West. The Lancers aren't a great team, but they've been collecting points against teams they should be, and they've stolen a few wins from teams ranked higher than themselves. There's a few losses scattered here and there, but the Lancers don't seem to be going away any time soon. Kris Joyce had a splendid month in November with a .937 SV%, and a 1.98 GAA, making him a very capable starter, but nobody on the forward unit had a standout month. If the Lancers can find the offensive spark they had to start the season, don't be surprised if they poke into the top three in the OUA West sometime in second semester.
9. The Waterloo Warriors busted off a dominant 6-1 win over Brock on Saturday, ending a four game losing streak. But we need to see more from Waterloo before we can say their offence has finally arrived. This week they'll get Western and York, both teams that can be hard to score against if the goaltenders are hot. Meanwhile, the other team out of the playoff picture, U of T, quietly lost a pair of decisions to Ryerson and York, 5-1 finals in each game. Both Matt Campagna and Aidan Wallace continue to have respectable seasons, but there's still not much to write home about with the Varsity Blues.
***Seth Swenson: F Guelph Gryphons
Seth Swenson didn't score any goals this week, but he's sure been making an impact on the final score, with four assists to his credit this weekend. Swenson drew one assist against Nipissing on Friday, and then had three helpers in a tight 4-3 OT win against Laurentian. Swenson now has 16 points on his season, an OUA career high, and is also on track to best his WHL OA season numbers in 2013-14 spent with Seattle and Lethbridge.
**Kyle Campbell: F York Lions
The York Lions exacted their revenge on the Toronto Varsity Blues this week, handling them by a score of 5-2. Campbell lead the way for York with two goals and an assist on the night, and although Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen starred in York's win over Windsor, Campbell added another assist, which lands him on this list. Campbell's four points this week now give him 13 on the season, an OUA career high.
*Kelin Ainsworth: F Lakehead Thunderwolves
Kelin Ainsworth has been fantastic for the Lakehead Thunderwolves in November, racking up an impressive 16 points in this month alone. This week, Ainsworth added three assists against Laurier in game one, then scored the eventual game-winner against the Golden Hawks in game two of the mini series. The fifth year veteran has been huge for Lakehead this season, and is unquestionably one of the best players in the whole conference.
Key Games This Week:
Laurier vs Brock, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:15pm EST
The Brock Badgers need to stop the bleeding in the worst way, and Laurier is also looking to rebound after two losses at the hands of Lakehead. We know Laurier have the offensive weapons, but so does Brock. For both teams, goaltending has been suspect at times this year, and defensive inconsistencies have hurt them too. It's a tale of two similar teams looking to exit their first semesters on a high.
Carleton vs York, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
The topsy-turvy season of the Carleton Ravens has been well documented, and they'll get another test with York this week. We know the Ravens can beat the best teams in the OUA, but they haven't done that consistently. For York, watching them attempt to shutdown Carleton's offensive threats will be a great storyline. The Lions have found themselves in some really tight games lately, so this could be another 'late-game heroics' type matchup.
1. The Alberta Golden Bears are the new leaders in the Canada West conference after they took three of four possible points from the Lethbridge Pronghorns this weekend. Despite a dramatic OT loss on Friday, the Golden Bears rolled right over Lethbridge on Saturday, winning 5-0, as Alberta's key contributors continue to produce. Saturday's win marked the second shutout of Brendan Burke's young Canada West career, and Graeme Craig tagged on a pair of goals as well. Luke Philp saw his 10 game point-streak snapped by Lethbridge on Friday, but responded with a goal on Saturday. The Golden Bears continue to impress as they get set for Saskatchewan to close out their semester.
2. The Lethbridge Pronghorns continue to play well against nationally ranked opponents, as they beat the Alberta Golden Bears in OT on Friday night. Justin Valentino and Tim Campbell continue to be great, but before the shutout loss on Saturday, Mitch Maxwell had a stretch of eight points in just three games, making him the hottest player on Lethbridge. I spoke with one coach this week who has been impressed with Lethbridge this season, and remarked, "They play with a lot of pace". That pace has been crucial to Lethbridge's success, as has the system implemented by coach Spiros Anastas. But if Lethbridge doesn't come out and set the pace for games like they have against the giants in Canada West, they can run into trouble. Lethbridge needs to continue to hustle and out-work their opponents if they want to keep winning.
3. The Mount Royal Cougars capped off one of the most entertaining nights of the season in Canada West with a dramatic three goal third period comeback to take down the UBC Thunderbirds in a shootout. Mount Royal didn't have a great 40 minutes, but they showed how dangerous their offence can be, even without Luke Simpson and Matt Brown, when they rallied for four goals in the third period to knot the game at 5-5. Jamal Watson, Connor Rankin, Matt Bellerive, and Sebastian Pare all headmanned the comeback, but credit to Cam Lanigan in net, who stayed between the pipes for a full 70 minutes despite allowing five goals. Saturday's game was much less tense for the Cougars, who cruised to a 5-3 victory and showed you can never count them out of a game.
4. It's been a really frustrating stretch for the UBC Thunderbirds who have been losers in four consecutive contests, and still have the country's worst powerplay, at just 5.0%. Their penalty kill isn't very good either, and overall, UBC has been as good as their special teams have been this month. The Thunderbirds still have a solid roster on paper, but consistency issues continue to stricken them. On the upside, they're definitely scoring goals this month, but goaltending has also been a problem at times. If the Thunderbirds can get every element of their game to be good at the same time, they can rattle off a few wins. It seems that there's always been something missing from UBC's games this year.
5. The Saskatchewan Huskies won't be happy about losing their coveted conference lead, but there's still plenty of time in the season to eliminate the one point gap between them and Alberta. Daniel Wapple got his second look at Canada West action when he got the start against Manitoba on Friday, and looked quite good, holding the Bisons to just one goal in a 2-1 victory. Saturday was a different story for Saskatchewan, who went back to Jordon Cooke and promptly lost 5-2. Given Manitoba's roster, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that Saskatchewan dropped the second game, but the lack of offence in November for Saskatchewan definitely raises an eyebrow. With a GPG of just 2.67 in November, the Huskies aren't scoring at the same rate they were to start the season. Although they ran into some good goaltending this week, you have to imagine coach Dave Adolph is looking for more from guys like Michael Sofillas, Logan McVeigh, and Kohl Bauml, who combined for just two points this weekend.
6. Saturday's 5-2 win for the Manitoba Bisons over Saskatchewan is a step in the right direction, but the Bisons need to build off this win for it to mean anything. Manitoba continues to hover around the .500 mark as they search for momentum. Byron Spriggs gave them two really good starts against Saskatchewan, which is a positive, but the Bisons didn't do much to get by Canada West greenhorn Daniel Wapple on Friday. Remi Laurencelle returned to the lineup this week, and Nick Zajac showed some signs of a breakthrough, but Manitoba needs more from it's depth players going forward. When you have a player like Jordan DePape on your roster, you don't want to waste that talent on a sub-par season.
7. The Calgary Dinos and Regina Cougars linked up for an entertaining affair on Friday night which saw every game in Canada West venture into overtime. Steven Stanford didn't have his best game, but after winning 5-4 on Friday, and 6-1 on Saturday, Calgary's offensive numbers suddenly don't look so bad. For Regina, their offence doesn't look so bad either with 15 goals in their last four games. Tristan Frei added another two points this week, and Cody Fowlie boosted his point total to nine, with a goal and an assist against Calgary. Regina is still a ways away from a team like Calgary, but November has brought some positive improvement to the Cougars.
***Nick Zajac: F Manitoba Bisons
Nick Zajac has a terrific WHL resume to his credit after a full five seasons with the Saskatoon Blades, but his WHL success hasn't immediately transitioned into Canada West. This week's four point showing is definitely a step in the right direction for the Manitoba forward, who hopes to ignite his game. He scored the Bisons' lone marker against Saskatchewan on Friday, then posted three points in Manitoba's 5-2 win on Saturday.
**Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce lead the offensive charge for the Calgary Dinos again this week, posting four points, including two goals against the Regina Cougars. Pearce got the scoring started in Friday's contest, and then put up a three-spot against the Cougars on Saturday. Pearce continues to be the heartbeat of the Dinos offence, and is on his way to usurp is 27 points from a year ago.
*Connor Rankin: F Mount Royal Cougars
It was another four point weekend for MRU's Connor Rankin, but he didn't get those numbers the easy way. After going down 4-1 to UBC, Connor Rankin sparked Mount Royal's second marker with an assist, then scored their third goal to kickstart the comeback. On Saturday, Rankin posted another two assists in a 5-3 win, increasing his team-leading point total to 16.
Key Games This Week:
Alberta vs Saskatchewan, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm CST
For this matchup, I might as well have their Saturday game in the second slot for this segment, because both matchups will be tremendous. To me, these two teams have the best rivalry running in U Sports hockey right now, and it will show this weekend. There's everything on the line with the conference lead up for grabs, so expect this to be a real dogfight as per usual with these two teams.
Calgary vs UBC, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 4:00pm PST
Despite UBC's struggles of late, their games have been fun to watch. It doesn't seem to matter what the score is, UBC games are never over until the final buzzer sounds. For Calgary, they've had a few thrillers themselves too against Regina and Saskatchewan. Obviously the T-Birds are looking to go out of the first semester on a high, but Calgary will give them all they can handle.
1. If there were any doubts after a few early losses this season that the UNB Varsity Reds could be as good as they were last year, those should virtually be erased now as UNB continues to roll right along in the AUS. Cameron Braes returned to the lineup and immediately had an impact, registering six points over UNB's two wins against UPEI and Moncton. Chris Clapperton has scored in three straight, Cameron Brace recorded a hat-trick against UPEI, and of course all the usual suspects are producing for UNB. It's always worth watching to see if UNB adds another body over Christmas, but at this point, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player who can make them better. Maybe UNB looks for another d-man. Without Colin Suellentrop right now, they're a little shorthanded on the back-end.
2. Just like that the UPEI Panthers have lost four games in a row and are starting to seriously slide as the end of the semester approaches. Cody Payne was held off the scoresheet this week, but the Panthers continue to score at roughly the same rate they did in the first semester. Their .805 SV% in the month of November is dreadful, and the PK% is also a lowly 58.8% in their last six games. The Panthers need to figure out their defensive deficiencies before they hope to regain the success they had early beating teams like UNB.
