1. As I mentioned on Twitter this week, it sounds like the Canadian U20 WJC squad will face off against the U Sports Selects in a couple of exhibition games on December 12th and 13th. Those dates are not confirmed just yet, and won't be until the official announcement is made. Early rumours are these games will be taking place in Blainville, just outside of Montreal.
2. I was told by a coach this week to expect the U Sports Selects roster to be out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I'll be working on confirming how many roster slots will be set aside for each conference representation.
1. The StFX X-Men are definitely able to compete with the UNB Varsity Reds, but they haven't shown it in their last two meetings. Another blowout loss, this time a 7-3 final on Saturday night leaves the X-Men searching for another method to take down the V-Reds. On the upside, StFX still comes away from the week with two wins over Saint Mary's and UPEI. Michael Clarke has been especially productive for StFX lately, with an ongoing five game point streak, and ten points over that span. Bryson Cianfrone has five points in his last three games too, ensuring StFX's OHL recruit class continues to produce. StFX gets Acadia this coming week, and then Saint Mary's, a team they've already lost to once this year.
2. The UNB Varsity Reds have been without Cameron Braes for the last three games and Colin Suellentrop for the last two, but they haven't missed a single beat in their absences. Chris Clapperton played a part in filling the void when he returned from injury this week and scored a goal in his second game back against Dalhousie. Not only is the offence still the best in the country, but UNB now possesses the lowest goals against average from coast-to-coast. Certainly no surprise to anyone to see UNB dominating as the best team in the country right now.
3. Corbin Boes must know something about UNB that no one else does, because his save percentage head-to-head against them (.907%) is better than any other AUS goalie by a fair margin in the last two seasons. But this week, even Corbin Boes couldn't subdue UNB, as the Dalhousie Tigers lost in a rather routine 4-1 game on Friday. However, Dalhousie still came away with a 3-1 victory over UPEI on Friday night, which is still encouraging, but their 4-1 loss to Acadia on Wednesday keeps them around .500. Dalhousie's offence is still sparse at best, but without Phil Gadoury in the lineup, that's not a surprise. But Andrew Rieder leads the way with five goals on the season, including a couple key shorthanded markers.
4. The UPEI Panthers have hit a momentary wall lately, dropping five of their last seven contests. This week they suffered a couple of setbacks to Dalhousie and StFX, and we've seen on a couple of occasions now when goaltender Matt Mahalak isn't having a good night, things can fall apart quickly. UPEI's recruit production has slowed lately too, with the exception of the point-per-game Cody Payne. An injury to Beau McCue has slowed the production rate, but UPEI should have enough depth to absorb that loss. J.C. Campagna and Kurt Etchegary haven't provided much spark offensively recently, but you have to imagine they'll come around again at some point this season. But until then, UPEI is starting to flounder.
5. After faltering against UNB and UPEI last week, the Acadia Axemen got back in the win column a couple of times this week with victories over Dalhousie and Moncton. Acadia's offence looked as good as usual against the Tigers, highlighted by a three-point night from Remy Giftopoulos. However, Saturday night against Moncton wasn't nearly as easy. Down 5-1 heading into the third period, Acadia stormed back with goals from Daniel Pettersson, Taylor Makin, Boston Leier, and Stephen Harper to tie it late, and then Matt Pufahl drove the nail into Moncton's coffin with an OT winner. Moncton's goaltending and defence has been shabby all season, but give credit to Acadia's offence, which is one of the best in the AUS right now.
6. On the side of the Moncton Aigles Bleus, it's actually ridiculous how good their first line of J.F. Plante and the Saulnier twins is. UNB and Dalhousie are the only two teams that have kept them off the scoresheet in a single game this year, and it doesn't seem to matter what you do, this line will find a way to generate chances. Plante is the triggerman with a country-leading 14 goals, Allain Saulnier leads the country with a whopping 23 assists, and Alex Saulnier is the all-rounder with six goals and 13 assists. It's hard to imagine that the team with the most lethal first line in the country could miss the playoffs, but right now, that's a possibility. Moncton has already allowed more goals this year than RMC, Laurentian, and St. Thomas scored last year, and until they sort out those issues in their own end, they'll be susceptible to late meltdowns like they had against Acadia.
