1. The Pesky Tigers were at it again this week. For an encore performance, the Dalhousie Tigers took the UNB Varsity Reds all the way to a shootout, and even flirted with a win in regulation time. Had it not been for the natural hat-trick from Philippe Maillet late in the third period, the Tigers would've taken this game 4-1. As you can imagine, Corbin Boes was a big part of the game winding up in a shootout, but what's even more impressive was his 48 save performance against UPEI the following night. It's interesting to imagine where this Dalhousie team would be if both Chad Duchesne and Danny Moynihan had ended up there on opening night.
2. Gardiner MacDougall saw enough of Alex Dubeau on Friday who was pulled after allowing two goals on six shots. As mentioned last week, the goaltending for the UNB Varsity Reds has been going through some rough patches lately. Etienne Marcoux rebounded with a big shutout on Saturday night, but only faced 13 shots in the process. The result is a very odd looking statline of a 1.65 GAA, but just a .893 SV%. With the kind of goaltending Dalhousie and UPEI have been getting this year, UNB might be considered average in that category this season. Describing UNB as average in any category still doesn't sound quite right.
3. The Acadia Axemen got off to a pretty average start this season, but looked anything but this week winning both games in convincing fashion. Sam Fioretti has been great for the Axemen of late with seven points in his last three games, Brett Thompson scored three times this week, Kyle Farrell has four goals in three games, and the return of Stephen Harper helps this team tremendously. On the downside, they've lost Marc McNulty to injury for the time being, and Devin Williams has run through a small rough patch, but the Axemen are starting to play much closer to their potential.
4. The Saint Mary's Huskies are in all kinds of trouble right now. A grand total of two defencemen are at their disposal this week in practice. Alex Cord received an automatic one game suspension for fighting Acadia's Taylor Makin, Austyn Hardie went down with injury on Friday, Mark Triccett still has mono, Stephen Gillard is on the shelf, and Justin Weller will not return to SMU this year. The Huskies have used 20 of their 23 roster spots, and when Triccett returns it will leave SMU with just two openings. You can bet Trevor Stienburg has been on the phone all week trying to shore up any defencemen he can get for second semester. Due to eligibility rules, Saint Mary's is basically handcuffed for the rest of the semester until they start getting bodies back.
5. A week after the StFX X-Men (specifically Holden Cook) blew the doors off the AUS offensively, they muster just two goals this weekend, both in a 2-1 win over UPEI. The line of Kristoff Kontos, Holden Cook, and Eric Locke was held off the scoresheet this weekend, which is a big reason why StFX didn't have much to offer in the goals category. There's no reason for concern in the StFX camp yet, and if anything, it's a perfect reflection of how flip-flopped the AUS has been on a week-to-week basis this season.
6. For all the talk the UPEI Panthers recruit class is getting, their goaltender Matt Mahalak has been every bit as good, if not, even better. Mahalak is incredibly crucial to the success of the Panthers this season, and that's why he's started all eight games. If the Panthers don't have Mahalak playing well, they certainly don't have the options teams like UNB, StFX, Acadia, and even SMU have in net, so two thumbs up to Mahalak for being the difference for UPEI in more than a few games this season. He held the opposition to just two goals this week, but still came away with one win and one loss.
***Stephen Harper: F Acadia Axemen
Since coming back from injury against Moncton last week, Stephen Harper has been living up to the hype as one of the best recruits coming out of the OHL this offseason. In his last three games Harper has racked up seven points, including a pair of goals against SMU on Friday, and a game-winning assist on Saturday against Moncton. Also worth noting, the Axemen are a perfect 4-0 with Harper in the lineup.
**Corbin Boes: G Dalhousie Tigers
For the second straight week Boes finds himself in the second star position, and had the final five minutes against UNB gone a little differently, he’d easily be the first star. Boes continues to make save after save after save, and it’s hard to argue against the opinion that he’s the best goalie at the varsity level in Canada right now. As one coach told me this week, “He might be the best player in the AUS conference.”
*Philippe Maillet: F UNB Varisty Reds
Philippe Maillet dressed up as a superhero this year for Halloween when he teed off for three late goals against the Dalhousie Tigers and had the shootout winner to save the V-Reds from a monster upset. Maillet has looked fantastic in this league since day one on UNB, and there’s no question he’s one of the best players in the whole AUS conference.
