1. Hats off to the Dalhousie Tigers for a great start to their 2016-17 season. On Friday night, they brought UNB all the way into the shootout, which is something to behold in itself, and came very close to pulling off a massive upset. One night later, the Tigers kept the roll going knocking out the UPEI Panthers, 2-1 in a shootout. Corbin Boes is unquestionably one of the best goalies in the whole country, and his 88 saves this weekend played a huge part in Dalhousie's success. The Tigers are back at it again next week against the same two opponents, however this time both games will be on the road.
2. The Dalhousie Tigers find themselves in a precarious position with Chad Duchesne and Danny Moynihan. Both showed interest in Dalhousie over the summer, but ultimately opted for pro. It's still very possible that both players have second thoughts and commit to the Tigers for second semester, but because Dalhousie is off to such a great start, they don't want to wait for too long. The Tigers have just two open roster spots, and now with Jesse Lussier out with injury, the Tigers want to plug some holes in their roster soon in order to make a run.
3. The StFX X-Men and UNB Varsity Reds delivered another classic last week Saturday night in the 2016 University Cup rematch. Chase Marchand got the start for StFX a night after Brandon Hope allowed seven goals to the UPEI Panthers, and has his first win against StFX's arch rival. Brad Peddle has clearly found something with the line of Eric Locke, Kristoff Kontos, and Holden Cook, who went off for 16 points this weekend. But the X-Men have taken more minor penalties than anyone else in the country so far, which ended up being their fate against UPEI. As they say, there's always room for improvement.
4. The UNB Varsity Reds currently have one of the lowest team save percentages of any program in the entirety of U Sports at .882. That may come as a surprise to some, especially when you consider the fact that Etienne Marcoux had a 1.40 GAA and a .932 SV% heading into his start against StFX on Saturday. Alex Dubeau hasn't been great this season either for UNB, with just a .888 SV%. At this point, it's still nothing to worry about for UNB with only three starts in the books for both goalies, but it may explain part of the reason UNB has missed out on a couple of points.
4. The offence for the UPEI Panthers continues to roll along, with Cody Payne, Brent Andrews, Sam Aulie, Kurt Etchegary, and Beau McCue all off to fantastic starts. The new recruits continue to lead the way as first year players on UPEI have already combined for 29 points, far more than any other AUS team's recruit class. I spoke with one coach this week who remarked that UPEI doesn't play much differently than they have in the past, but their offence has much more bite this season. The X-Men figured that out on Friday when the Panthers chopped them up on the powerplay late in the third. Even though UPEI ran into a wall with Dalhousie on Saturday, the Panthers continue to impress.
5. The Acadia Axemen were aided this week by the return of both Stephen Harper and Brandon Glover. The duo yielded success right away as their return was coupled together with a 7-4 win over Moncton on Saturday night, and although the team still stands at just 3-3, it's a positive sign for the Axemen. Acadia is a better team than their record indicates so far, and expect them to get better if they stay healthy as the season progresses.
6. Week three was a much better week for the SMU Huskies offensively. Now having scored four goals in three of their last four contests, the Huskies have been getting recent contributions from Bronson Beaton, Anthony Repaci, Ben Duffy, and Taylor Burke among others. If the Huskies can find a way to bring together their defence despite being short a few bodies, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to compete deep within the AUS conference.
***Alex Saulnier: F Moncton Aigles Bleus
The Saulnier's are at it again this week, with Alex registering five points over Moncton's two games, and Allain with another four assists to his credit. Now if only the Aigles Bleus could find a way to keep pucks out of their net. Goals against aside, Alex Saulnier torched both Saint Mary's and Acadia this week, and although Moncton only came away with one win, Alex Saulnier continues to build on his great AUS career.
**Corbin Boes: G Dalhousie Tigers
The great start to the Dalhousie Tigers season has undoubtedly been a team effort, but without Corbin Boes, Dalhousie probably doesn't come out of this weekend with three of a possible four points. 88 saves in two games is an outstanding accomplishment, and his .934 SV% is second best in the AUS right now.
*Holden Cook: F StFX X-Men
Cook's linemates Kristoff Kontos and Eric Locke both had great weeks, but Holden Cook has had the hand of God recently, with a whopping 10 points in his last three games. Friday's 7-3 loss to UPEI was a disappointment, but still yielded a three point night for Cook. On Saturday against UNB, it was Cook's line that carried StFX to overtime, and his fourth goal of the game wound up the as the OT winner.