3. While the Panthers struggle, the Saint Mary's Huskies may be starting to turn a corner. They've won three games in a row, including a dominant 5-1 win over StFX on Friday night. Ben Duffy is getting some serious traction again with nine points in his last five games, and with Hunter Garlent, Calder Brooks, and Taylor Burke stepping up lately too, the Huskies definitely aren't a bad offensive team by any stretch. Goaltender Eric Brassard seems to be putting it together lately too, with four consecutive starts under his belt. SMU's lack of bodies on defence is still hurting them, but look for them to add over the Christmas break with four roster spots open at the moment. Miles Liberati would be a real nice fit on the Huskies' blueline if they manage to get him.
4. Is Robert Steeves the new number one goalie for the Acadia Axemen? There's definitely no telling for sure just yet, but he has the best numbers of any goalie on the team. That's saying something considering this Acadia team features both Devin Williams and Brandon Glover in the crease, but Steeves' was an ex-CHL starter in his own right with the Gatineau Olympiques and Acadie-Bathurst Titan back in his day. If anything, Acadia's crease flexes their recruit muscles, with goalies from the QMJHL, WHL, and OHL on one team. The Axemen split this weekend after losing a tight one in OT to StFX, but bounced back with a 5-2 win over Dalhousie. Stephen Harper and Remy Giftopoulos continue to produce, but Matt Pufahl has exploded for eight points over a five game point streak.
5. The StFX X-Men split this weekend, taking down Acadia on Wednesday, but losing to SMU on Friday. Defenceman Cole MacDonald had the OT winner on Wednesday and the former Everett Silvertip is slowly but surely beginning to fill up the stat columns. Brandon Hope was pulled after allowing four goals to SMU on Friday and has been all over the map lately, so expect Chase Marchand to see some starts this week coming. Holden Cook sat out Friday's game against SMU which isn't a great sign, but StFX's depth is among the best in the conference. Perhaps this will give Nathan Pancel a better opportunity up front, as the ex-42 goal season man with the Sudbury Wolves is still searching for his first this year.
6. Allain Saulnier has just one goal on the season, yet leads in the country in points. That's ridiculous in every sense of the word. Even more so when you factor in Moncton has the country's leading goal scorer in J.F. Plante, yet still find themselves dead last in the AUS. Defence and goaltending issues continue to persist, and it's quite simply killing the Aigles Bleus. Moncton pulled off a 4-2 win against UPEI on Friday, but were quickly dismissed by UNB, 9-1. The good news is, they are comfortably under the roster cap and have a lot of flexibility in terms of adding players. But the question is, can they find anyone willing to commit mid-season?
7. Disappointing week for the Dalhousie Tigers who emerge with a pair of regulation losses. Corbin Boes is always a talking point when it comes to the Tigers, but it's extremely important they find some more production from the offence if they want to hold down their playoff spot. Yes, missing Phil Gadoury hurts, but good teams in this league are able to push through absences like that. Dalhousie should be pushing for another player addition over the break, and although the reacquisition of Chad Duchesne and/or Danny Moynihan is a possibility, the Tigers can't wait much longer.
8. The Aaron Berisha sweepstakes are really heating up. He's been visiting campuses across the country lately and his list begins to narrow. UPEI is an obvious contender with his brother Beni playing there, but Acadia could also very well be in on Berisha. From the OUA, Western is always poking away at available forwards, but Carleton and Ryerson are two other schools who have recruited well out of the OHL and pro ranks.
***Matt Pufahl: D Acadia Axemen
On a team with a plethora of offensive weapons up front, Matt Pufahl's five point week was an unexpected surprise. But it's less of a surprise when you consider he's just a season removed from 28 points, and totalled 49 points in his OA season with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. Acadia has a lot of threats on their forward unit, but Pufahl is proof you can't forget about their blueline either.
**Cameron Braes: F UNB Varsity Reds
Another week, and another UNB Varsity Red on the three stars list. But this position is well deserved for Cameron Braes, who returned from injury this week, and then promptly posted six points over his two games played, including a hat-trick against Moncton on Saturday. Braes is another great example of a guy who made the jump from the WHL to the AUS and is paying big-time dividends for his team.
*Ben Duffy: F SMU Huskies
Ben Duffy is one of the highest scoring QMJHL recruits to ever play AUS hockey. After a fairly slow start to the season, you had to figure it was only a matter of time before Duffy got the ball rolling this year. Six points this week, three in each game, highlight a nice 2-0 weekend for the SMU Huskies. Look for more to come from a former 100+ point scorer in the QMJHL.
Key Games This Week:
UPEI vs Saint Mary's, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm AST
UPEI is a team that needs to turn things around pronto, while Saint Mary's is starting to gather some momentum. This game will either see UPEI get back on track or Saint Mary's continue their mini-roll. On the adverse side, either UPEI's struggles will continue, or Saint Mary's will have issues preventing goals again.
UNB vs Acadia, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm AST
The UNB Varsity Reds look unstoppable lately, especially after the way they've run over StFX. They've already taken out Acadia once this year, 5-1, but if the Axemen get some timely goaltending, this game should be a lot closer. Both teams have deadly offences, so if neither side has sharp goaltending, this could quickly turn into a slobber-knocker.
1. Having registered a point in eight consecutive games, the McGill Redmen are now tied on top of the OUA East with the Queen's Gaels. The Redmen had a close contest with the York Lions on Friday night, which saw OT determine the victor, but a night later, the Redmen bulldozed through the Brock Badgers 6-1. Dominic Talbot-Tassi is really starting to take over, as a five point week including two game-winners make him the highest scoring d-man in the OUA. Some news broke this week that McGill have an LOI from Nikolas Brouillard, a small but highly skilled defenceman currently with Orlando in the ECHL. McGill is short-staffed on the blueline without Etienne Boutet at the moment, and if Brouillard does indeed want to come to McGill, he helps them the second he steps on the ice.
2. This week saw the UOIT Ridgebacks slip to third in the East after a pair of losses in-conference to the Concordia Stingers and UQTR Patriotes. It's not a good sign for the Ridgebacks because if they have any intention of remaining a top three OUA East team, those are the teams they are going to need to beat. Concordia and UQTR both have high power offences, so it's imperative that UOIT plays well defensively and gets very good goaltending in order to win. That didn't exactly happen this week. The Ridgebacks faceoff against the McGill Redmen next week, which will be a huge test for a UOIT team who have already beaten the Redmen once this season.
3. The Queen's Gaels had their win streak snapped this week when they ran into the UQTR Patriotes. The Gaels certainly made a game of it going into the third period, but the Patriotes looked really, really good this week. Queen's held the Concordia Stingers to just one goal in the 2-1 win on Saturday night, and it signified another rock solid start for Jacob Brennan who has been very serviceable for the Gaels this year. Slater Doggett and Eric Ming both continue to fill the net for Queen's, and both should get serious consideration in the roster selection for the U Sports Selects team set to play against Team Canada in December.
4. The UQTR Patriotes looked like the Patriotes from last season all over again, taking down UOIT and Queen's this weekend. The Patriotes now lead the OUA with 61 goals, and Guillaume Asselin has made the offence look totally unstoppable. It's easy to say that even without Asselin, the Patriotes have the depth to compensate for his loss, but now that he's back, it really shows how much they've missed his presence. The Patriotes are 4-4 all-time when Asselin isn't in the lineup, and although that's not a terrible record, by UQTR standards over the last few seasons, that's below expectation. This week UQTR runs into both RMC and Carleton. Two wins put them right back among the leaders in the OUA East.
5. The Ottawa Gee-Gees nearly pulled off a six game win streak had it not been for the York Lions on Saturday night in a great back and forth OT game. But the point remains, the Gee-Gees have been a far better team in the month of November than they were to start the year. They're still not scoring all that much, but goaltending has combined for a .930 SV% this month, and the Gee-Gees possession numbers are starting to rise. These are all encouraging signs for Ottawa who seem to be a brand new team ever since Marc Beckstead joined their lineup seven games ago. But you can also see players like Kevin Domingue and Jacob Harris are playing a much more confident game, and their teammates are following suit.
6. After losing three straight games, the Laurentian Voyageurs immediately respond by rattling off another three consecutive in the win column. The win over Carleton on Friday has to be huge for their confidence, but a narrow double OT win over RMC on Saturday nearly saw them lose three straight games to the Paladins. Joel Vienneau finally captured his first career OUA win this week after going 0-12 to start his OUA career. That's not a particularly great record, but still, Vienneau can be a big difference maker for Laurentian in net when he's playing well like he did this weekend.
7. The Carleton Ravens continue to flip-flop as they lose to Laurentian on Friday, and then take down Nipissing on Saturday night. Carleton surprisingly mustered just 23 shots on net against Laurentian, and given Carleton's offensive talent, that's a disappointment. They spent the first part of the game against Nipissing in the penalty box, but once the Ravens got back to 5-on-5, they looked like the much better team. Corey Durocher broke a mini-goalless drought with a nice hat-trick on Saturday that carried Carleton to victory, but Carleton's inconsistency issues continue to plague them throughout the first semester.
8. After getting off to a very hot start in October, the Concordia Stingers are starting to look a lot more normal in November. They split this weekend, beating UOIT, but then lost 2-1 to Queen's a night after. The Stingers' offence has dropped by about a full goal-per-game this month, and the goals against average has risen by about the same margin. Anthony De Luca continues to be one of the hottest players in the conference, but Concordia would like to see more from guys like Dominic Beauchemin, Philippe Hudon, and Scott Oke, all of who have been relatively quiet so far this month.
9. RMC and Nipissing both find themselves out of the playoff picture as the Ottawa Gee-Gees start to heat up. Steve Deeg, Brock Morrison, and Colin Campbell all put up some nice numbers over two wins for Nipissing, but they were clearly outmatched again this week by Carleton. RMC comes away with a point from their game against Laurentian, but it's clear to see that stringing multiple wins together will be tough for them this season.
***Joel Vienneau: G Laurentian Voyageurs
Joel Vienneau not only recorded his first two wins in the OUA this week, but he also recorded his first career OUA point. Sure, it was just an assist on an empty net goal, but it was a fantastic pass that found Dylan Fitze and sealed the deal against the Carleton Ravens. Of course, Vienneau did a pretty good job stopping the puck this week too, holding Carleton and RMC to just one goal each.
**Guillaume Asselin: F UQTR Patriotes
Guillaume Asselin has missed half the season with injury, yet he still has the second most goals in the OUA with 11. That's ridiculous. The Patriotes just seem to be a different team with Asselin in the lineup, as they mowed down the competition this week behind three goals and five points courtesy of Asselin.