7. Quiet week for Saint Mary's who lose to StFX, but then beat Moncton 5-1. The win against Moncton is actually pretty impressive considering what type of firepower Moncton is packing, and it was a good showing for Eric Brassard, who is being plateaued with Cole Cheveldave in the net. Nice week for defenceman Kyle Pereira too who had a pair of assists against StFX, and then added a late tally against Moncton.
8. Carl Tremblay is a name worth keeping an eye on over the next month or so. A defenceman who spent last season in Val-d'Or, he was cut from Elmira early last week and has since caught on with Trois-Rivieres in the LNAH. This is pure speculation at the moment, but I would imagine a few AUS or OUA teams in search of a defenceman could be kicking his tires to play for second semester.
***Remy Giftopoulos: F Acadia Axemen
Gifttopoulos saw his production rate drop off a little last season after a very strong 23 point rookie campaign with Acadia back in 2014-15. But his numbers this season are starting to look even better than what he had as a rookie, as his two goal performance against Dalhousie and four-point weekend overall bring his total up to 12 points through as many games.
**Michael Clarke: F StFX X-Men
Surprise! StFX found another ex-OHLer who can seriously produce. This week Clarke had the spotlight in StFX's three games, posting two goals and four assists for a fine-looking six point week. It's a much needed breakout for Clarke, who only had four points through his first eight games of the season, but now has 10 in his last five.
*J.F. Plante: F Moncton Aigles Bleus
J.F. Plante is the most lethal sniper in the AUS right now with 14 goals through 12 games. That total leads the country by a comfortable margin, and he padded it on Saturday with a hat-trick performance against Acadia. Plante added a goal the night before too against SMU, but credit to linemate Allain Saulnier as well, who drew an assist on all of Plante's goals this week.
Key Games of the Week:
Acadia vs StFX, Wed. Nov. 16th, 7:00pm AST
Acadia's offence is still one of the best in the AUS, and in a lot of ways, the StFX X-Men are right there with them in terms of firepower. Acadia needs to get a better start from one of their goalies to win this game, and if they do, this could be anyone's to win between two very talented squads.
UPEI vs Moncton, Fri. Nov. 18th, 7:00pm AST
UPEI has a real bad week to put behind them, and there's no better way to do that then to pull out a win against Moncton on Friday. The season opener between these two teams was an all-out slugfest, and the rematch was an OT thriller. It's hard to tell what to expect from this one on Friday, which is what makes this game so intriguing.
1. The Queen's Gaels continue to roll right along in the OUA East with five straight wins. But for the first time since Feb. 10th of last season, the Gaels conceded a powerplay goal. Western's Robert Polesello slid one past Jacob Brennan in the first period on the man advantage, but the Gaels rebounded to squeak past Western in the shootout, winning 4-3. Slater Doggett, Eric Ming, Spencer Abraham, and Queen's' goalies are often credited for their recent success, but Darcy Greenaway and Dylan Anderson have both been contributing lately over the Gaels' five game win streak. Depth was something coach Brett Gibson felt he addressed this offseason, and so far the Gaels are a more well-rounded team than they were last season. That's why they sit just one point out of first place in the OUA East.
2. The UOIT Ridgebacks continue to lead the OUA East after a strong pair of performances this week against Western and Guelph. Both adversaries hailing from the OUA West, UOIT needed a bounce-back week after a leaving Lakehead with their tails between their legs. Friday's game against Western was never really that close, and Mike Robinson's hat-trick lead the way to a big 6-0 victory. Guelph gave them a better game on Saturday, but Cam Yuill, Ben Blasko, and Connor Jarvis proved to be too much. After scoring in his first four games this year, Danny Elser hasn't lit the lamp since Oct. 28th against Laurier, but UOIT's offence rolls on nonetheless. Connor Jarvis has been a big part of that, leading UOIT with eight goals this season.