Key Games This Week:
StFX vs UPEI, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm ADT
A week after letting a 3-3 game slip late in the third period to the same team, the StFX X-Men will be looking for revenge. If they can stay out of the box, this could turn into a real five-on-five duel. UPEI's offence has been much more lethal than last year and provides the ingredients for a great matchup against StFX on Friday night.
StFX vs UNB, Sat. Oct. 29th, 7:00pm ADT
StFX and UNB have the best rivalry going in AUS men's hockey right now, so why not have another rematch this week? The difference here is it'll be on UNB soil this time around, but if this game turns out anything like the last, it will be well worth your time to watch.
1. Just two teams in the country remain undefeated, and the UOIT Ridgebacks are one of those two after downing the RMC Paladins on Wednesday night. Although it was their only conference game of the week, the Ridgebacks are still the pinnacle of the league. They'll be putting that title on the table this week when they play Laurentian on Tuesday, Laurier on Friday, and Waterloo on Saturday. If the Ridgebacks come away from this week with an 8-0 record, which is definitely a possibility, that's truly a remarkable accomplishment for this team.
2. The Concordia Stingers have a great roster on paper, and just got a little better with the addition of Mickael Beauregard to the back-end in second semester. The Stingers aren't necessarily done adding, as it's worth noting that Anthony Beauregard still has a letter of intent with the Stingers. Concordia is laying off for now as Anthony Beauregard continues his pro career with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL, but if anything changes, the addition of Anthony Beauregard would make Concordia's offence even better.
3. The Concordia Stingers are also very well fortified when it comes to goaltending. Obviously Philippe Cadorette is the number one goalie in town, but Miguel Sullivan is an effective secondary option, and Antoine Marchand is another insurance policy. Now Marc-Antoine Turcotte is set to be introduced into the fray for second semester after spending last season starting for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Concordia has more than enough talent in their net right now, which is rather remarkable when you consider how far this program has come goaltending-wise in just a couple of seasons.
4. The instability in the McGill Redmen's crease has to be a candidate for one of the most surprising stories in the entire OUA so far. Just two seasons ago, the Redmen had the lowest goals against average in the entire country at 1.96 with Jacob Gervais-Chouinard and Karel St-Laurent. This season, they're ranked 27th in the country with a 3.45 GAA with Geravis-Chouinard and L.P. Guindon. Both are talented goalies, but right now something isn't clicking. Friday night's game against Carleton had a disastrous start as Gervais-Chouinard was pulled after allowing three early goals, but the Redmen fought back to win 4-3. McGill's 3-1 loss to UQTR on Saturday isn't helping, as the Redmen will be much better off once their goaltending finally finds some consistency.
5. The UQTR Patriotes come out of this weekend with another 1-1 split, and still no sign of Sebastien Auger, Mathieu Lemay, or Guillaume Asselin back in the lineup. The good news is Alex Belanger has had a few great starts, like his 40 save performance against McGill, and guys like Pierre-Olivier Morin and Carl-Antoine Delisle are playing well, but a 6-3 loss to Concordia on Friday exposed some holes. This year's start hasn't been as good as last year's, but the Patriotes are still a lethal team, even without Asselin, Lemay, and Auger.
6. Odd trend with the Carleton Ravens, as they're 3-0 in their first game of the week, but 0-3 in their second game. It's been a very average start for Marty Johnston's boys, which won't be satisfactory for a program with the potential to be nationally ranked again this season. Corey Durocher, Mike McNamee, and Ryan Van Stralen have all broken out, but the Ravens are searching for a 2-0 week. They'll need to beat both Ryerson and U of T this week to do so.
7. Is Jacob Brennan the best goalie on the Queen's Gaels right now? The stats say he is, with a .946 SV% between his two starts this season. Don't worry, Kevin Bailie, is still one of the best goalies in the league. In fact his stats this October (2.55 GAA, .925 SV%) are around what he had at this point in his fantastic 2013-14 rookie season (2.36 GAA, .914 SV%). The point here is that maybe Queen's goaltending is a lot deeper than we're giving it credit for. Brennan was a long-time starter in his QMJHL days, and didn't see much time last year in the OUA. This week, both he and Bailie are part of the reason the Gaels won twice.