*Dominic Talbot-Tassi: D McGill Redmen
If there was such thing as a perfect week for a defenceman in the OUA, this would be pretty darn close. Dominic Talbot-Tassi scored two game-winners this week for McGill, and added another four assists to his total, solidifying his position as one of the best offensive defencemen in the whole country. Whatever the Redmen lost in the departure of Sam Labreque they seem to be getting out of Talbot-Tassi this season.
Key Games This Week:
UOIT vs McGill, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:30pm EST
The UOIT Ridgebacks already beat the McGill Redmen once this season, but the way McGill has been playing lately, UOIT won't be seeing the same team they saw earlier this year. However, McGill will likely be without Christophe Lalonde and Jasmin Boutet due to suspensions out of the Brock game, so UOIT could catch a break there, but there's a lot more to worry about on McGill's roster than just those two.
UQTR vs Carleton, Sat. Nov. 26th, 7:00pm EST
UQTR tore through their opposition this week, and with RMC coming up, that appears to be a mismatch. But Saturday could be a real good test for the Patriotes who already lost to Carleton this year back in October. For the Ravens, they certainly have the personnel to beat UQTR again, but will it all come to fruition? This should be anyone's game, and has all the makings of a classic.
1. The Ryerson Rams continue to sit on top of the OUA West and possess the best offence in the West by a fair margin. They've strung five wins together now since a disappointing loss to York, and Ryerson's top unit of Matt Mistele, Michael Fine, and Chris Marchese have found their game lately. The trio have combined for 21 points on their five game streak, but the Rams are finding serious contributions from their bottom six players too. Ryerson's ability to roll an effective four-line unit has been separating them from the pack this season, and make this Ryerson team arguably the deepest they've had in recent memory. Taylor Dupuis and Charlie Graham have both started to fare better in net too, improving the OUA's worst save percentage in October to a .911 SV% in November.
2. If you were wise enough to place a wager at the start of the year on the U of T Varsity Blues getting their first regular season win against the Western Mustangs, you're a very rich person. Western's seven game losing streak is the worst they've had in the Clarke Singer era as head coach, and losing to U of T on home ice rubs more salt in the wound. When I saw Western play Ryerson on Thursday, I didn't think they looked that bad, but their lack of offence was evident. Even with Matt Marantz and Andrew Goldberg back in the lineup, the Mustangs didn't have much to offer, and their offence is among the worst in the OUA, with just 28 goals to show through 13 games.
3. On the U of T Varsity Blues side, they'll be very happy about not just beating Western, but scoring a whopping seven goals in the process. Aidan Wallace is having a very productive season for the Varsity Blues, and with Matt Campagna and Charlie Connell stepping up, U of T definitely has some talent up front, although it's still not as much as last year. U of T turned around the following night from Western and then lost a close one, 5-4, to Laurier, but the Varsity Blues are starting to find ways to score. Much like last year, it doesn't matter how badly U of T is being outplayed, they always seem just one or two bounces away from being within striking distance again.
4. The York Lions have to be happy after coming away from a northern road trip with three out of a possible four points. They came very close to taking down the McGill Redmen on Friday, and went down to the wire with Ottawa too the next night. Alex Fotinos has looked very impressive lately, keeping the Lions close against some great teams. His .932 SV% shows that even though the Peruginis are gone, York hasn't seen much change in terms of quality netminding. Greg Milner has eight goals on the season now and continues to be one of the most underrated players in the OUA West, while the rest of the York Lions have been business as usual, playing as one of the hardest teams to score goals against.
5. The Brock Badgers are a really feisty team. Considering how their preseason went, I'm probably a month or two late to this conclusion, but the folks up in Quebec know it now too after the Badgers and Redmen had a penalty-filled contest on Saturday night. Clint Windsor remains on the shelf, and Brock has been forced to turn to their backups, but despite losing both games this weekend, Adam Beukeboom continues to fill in fairly well. His 45 saves on Friday kept Brock close against Ottawa, but Alex Brooks-Potts looked a little softer, allowing six goals to McGill on Saturday. Brock is on a bit of a roller coaster right now, but if they stick with the system and trust their coaching, there's no reason they can't stay inside the OUA West top five.
6. The Guelph Gryphons and Lakehead Thunderwolves had a real battle up north this weekend, with a combined 22 goals between the teams in a pair of Gryphon wins. Guelph's Rob Lepine lead the way with six points against Lakehead and headlines a Guelph offence which has looked really good at times this season, but at others, not so much. For Lakehead, Kelin Ainsworth continues to be one of the best players in the conference, but Lakehead's team save percentage is now tied with UPEI for second worst in the country. Lakehead has some consistency issues on defence too despite a talented group back there, but definitely need their goaltending to be better too.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks come away from the weekend with a sweep to their credit after a couple of hard fought wins against Windsor and U of T. The Golden Hawks are actually starting to show some good signs as a team capable of poking around in the OUA West top five, but consistency will certainly determine whether or not they are worthy of that spot by the end of the semester. While Derek Schoenmakers continues to score at a steady pace, Andrew Fritsch has been a point-per-game player too, and Danny Hanlon doesn't sit far behind at nine points through 13 games.
8. The Windsor Lancers are looking to string together some consistency in the month of November, as they still hover around the .500 mark after splitting another weekend. The offence had gone quiet before their game against Waterloo, but goalie Kris Joyce has been supplying some good starts for them lately. Windsor had a bit of a tough time against OUA East opponents, but now that two straight in conference games against Brock and York, two wins could go a long way in placing themselves in a good position before the Christmas break.
9. The month of November hasn't been very kind to the Waterloo Warriors, especially offensively. The Warriors have just eight goals so far this month, three of which came against Windsor in their last game. Waterloo are losers of four straight games now and continue to search for any kind of offensive consistency. Before their two powerplay goal outburst against Windsor, the Warriors' powerplay was sitting at a dismal 1%. They haven't been getting a lot of bounces, but it's clear to see there isn't much finishing on this team either.
***Matt Mistele: F Ryerson Rams
Part of one of the deadliest lines in the league right now, Matt Mistele is finally starting to get his game going in the OUA. Injuries hampered his progress at the start of the season, but there's clearly chemistry with himself, Chris Marchese, and Michael Fine. Mistele netted five points this week for Ryerson, including a goal against Waterloo.
**Aidan Wallace: F U of T Varsity Blues
The second member of the 2015 Memorial Cup Champion Oshawa Generals on this list, Aidan Wallace factored a big part into U of T's 7-3 win against Western, and added another point against Laurier to cap his week off at four points. Wallace produced well for U of T at the start of the season, but after a few games without much to offer on the scoresheet, it looks like Wallace could be back to his early season form.
*Robert Lepine: F Guelph Gryphons
I always believed Robert Lepine was the best kept secret on a Guelph team that featured the likes of Robbie De Fulviis, Dylan Gilbert, Kyle Neuber, and Carlos Amestoy last season. But now that those players are gone, it's Lepine's time to shine. An impressive six point showing this week lead the Gryphons past the Lakehead Thunderwolves as Lepine's contributions will be a big part of Guelph's success moving forward this season.
Key Games to Watch This Week:
U of T vs York, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm EST
I get the sense Chris Dennis doesn't like playing the Varsity Blues. This was the team that knocked his York Lions out of the playoffs last year, and in their first meeting this year, the Lions just barely scraped past U of T by a score of 1-0 at home. Don't be at all shocked if Darren Lowe has something up his sleeve for York again this week.
Windsor vs Brock, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:15pm EST
We saw last week how chippy the Brock Badgers can play, and we know that the Windsor Lancers aren't a fun team to play against either. With the way both teams have been playing lately, this one could be a real bruiser of a matchup. The Badgers are on a bit of a slide without their starting goalie, Clint Windsor, and the Windsor Lancers need to muster some offence. It's a combination for success for the Lancers, but the Badgers have surprised more than a few opponents already this season.
1. The Lethbridge Pronghorns are seriously stepping up against nationally ranked opponents this season. With their surprise 2-0 sweep of the Mount Royal Cougars this week, the Pronghorns are 3-1 against nationally ranked opponents. It's been the midrange to basement teams in Canada West that are giving them trouble. All the while, Justin Valentino continues to be a great story. A fourth-line centre just two seasons ago, the former Swan Valley Stampeder leads Lethbridge in goals, but his nine markers are also tied with Jamie Crooks for second most in Canada West. Tim Campbell has been rock solid, and a big five point week for Mitch Maxwell contributed to Lethbridge's success.
2. The Mount Royal Cougars received a bit of a shock this week, but going through some adversity early in the season might help this team out a little in the long-run. The Cougars were simply outplayed by Lethbridge, and had a hard time beating Garrett Hughson. They also long to get their captain Matt Brown back, who missed more time this weekend. The two losses to Lethbridge don't constitute a slide yet, but if they drop a pair to UBC next week, you can bet some eyebrows will be raised.
3. The Regina Cougars nearly forgot what the win column looked like, but thanks to a pair of big wins against UBC this weekend, are back in the mix. When I last spoke with coach Todd Johnson, he told me that he expected Cody Fowlie could be in store for a better season. His five point week for Regina was certainly an encouraging sign for a former 40-point player with Everett and Kelowna in the WHL. J.J. Coleshaw's return was huge for Regina too, as he added four points this weekend. But it was the breakout from Tristan Frei that really has people talking. The first year forward registered six points, including three goals against UBC, and suddenly leads the Cougars in points. Don't expect the offence to produce at this rate consistently, but if Regina can continue to beat opponents like UBC, they won't be far out of the playoff picture.
4. Elgin Pearce continues to prove my statement that he's the most clutch forward in Canada West. Pearce beat Canada West's most clutch goalie, Jordon Cooke, in the shootout on Saturday night to solidify Calgary's 2-1 victory over Saskatchewan. The Dinos got great goaltending again from Matt Greenfield, but apart from Elgin Pearce, the offence hasn't been finishing much lately. For Saskatchewan, they continue to receive consistent production from guys like Michael Sofillas, Logan McVeigh, and Jesse Forsberg. It's going to be that type of consistency that lends itself to a deep run for Saskatchewan. They handled Calgary fairly easily on Friday with a 5-0 shutout victory, but the Huskies need to keep their momentum going if they want to hold off the Alberta Golden Bears.