3. The McGill Redmen won't be happy with their 4-3 OT loss to Laurier on Friday, but the following night's shellacking of Waterloo, 7-1, reminds us that McGill is still among the OUA's hottest teams. Daniel Milne and Christophe Lalonde continue to fill the net, as they've now combined for 17 goals on the season. The usual cast of Patrick Delisle-Houde Mathieu Pompei, and company have been producing as usual, and just in case you forgot about him, Dominic Talbot-Tassi is still one of the best puck movers in the conference. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard had his first sub-two goal performance in net this year against Waterloo, which feels odd having taken this long given his past numbers in this league. As long as goaltending holds the course, McGill should stay as one of the best teams in the league.
4. The Carleton Ravens are a team struggling to find consistency at the moment, as evidenced by their 7-5 record. Another weekend split for the Ravens, this time it was the Windsor Lancers who took one of two games against Carleton. Goalie Matt Jenkins got the start on Saturday against Windsor as a reward for his hard work and patience, and in allowing one goal, looked rather impressive as Carleton's third stringer. It's been the blueline that's showed holes lately, with namely Jeremie Fraser among others missing some time as the Ravens haven't quite hit their groove yet defensively. As good as their netminding has been the past few seasons, their defence has been every bit as good too. If the Ravens can sort things out defensively, look for them to climb back up the standings.
5. The Ottawa Gee-Gees seem to have found something with their game lately, as they're winners of three in a row going back to last week. They managed to grind out a 2-1 win over Waterloo on Friday, and then followed up with a 4-0 win against Laurier, marking the first career shutout for Anthony Brodeur in the OUA. Kevin Domingue continues to be a real bright spot on an offence that has been fairly harmless so far. Domingue has two game-winners on Ottawa's mini-win streak, as well as five points in that time. Marc Beckstead also continues to produce with five points in as many games since his return. The Gee-Gees are in tough against Brock and York this upcoming week, but if they continue to get rock solid goaltending, another win certainly isn't out of the question.
6. The Concordia Stingers lost their first consecutive games when they were defeated by Brock on Friday after losing to Ottawa the week previous. A nice rebound victory over York on Saturday ensures Concordia remains top-three in the OUA East. The Stingers were looking good against Brock heading into the third, but a late meltdown reminded us of Concordia teams from the past. But the fact head coach Marc-Andre Element stuck with Philippe Cadorette the following night against York shows he's still very confident in his netminder. Anthony De Luca has been red hot recently amongst a star cast of snipers. He's scored in four straight games, and leads the OUA with 11 goals, reminiscent of his 44 goal season with Rimouski in 2014-15.
7. After losing just four games throughout the entirety of last season, the UQTR Patriotes have already dropped six decisions this year. This is a surprise to some considering their minimal roster turnover, but maybe teams are starting to figure out just what makes the Patriotes tick. Guillaume Asselin was reintroduced to the lineup this weekend against York, and immediately scored a goal in both games he played this weekend. The Patriotes offence is virtually unstoppable with Asselin, but teams are finding some holes in UQTR's game which have lead to a few key goals, like York's Steven Janes scoring late in the third period of Friday night's contest. UQTR needs to stop giving up untimely markers if they want to turn things around.
8. Both OUA East teams from up north, Nipissing and Laurentian, had similar weekends. Both lost to the Ryerson Rams, and then rebounded with victories over the U of T Varsity Blues. Nipissing's struggle to find offence continues, but they hope a five goal output against U of T gets the ball rolling. For Laurentian, they gave Ryerson a good fight on Saturday afternoon, but were simply outmatched by Ryerson's talent. Although a better team offensively than Nipissing, Laurentian has been lacking scoring from their depth pieces, which could come back to hurt them. On the bright-side, Nick Esposto has a nice four game point streak going, including three goals.
***Mike Robinson: F UOIT Ridgebacks
UOIT has received offensive contributions from a number of players this season, but on Friday night, it was Mike Robinson's time to shine. His hat-trick and assist propelled the Ridgebacks to a dominant 6-0 win over Western, reasserting their dominance atop the OUA East.
**Christophe Lalonde: F McGill Redmen
As per usual, the McGill Redmen have a strong cast of forwards who are consistently filling the net against their opponents. But Lalonde has stepped up recently after joining the team halfway through last season, and leads McGill with nine goals, three of which came against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday in a dominant 7-1 win.
