What a wild week in CIS hockey… and seven teams haven’t even played yet. It was a week where we saw the RMC Paladins defeat the Carleton Ravens on the same night UOIT tops McGill 5-2, and UPEI knocks off UNB in a shootout. To sort out and digest everything from around the CIS this past opening weekend, here’s the Tuesday morning skate.
1. Huge win for UPEI this past week against UNB in a shootout, and the Panthers now find themselves 2-0. I always fancied UPEI as having one of the most underrated recruit classes in the CIS, and that's holding to be true early on, with four of their top five scorers being first year players. As long as the Panthers get good goaltending this season, there's no reason to believe they can't hang around as one of the better teams in the regular season.
2. From the UPEI vs UNB game, we got our first look at the AUS five minute three-on-three overtime format. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say about it. Both teams played it very hesitantly, and as a result, minimal risks were taken. The jury is still out on whether or not this rule change was a good adaption to the AUS, but as one coach told me this week, "it's still better than four-on-four for 10 minutes".
3. Brad Peddle's StFX X-Men are off to a flying start, downing the Dalhousie Tigers and the Acadia Axemen. Brandon Hope got the start in both games and looked great, while Holden Cook carried the weight offensively with a pair of goals and assists. Bryson Cianfrone, Anthony DiFruscia, and Sam Studnicka all ended up reaching the scoresheet for the first time in their CIS careers.
4. It's a good thing Darren Burns brought goaltender Devin Williams into the program in late August, because with Brandon Glover on the shelf at the moment, Williams got serious playing time this weekend. Robert Steeves was yanked fairly quickly against StFX, and Williams kept them in it the rest of the way. More bad injury news as well for the Axemen who lost Stephen Harper about three shifts into their season opener against SMU, and did not play the following night against StFX. Acadia hopes both players will be healthy this weekend.
5. The Moncton Aigles Bleus could be in for an topsy turvy season this year. J.F. Plante, Allain Saulnier, and Alex Saulnier combined for a ridiculous 13 points against UPEI on opening night, and then were promptly shut down by UNB 9-0 on Saturday. Moncton's certainly feeling the effects of not having goalie Adrien Lemay back this year, and need to find a way to keep pucks out of their net, quickly. The offence is clearly there, but 16 goals allowed in your first two games is a terrible start.
6. NHL/AHL/ECHL teams are releasing players left, right, and centre, and as a result, it's becoming harder than ever to land a stable spot in pro as an undrafted over-ager in junior hockey. The trickle down comes all the way to CIS, and as a result, there could be some very good players available at Christmas. Keep your eyes on Aaron Berisha and Mathew Santos. Both will certainly get AUS interest, but OUA teams will be in on them too if they choose CIS.
***G Brandon Hope: StFX X-Men
Excellent start to the season for Brandon Hope. After getting the call on back-to-back nights, Hope slammed the door shut on Dalhousie, and then only allowed one goal to Acadia the following night. Goaltending will be huge if StFX has a chance at an AUS title this year, and so far, so good from Brandon Hope.
**F Allain Saulnier: UdeM Aigles Bleus
How rare is five assists in a single CIS hockey game? So rare it’s impossible to find the last time it happened in UdeM history. Unfortunately, the Aigles Bleus are off to a very rough start, but Allain Saulnier’s five assist effort against UPEI on Wednesday is worthy of recognition.
*D Jordan Murray: UNB Varsity Reds
Fantastic start for the defending CIS defenceman of the year. Clearly he’s picked up right where he left off, registering four goals and an assist in his first two games of the season. However, I’m sure he’d rather have won the game against UPEI than be on this list.
Key Games This Week:
Wed. Oct. 12th, 7:00pm AST: UPEI Panthers vs UNB Varsity Reds
After taking down the Varsity Reds earlier this week, the timing of this rematch couldn't be better for either squad. This gives UNB the chance to figure things out after dropping a decision to UPEI this past weekend, but if the Panthers pull out another big win on Wednesday, their confidence should be through the roof.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm AST: StFX X-Men vs Acadia Axemen
Another quick turnaround rematch, this could be a tougher game for StFX to close, especially if Stephen Harper is ready to go for the Axemen. Worth keeping an eye on Brandon Hope to see if he can keep up the standard he set this past weekend.
1. Great starts for both the Ryerson Rams and Guelph Gryphons. The Gryphons clearly don’t have many ill-effects from losing a number of players to pro, and goaltending from Scott Stacjer has been great to this point. Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine both got involved on the scoresheet, and expect both of them to stay there for the rest of the season.