5. The Alberta Golden Bears are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and are really starting to look like they've found their game early in the season. That's a crucial component to their success with such a large roster turnover, but so far, things are moving faster than I expected. You had to figure the Golden Bears would piece together their roster at some point, but players like Luke Philp, Tyson Baillie, and Trevor Cox are settling right in. That's a testament to Alberta's recruiting. Not only do they get talented hockey players, but they get guys who can adapt to the Canada West game quickly. It also helps that Jamie Crooks and Jayden Hart continue to put up crooked numbers, as their success is key to Alberta all season long. They sweep away the Manitoba Bisons this week and take on Lethbridge in a pair of games next week.
6. The Manitoba Bisons continue to lose games, but their roster makeup really makes you believe they can be a team that contends for a top three spot. Manitoba has been scoring right on par with most teams in the league, but they've sputtered going 5-5 in their last 10 games. Their 42 goals against definitely isn't a great number, as they still search for consistency in net, but I really do believe this team should be capable of turning themselves into a real threat throughout the second semester.
7. This was an awfully forgettable week for the UBC Thunderbirds who drop a pair of games to the lowly Regina Cougars. UBC has a strong cast of defenders and a netminder in Matt Hewitt who is capable of playing very well too, so there's really no excuse for giving up 10 goals this weekend. UBC has struggled with some consistency issues out of the gate, but we've seen when they play well they are capable of being a playoff team. Given the landscape of that program over the last few years, it's not a surprise to see them have a weekend like this, but they'll be afforded the opportunity to bounce back as they face Mount Royal and Calgary at home to close out the semester.
***Mitch Maxwell: F Lethbridge Pronghorns
On a big weekend where Lethbridge got contributions from all over their lineup, Mitch Maxwell prevails with a five point weekend. It had been a fairly quiet season for Maxwell up to this point, so perhaps this outburst is a sign of things to come later on this semester. It's definitely not a stretch to imagine, especially after Maxwell posted 21 points for Lethbridge a year ago.
**Jayden Hart: F Alberta Golden Bears
It was business as usual for Alberta this week as they cruised to another 2-0 sweep, but Jayden Hart really stood apart this week, as his three goals against Manitoba boost his season total up to 11. Hart never really got prime playing time with last year's cast of veterans on Alberta's roster. But now with the roster turnover, Hart is seeing big minutes, and he's making the most of them, as evidenced by his five point weekend.
*Tristan Frei: F Regina Cougars
Seeing six points come from one of Regina's freshest recruits this week wasn't something many could have seen coming. Tristan Frei wound up being a huge reason the Regina Cougars came away with a pair of wins against UBC. In addition to his six points, Frei had both game-winners. This is a promising sign for a Regina team who will take scoring from anyone in the lineup at this point.
Key Games This Week:
Saskatchewan vs Manitoba, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm CST
The Saskatchewan Huskies are still one of the best teams in Canada West, and the Manitoba Bisons could really use a few wins before the semester ends. We keep waiting and waiting on the Bisons to breakthrough, but if they do it this week, it's a great source of confidence for them moving into the Christmas break. Expect Saskatchewan to be as good as usual, but I'm really itching to see Manitoba break through.
Lethbridge vs Alberta, Sat. Nov. 26th, 7:00pm MST
Lethbridge has picked up three of a possible four points against nationally ranked opponents this year, and after Alberta lost to UBC earlier this season, another multi-point weekend for the Pronghorns is definitely within sight. The Pronghorns have been playing to their competition all season long, but with the way the Golden Bears are playing right now, this may be the best team they've seen to this point.
1. As I mentioned on Twitter this week, it sounds like the Canadian U20 WJC squad will face off against the U Sports Selects in a couple of exhibition games on December 12th and 13th. Those dates are not confirmed just yet, and won't be until the official announcement is made. Early rumours are these games will be taking place in Blainville, just outside of Montreal.
2. I was told by a coach this week to expect the U Sports Selects roster to be out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I'll be working on confirming how many roster slots will be set aside for each conference representation.
1. The StFX X-Men are definitely able to compete with the UNB Varsity Reds, but they haven't shown it in their last two meetings. Another blowout loss, this time a 7-3 final on Saturday night leaves the X-Men searching for another method to take down the V-Reds. On the upside, StFX still comes away from the week with two wins over Saint Mary's and UPEI. Michael Clarke has been especially productive for StFX lately, with an ongoing five game point streak, and ten points over that span. Bryson Cianfrone has five points in his last three games too, ensuring StFX's OHL recruit class continues to produce. StFX gets Acadia this coming week, and then Saint Mary's, a team they've already lost to once this year.
2. The UNB Varsity Reds have been without Cameron Braes for the last three games and Colin Suellentrop for the last two, but they haven't missed a single beat in their absences. Chris Clapperton played a part in filling the void when he returned from injury this week and scored a goal in his second game back against Dalhousie. Not only is the offence still the best in the country, but UNB now possesses the lowest goals against average from coast-to-coast. Certainly no surprise to anyone to see UNB dominating as the best team in the country right now.
3. Corbin Boes must know something about UNB that no one else does, because his save percentage head-to-head against them (.907%) is better than any other AUS goalie by a fair margin in the last two seasons. But this week, even Corbin Boes couldn't subdue UNB, as the Dalhousie Tigers lost in a rather routine 4-1 game on Friday. However, Dalhousie still came away with a 3-1 victory over UPEI on Friday night, which is still encouraging, but their 4-1 loss to Acadia on Wednesday keeps them around .500. Dalhousie's offence is still sparse at best, but without Phil Gadoury in the lineup, that's not a surprise. But Andrew Rieder leads the way with five goals on the season, including a couple key shorthanded markers.
4. The UPEI Panthers have hit a momentary wall lately, dropping five of their last seven contests. This week they suffered a couple of setbacks to Dalhousie and StFX, and we've seen on a couple of occasions now when goaltender Matt Mahalak isn't having a good night, things can fall apart quickly. UPEI's recruit production has slowed lately too, with the exception of the point-per-game Cody Payne. An injury to Beau McCue has slowed the production rate, but UPEI should have enough depth to absorb that loss. J.C. Campagna and Kurt Etchegary haven't provided much spark offensively recently, but you have to imagine they'll come around again at some point this season. But until then, UPEI is starting to flounder.
5. After faltering against UNB and UPEI last week, the Acadia Axemen got back in the win column a couple of times this week with victories over Dalhousie and Moncton. Acadia's offence looked as good as usual against the Tigers, highlighted by a three-point night from Remy Giftopoulos. However, Saturday night against Moncton wasn't nearly as easy. Down 5-1 heading into the third period, Acadia stormed back with goals from Daniel Pettersson, Taylor Makin, Boston Leier, and Stephen Harper to tie it late, and then Matt Pufahl drove the nail into Moncton's coffin with an OT winner. Moncton's goaltending and defence has been shabby all season, but give credit to Acadia's offence, which is one of the best in the AUS right now.
6. On the side of the Moncton Aigles Bleus, it's actually ridiculous how good their first line of J.F. Plante and the Saulnier twins is. UNB and Dalhousie are the only two teams that have kept them off the scoresheet in a single game this year, and it doesn't seem to matter what you do, this line will find a way to generate chances. Plante is the triggerman with a country-leading 14 goals, Allain Saulnier leads the country with a whopping 23 assists, and Alex Saulnier is the all-rounder with six goals and 13 assists. It's hard to imagine that the team with the most lethal first line in the country could miss the playoffs, but right now, that's a possibility. Moncton has already allowed more goals this year than RMC, Laurentian, and St. Thomas scored last year, and until they sort out those issues in their own end, they'll be susceptible to late meltdowns like they had against Acadia.
7. Quiet week for Saint Mary's who lose to StFX, but then beat Moncton 5-1. The win against Moncton is actually pretty impressive considering what type of firepower Moncton is packing, and it was a good showing for Eric Brassard, who is being plateaued with Cole Cheveldave in the net. Nice week for defenceman Kyle Pereira too who had a pair of assists against StFX, and then added a late tally against Moncton.
8. Carl Tremblay is a name worth keeping an eye on over the next month or so. A defenceman who spent last season in Val-d'Or, he was cut from Elmira early last week and has since caught on with Trois-Rivieres in the LNAH. This is pure speculation at the moment, but I would imagine a few AUS or OUA teams in search of a defenceman could be kicking his tires to play for second semester.
***Remy Giftopoulos: F Acadia Axemen
Gifttopoulos saw his production rate drop off a little last season after a very strong 23 point rookie campaign with Acadia back in 2014-15. But his numbers this season are starting to look even better than what he had as a rookie, as his two goal performance against Dalhousie and four-point weekend overall bring his total up to 12 points through as many games.
**Michael Clarke: F StFX X-Men
Surprise! StFX found another ex-OHLer who can seriously produce. This week Clarke had the spotlight in StFX's three games, posting two goals and four assists for a fine-looking six point week. It's a much needed breakout for Clarke, who only had four points through his first eight games of the season, but now has 10 in his last five.
*J.F. Plante: F Moncton Aigles Bleus
J.F. Plante is the most lethal sniper in the AUS right now with 14 goals through 12 games. That total leads the country by a comfortable margin, and he padded it on Saturday with a hat-trick performance against Acadia. Plante added a goal the night before too against SMU, but credit to linemate Allain Saulnier as well, who drew an assist on all of Plante's goals this week.
Key Games of the Week:
Acadia vs StFX, Wed. Nov. 16th, 7:00pm AST
Acadia's offence is still one of the best in the AUS, and in a lot of ways, the StFX X-Men are right there with them in terms of firepower. Acadia needs to get a better start from one of their goalies to win this game, and if they do, this could be anyone's to win between two very talented squads.
UPEI vs Moncton, Fri. Nov. 18th, 7:00pm AST
UPEI has a real bad week to put behind them, and there's no better way to do that then to pull out a win against Moncton on Friday. The season opener between these two teams was an all-out slugfest, and the rematch was an OT thriller. It's hard to tell what to expect from this one on Friday, which is what makes this game so intriguing.
1. The Queen's Gaels continue to roll right along in the OUA East with five straight wins. But for the first time since Feb. 10th of last season, the Gaels conceded a powerplay goal. Western's Robert Polesello slid one past Jacob Brennan in the first period on the man advantage, but the Gaels rebounded to squeak past Western in the shootout, winning 4-3. Slater Doggett, Eric Ming, Spencer Abraham, and Queen's' goalies are often credited for their recent success, but Darcy Greenaway and Dylan Anderson have both been contributing lately over the Gaels' five game win streak. Depth was something coach Brett Gibson felt he addressed this offseason, and so far the Gaels are a more well-rounded team than they were last season. That's why they sit just one point out of first place in the OUA East.