*Anthony De Luca: F Concordia Stingers
On a team filled with star-studded offensive weapons, Anthony De Luca is starting to separate himself from the rest of the team as one of their most gifted players. Already with 11 goals on the season, De Luca continued his rampant pace through the OUA with a goal and an assist against Brock, and then another two goals against York on Saturday.
Key Games of the Week:
York vs McGill, Fri. Oct. 18th, 7:00pm EST
The York Lions hit the road for Quebec to take on one of the OUA's hottest teams on Friday night. This should be a great matchup between a highly offensively skilled team in McGill, and a highly defensively efficient team in York. It's a great matchup on paper between two different styles of play.
Queen's vs UQTR, Fri. Oct. 18th, 7:00pm EST
Who can possibly stop UQTR's offence? Kevin Bailie.... maybe. Even the OUA's best goaltender will be in tough against one of the deadliest offensive teams in the OUA. But UQTR has had a tendency to give up some pretty untimely goals lately, so don't be shocked if this one winds up in overtime.
1. The more we see of the Ryerson Rams, the more they begin to look like the real deal this season. They blew through both Nipissing and Laurentian this weekend and reclaim their position alone on top of the OUA West. Their 49 goals are also biting at the heals of the Carleton Ravens and UQTR Patriotes. This is all after a season were the Rams had their worst offensive output (86 goals) since 2012. Junior C legend Aaron Armstrong continues to be a fantastic story, with 14 points in 11 games, Michael Fine seems to break a program record every night, and the newest addition, Fabrizio Ricci, has found the net twice already. The Rams have a favourable schedule coming this week squaring off against a pair of offensively challenged teams in Western and Waterloo.
2. As far as I can trace, the Western Mustangs have never lost five consecutive regular season games until this season. If they've done it before, it hasn't been since the late 90's at the earliest. The point is, Western is going through some very uncharacteristic struggles right now, and desperately need to sort out their game. Goaltending wasn't as strong this week, but Western simply isn't getting the offensive production to help. Connor Chartier, Jonathan Laser, and Robert Polesello share a three-way tie for the most points on Western with six. But in 11 games, that's well off the pace. Matt Marantz, Spenser Cobbold, and Andrew Goldberg all missed time this weekend, but Western typically has enough depth to cover that kind of loss. Worth noting as well, I was told by a couple of sources this week that the chances of Western getting either Zach Hall or Greg Betzold are slim to none.
3. All of a sudden the Lakehead Thunderwolves are fourth in the OUA West. They powered their way through a couple of one-goal wins against RMC this week, and voila, here they are. Of Lakehead's six wins this year, four have come against last-place teams, but whatever. The point is, they're right in the thick of the race for supremacy in the OUA West. For most of the season, it's been the offence getting the job done for the Thunderwolves, but this week against RMC it was their goalie, Devin Green, who held the Paladins at bay. In the month of November, Green's GAA is at 1.47 with a SV% of .951. It's a stark contrast from his 4.11 GAA and .867 SV% in the month of October.
4. The York Lions were in tough this week, dealing with two of the country's best offences in Concordia and UQTR. Surrendering five goals this week against those teams definitely isn't bad for York, and should solidify their distinction as one of the best defensive teams in the OUA. The Friday night showdown with UQTR was the one the Lions will look proudly upon, as a late marker from Steven Janes tied it up in the third period, and in double overtime, Greg Milner sealed the victory with his seventh goal of the season. Concordia gave the Lions a harder time, and it resulted in a 3-2 loss, but York definitely held their own against the Stingers. Both Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields split the weekend, and their combined save percentage stands at an impressive .930%, second best in the OUA.
5. Just like York, the Brock Badgers had a tough week with both Concordia and UQTR to deal with. These matchups became even harder for Brock to win with Clint Windsor on the shelf. Adam Buekeboom started against Concordia on Friday, and actually did quite well, making 42 saves in a 6-3 win. He was of course aided by Brock's massive five-goal third period which saw Mitch Nardi net a hat-trick in the span of 12 minutes. Saturday against UQTR didn't go quite as smoothly, with Alex Brooks-Potts leaving the game towards the end of the first period, and the Patriotes going on to cruise to a 6-2 victory. Brock continues to be outshot by their opponents, but they're managing to compensate for that with work ethic and a quick-strike offence. It's been the performances from guys like Andrew Radjenovic that have kept Brock competitive night in and night out.