Key Games This Week:
Dalhousie vs StFX Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:00pm ADT
Can the Dalhousie Tigers keep up their improbable run? Their schedule doesn't get any easier after facing UPEI and UNB with the X-Men standing directly in their way on Friday night. Corbin Boes will have to be sharp again, and after a disappointing week, the X-Men will be hungrier than usual for a dominant offensive showing.
Acadia vs UPEI Sat. Nov. 5th, 7:00pm ADT
The UPEI Panthers have been one of the most watchable teams so far this season with their young and talented players. But now with a healthy Acadia team to deal with on the weekend, this could prove to be a great test for both squads. The Axemen have exploded for 20 goals in their last three games, so Saturday's showdown could be a real slugfest.
1. From seemingly out of the nowhere the Laurentian Voyageurs bust off a 3-0 week including a huge Tuesday morning victory over the East leading UOIT Ridgebacks. Blake Luscombe and Cray Roberge both had good weeks, but who's to credit with being the cornerstone to Laurentian this week? Charlie Millen. That's right, the third string goalie from last season who didn't play a game has emerged as the number one at the moment. Not only has Millen been rock solid for Laurentian, but his 1.10 GAA and .965 SV% is the best amongst OUA, Canada West, and AUS goalies. If Millen keeps this up for the rest of the season, he's the number one contender for the 'Most Improved Player' award (which doesn't exist, but definitely should).
2. Although the UOIT Ridgebacks dropped their first contest this season on Tuesday, what's not to like about the two wins they rebounded with this weekend? Perhaps the most underrated part of their success is how well STU transfer Tyson Teichmann has played, especially in the absence of Brendan O'Neill (who UOIT expects to get back next week). Teichmann's .932 SV% is fourth best in the OUA, and he's been a big reason why UOIT has been closing out games recently. Goaltending depth was something the Ridgebacks didn't have last season, but clearly, that's not the case at all this season.
3. Make it four wins in a row now for the Concordia Stingers who clearly have something going for them early this season. This week they swept away the Lakehead Thunderwolves, and Miguel Sullivan's 4-0 shutout on Saturday moves their team GAA to 2.15, third best in the OUA. That number is something special when you consider the fact Concordia has been in the bottom five for OUA GAA in the last five seasons, with the last two seeing Concordia have a lower GAA than only RMC. Philippe Cadorette and Miguel Sullivan have played a huge part in this, but credit a stronger defence and better puck possession numbers for Concordia's success this season too.
4. With a sweep of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, it looks like the McGill Redmen may have found the spark they've been looking for this season. Nathan Chiarlitti returned from injury on Friday, and the results were instant. Now the Redmen are basically back to full strength, there's no excuse for underperforming this week. I spoke with coach Kelly Nobes early last week who admitted McGill has had a bit of a transition with getting players like Christophe Lalande and Jerome Verrier set into their system, but it could be coming together now for McGill. Daniel Milne has been a quiet assassin with five goals this season, Mathieu Pompei had a mini offensive explosion this week, and the goaltending has showed signs of settling down. Those are all reasons to like McGill in the month of November.
5. The Carleton Ravens went 2-0 in one week for the first time this season, but the highlight had to be Brett Welychka's six goal weekend in his triumphant return from injury. Welychka took the league by storm last year too when he marked his first five OUA games with six goals and 13 points. There's a solid chance he may best those numbers in his first five games with Carleton this year. Mike McNamee deserves some credit here too, as of Welychka's six goals, McNamee drew an assist on five of them. These two together with the goal-scoring potential of Ryan Van Stralen make the Ravens' top line as dangerous as any other in the country. Five goals from Adam Chapman this season has been a great help to Carleton's depth too.
6. Sebastien Auger made his return to the UQTR Patriotes' net this week, but his weekend didn't go as well as planned. A 5-3 win against Windsor on Friday was nice, but Auger was chased from the net on Saturday after surrendering two goals on ten shots, and took the loss in the 6-5 Windsor victory. Auger helps fortify the Patriotes net, but UQTR has actually already done a better job of keeping the puck out of the net than last season at this point. Having Auger back is nice for UQTR, but they'd be even happier to see Guillaume Asselin join their lineup too. Another week without the league's most dangerous scorer saw the Patriotes come away with a split. Marc-Olivier Mimar, Carl-Antoine Delisle, Pierre-Olivier Morin, and Tommy Giroux have all pulled their weight offensively, but it just feels a little different without Asselin in the lineup.