2. The UOIT Ridgebacks continue to lead the OUA East after a strong pair of performances this week against Western and Guelph. Both adversaries hailing from the OUA West, UOIT needed a bounce-back week after a leaving Lakehead with their tails between their legs. Friday's game against Western was never really that close, and Mike Robinson's hat-trick lead the way to a big 6-0 victory. Guelph gave them a better game on Saturday, but Cam Yuill, Ben Blasko, and Connor Jarvis proved to be too much. After scoring in his first four games this year, Danny Elser hasn't lit the lamp since Oct. 28th against Laurier, but UOIT's offence rolls on nonetheless. Connor Jarvis has been a big part of that, leading UOIT with eight goals this season.
3. The McGill Redmen won't be happy with their 4-3 OT loss to Laurier on Friday, but the following night's shellacking of Waterloo, 7-1, reminds us that McGill is still among the OUA's hottest teams. Daniel Milne and Christophe Lalonde continue to fill the net, as they've now combined for 17 goals on the season. The usual cast of Patrick Delisle-Houde Mathieu Pompei, and company have been producing as usual, and just in case you forgot about him, Dominic Talbot-Tassi is still one of the best puck movers in the conference. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard had his first sub-two goal performance in net this year against Waterloo, which feels odd having taken this long given his past numbers in this league. As long as goaltending holds the course, McGill should stay as one of the best teams in the league.
4. The Carleton Ravens are a team struggling to find consistency at the moment, as evidenced by their 7-5 record. Another weekend split for the Ravens, this time it was the Windsor Lancers who took one of two games against Carleton. Goalie Matt Jenkins got the start on Saturday against Windsor as a reward for his hard work and patience, and in allowing one goal, looked rather impressive as Carleton's third stringer. It's been the blueline that's showed holes lately, with namely Jeremie Fraser among others missing some time as the Ravens haven't quite hit their groove yet defensively. As good as their netminding has been the past few seasons, their defence has been every bit as good too. If the Ravens can sort things out defensively, look for them to climb back up the standings.
5. The Ottawa Gee-Gees seem to have found something with their game lately, as they're winners of three in a row going back to last week. They managed to grind out a 2-1 win over Waterloo on Friday, and then followed up with a 4-0 win against Laurier, marking the first career shutout for Anthony Brodeur in the OUA. Kevin Domingue continues to be a real bright spot on an offence that has been fairly harmless so far. Domingue has two game-winners on Ottawa's mini-win streak, as well as five points in that time. Marc Beckstead also continues to produce with five points in as many games since his return. The Gee-Gees are in tough against Brock and York this upcoming week, but if they continue to get rock solid goaltending, another win certainly isn't out of the question.
6. The Concordia Stingers lost their first consecutive games when they were defeated by Brock on Friday after losing to Ottawa the week previous. A nice rebound victory over York on Saturday ensures Concordia remains top-three in the OUA East. The Stingers were looking good against Brock heading into the third, but a late meltdown reminded us of Concordia teams from the past. But the fact head coach Marc-Andre Element stuck with Philippe Cadorette the following night against York shows he's still very confident in his netminder. Anthony De Luca has been red hot recently amongst a star cast of snipers. He's scored in four straight games, and leads the OUA with 11 goals, reminiscent of his 44 goal season with Rimouski in 2014-15.
7. After losing just four games throughout the entirety of last season, the UQTR Patriotes have already dropped six decisions this year. This is a surprise to some considering their minimal roster turnover, but maybe teams are starting to figure out just what makes the Patriotes tick. Guillaume Asselin was reintroduced to the lineup this weekend against York, and immediately scored a goal in both games he played this weekend. The Patriotes offence is virtually unstoppable with Asselin, but teams are finding some holes in UQTR's game which have lead to a few key goals, like York's Steven Janes scoring late in the third period of Friday night's contest. UQTR needs to stop giving up untimely markers if they want to turn things around.
8. Both OUA East teams from up north, Nipissing and Laurentian, had similar weekends. Both lost to the Ryerson Rams, and then rebounded with victories over the U of T Varsity Blues. Nipissing's struggle to find offence continues, but they hope a five goal output against U of T gets the ball rolling. For Laurentian, they gave Ryerson a good fight on Saturday afternoon, but were simply outmatched by Ryerson's talent. Although a better team offensively than Nipissing, Laurentian has been lacking scoring from their depth pieces, which could come back to hurt them. On the bright-side, Nick Esposto has a nice four game point streak going, including three goals.
***Mike Robinson: F UOIT Ridgebacks
UOIT has received offensive contributions from a number of players this season, but on Friday night, it was Mike Robinson's time to shine. His hat-trick and assist propelled the Ridgebacks to a dominant 6-0 win over Western, reasserting their dominance atop the OUA East.
**Christophe Lalonde: F McGill Redmen
As per usual, the McGill Redmen have a strong cast of forwards who are consistently filling the net against their opponents. But Lalonde has stepped up recently after joining the team halfway through last season, and leads McGill with nine goals, three of which came against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday in a dominant 7-1 win.
*Anthony De Luca: F Concordia Stingers
On a team filled with star-studded offensive weapons, Anthony De Luca is starting to separate himself from the rest of the team as one of their most gifted players. Already with 11 goals on the season, De Luca continued his rampant pace through the OUA with a goal and an assist against Brock, and then another two goals against York on Saturday.
Key Games of the Week:
York vs McGill, Fri. Oct. 18th, 7:00pm EST
The York Lions hit the road for Quebec to take on one of the OUA's hottest teams on Friday night. This should be a great matchup between a highly offensively skilled team in McGill, and a highly defensively efficient team in York. It's a great matchup on paper between two different styles of play.
Queen's vs UQTR, Fri. Oct. 18th, 7:00pm EST
Who can possibly stop UQTR's offence? Kevin Bailie.... maybe. Even the OUA's best goaltender will be in tough against one of the deadliest offensive teams in the OUA. But UQTR has had a tendency to give up some pretty untimely goals lately, so don't be shocked if this one winds up in overtime.
1. The more we see of the Ryerson Rams, the more they begin to look like the real deal this season. They blew through both Nipissing and Laurentian this weekend and reclaim their position alone on top of the OUA West. Their 49 goals are also biting at the heals of the Carleton Ravens and UQTR Patriotes. This is all after a season were the Rams had their worst offensive output (86 goals) since 2012. Junior C legend Aaron Armstrong continues to be a fantastic story, with 14 points in 11 games, Michael Fine seems to break a program record every night, and the newest addition, Fabrizio Ricci, has found the net twice already. The Rams have a favourable schedule coming this week squaring off against a pair of offensively challenged teams in Western and Waterloo.
2. As far as I can trace, the Western Mustangs have never lost five consecutive regular season games until this season. If they've done it before, it hasn't been since the late 90's at the earliest. The point is, Western is going through some very uncharacteristic struggles right now, and desperately need to sort out their game. Goaltending wasn't as strong this week, but Western simply isn't getting the offensive production to help. Connor Chartier, Jonathan Laser, and Robert Polesello share a three-way tie for the most points on Western with six. But in 11 games, that's well off the pace. Matt Marantz, Spenser Cobbold, and Andrew Goldberg all missed time this weekend, but Western typically has enough depth to cover that kind of loss. Worth noting as well, I was told by a couple of sources this week that the chances of Western getting either Zach Hall or Greg Betzold are slim to none.
3. All of a sudden the Lakehead Thunderwolves are fourth in the OUA West. They powered their way through a couple of one-goal wins against RMC this week, and voila, here they are. Of Lakehead's six wins this year, four have come against last-place teams, but whatever. The point is, they're right in the thick of the race for supremacy in the OUA West. For most of the season, it's been the offence getting the job done for the Thunderwolves, but this week against RMC it was their goalie, Devin Green, who held the Paladins at bay. In the month of November, Green's GAA is at 1.47 with a SV% of .951. It's a stark contrast from his 4.11 GAA and .867 SV% in the month of October.
4. The York Lions were in tough this week, dealing with two of the country's best offences in Concordia and UQTR. Surrendering five goals this week against those teams definitely isn't bad for York, and should solidify their distinction as one of the best defensive teams in the OUA. The Friday night showdown with UQTR was the one the Lions will look proudly upon, as a late marker from Steven Janes tied it up in the third period, and in double overtime, Greg Milner sealed the victory with his seventh goal of the season. Concordia gave the Lions a harder time, and it resulted in a 3-2 loss, but York definitely held their own against the Stingers. Both Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields split the weekend, and their combined save percentage stands at an impressive .930%, second best in the OUA.
5. Just like York, the Brock Badgers had a tough week with both Concordia and UQTR to deal with. These matchups became even harder for Brock to win with Clint Windsor on the shelf. Adam Buekeboom started against Concordia on Friday, and actually did quite well, making 42 saves in a 6-3 win. He was of course aided by Brock's massive five-goal third period which saw Mitch Nardi net a hat-trick in the span of 12 minutes. Saturday against UQTR didn't go quite as smoothly, with Alex Brooks-Potts leaving the game towards the end of the first period, and the Patriotes going on to cruise to a 6-2 victory. Brock continues to be outshot by their opponents, but they're managing to compensate for that with work ethic and a quick-strike offence. It's been the performances from guys like Andrew Radjenovic that have kept Brock competitive night in and night out.
6. The Windsor Lancers continue to hover around the .500 mark after splitting this past weekend with the Carleton Ravens. Dylan Denomme finally found the back of the net after going his first ten games this year without a goal. Blake Blondeel also finally got on the board this year after his two goal performance in Friday's 4-2 win over Carleton. Windsor has actually faired decently well after having played some of the toughest competition the OUA East has to offer over the last three weeks. With their next four games scheduled against in-conference opponents, expect the Lancers to make a push to crack the top four in the west.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks have to be thrilled with their OT win against McGill from Friday night. Andrew Fritsch capped it off in double overtime and recorded another multi-point night for the Golden Hawks. Before being shutout by Ottawa on Saturday, Fritsch had himself a nice little four game point streak going. Brandon Robinson seems to be getting comfortable with the OUA too as he's managed to score in four of his last six games. Both Fritsch and Robinson were deemed to be x-factors at the start of the season, and now that they're clicking, the Golden Hawks possess one of the best offences in the OUA West.
