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.