6. The Windsor Lancers continue to hover around the .500 mark after splitting this past weekend with the Carleton Ravens. Dylan Denomme finally found the back of the net after going his first ten games this year without a goal. Blake Blondeel also finally got on the board this year after his two goal performance in Friday's 4-2 win over Carleton. Windsor has actually faired decently well after having played some of the toughest competition the OUA East has to offer over the last three weeks. With their next four games scheduled against in-conference opponents, expect the Lancers to make a push to crack the top four in the west.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks have to be thrilled with their OT win against McGill from Friday night. Andrew Fritsch capped it off in double overtime and recorded another multi-point night for the Golden Hawks. Before being shutout by Ottawa on Saturday, Fritsch had himself a nice little four game point streak going. Brandon Robinson seems to be getting comfortable with the OUA too as he's managed to score in four of his last six games. Both Fritsch and Robinson were deemed to be x-factors at the start of the season, and now that they're clicking, the Golden Hawks possess one of the best offences in the OUA West.
8. The Waterloo Warriors, Guelph Gryphons, and U of T Varsity Blues all emerge from this week with disappointing 0-2 records. Guelph managed to keep both games close against Queen's and UOIT, two very tough opponents, but for Waterloo and U of T, they wish they'd have come away with better boxscores this week. Waterloo is down to five d-men without Cam Wind and Eric Diodati, and their offence is still among the worst in the conference. U of T can't seem to buy a break at all lately, and they still search for their first win of the season after losing to both Nipissing and Laurentian.
***Devin Green: G Lakehead Thunderwolves
Lakehead knows full-well what RMC has done to opponents in low scoring games already this year, so when both their contests against the Paladins came down to the wire this weekend, it was imperative they had lockdown goaltending. Devin Green wasn't overly heroic, but he got the job done two nights in a row for Lakehead, posting an immaculate .981 SV%.
**Mitch Nardi: F Brock Badgers
With all the offence Brock had been getting from their top six early this season, Mitch Nardi's return sort of flew under the radar. But Friday's four point performance ensured that we won't forget Nardi's name anytime soon. He was the spark that ignited the Brock comeback against Concordia in the third period, and he'll continue to provide a pulse on Brock's offence.
*Michael Fine: F Ryerson Rams
Another four assists on the weekend draw Michael Fine just seven away from the all-time Ryerson program lead at 79. But the captain of the best team in the OUA West has been doing a lot more than just setting personal milestones, as he's been a huge factor in Ryerson's success this season, registering a point in all but two games this year.
Key Games of the Week:
Ryerson vs Western, Thurs. Nov. 17th, 7:15pm EST
The Western Mustangs are on a serious slide right now, and the Ryerson Rams are licking their chops at the prospect of extending Western's losing streak to six in a row. Western has every reason to treat this game like a must-win, and in front of a typically boisterous Thursday night crowd at the Gardens, this one should be a lot of fun.
Guelph vs Lakehead, Fri. Nov. 18th, 7:00pm EST
The Lakehead Thunderwolves are in a really good spot at the moment despite a few poor outings this season, and the Guelph Gryphons should give them everything they can handle. Fresh off of losing another two in a row, Guelph is hungry for another win, and if this meeting is anything like the one Guelph had against Carleton two weeks ago, it'll be well worth your time to tune in.
1. With an off-week for the Saskatchewan Huskies, the door was open for the Alberta Golden Bears to leapfrog into first place in the Canada West Conference. They would have done it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids on the Calgary Dinos. Friday night's game between Calgary and Alberta was an absolute classic. Calgary managed to tie it late (more on that later), but it was Jayden Hart who thrust the dagger into the Dinos heart with his overtime winner. Saturday was more of a disappointment for Alberta who lost 3-1 while only managing to beat Matt Greenfield once. Despite the loss, rookies Tyson Baillie and Luke Philp continue to be brilliant for the Golden Bears. Philp had a very impressive six game goal streak before the loss to Calgary, and Baillie is standing toe-to-toe with the league leaders in point production.