8. The Waterloo Warriors, Guelph Gryphons, and U of T Varsity Blues all emerge from this week with disappointing 0-2 records. Guelph managed to keep both games close against Queen's and UOIT, two very tough opponents, but for Waterloo and U of T, they wish they'd have come away with better boxscores this week. Waterloo is down to five d-men without Cam Wind and Eric Diodati, and their offence is still among the worst in the conference. U of T can't seem to buy a break at all lately, and they still search for their first win of the season after losing to both Nipissing and Laurentian.
***Devin Green: G Lakehead Thunderwolves
Lakehead knows full-well what RMC has done to opponents in low scoring games already this year, so when both their contests against the Paladins came down to the wire this weekend, it was imperative they had lockdown goaltending. Devin Green wasn't overly heroic, but he got the job done two nights in a row for Lakehead, posting an immaculate .981 SV%.
**Mitch Nardi: F Brock Badgers
With all the offence Brock had been getting from their top six early this season, Mitch Nardi's return sort of flew under the radar. But Friday's four point performance ensured that we won't forget Nardi's name anytime soon. He was the spark that ignited the Brock comeback against Concordia in the third period, and he'll continue to provide a pulse on Brock's offence.
*Michael Fine: F Ryerson Rams
Another four assists on the weekend draw Michael Fine just seven away from the all-time Ryerson program lead at 79. But the captain of the best team in the OUA West has been doing a lot more than just setting personal milestones, as he's been a huge factor in Ryerson's success this season, registering a point in all but two games this year.
Key Games of the Week:
Ryerson vs Western, Thurs. Nov. 17th, 7:15pm EST
The Western Mustangs are on a serious slide right now, and the Ryerson Rams are licking their chops at the prospect of extending Western's losing streak to six in a row. Western has every reason to treat this game like a must-win, and in front of a typically boisterous Thursday night crowd at the Gardens, this one should be a lot of fun.
Guelph vs Lakehead, Fri. Nov. 18th, 7:00pm EST
The Lakehead Thunderwolves are in a really good spot at the moment despite a few poor outings this season, and the Guelph Gryphons should give them everything they can handle. Fresh off of losing another two in a row, Guelph is hungry for another win, and if this meeting is anything like the one Guelph had against Carleton two weeks ago, it'll be well worth your time to tune in.
1. With an off-week for the Saskatchewan Huskies, the door was open for the Alberta Golden Bears to leapfrog into first place in the Canada West Conference. They would have done it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids on the Calgary Dinos. Friday night's game between Calgary and Alberta was an absolute classic. Calgary managed to tie it late (more on that later), but it was Jayden Hart who thrust the dagger into the Dinos heart with his overtime winner. Saturday was more of a disappointment for Alberta who lost 3-1 while only managing to beat Matt Greenfield once. Despite the loss, rookies Tyson Baillie and Luke Philp continue to be brilliant for the Golden Bears. Philp had a very impressive six game goal streak before the loss to Calgary, and Baillie is standing toe-to-toe with the league leaders in point production.
2. Elgin Pearce might just be the most clutch player in Canada West. He fuelled the comeback for the Calgary Dinos against Manitoba last week, and this week, managed to tie up Friday's game against Alberta with 35 seconds remaining, while shorthanded. Pearce leads the Dinos with 10 points, all of which have come during his current six game point streak. Cain Franson is starting to get some momentum now too, with points in each of his last four games. Calgary's defence can get the job done, and it's well noted how wealthy they are with netminding talent. If the Dinos offence can take another step forward there's no reason they can't be contending for a top three spot in Canada West.
3. The Mount Royal Cougars completely ran over the Regina Cougars this week, outscoring them 13-2 in both wins combined. Connor Rankin has resumed his rate of production, but Jamal Watson and Luke Simpson are quickly emerging as two lethal point producers also. Watson leads the team with 12 points, four over the weekend, and Simpson exploded for six points against the Regina Cougars. Mount Royal has a very talented defence too, which is still improving, but right now they definitely look like a team capable of knocking Saskatchewan or Alberta out of a top two spot.
4. The Manitoba Bisons and Lethbridge Pronghorns split another weekend series. That wasn't too hard to predict, considering that both teams have split three weekend series already this year. Both teams are searching for consistency, and right now find themselves just above the final playoff position cutoff. Both teams ran into some goaltending issues this weekend, but there are still some differences in both squads. Lethbridge seems to be hanging on to grind out those close one goal games with some timely goalscoring from their go-to players. Manitoba on the other hand has much better blowout potential with players like Jordan DePape and Shaq Merasty on their roster. Lethbridge can pull ahead if they continue to put their nose to the grindstone, and for Manitoba, there's clearly some consistency issues to iron out, but their roster still contains some serious breakout capability.
5. The Regina Cougars got lit up by Mount Royal this weekend, and the stats are really starting to pile up against them. Not only are they having difficulty scoring, but Regina's 46 goals allowed is the second worst in the country. Dawson MacAuley and Mitch Kilgore both saw action in net this week for Regina, but neither came away with great stat lines at all. They didn't get much help from the team in front of them either, who mustered just 11 shots in Saturday's 6-2 loss. There hasn't been much that's gone right for Regina this year, but they'll get a chance to turn it around this week against UBC.
6. Carter Czaikowski announced this week that he's left the Portland Winterhawks to pursue a university education in Canada. Playing U Sports isn't out of the question for Czaikowski, but all of the coaches I spoke with this week hadn't talked with Czaikowski about playing for their team.
***Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce is the brightest star amongst Calgary's offensive cast, and ever since he recorded two goals against Lethbridge on Oct. 28th, he's been red hot. Although Pearce only had two points this weekend, he's the reason Calgary snuck out with an extra point on Friday, and had a helper in their 3-1 win over Alberta on Saturday.
**Luke Philp: F Alberta Golden Bears:
Although Philp's goal-streak was broken on Saturday, he's still one of Alberta's most productive players at the moment. He added another two goals in the win over Calgary on Friday, and even though Alberta was held to just one goal on Saturday, Philp drew an assist, extending his point-streak to eight games.
*Luke Simpson: F Mount Royal Cougars
Luke Simpson teed off with a big weekend against the Regina Cougars. His three assists on Friday lead the way to a 7-0 victory, and the following night, Simpson added another two helpers and netted a goal for good measure. Simpson appears to be making up for lost time after not playing a game at the Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth last season.
Key Games of the Week:
Calgary vs Saskatchewan Fri. Nov. 18th, 6:00pm MST
The Calgary Dinos gave Alberta a pair of great games last weekend, and if they can do that again this week against Saskatchewan, they'll quickly find themselves in the 'best in the west' conversation. For Saskatchewan, they've got their bitter rivals at Alberta nipping at their heels, which is all the motivation they should need.
Lethbridge vs Mount Royal Sat. Nov. 19th, 6:00pm MST
The Lethbridge Pronghorns managed to upset the Saskatchewan Huskies a few weeks back in what turned out to be a great mini-series. If they can do it again this week against Mount Royal, it'll be a big boost in confidence for the Pronghorns after two average weeks in a row.
1. The UNB Varsity Reds looked like the way the UNB Varsity Reds were supposed to look this week. They outscored their opponents by a combined 10-1 this weekend, taking down both Acadia and SMU. But the most encouraging sign from the V-Reds was the play of Alex Dubeau and Etienne Marcoux. The two combined to allow just one goal on 38 shots. That's a typically low shot count for UNB, and definitely factors into Dubeau and Marcoux's stats, but it's an encouraging sign nonetheless. Offensively, it's business as usual for the Varsity Reds, who lead the country with 54 goals, headlined by Philippe Maillet, who's making a serious case for MVP of the first half.
2. Last week I mentioned that this week could be a real indication of where the Acadia Axemen are as a team, but having walked away from this week with a pair of losses, maybe last week's success was just a mirage. Acadia still has one of the best offence's in the country with 35 goals so far, but somehow, their powerplay is amongst the worst in the country. Operating at just 6.5%, Acadia has just four powerplay goals this year, and leading the country in powerplay opportunities, the lack of success on the man advantage is definitely a contributing factor in their overall record. Goaltending has been an issue too, with coach Darren Burns resorting to Robert Steeves on Saturday against UPEI.
3. A week after suffering a disappointing 6-0 loss to UNB, the StFX X-Men rebounded with a pair of important wins this weekend. They closed out the pesky Dalhousie Tigers on Friday, and then took down Moncton the following night. Now that the scoring for StFX seems to be cooling a little, the focus has turned to the red hot Chase Marchand. Quietly, Marchand has the second best save percentage in the AUS, standing at a strong .936% through his five starts. As good as Brandon Hope was at the start of the season, Brad Peddle won't hesitate to flip flop between these two if necessary, and right now, Chase Marchand is their man.
4. The SMU Huskies and UPEI Panthers had a real weird game on Friday night. The final score of 8-6 for SMU paints a bit of an ugly picture for both teams, but seeing as the shots were only 27-19 in favour of Saint Mary's, this one was a real gongshow. Saint Mary's gets a free pass with their horribly depleted defence, but UPEI had a game like this in the season opener against Moncton, and they can't afford to have outings like these on a semi-regular basis. On the upside, these types of games are a feast for guys like Hunter Garlent and Bronson Beaton. Both had four point nights for Saint Mary's, and Garlent is looking especially good with ten points in four games before being shutout by UNB on Saturday.
5. The Dalhousie Tigers picked up another win this week after taking down the offensively gifted Moncton Aigles Bleus on Wednesday night. Having Phil Gadoury back in the lineup setting up two goals was a welcome sight, but he was back on the sidelines for StFX on Friday. Corbin Boes continues to be really, really good at hockey, but Myles McGurty has been secretly good on Dalhousie's blueline. He leads the team with eight points, six of which have come in his last four games, including a goal against UNB. Dalhousie will certainly take the production from McGurty, but they'd like to see their top offensive players start to pick it up in November.
6. I haven't mentioned the Moncton Aigles Bleus much at all this season, and a lot of it has been due to the fact they're racking up a handful of losses. Last in the AUS currently, the Aigles Bleus' biggest struggle is in the crease, which has the lowest save percentage amongst every U Sports team in the country by a fairly large margin. Brandon Thibeau and Alexi Thibaudeau have not had great starts to their respective seasons at all in Moncton's net, and it leaves some huge questions with a very shallow free agent goalie market right now. However, Moncton is still a deadly team because of the incredible trio of J.F. Plante, Allain Saulnier, and his brother, Alex Saulnier. These guys are the reason you still can't take Moncton lightly, and together they make a very real case for the best top line in U Sports hockey.