8. The Nipissing Lakers found out first-hand how good Jacob Brennan is when he stopped them 48 times on Saturday in a 4-2 Lakers loss. But Nipissing have their own proven QMJHLer, as Domenic Graham returned to the crease after a four game suspension, and immediately posted a 43 save shutout against the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Friday. Although his performance on Saturday against Queen's wasn't great, Graham is a big help to the Lakers in net, and with five points already this season, the Lakers could turn out to be better than what they appear to be on paper.
***Mike McNamee: F Carleton Ravens
If there's been anything consistent about the Ravens this season, it's been the play of Mike McNamee. His 11 points so far this season are tied for the league lead in the OUA with teammate Ryan Van Stralen, and make McNamee one of the most productive players in the league. His hat-trick in the Colonel By Classic on Wednesday washed away the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and another assist against McGill gave him four points on the week.
**Jacob Brennan/Kevin Bailie: G Queen's Gaels
Kevin Bailie may not be used to sharing the spotlight in the Queen's net, but this week, how can we not acknowledge Jacob Brennan? Bailie got the start against Laurentian on Friday and promptly shut them out, making 44 saves in the process. Just one night later Jacob Brennan comes in and makes 48 saves of his own, helping Queen's to a 4-2 win.
*Ryan Van Stralen: F Carleton Ravens
Ryan Van Stralen lit up the OUA last year to the tune of 22 goals, second to only UQTR's Guillaume Asselin in the entire country. This year, Van Stralen is picking up right where he left off. Although he only has one goal to his credit this week, Van Stralen assisted on all of Mike McNamee's goals on Wednesday, and added another two points to his total on Friday night. Corey Durocher has been playing very well on Carleton's top unit too, making them one of the most dangerous trio's in the OUA right now.
Key Games This Week:
Ryerson vs Carleton, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm EST
The Carleton Ravens invite the Ryerson Rams to the Carleton Ice House on Friday night in what could be the best test for the Ryerson Rams so far this season. A 2-1 OT loss to York was tough, and another loss against Carleton would certainly hurt. The Ravens are floundering for consistency at the moment, and a win against Ryerson could go a long way in straightening out their season.
Windsor vs UQTR, Sat. Oct. 29th, 4:00pm EST
The Windsor Lancers are off to a strong start, and their bashful style of play could create for an interesting matchup against the fast and skilled UQTR Patriotes. UQTR was labelled as one of the softer teams from the OUA East coming into the season, but if they fight right back against the Windsor Lancers, those claims will be disproven very quickly.
1. The York Lions have recovered from a poor opening week in a very big way. Four straight wins place them just one point behind the Ryerson Rams for the top spot in the OUA West. Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen have clicked for the Lions, and Mack Shields has given the Lions a couple of great starts lately. This week the Lions played like a top four OUA West team, and they'll need to play like that against Brock and Western this week if they want to stay there.
2. The Ryerson Rams hit their first bump in the road this week with a nail-biter loss to the York Lions, 2-1 in double overtime on Saturday. But the intriguing story was when the Rams dressed just five d-men, and 11 forwards on Thursday night, and still managed to beat the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Johnny Duco made a bold move by sitting out a few healthy scratches to send a message, and it shows not only are the Rams not willing to fool around this season, but can still beat a team without some of their top players. It's been Aaron Armstrong and John Carpino providing the punch lately, as they've combined for eight of Ryerson's last 14 goals scored.
3. The Western Mustangs are off to a 3-2 start, which isn't bad at all, but the manner in which Western is beating their opponents is a little different than what this program is typically used to. The Mustangs only have 12 goals to this point in the season, but have also conceded just 12 goals themselves. Apart from the rock solid goaltending, there hasn't been anything particularly outstanding from the Mustangs so far this season.
4. The Lakehead Thunderwolves come away from their first road trip of the season with a 3-2 record on the season, after losing to Ryerson, but sweeping the U of T Varsity Blues in both games this weekend. The Thunderwolves fumbled around in a Saturday night thriller which saw the V-Blues come back from a 4-1 and 5-3 deficit late in the third to force a shootout where Matt Campagna scored a candidate for goal of the year so far, but the T-Wolves managed to close it down. They've shown some weakness in their own end so far, but if the Saulnier's are the Sedin twins of the AUS, then the Dubchak's are the Eric and Jordan Staal brother combo of the OUA, as the Dubchak boys are both off to great starts.