7. Quick note, UQTR now has Vincent Marcoux back on the roster. After starting the season with La Tuque Loups, Marcoux had second thoughts and returned to the Patriotes lineup on Saturday against Windsor, scoring a goal in his 2016-17 OUA debut.
8. The RMC Paladins pulled out another win this weekend, downing the U of T Varsity Blues on Friday, and then holding a lead against Ryerson for a good portion of Saturday's game before eventually losing 4-2. The name of the game for RMC lately has been goaltending, with both Matthew Murphy and Austin Hannaford keeping the Paladins right in the mix. RMC's team save percentage is in the thick of the OUA picture, and in their last three games, Murphy and Hannaford have combined for a .950 SV%. That's a number that will give RMC a chance to sneak in a few more wins with guys like Owen Gill, Bennett Huber, Bruce Hornbrook, and Dylan Giberson finding ways to score crucial goals at the right times.
9. Maybe the biggest indication of how well RMC is doing this year is the amount of starting goalies they're facing. RMC has seen the likes of Kevin Bailie, Charlie Graham, L.P. Guindon, Brendan O'Neill, Charlie Millen, and Andrew Hunt. In eight of their games, the opposing team has started their number one goalie (determined by most starts) seven times. Last season, RMC saw starting goalies only 13 times in their 27 games. It's an indication that teams around the league are taking RMC more seriously this year, and says something about RMC's performance, seeing better goalies this year than last. Odd stat, but interesting nonetheless; ever since Kevin Bailie came into the league in 2013-14, Queen's has started him against RMC all but once, (Nov. 8/14, 14-4 W, Chris Clarke).
***Charlie Millen: G Laurentian
The Laurentian Voyageurs had a huge 3-0 weekend, dethroning the UOIT Ridgebacks on Tuesday, then disposing their rivals from North Bay twice. Charlie Millen was a big part of that this week, stopping 97 pucks en route to a perfect 4-0 record on the season. The consensus starter at the beginning of the season was Joel Vienneau, but that appears to be changing as of late.
**Mathieu Pompei: F McGill Redmen
This week marked a fairly monumental milestone for Pompei, as his assist on Daniel Milne's goal against Ottawa on Friday marked his 100th career OUA point. Pompei wasn't even close to being done there however, as he lead the way with a goal and four assists in Friday's win, and then followed it up by assisting on the game-tying and game-winning goals for the Redmen on Saturday ensuring their sweep of the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
*Brett Welychka: F Carleton Ravens
Having not played a competitive hockey game for Carleton since the University Cup back in March, it would’ve be reasonable to expect Welychka to have a game or two to get comfortable after his injury. You can chuck that notion out the door, as his six goals in two games against Ryerson and U of T made for one of the best comeback weekends of any player you’ll see this year.
McGill vs UQTR Wed. Nov. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
Another iteration of the classic Quebec rivalry is set to go down on Wednesday, and even though these two teams are just a pair of weeks removed from a 3-1 UQTR win, things could be different heading into this contest. McGill hopes they've found some momentum with a pair of wins against Ottawa, and if they get good goaltending, they'll be right there with the Patriotes. For UQTR, they're still dangerous, but also need a big night from Sebastien Auger, and will also need to suppress McGill's stars in order to win.
Laurentian vs Concordia Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:30pm EST
A battle of a supercharged offence in Concordia against the lock-down defence of the Laurentian Voyageurs. It shouldn't surprise anyone to see Laurentian come and try to grind out a low-scoring win, but even if the offence is taken out of the game, it'll be a great clash of styles in the OUA East, and a great opportunity to see if the Voyageurs are for real.