***Chase Marchand: G StFX X-Men
It was a week of strong goaltending performances in the AUS, and the freshman out of Halifax has been playing at a high level (2.24, .936) in his collegiate debut. Small, quick and intelligent, Marchand will be a key player if X is to make another run at a national title this season.
**Corbin Boes: G Dalhousie Tigers
The Dal goaltender is, at this point, the biggest reason the Tigers can entertain the idea of a playoff berth this season. The WHL alumnus stopped 76 of 81 shots over the last week, playing a big role in Dal’s win over Moncton and keeping the Tigers in the hockey game against St. FX.
*Cameron Braes: F UNB Varsity Reds
Even without dressing on Saturday, UNB’s fifth-year forward had quite the weekend. His three-point effort in Friday’s win moved him into a tie for the conference scoring lead, and was followed by being awarded the Rod Pike Memorial Scholarship on Saturday night in a pre-game ceremony. He’s undeniably ratcheted up his offensive game this season.
Key Games This Week:
Saint Mary’s vs. St FX, Wed. Nov. 9, 7:00 AST
While the Huskies were blanked by the V-Reds in Fredericton on Saturday, their eight-goal outburst in Charlottetown is cause for optimism. Of course, X is not UPEI and Chase Marchand is not an out-of-form Matt Mahalak. It will be interesting to see whether the Huskies will be able to hang with the red-hot X-Men in Wednesday night’s rivalry game.
StFX vs UNB Fri. Nov. 11th, 7:00pm ADT
The V-Reds were handed one of their two losses of the season thus far on their last trip to St. FX (Oct. 22), and promptly responded in typical fashion by pounding X, 6-0, the following weekend. UNB has won its last three games — two of them shutouts — by an average of five goals. St. FX will likely be riding a three-game winning streak entering Friday’s showdown, so long as they take care of business against SMU midweek.
1. Ten games into the season, and the Queen's Gaels are knocking loudly on the door of first place in the OUA East. Sitting just one point behind the UOIT Ridgebacks, Queen's has been consistently finding ways to win games, six of which have come with a goal differential of two or less. Eric Ming, Slater Doggett, Spencer Abraham, and Kevin Bailie are the usual suspects of success for Queen's, but their perfect penalty kill is worth noting too. That's right. Ten games into the season, and Queen's is the only team in the country to not have sacrificed a powerplay goal yet. Queen's is also one of the most disciplined teams, having gone shorthanded only 26 times so far, the least of any team in the country. Queen's was also very disciplined last year, but their PK% wasn't as good. Credit that boost to assistant coach Tony Cimellaro, who has worked on refining the Gaels' PK system, and their personnel have been killing by committee all season long.
2. Every time I've decided to watch another game instead of RMC's, I've regretted it. Not only did the RMC Paladins defeat the Western Mustangs this week for the first time since November of 2010, but they darn near gave the Guelph Gryphons a loss on Saturday night with three third period markers. RMC is on pace for one of their best seasons in program history, but it's still early, and the Paladins have to fight harder than any other team in the league to stay competitive. Dylan Giberson has been great for the Paladins with eight points on the season, but their goaltenders, Austin Hannaford and Matthew Murphy, have been baffling OUA offences on many occasions. As a result, RMC has the seventh best save percentage in the entire OUA.
3. The UOIT Ridgebacks took a kick in the stomach this week at the hands of the Lakehead Thunderwolves, losing 7-2 on Saturday night. Playing up north in the Fort William Gardens is a bit of a different animal for most teams, but UOIT could've come away with a much better result. Despite the loss, UOIT is still on top of the OUA East, and they continue to get offensive production from guys like Connor Jarvis, Danny Elser, Mitch Bennett, Cam Yuill, and Ben Blasko.
4. The UQTR Patriotes losing to McGill 6-5 on Wednesday night wasn't the most exciting sporting event to occur on the night of November 2nd, but it was close. Saturday yielded a much better result for UQTR, who downed Nipissing 7-2, but many are still wondering why the Patriotes have already lost as many games as they did last year. The reality is, going an entire season in the OUA and losing just four games is very difficult to do, and definitely takes some luck and good fortune. That luck and good fortune hasn't been on UQTR's side quite the same way it was last year. Statistically, they're not a very different team from last year, but not having Guillaume Asselin definitely hurts. Sebastien Auger has been shaky since his return too, but once he finds his game again, look out, UQTR can be just as good as last year by season's end.
5. While UQTR is treading water to stay above .500, the McGill Redmen are cruising their way through the OUA East. Make it four wins in a row for McGill, and although they weren't always easy, the Redmen are showing serious signs of taking their game to the next level. Mathieu Pompei, Dominic Talbot-Tassi, and Patrick Delisle-Houde are all clicking now, while Guillaume Gauthier, Jerome Verrier, and Christophe Lalonde are also producing for McGill. Nathan Chiarlitti found the scoresheet for the first time in his OUA career against Laurentian on Saturday, and now that the Redmen are close to full health, they can certainly come away with a pair of wins against Laurier and Waterloo this week coming.
6. After beating both the Ryerson Rams and U of T Varsity Blues, some thought the Carleton Ravens may have broken out of their early season funk. But they returned to their old ways again this weekend, losing game number two of the weekend, and walking away with a split. Carleton's 4-1 win over Western on Friday looked pretty good, with a strong start from Francois Brassard, and Brett Welychka, Adam Chapman, and Alex Boivin all having multi-point games. But for whatever reason, the Ravens are having a tough time stringing multiple wins in a row. They return home for a pair of games this week, but with both against the Windsor Lancers, the Ravens will have to lace up their work boots to come away with four points.
7. The Ottawa Gee-Gees got their biggest victory of the season on Saturday when they took down the Concordia Stingers by a 2-1 final. The Gee-Gees are the first team this year to hold the Concordia Stingers to under two goals in a single game. Graham Hunt had one of his best starts making 34 saves in the winning effort, and since returning from injury, Marc Beckstead has been looking good for Ottawa, scoring two points against the Stingers. The Gee-Gees are among the worst offensive teams in the country from a goals standpoint, but they're generating as many shots per game as the top teams in the league. Give the Gee-Gees' offence some time to hit their stride. Ottawa has also been hindered by some fairly poor defensive efforts in their own end and the crease. Against the big three teams in the OUA East (Carleton, UQTR, McGill), Ottawa is being outscored 22-9.
8. The Concordia Stingers are still one of the best teams in the country, but their pride took a small hit after losing to Ottawa on Saturday. This was especially surprising considering Concordia had all their stars in the lineup this weekend. But over the course of an OUA season, games like this are bound to happen to even the best teams in the league. Concordia's possession numbers are still very good, and their shooting percentage is right on par with where it's been in the past, scoring on 12.5% of the shots they take.
***Christophe Lalonde: F McGill Redmen
The Redmen forward had an impressive weekend in his own right, tallying a goal and an assist in McGill’s midweek win over UQTR and following that performance up with a two-goal effort against Laurentian on Saturday. He’s got five goals in his last two games — no big deal.
**Matt Murphy: G RMC Paladins
Again, this was the week of the goaltenders. RMC’s tendy stopped 88 of 93 shots to earn the Paladins an unlikely split on the road at Western (W) and Guelph (L). Murphy’s 44 saves led RMC to a shock 2-1 win in London on Friday, and the Paladins sit in the final playoff spot in the East as a result.
*Kevin Bailie: G Queen's Gaels
The former Oshawa General was up to his old tricks on the weekend, stopping 64 of 67 shots en route to a pair of Gaels wins in Windsor. Brett Gibson’s hockey team will go as far as Bailie carries it: That’s worked well thus far, as Queen’s sits second in the East at 7-2-1.
Key Games This Week:
Queen’s vs. Guelph, Fri. Nov. 11 — 7:30 PM EST
The Gaels are en fuego and one of a trio of teams — along with UOIT and Concordia — to have shocked the league this season. Kevin Bailie is Kevin Bailie. On the other side of the matchup are the Guelph Gryphons, a team that struggled out of the gate but, thanks to a few wins last weekend, sits just three points out of first in the West. Big one.
RMC vs. Lakehead, Sat. Nov. 11 — 7:00 PM EST
It sounds weird to say it, but the RMC Paladins are for real. Two of their three wins (Carleton, Western) have come against teams that went to nationals last season, and they’ve been part of a larger shakeup in the East. Lakehead, meanwhile, is more offensively potent this season and right in the mix in the West. Huge two-game set in Kingston this weekend.
1. After beating Ryerson by a 6-2 score on Thursday, some thought the York Lions might be the new sheriff in town on top of the OUA West. But that's a honour they have to share with Ryerson for now, as the Waterloo Warriors of all teams handed York a 2-1 OT loss. On the upside, the York Lions suddenly have one of the best goalie tandems in the OUA with Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields. There were definitely some questions leading into the season with York goaltending, but both netminders have fantastic numbers through the first five weeks of the season. For all the credit Trevor Petersen and Derek Sheppard get, Greg Milner is just as important to the offensive success of the York Lions. His six goals and nine points are third on the Lions, and Milner has 10 career OUA powerplay goals, tied with Petersen for the Lions lead in that regard.
2. The Ryerson Rams were torched four times by York's powerplay on Thursday and managed to kill off every penalty in a single game for only the second time this season when they did so against U of T on Saturday. Even with their perfect PK against U of T, Ryerson's shorthanded unit is the worst in Canada at 64.7%. In games that Ryerson has lost this season, their penalty kill is a dismal 50%. That's only over three games, but it certainly explains where some of Ryerson's deficiencies are, which is in their own end. Ryerson's team save percentage isn't anything to brag about either, sitting at just .875%, dead last in the OUA. Ryerson hopes to get Daniel Poliziani back this week, which is a help, but they need to figure out how to settle down other team's offences with the player personnel they have right now.
3. The Brock Badgers have been beating every team in sight lately, all despite their poor possession numbers. They're being outshot by their opponents by a whopping 106 shots over just nine games, which is a stark contrast to their winning streak. But Mitch Nardi returned this week, which is another offensive weapon in the mix for Brock, and when you've got guys like Adam Lloyd scoring four goals in a game, you know there's something working for your team. However, the Brock Badgers could have some worries in the crease, as Clint Windsor was forced out of the game against U of T with injury. It doesn't appear to be long term, but the last time the Badgers turned to their backups, the result wasn't pretty.