5. The Windsor Lancers have emerged this week as one of the top teams in the OUA West with victories against the Guelph Gryphons and Western Mustangs. Neither of those two teams are by any means an easy win, and should give the Lancers some real confidence moving forward. Dylan Denomme has yet to score, but he's piling up the assists while Justice Dundas, Todd Ratchford, and Brennan Feasey are all producing for Windsor.
6. I figured the Waterloo Warriors would have trouble offensively without Colin Behenna, Andrew Smith, and Brett Mackie this year, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. With just seven regulation goals through their first five contests, the Warriors eked past the Varsity Blues last week in a shootout for their first win, and this week goalie Mike Morrison stole the Warriors a point against the Laurier Golden Hawks in an OT loss. The Warriors don't care who steps up for them right now, they just need somebody to start filling the net.
7. The final team in Canada still in search of their first win is the Toronto Varsity Blues. It's not exactly surprising when you consider how little this team did in the offseason to compensate for losing a number of veterans. The positive side however is that Aidan Wallace has four goals to start his season, and Matt Campagna is still one of the best playmakers in the entire OUA. The Varsity Blues proved they still have some offensive bite with a late comeback against Lakehead, but they're still in dire need of a win.
8. Clint Windsor returned to the net for the Brock Badgers this week, and the difference seems to be instantaneous. Windsor made 45 saves in a 2-1 OT win against Waterloo on Thursday, in the only game Brock played this week. The Badgers still haven't fully recovered from the mess they had last week, but this week's win was a step in the right direction.
9. Just like AUS teams, OUA programs are looking to beef up for the second semester. Both the Western Mustangs and Ryerson Rams could use upgrades to add defensive depth, and the Guelph Gryphons could be a team who make a surprise late addition. They were close to acquiring Stephen Pierog and Cody McNaughton last season, but both acquisitions fell through last-minute. Don't be surprised if Guelph takes another swing at a free agent, especially if Shawn Camp feels his team is in a position to make a move into the playoffs.
***Brennen Dubchak: F Lakehead Thunderwolves
Brennen Dubchak is off to a hot start this season with three goals and five points this weekend on the road. That's a little more impressive when you consider his previous career high in an entire OUA season is eight goals from his rookie season. However, part of the credit has to be given to his brother Carson, who has assisted on seven of 12 career OUA goals scored by Brennen.
**Todd Ratchford: D Windsor Lancers
Raise your hand if you saw Todd Ratchford being the anchor on the Windsor Lancers defence this season. Given, the season is only three weeks deep, but Ratchford has impressed early on. His biggest game actually came back in week two with a four point effort against Lakehead, but he followed it up this week with a goal and an assist in both wins against Guelph and Western.
*Derek Sheppard: D York Lions
Both Sheppard and Trevor Petersen are as dangerous as ever for the York Lions. The duo has combined for 13 points in the last three games, and this week it was Derek Sheppard with a pair of clutch goals for his team including a game-winner against Ryerson. Sheppard continues to be a wrecking ball on the back-end, and will have a lot to do with any success York has going forward.
Key Games This Week:
Western vs Guelph, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm EST
A rematch from the season opener for both teams back on October 6th, both the Mustangs and Gryphons are looking to make a move in the OUA West. After a nice 3-1 start, the Gryphons have been running into some difficulty lately, and the Mustangs have looked fairly average. Both teams could use a win, but both teams are even hungrier to have an impressive showing at the very least.
Western vs York, Sat. Oct. 29th, 7:00pm EST
The heavy artillery is clicking for the York Lions, and after a disappointing opening week have rattled off four wins in a row. These two teams went back and forth last season for OUA West supremacy, and with the confidence on the Lions as high as ever, they should be ready for the Mustangs. On Western's side, goaltending has been tremendous for them lately, and if York's Mack Shields brings his A-game, this could turn into a goaltender's duel.
1. Last week was a pretty good week for Matt Hewitt of the UBC Thunderbirds. Called into action last week Tuesday to back up Jacob Markstrom on the Vancouver Canucks after Ryan Miller went down with injury, Hewitt got the chance of a lifetime to live his dream. But just a couple nights later, it was back to reality for Hewitt whose Thunderbirds wound up dishing out a reality check to the Alberta Golden Bears Friday night. After UBC came up with a huge upset 5-2 victory, Saturday was a totally different story. But the Thunderbirds needed to cure an offensive drought in the worst way, and did so by scoring nine times on the Golden Bears this weekend.