2. Elgin Pearce might just be the most clutch player in Canada West. He fuelled the comeback for the Calgary Dinos against Manitoba last week, and this week, managed to tie up Friday's game against Alberta with 35 seconds remaining, while shorthanded. Pearce leads the Dinos with 10 points, all of which have come during his current six game point streak. Cain Franson is starting to get some momentum now too, with points in each of his last four games. Calgary's defence can get the job done, and it's well noted how wealthy they are with netminding talent. If the Dinos offence can take another step forward there's no reason they can't be contending for a top three spot in Canada West.
3. The Mount Royal Cougars completely ran over the Regina Cougars this week, outscoring them 13-2 in both wins combined. Connor Rankin has resumed his rate of production, but Jamal Watson and Luke Simpson are quickly emerging as two lethal point producers also. Watson leads the team with 12 points, four over the weekend, and Simpson exploded for six points against the Regina Cougars. Mount Royal has a very talented defence too, which is still improving, but right now they definitely look like a team capable of knocking Saskatchewan or Alberta out of a top two spot.
4. The Manitoba Bisons and Lethbridge Pronghorns split another weekend series. That wasn't too hard to predict, considering that both teams have split three weekend series already this year. Both teams are searching for consistency, and right now find themselves just above the final playoff position cutoff. Both teams ran into some goaltending issues this weekend, but there are still some differences in both squads. Lethbridge seems to be hanging on to grind out those close one goal games with some timely goalscoring from their go-to players. Manitoba on the other hand has much better blowout potential with players like Jordan DePape and Shaq Merasty on their roster. Lethbridge can pull ahead if they continue to put their nose to the grindstone, and for Manitoba, there's clearly some consistency issues to iron out, but their roster still contains some serious breakout capability.
5. The Regina Cougars got lit up by Mount Royal this weekend, and the stats are really starting to pile up against them. Not only are they having difficulty scoring, but Regina's 46 goals allowed is the second worst in the country. Dawson MacAuley and Mitch Kilgore both saw action in net this week for Regina, but neither came away with great stat lines at all. They didn't get much help from the team in front of them either, who mustered just 11 shots in Saturday's 6-2 loss. There hasn't been much that's gone right for Regina this year, but they'll get a chance to turn it around this week against UBC.
6. Carter Czaikowski announced this week that he's left the Portland Winterhawks to pursue a university education in Canada. Playing U Sports isn't out of the question for Czaikowski, but all of the coaches I spoke with this week hadn't talked with Czaikowski about playing for their team.
***Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce is the brightest star amongst Calgary's offensive cast, and ever since he recorded two goals against Lethbridge on Oct. 28th, he's been red hot. Although Pearce only had two points this weekend, he's the reason Calgary snuck out with an extra point on Friday, and had a helper in their 3-1 win over Alberta on Saturday.
**Luke Philp: F Alberta Golden Bears:
Although Philp's goal-streak was broken on Saturday, he's still one of Alberta's most productive players at the moment. He added another two goals in the win over Calgary on Friday, and even though Alberta was held to just one goal on Saturday, Philp drew an assist, extending his point-streak to eight games.
*Luke Simpson: F Mount Royal Cougars
Luke Simpson teed off with a big weekend against the Regina Cougars. His three assists on Friday lead the way to a 7-0 victory, and the following night, Simpson added another two helpers and netted a goal for good measure. Simpson appears to be making up for lost time after not playing a game at the Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth last season.
Key Games of the Week:
Calgary vs Saskatchewan Fri. Nov. 18th, 6:00pm MST
The Calgary Dinos gave Alberta a pair of great games last weekend, and if they can do that again this week against Saskatchewan, they'll quickly find themselves in the 'best in the west' conversation. For Saskatchewan, they've got their bitter rivals at Alberta nipping at their heels, which is all the motivation they should need.
Lethbridge vs Mount Royal Sat. Nov. 19th, 6:00pm MST
The Lethbridge Pronghorns managed to upset the Saskatchewan Huskies a few weeks back in what turned out to be a great mini-series. If they can do it again this week against Mount Royal, it'll be a big boost in confidence for the Pronghorns after two average weeks in a row.