2. On Ryerson’s side, they managed to down Laurier in the opener, then grinded out a big win against Windsor after falling down early, 2-0 to the Lancers in the first period. Charlie Graham made all the saves he needed to this week, and the Rams talent on offence is certainly showing. Unfortunately for Ryerson, they're already starting to get hit with the injury bug as Matt Mistele, Josh Chapman, Luke Mercer, Devon Paliani, and Chris Marchese have all been banged up this week.
3. The York Lions stumbled out of the gates this week, dropping games to both Brock and Laurier. In both games, York made a late surge, but it was too little too late. The Lions also flipped between Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields in net, showing there’s no clear number one goalie on campus at the moment. This definitely wasn't the start Chris Dennis was looking for out of his team.
4. The Western Mustangs were in tough for both games this weekend, losing their season opener 3-2 at the hands of Guelph, and then inching past Brock 4-3. Western’s defence has undergone a dramatic makeover this offseason, and it could definitely take a while for them to sort things out on the back-end before they make a run this year. For now, Greg Dodds and Lucas Peressini could be seeing a lot of rubber.
5. A couple early favourites for the classic ‘where did he come from’ recruits. Danny Hanlon looked good for Laurier against Ryerson, and then snuck a pair of goals past York on Saturday. Despite losing to Ryerson on Saturday, goalie Kris Joyce looked very solid for the Windsor Lancers. Don't be surprised if either of these players wind up as integral parts of their teams by the end of the season.
6. The Laurier Golden Hawks had a fairly poor showing against Ryerson on Thursday, but rebounded with a win against York on Saturday. They look better defensively at the moment, but with so many new players in the fold, it may take a while before this program actually hits their stride this season. Coach Greg Puhalski told me earlier this week that his team had some great outings in preseason, but also some pretty bad ones. That could turn out to be the story of the Golden Hawks this season.
7. The Brock Badgers picked up a huge win on Wednesday against York. Even after losing to Western on Saturday, Brock’s confidence should be pretty high. Great starts for Adam Lloyd, Chris Maniccia, and goalie Clint Windsor have definitely helped, but if Brock continues to be a difficult task for opponents this year, it will be because they play well as a team. Definitely some individual talent here, but if they hit the ice trying to win the game for each other, they'll be ten times better this season.
***F Jamie Lewis: Ryerson Rams
Tied atop the scoring leaderboard in the OUA West with fellow Ram Alex Basso at four points, Jamie Lewis is picking up right where he left off for the Ryerson Rams. Five points in as many playoff games last year made him the second most productive player on the Rams, and his 2016-17 season is off to a hot start.
**F Adam Lloyd: Brock Badgers
Big week for Adam Lloyd, as with a goal and three assists, he is rolling out of the gates. All three assists came in Brock’s statement win against the York Lions on opening night, and although Brock couldn’t take down Western over the weekend, Lloyd tagged on another goal for the Badgers.
*G Scott Stacjer: Guelph Gryphons
The Gryphons had a good week from a few players like Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine, but Scott Stacjer’s statline is the best among OUA West goalies at the moment. A shutout on Wednesday against Waterloo got things started, but his 36 save performance against Western showed he can be depended on when the Gryphons need a big save.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: York Lions vs U of T Varsity Blues
The first regular season matchup between the two since the V-Blues knocked the Lions out of the first round of last season’s playoffs in shocking fashion. After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, this is already a very, very important game for the Lions.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm EST: Brock Badgers vs Guelph Gryphons
After the way the SteelBlade turned out, do I really need to say anything here? You better believe the Gryphons are out for vengeance, and should be fired up by a great start and a homecampus crowd at the Gryphon Centre.
1. The RMC Paladins are atop the headlines across the country this week with their gigantic upset win over the Carleton Ravens. Despite a typically quiet recruit season, perhaps we need to be giving this Paladins team more credit. As one coach said in reference to RMC, “They have much better depth this year.”
2. A bit of a disaster here on Carleton's side. Justin Nichols got the call against RMC, and got the hook before the end of the game. It's way too early to press the panic button if you're Carleton, but it's a serious wakeup call. Worth noting also that Brett Welychka did not dress against the Paladins, and could have been a huge difference maker. Welychka is hoping to return this weekend against Concordia at the latest.