1. The Brock Badgers have the second best powerplay across the entire country. No, seriously, they do. The UNB Varsity Reds lead the country at 34% (shocker), but right behind them are the Brock Badgers with a sharp looking 29.6% on their PP unit. Matt MacLeod, Chris Maniccia, and Brody Silk have combined for six powerplay goals so far this season, and add Sammy Banga with Andrew Radjenovic to the equation, and suddenly you've got some pretty solid scoring depth. Last season, Brock's powerplay sat at 14.4%, 26th of 35 teams in the country. Mitch Nardi and Banga both scored often on the man advantage, but past that, there wasn't much to be said for Brock's powerplay. Their key offensive players have been exactly that this season, and that's why Brock can't be taken lightly. Just ask York how good these guys are.
2. The York Lions sit atop the country in the GAA department, at just 1.97 so far this year. The Lions came into 2016-17 with the second lowest GAA amongst OUA West teams in the last three seasons combined (all despite a train wreck 2014-15 season), so it's not a shock to see them where they are this season. But with the Perugini era over in the Lions' crease, some wondered if Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields could fill the void. It took them a few games, but so far, so good for York's goaltending. There's something to be said for York's defence too, which is amongst the league leaders in shots allowed over the last three seasons.
3. The Ryerson Rams are being ravaged by the injury bug, yet are still finding ways to win. Down to five d-men and 11 forwards against RMC on Saturday Josh Sterk, Matt Mistele, Chris Marchese, Luke Mercer, Devon Paliani, Austin Kosack, Josh Chapman, Marcus Hinds, Daniel Clairmont, and Landon Schiller have all missed time due to injury or illness. The Rams believe they'll get Mistele and Sterk back for York on Thursday, which will be a help for them, but guys like Aaron Armstrong and John Carpino have stepped up big-time in their absence.
4. Help could be on the way for the Ryerson Rams in the person of Fabrizio Ricci. I speculated a few weeks back that Ricci returning to Ryerson shouldn't be considered the most likely possibility, but I was unaware that Ricci is still enrolled at Ryerson for the first semester. So if he wants to play in 2016, it will have to be with the Ryerson Rams. Now that Ricci is skating with the team expect him to suit up for the Rams at some point this season.
5. Four wins in their last five games have the Windsor Lancers stationed just one point behind Ryerson for the lead in the OUA West. No doubt, their win on Saturday against UQTR is their highest profile victory to date. The Lancers powerplay is starting to heat up with Brennan Feasey, Julian Luciani, Justice Dundas, and Chadd Bauman all contributing goals on the man-advantage. Even though Dylan Denomme has yet to score a goal, the Lancers have the most goals in the OUA West. The offensive depth on Windsor this season has been much better than initially predicted.
6. Something doesn't seem right with the Western Mustangs. They don't have a single point-per-game player on the roster, and they've allowed 13 goals in their last three games. It's obviously still early in the season, but the Mustangs don't have the star power they once had, and they've had a few fairly poor outings already this season. Greg Dodds has more than proven his worth as an OUA starter, but if Western wants to make a run this year, they can't rely on him every single night. Out of teams that have played seven games, the Mustangs have allowed the second most shots. That's a reflection of a Western defence which hasn't found it's feet yet.
7. I spoke with one coach last week who described the Laurier Golden Hawks as having "a sneaky good offence". He's right on the money with that assessment. Laurier has a cast of players like Derek Schoenmakers, Andrew Fritsch, Danny Hanlon, and Brandon Robinson who can make you pay if you afford them the smallest of spaces on the ice. Even a guy like Luke Hietkamp has found the net four times already this year, rounding out Laurier's offensive depth. Defensive issues continue to be a problem for Laurier, especially when it comes to depth. Alex Annecchiarico and Braydon Blight can both address that issue, but they've been out of the lineup recently. Laurier definitely isn't a bad team, but their search for consistency continues.
8. Life is pretty difficult right now if you're a member of the U of T Varsity Blues. They are the final team in Canada searching for their first win, and losing to RMC on Friday followed up by a blowout defeat at the hands of Carleton does nothing to improve their morale. Right now the Varsity Blues are rolling with just three lines, which doesn't help at all either. U of T doesn't have a large roster at all, so with Ryan Kirkup and Connor Cleverley on the sidelines, their depth is being exposed up front. U of T could use a few bodies over the Christmas break to fill out their roster, but until then, it could be tough slugging for Darren Lowe's group.
