By: Graham Neysmith (@GNeysmith)
With the first half of the U Sports women’s hockey season in the books, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up across the country.
With the help of graphs showing the progression of the standings from week to week, we can see which teams are steady which ones have been inconsistent. It’s interesting to see who was hot at certain points in the season, and where they are now.
Keep in mind some standings may be skewed because certain teams have played more games than others.
From the outset, the consensus was that St. Thomas and Saint Mary’s would be battling it out. This has materialized, as the teams have split their two meetings in the first half. The two powerhouses will square off twice more, on January 21st and February 3rd.
Perhaps the most surprising development of the season has been UPEI staking claim to the third position. The Panthers finished in last place a season ago, but have experienced a nice resurgence. This is because they have taken care of business against the programs ranked below them – they own an 8-1 record against teams without “Saint” in their name.'
Personally, I liked what I saw going on with the program at StFX heading into the season. They started off shaky, but reeled off five straight wins to close the first portion of the year.
It has been an absolute dog fight at the top of the Quebec conference this year. With the defending National Champion Montreal Carabins faltering early, the door was wide open for the Ottawa Gee Gees to explode onto the scene. The battle at the top of the standings may well be the best in Canada, with no program holding on to top spot for more than two weeks at a time.
The Carabins beat the Gee Gees on the final weekend of the first half, which is a sign that order could be restored in the country’s most competitive league. However, the harsh reality is that some combination of Ottawa, McGill and Montreal will have to face off in the first round of the playoffs, with the winner earning a Nationals berth and the loser leaving empty-handed. First place plays fourth and second plays third come playoff time, which means that number one position is more important than ever. Truly, every game counts from here on out.
Having spoken to OUA coaches in the preseason, most agreed that this would be one of the tightest years for the league, ever. So far, they have been right. Apart from Guelph and Nipissing pulling away at the top and York and Laurier settling down at the other end, everything is still to play for.
Currently, seven teams have between 20 and 17 points. That’s half of the league! 20 points would put a program in 5th place, a favourable playoff position all things considered, while 17 could put a team as far south as 11th place and out of the playoffs altogether.
I was told by a veteran coach that Nipissing would be the team to watch this year, and he was right. After falling in triple-overtime in game three of the semi-finals last year, the Lakers look poised for a another deep playoff run. Very impressive for a program that is one of the youngest in Canada.
However, I like the Toronto Varsity Blues down the stretch. They are 5-1 on home ice, and have beaten top-quality programs such as Guelph, Waterloo and Western.
It should come as no surprise that UBC is leading Canada West and have been since the third week of the season. However, the extent of their dominance may have caught some off guard. Since a hiccup against the Saskatchewan Huskies on the first weekend, the T-Birds have rattled off 14 straight victories, all while having the conference’s best defence and most potent offense. They have already opened up a 12 point lead over the rest of the field.
Don’t look now, but here come the Golden Pandas of Alberta. They ended the first half on a seven game unbeaten run, capped off with back-to-back victories over the Huskies. I’m a sucker for clutch teams, and ten of Alberta’s 16 games have been decided by one goal. The Pandas and T-Birds square off the first weekend back from the break in a can’t-miss showdown.
National Top 10
I’m not the only one who has a problem with this Top 10. The programs that are ranked are pretty much spot on, but the order could use some tinkering in my opinion.
The big issue with this poll is comparing and contrasting the conferences. Is the second-place AUS team really that much better than the second-place OUA team? Is the fourth-place Canada West team better than the third-place Ontario program? This would be the equivalent of the NCAA’s ‘strength of schedule’ debate. The only time of year these questions can be answered is at the National Championships.
Personally I don’t have a problem with certain conferences being valued over others, but the least the voting committee could do would be getting the rankings within the conferences right!
Here are three points that I believe should be corrected;
- Nipissing has to be higher than 7th place. A two loss team being ranked behind numerous three and four loss programs is ridiculous. While they are in second place in Ontario, Nipissing actually has two games in hand over first-place Guelph, and beat the Gryphons in mid-November.
- I question how Montreal is ranked above McGill. The Martlets have beaten the Carabins twice this season, including a 5-1 thrashing at U de M on opening night. McGill has given up the second-fewest goals in the nation this year. That has to count for something right?
- The Ottawa Gee Gees deserve to be nationally ranked. They’re going blow-for-blow with two of the best programs in the country, but are not getting any respect. I’m not saying the Gee Gees are superior to McGill or Montreal, but they are most definitely in the conversation.
The main problem is that there are only four people voting in the women’s hockey Top 10. There are at least a dozen voters on the men’s side of things, so a consensus can be reached. The same cannot be said for the women.
For the reasons outlined above, here’s how I believe the Top 10 should look.