3. Worth noting that the Paladins also gave McGill a bit of a run after Bruce Hornbrook scored 50 seconds into their game on Friday night, and held the lead for most of the first period. Tough way to start your CIS career if you’re McGill goalie L.P. Guindon, but he rebounded nicely for the win.
4. Speaking of McGill goalies, L.P. Guindon and his fantastic .948 SV% in the preseason could be giving Jacob Gervais-Chouinard a serious run for his money in net. Especially after Gervais-Chouinard allowed four goals on 29 shots to UOIT in a 5-2 loss.
5. For UOIT, what a fantastic start for them. A shutout victory over Ottawa was a perfect start to their season, and a huge 5-2 win over McGill is a big-time statement. UOIT is now 19-10-0 under coach Curtis Hodgins, and could be one of the best defensive teams all year long if they keep up their pace.
6. Another team off to a great start is the Concordia Stingers. A perfect 2-0 after downing Nipissing in a pair of games, outscoring the Lakers 9-1. The 70 shots Concordia conceded this weekend is probably more than they’d like, but so far, Philippe Cadorette is definitely living up to the hype in goal. It’s also fairly clear that Concordia’s offence hasn’t missed a beat either.
7. On Nipissing’s end, this certainly wasn’t the start they were looking for. A four game suspension to starting goalie Domenic Graham doesn’t help, but being outscored 9-1 this weekend can’t be entirely blamed on the absence of Graham. Strange note here as well, as Colin Campbell’s first and only goal for Nipissing so far this year was scored at 19:59 of the 3rd period, as per OUA Leaguestat. Talk about a shutout spoiler….
8. How about the Laurentian Voyageurs this weekend. Despite losing both games, they get thumbs up for a great effort against the UQTR Patriotes. Friday night was the better of the two games they played, as for sections of the game, they lead UQTR in both shots and goals. Eventually Marc-Olivier Mimar saved UQTR from what would’ve been another humungous upset after he scored late in the third period to secure the 3-2 victory. Keep your eyes and ears open for Laurentian this year, they’re poised to be much better than last season.
9. Finally, the Ottawa Gee-Gees hit a bit of an offensive wall as it took them just over five periods to find the net. Connor Sills gets credit for the first goal of the resurgent Gee-Gees, but Ottawa came up short against both UOIT and Queen’s. After a strong preseason, perhaps some of the new Gee-Gees are just finding out right now what CIS hockey is all about.
***F Danny Elser: UOIT Ridgebacks
As mentioned, big week for the Ridgebacks, and Elser had a lot to do with it. His two goals against the Gee-Gees in the season opener ensured their victory, and his goal against McGill was the backbreaker that made the game 4-2 in the third period. After scoring just two goals in nine games of action last year, Elser has been a great early spark-plug for UOIT.
**F Eric Ming: Queen’s Gaels
This spot could’ve easily gone to Ming’s teammate, Slater Doggett, but Ming had a pair of crucial goals this week. After going down 3-0 to Carleton on Friday, Ming made the game close with a pair of goals, and his two markers on Saturday lead to a 4-2 victory for Queen’s over Ottawa. Four goals this weekend from Ming lead the way in the OUA.
*G Philippe Cadorette: Concordia Stingers
One second away from perfection. Tough way to end the second game against Nipissing, but regardless, Philippe Cadorette looked fantastic for the Concordia Stingers. A .986 SV% and 69 saves on 70 shots makes Cadorette the first star out of the OUA East this week, and Concordia hopes this was just a precursor for what’s to come from their young goalie.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs UQTR Patriotes
After a nightmare of a Saturday night in front of their hometown fans, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Carleton Ravens. In some ways, rebounding against the defending OUA champs would be great for morale, but that’s not going to be easy. Very important game for the Ravens on Friday.
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: McGill Redmen vs Concordia Stingers
Much like Carleton, McGill needs a bounce-back game, and this should also be a great test to see where the Concordia Stingers are at after last week. If the Stingers aren’t careful defensively, McGill will punish them, and Cadorette will end up seeing more rubber than he saw against Nipissing.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs Concordia Stingers
Another great test for both teams here, this could be a fantastic showdown given the circumstances. If Concordia pulls out even one win this weekend against either McGill or Carleton, that’s huge for them moving forward.
1. Not much out of Canada West this week, as just two games, both between UBC and Saskatchewan are in the books. The Huskies took both games and looked like the better team overall in both contests. Just in case you were wondering, Jordon Cooke hasn't missed a beat.
Stand by until next week, Canada West will get the same treatment as the other conferences, it's just a matter of getting their season kickstarted.