9. The Guelph Gryphons have dropped four straight contests, all to OUA West opponents, and all of a sudden their national ranking from week one seems fairly distant. Guelph's recent losses can't be attributed to a lack of shooting, with 30+ shots registered in each of those contests, and 51 shots against Brock in their most recent 3-2 loss. In all four losses, Guelph has faced either a rock solid defence, or a very good goaltender, which explains the lack of offence. Scott Stacjer hasn't had a great time recently in net with a save percentage of .857 over Guelph's losing streak. The Gryphs will be in tough against Carleton again this week, but I'm willing to bet once Stacjer comes around again, the Gryphons can return to their winning ways.
***Alex Fotinos: G York Lions
Alex Fotinos came up big for the York Lions on Saturday when they took on the Western Mustangs in a crucial OUA West matchup. His 39 saves sealed the deal for his first career OUA shutout as Fotinos filled in admirably for Mack Shields. The Lions have the lowest GAA in the OUA West, and goaltending performances like this are a big part of the reason why.
**Matt MacLeod: F Brock Badgers
Just two points on the week constitutes a fairly quiet two games for MacLeod, but he picked his spots well, as both points came in a clutch 3-1 victory over the York Lions on Friday. MacLeod, as expected, has been a great find for the Brock Badgers, and with four goals and two assists so far this season, he's primed to contribute even more for this team through the month of November.
*Julian Luciani: D Windsor Lancers
Julian Luciani has one of the hardest and most dangerous shots on the Windsor Lancers, and this week it was in full effect, scoring twice against the UQTR Patriotes. Luciani now improves his goal total to three on the season, and remains one shy of his OUA career high of four, set back in 2013-14. It's no surprise at all to see Luciani start scoring at the OUA level, as his lone season of GOJHL hockey with St. Catharines yielded 22 goals quarterbacking one of the best powerplays in Canadian Jr. B hockey.
Key Games This Week:
York vs Ryerson Thurs. Nov. 3rd, 7:00pm EST
The last two games between these two combatants have been very tightly contested, and both have wound up going past regulation. Ryerson is expected to get some bodies back with Sterk and Mistele, while York continues to roll on the backs of Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen. This could be a real showdown at Maple Leaf Gardens on Thursday.
Laurier vs Waterloo Wed. Nov. 2nd, 7:15pm EST
Another great OUA rivalry going this weekend. Despite the poor start for Waterloo, they gave Laurier everything they could handle in their last meeting, forcing the game to OT. There's a little extra atmosphere added to this one, with the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium playing as host in front of a raucous crowd, providing all the ingredients for another tight contest between these two teams.
1. The Calgary Dinos landed the services of forward Parker Bowles for second semester. Bowles is coming off a huge 96 point season with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL, and theoretically provides a spark after Christmas for a Calgary offence which hasn't been particularly great so far. Bowles joins Blake Heinrich as the two big second semester acquisitions in Canada West, and it shows that CW teams are definitely looking at some big-time players to stack their rosters up for the playoffs.
2. The Alberta Golden Bears responded this week with a pair of huge wins against the Mount Royal Cougars. The beat goes on for Jamie Crooks whose 11 points lead Canada West, and this week Jayden Hart and Stephane Legault racked up their point totals too. For a team so young, it goes to show how important veteran production is to a team's success, with Alberta's top three scorers having seen this league before. Tyson Baillie, Luke Philp, and Trevor Cox have been producing amongst the rookies, but this week Alberta got a big boost from the returning Luke Siemens in net. In order to beat the Mount Royal Cougars, you need to be firing on all cylinders, and Siemens was as good as he had to be this week for Alberta.
3. On the side of the Mount Royal Cougars, losing a pair of games to Alberta is definitely a bit of a setback, but it's an early test that coach Bert Gilling might be glad his team goes through now rather than later. Connor Rankin was a glaring omission from the lineup this week, and in my brief conversation with Mount Royal, it doesn't sound like they're very confident he'll be returning this week. Matthew Brown was another weapon out of the lineup against Alberta on Saturday. The Cougars are in tough again this week coming with Saskatchewan twice on the schedule, a great test for Mount Royal's fortitude.