2. Friday night was a bit of an embarrassment for the Alberta Golden Bears, who take pride in being one of the finest programs in Canada West. Clearly that defeat ruffled their feathers, as they came out on Saturday with all guns blazing in a 9-4 blowout victory over UBC. The downside this weekend is that neither Kenny Cameron or Brendan Burke looked great, and the Golden Bears relied on an offensive outpouring for their lone win. This could be a sign of the growing pains to come with a young Alberta team.
3. Nick Charif now appears on the roster page for the Alberta Golden Bears after transferring from Western last season and will be eligible in January for the second semester. He adds a nice piece to the Alberta blue-line, and given the way Western's defence is looking this season, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't want him themselves. Keeping with the defence, don't hinge on Jason Fram suiting up for the Golden Bears this year, as he's signed on with the San Jose Sharks system. Finally, goalie Luke Siemens is anticipated to be back in the mix for crease-time this weekend against Mount Royal.
4. Keeping with the theme of upsets in all four conferences, the Lethbridge Pronghorns came away with three of a possible four points from their series last week against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Garret Hughson is living up to the hype so far for the Pronghorns, and captain Tim Campbell has come up with some clutch goals this season. There was a lot of optimism around this Pronghorns program after a big recruit class, but there's even more now after this weekend. For the Huskies, it's definitely a blip on the radar, but the loss on Saturday shouldn't be of great concern to them.
5. The Mount Royal Cougars continue to look extremely impressive in Canada West, this week victimizing the Calgary Dinos. Jamal Watson and Conor Rankin have made an impact in the first two weeks of the season, but this past weekend it was veteran forward Matthew Brown who was filling the net. The Cougars have had it all so far with great offence, defence, and goaltending. All three of those attributes will be put to the test big-time against Alberta later this week.
6. A week after going 0-2, the Manitoba Bisons bounced right back with a sweep of the Regina Cougars last week. Friday's matchup saw the Bisons take the final 5-1, and on Saturday, a 6-3 victory. Jordan DePape's return to the lineup for the Bisons was a big difference maker, but both Justin Augert and Brett Stovin also stepped up offensively for the Bisons. In net, it appears Byron Spriggs is outplaying Justin Paulic, but coach Mike Sirant will certainly give Paulic another shot to claim the starting job this season.
7. The Regina Cougars have just one win this season, but they're making their opponents work for the two points so far. They peppered Manitoba with 38 shots on Friday, and kept the shot totals fairly close again on Saturday. J.J. Coleshaw has lit the lamp three times already this season for Regina, and although Andy Desautels ran into some trouble this week, if he recovers his week one form, Regina becomes a more difficult team to beat.
***Chase Clayton: F UBC Thunderbirds
In a week where the UBC Thunderbirds desperately needed to find offence, Clayton lead the way with a backbreaker goal against the Alberta Golden Bears on Friday, and then followed it up with another two on Sunday despite the loss. A four point week for Clayton equals his entire offensive output from last season.
**Justin Augert: F Manitoba Bisons
A long-time Steinbach Piston, Augert was a big-time scorer in the MJHL, but it never quite translated to Canada West... until this week. Two goals and an assist on Friday lead the Bisons to victory over the Regina Cougars, and for an encore, Augert added another tally on the weekend to complete the sweep for the Bisons. With four goals on the season for Augert, he's helped Manitoba's offence in a big-way so far.
*Matthew Brown: F MRU Cougars
Matthew Brown is one of the most seasoned veterans on the Mount Royal Cougars, and he also happens to be one of the most lethal scorers. With back-to-back 13 goal seasons, Brown was back at his scoring ways this weekend when his hat-trick in game one against Calgary ensured victory for the Cougars, and his powerplay marker on Saturday wound up as the game-winner, preserving MRU's perfect record.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Alberta, Fri. Oct. 28th, 7:00pm MDT
If the Mount Royals Cougars want to catch the attention of the country as a top two Canada West team, this is the weekend to do it. The biggest test they've had on paper goes down when they take on their provincial rivals in a home and home series. Game one on Friday night should be as competitive as they come in the regular season.
Lethbridge vs Calgary, Sat. Oct. 29th, 6:00pm MDT
Lethbridge is reeling off a huge upset win over Saskatchewan last week, and they'll be rolling into Calgary with a ton of momentum. Calgary on the other hand is looking to rebound after dropping a pair of games at the hands of the MRU Cougars. This weekend could serve as a pivotal point for both teams moving forward this semester. A big week from Lethbridge shows they're for real, and a big week from Calgary saves them from a poor start.