4. The leaders in the possession category among OUA West teams are the Guelph Gryphons. This one initially surprised me, but then again, Guelph has had a historic tendency to surprise people. They gave the Carleton Ravens a great game on Friday night, and came away with a huge 5-4 win. RMC gave them all they could handle the following night, but the Gryphons walked away with a full four points this weekend. Shawn Camp noted to me he still wants to see his team play a more basic style of play, and admitted there's certainly a transition, but maybe the Gryphons could be better than they're being given credit for. If they can knock off either Queen's or UOIT next week, they'll definitely be catching the attention of a few OUA East programs.
5. The Western Mustangs are going to want to forget about last week. Losing to Carleton 4-1 on Thursday wasn't great, but following that up with an OT loss to RMC the very next night had to hurt. There shouldn't be shame in losing to RMC this year due to program reputation, but the Western Mustangs are a very prideful program. I've mentioned in the past about Western's big roster turnover on defence, but right now, they're on pace for about 60 goals by the end of the season. That's a bad number for any team, but even more so for a program which hasn't scored under 100 goals in a season since the 1997-98. It's a pretty safe bet that Western will end the season with more than 60 goals, but it's an interesting narrative to follow nonetheless.
6. Speaking of Western's goalscoring troubles, Clarke Singer is inevitably on the phone across the country searching for a Christmas addition to jumpstart his team. The Zach Hall to Western rumour has persisted since mid-May, and even with Hall on the Reading Royals right now, he's definitely not out of the question to be a Mustang in second semester. Another, although less likely rumour, is that Greg Betzold could be drawing interest from Western. Betzold was released by Cincinnati for the second time this season and is currently a free agent. The Elmira Jackals supposedly have interest, but getting an ex-OHLer a year removed from 43 goals would be something Western would definitely be interested in.
7. The Lakehead Thunderwolves gave the highest ranked OUA program at UOIT a serious wakeup call when they forced them to overtime on Friday, then dismantled them on Saturday by a 7-2 final score. Bill McDonald continues to put trust in Devin Green, who has started every game, and the Dubchak brothers are both on pace for career highs in offensive output this season. With Kelin Ainsworth producing over a point-per-game, Lakehead is definitely up there with some of the better offensive teams in the OUA West when they are clicking. Mind you, this is all without Billy Jenkins. But can Lakehead keep the puck out of their own net? That will be the question that follows this team all year, but if the answer is yes, they can be a playoff contender in the OUA West once again.
8. The Waterloo Warriors picked up a much needed win on Saturday night against a tough team in the York Lions. It's a step in the right direction for Waterloo, but the fact they only won 2-1 doesn't show much promise for the offence. Waterloo simply hasn't been scoring this year, and really hope something sparks their young guns up front sooner rather than later. Defensively, Waterloo is just about as good as we thought they'd be. They're 2.92 GAA is sixth in the OUA, and they've only allowed 281 shots so far, which is also among the league leaders in the OUA. Players like Mike Morrison, Mike Moffat, and Stephen Silas are difference makers on a lot of OUA teams, but the Warrior forwards need to get on a roll if they want to string together a few more wins.
***Marc/Michael Stevens: F Guelph Gryphons
The Stevens brothers duo had quite the weekend for the resurgent Guelph Gryphons, with Marc (1-2-3) and Mike (1-2-3) combining for six points in the Gryphs’ two wins. The ’96-born Marc’s been a strong, nearly point-per-game addition for Guelph, while third-year forward Mike has already eclipsed his previous season high in points.
**Greg Milner: F York Lions
The Watford, Ont. native has picked up right where he left off in his stellar, 24-point sophomore season, potting a pair of goals and adding an assist in York’s shock 6-2 win at Ryerson to bring his season point total to nine in just 10 games.
*Adam Lloyd: F Brock Badgers
Anybody who scores four goals in a game, especially when their team wins by four goals, is good enough to be my choice for first star. The fact that Lloyd, a 22 year-old sophomore out of Ottawa, has already bested his point total from 2015-16 (8) in just nine games this year only accentuates just how good he’s been. Oh, and one of his four goals at Laurier on Friday was a game-winner.
Key Games This Week:
York vs. UQTR, Fri. Nov. 11 — 7 PM EST
The Lions are coming off a strong week highlighted by a signature win at crosstown rival Ryerson, and have been the best defensive team in the OUA conference. On the flip side of the matchup, the UQTR Patriotes — last season’s national no.-1 seed entering nationals — sit sixth in the East and, with Sebastien Auger still out, have struggled to keep the puck out of their net. Friday’s primetime matchup at Canlan will be very telling for both teams.
Ryerson vs. Laurentian, Sat. Nov. 12 — 2:15 PM EST
A rare afternoon start will see the Rams, who surrendered ten goals in splitting games with York and UofT last weekend, host the hungry Laurentian Voyageurs. Ryerson’s hands down the most talented group in the West, but had more than a few defensive slip-ups last weekend, while Laurentian — which started 4-3-1 in October — got pumped by both McGill and Concordia on their Montreal road trip last weekend.
1. The UBC Thunderbirds come away with their first 2-0 weekend of the season after a couple of nail-biter double OT wins against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. UBC has been getting progressively better over the last two weeks after a pretty disastrous start to the season. Anthony Bardaro just vaulted into the top three for Canada West point-scorers, and Austin Vetterl isn't very far behind him at all. UBC may not have the same scoring depth that other teams in Canada West have, but it's clear to see they have some talented top-end players, a deep defence, and goaltending that can keep them in games.
2. There were a lot of really, really good Canada West games this week, and Calgary and Manitoba had a pair of very close showdowns on Friday and Saturday. Already six of Calgary's eight games have been one goal affairs, and this week, they didn't get much scoring, but it came at the right time. Two goals from Elgin Pearce on Friday set the stage for a third period comeback, and despite a loss on Saturday, Calgary pulled themselves back into a game where they had fallen down 3-0 early. We also saw coach Mark Howell pull Coleman Vollrath fairly quickly on Saturday in favour of Matt Greenfield. It's an early indication that Howell may not have a ton of patience for his two rookie goalies this year if they have a bad start, especially given the talent he has waiting on the bench.
3. The Alberta Golden Bears are coasting right along in Canada West again with five straight wins under their belt, and find themselves breathing down the neck of the Saskatchewan Huskies for first place in Canada West. In those five wins, Tyson Baillie has rattled off 10 points, eight points for Luke Philp, eight points for Jayden Hart, and another nine points for Jamie Crooks. Goaltending over the win streak has been good for Alberta too, with Luke Siemens posting a triumphant .935% save percentage since his return, and Brendan Burke picked up his first career Canada West win against Regina. Alberta has a lot of momentum going right now, and the last two weeks have been an indication of what this team is capable of when on top of their game.
4. The Saskatchewan Huskies and Mount Royal Cougars had an eventful weekend with a 1-1 split, but both games having rather lopsided boxscores. On Friday in the 6-0 loss to MRU, Jordon Cooke allowed five goals, something he's only done four times in his last 41 games. Their shutout loss on Friday also marked just the second time Saskatchewan has been blanked going back to their season opener in 2015-16. But amongst all those stats, the biggest surprise might be the lack of production from Saskatchewan's recruit class. Initially thought to be one of the best recruit classes in the country, Saskatchewan's rookies have barely dented the scoresheet this season with Tanner Lishchynsky leading the way at three points. This is hardly a concern for Saskatchewan however, as their veterans are off to great starts.
5. The Mount Royals Cougars have had a finicky few weeks now since they started the season off 4-0. They looked dominant in their 6-0 victory over Saskatchewan, but then turn around and lose 6-2 the following night. Despite their five wins, Mount Royal hasn't been a statistically great offensive team this year, but what they have done well is keep pucks out of their net. Their team save percentage isn't great, but nobody in Canada West has allowed less shots than Mount Royal, whose goalies have seen just 222 shots so far this season. That's a good sign for Mount Royal considering their young defence, but as good as they've been, you can certainly see room for improvement on this team moving forward.
6. The Lethbridge Pronghorns dropped a pair of meetings against UBC this weekend, but they still come away with a couple of points. Damien Ketlo got the call in both contests, and definitely kept Lethbridge in both games, making some pretty spectacular saves, especially in overtime on Friday night. There might be more goaltending depth on this Lethbridge team than we think. But with the Canada West season still very young, Lethbridge has a lot more work to do to regain their playoff position, but so far, it's been a decent start to their season.
7. The Regina Cougars are off to a pretty underwhelming start after winning their season opener, but losing every game subsequent. They've been allowing a lot of shots, too many goals, and not scoring enough themselves. I have a hard time believing their defence won't get better as the season wears on, but the offence is definitely a reason for concern. Their top goal-scorer, J.J. Coleshaw, was absent against Alberta this weekend, and the Cougars have little depth right now to absorb his loss. Regina has another tough week ahead of them with two games against Mount Royal upcoming, and they'll need everyone to step up if they want to come away with a few points.
***Colin Cooper: G Mount Royal Cougars
The former Calgary Canuck posted a 25-save shutout against Canada West’s best offence in Saskatchewan on Friday night, and that outweighs the fact he was pulled in the Cougars’ Saturday loss against the same Huskies.
**Tyson Baillie: F Alberta Golden Bears
The Kelowna Rocket alum posted four points, including a game-winner on Saturday, in his team’s two-game sweep of last-place Regina. Two multi-point performances from Bailie, who’s lived up to the hype out of a stellar junior career with Kelowna, earn him second-star honours this week.
*Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
The veteran Calgary forward was in top form again this weekend, posting four points (2G, 2A) in the Dinos’ two-game split with Manitoba in Calgary. The former ECHL pro scored two goals and assisted Coda Gordon’s game-winner in Friday’s win, and added an assist in Saturday’s loss.
Key Games to Watch:
Alberta vs. Calgary, Fri. Nov. 11 — 7:00 PM MST
There’s always something special about a matchup between the Bears and Dinos, whether it be a Tuesday-night preseason tuneup or a primetime playoff tilt. The fact the two teams are separated by just two points, and both trail red-hot Saskatchewan for first, only adds fuel to the fire for this Friday’s matchup.
Manitoba vs. Lethbridge, Sat. Nov. 12 — 1:00 PM CST
This weekend’s two-game set in Winnipeg between the Bison and Horns will have major standings implications as Manitoba sits just one point up on Lethbridge for 5th in the CW. With Regina well off the pace this year, it’s reasonable to think that it will come down to Manitoba, UBC and Lethbridge for the final two playoff spots.
*Special thanks to Carlos Verde for writing the 'Three Stars' and 'Key Games' sections on this weeks article.