4. The Saskatchewan Huskies got a premature Halloween fright when the Regina Cougars managed to mount a two goal comeback in the third period of Saturday's showdown to tie the game. Lucky for Saskatchewan, Andrew Johnston was there to save the day with a late third period goal, his first of the season. Still no fear for the Huskies who are filling the net at a consistent rate and, of course, have air-tight goaltending. But what many don't realize is that Saskatchewan's special teams are among the best in the country, with both the PP and PK in the top five amongst all 34 teams. Saskatchewan leads the way in Canada West with 12 powerplay goals as Kendall McFaull, Jordan Fransoo, and Michael Sofillas all have a pair on the season, and their 91% PK is also best in Canada West.
5. The Calgary Dinos are bringing us exactly what we expected from them this season, low-scoring games. With Matt Greenfield getting his first taste of Canada West action against Lethbridge over the weekend, Calgary has given Greenfield, Coleman Vollrath, and Steven Stanford a shot in net this year. Stanford appears to be the go-to number one at the moment, and the fact he has two young puck-stoppers nipping at his heels should be more than enough motivation to continue to be good. Coach Mark Howell will have a challenge balancing his netminders this year, but if they're going to win him close 2-1 contests like Greenfield did on Saturday, Howell is more than welcome to the challenge.
6. The Lethbridge Pronghorns didn't come away with a point this week, but they stood toe-to-toe with the Calgary Dinos in both games. I spoke with a coach this week who remarked that Lethbridge is definitely a harder team to get two points against this year, and they've taken steps forward two seasons in a row now. Coach Sprios Anastas will be happy with the goaltending effort thus far, but the offence could use a kick start. Lethbridge haven't been generating many shots, at just 189 through their first six games, third lowest in Canada West, but keep in mind they've faced a strong defensive team in Regina, and then two of the best goaltending teams with Saskatchewan and Calgary. The picture of where Lethbridge is right now will become much clearer within the next two weeks.
7. The Manitoba Bisons and UBC Thunderbirds grinded out a split this weekend, with Manitoba taking game one, 3-2, then UBC flipping the outcome on Saturday. Manitoba's Byron Spriggs improved to 3-1 with his win on Friday, while Justin Paulic fell to 0-2 after Saturday's game. Manitoba is getting the expected production from Jordan DePape, but both Shaq Merasty and Remi Laurencelle have chipped in on the scoresheet. UBC finally managed to kill off some penalties, holding Manitoba to 1-7 on the PP for the week, which could go a ways in them staying a lot closer in games and pushing out a few more wins as they did on Saturday.
***Luke Siemens: G Alberta Golden Bears
It was very important this week that the Golden Bears got a better goaltending performance than they did last week, and coming off of injury, Siemens immediately stepped in and delivered for Alberta. Siemens made 58 saves against the Mount Royal Cougars and is a large reason why the Golden Bears went 2-0 this week.
**Anthony Bardaro: F UBC Thunderbirds
UBC's offensive struggles at the beginning of the season were well documented, and if there's any single player that broke them out of their slump, it's Anthony Bardaro. Bardaro leads the team with four goals and four assists, all coming in his last four games. His third period game-winner against Manitoba capped off a three-point Saturday for Bardaro.
*Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce had his best weekend of the season against Lethbridge with four points, including three goals over a two game span. His two goals on Friday proved to be the difference against the Pronghorns. Pearce then scored the equalizer for Calgary on Saturday, and then had a helping hand in the game-winner. Calgary hopes this is the boost Pearce needs to get going offensively.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Saskatchewan Fri. Nov. 4th, 7:00pm MDT
The reality is if Mount Royal loses both games this week, it doesn't cripple their season, but they have to treat it as though it would. The Cougars have to come away with at least one win, which won't be easy against the kings of Canada West, the Saskatchewan Huskies.
Manitoba vs Calgary Sat. Nov. 5th, 2:00pm MDT
Both teams have interesting goaltending situations right now, and with the crease Calgary has, it'll be interesting to see if they opt to go back to Coleman Vollrath for a start this weekend. The Dinos also need to get the offence going, and after a better looking week against Lethbridge, we'll see if they can build on that against Manitoba. The Bisons, on the other hand, are still a really good team on paper, but whether or not they are on ice will become a little clearer after this series.