1. UBC (15-1-0, 1st CW)
2. Nipissing (10-1-1, 2nd OUA)
3. St. Thomas (12-1-1, 1st AUS)
4. Saint Mary’s (10-1-2, 2nd AUS)
5. McGill (8-2-0, 1st RSEQ)
6. Guelph (11-2-1, 1st OUA)
7. Montreal (7-4-0, 2nd RSEQ)
8. Alberta (10-3-3, 3rd CW)
9. Ottawa (6-3-1, 3rd RSEQ)
10. Manitoba (11-4-1, 2nd CW)
Bringing in players from programs across the country for the U Sports All-Star team, everyone comes with their own ‘how they made it’ story. But perhaps none are more improbable than that of Mathieu Pompei’s, the only member of the U Sports All-Stars to have never played a game of major junior hockey.
Mathieu Pompei is one of the best players in the OUA. With 29 points through his first 17 games, he sits alone atop the OUA scoring leaderboard and has sparked McGill to a 12-3-1 record after the first semester of 2016-17. Not only is Pompei one of the most lethal offensive threats in the OUA, but you’ll have a hard time finding a better conditioned athlete.
“He’s trained really hard in the summers, put on a lot of muscle mass, and it’s really given him an extra step in his game,” says head coach Kelly Nobes. “It allows him to battle with the biggest guys in the league for pucks.”
That physical strength is key for a player who stands at 5-foot-8. But it’s certainly no surprise to see a player of small stature succeed at the U Sports level. In fact, three of the top four point-scorers in U Sports this season are under 6-foot-0. But when you consider Pompei’s journey that resulted in him barely getting into McGill, he becomes one of the best ‘where did he come from?’ stories in U Sports hockey.
In 2009, Mathieu Pompei was playing for Kings-Edgehill School U18 in the CAHS. Located in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Kings-Edgehill sits on the precipice of hockey obscurity. Not known for being a factory of top-quality hockey talent, Pompei knew he would have to look elsewhere if he wanted to further his hockey career.
“I was already 18 years old then, so [playing major junior] wasn’t in the picture,” says Pompei. “I was close to Yarmouth [Nova Scotia] and knew a few people in the area, so I tried to make it there.”
Relocated from Dartmouth in 2002, the Yarmouth Mariners are a junior A hockey club in the MHL (Maritime Hockey League). Although their history isn’t particularly rich, Yarmouth has produced solid U Sports hockey products such as Robert Lepine (Guelph), Colin Campbell (Nipissing), and Kyle Campbell (York) among others. It’s a desirable place to play for young players looking to ply their trade in junior hockey, and it represented the next logical step for Pompei’s hockey career. As a 19 year-old, Pompei showed up to training camp as a virtual nobody.
“Talking to [Yarmouth’s] coach later, I don’t think he was even expecting to take a long look at me,” says Pompei. “But I came in pretty strong, I was ready, I worked out all summer, and I didn’t give them the choice to cut me.”
By the end of his second season, Pompei lead the entire MHL with 43 goals in the regular season, and registered 19 points in 18 playoff games on route to the MHL finals in 2012. Pompei finished his MHL career with a whopping 126 points in 103 games. Yarmouth made the right choice in keeping him around.
Even after all the success in his two years of MHL hockey, Pompei wasn’t exactly juggling offers heading into the 2012-13 season. You’d think that leading the MHL in goals would garner more attention, but how Mathieu Pompei ended up on McGill’s radar isn’t the conventional route for most recruits.
“I didn’t really have any options until July,” recounts Pompei. “Applications were almost done, and it was the assistant coach, Daniel Jacob, who knew someone who knew me.”
Kelly Nobes on the other hand was continuing his never-ending search to find the right guy to help his team out for the upcoming season.
“My assistant coach says, ‘you gotta come and see this kid’, and I ended up watching him in a summer league,” says Nobes.
The OUA’s leading point-getter halfway through the season was recruited out of a summer league. But Pompei’s story doesn’t end there. He barely managed to apply to McGill in time, and he still wasn’t considered a ‘high-end’ recruit by any means heading into training camp.
“He was gonna have to grind it out just to get in the lineup,” says Nobes of the expectation for Pompei in his rookie season. “We knew he could score goals, the question was whether or not he could learn to play without the puck and not be a liability on the ice defensively.”
Pompei grabbed the attention of his new team immediately, scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 preseason win against RMC in his first career U Sports action. Pompei would go on to score 10 goals in the regular season, tying Christophe Poirier for the team lead, and was a point-per-game player in the postseason. Not bad for a guy who was just days away from not even getting into McGill, and had to ‘grind it out’ to make the lineup.
Now in his fifth and final season at McGill, Pompei can look back on what has been a remarkable career playing hockey for one of Canada’s most storied, and reputable hockey programs. Pompei would go on to suit up for McGill at nationals in 2014, and had a career season in 2015-16, posting 37 points in 28 games, including 19 goals, tying him with Jordan DePape for 6th in the entire country. As for the questions about his ability to play defence, they were answered quickly.
“He learned and adapted really fast. That’s why he’s become such a great player in our league,” says Nobes. “He’s a two-way guy now, and he wasn’t when he started.”
The ability to adapt and become a better defensive player is what Pompei credits towards most of his success with McGill, although he admits there’s still room for improvement.
“Defensively I wasn’t as solid I am today, although I still need some work there. But it wasn’t part of my game, especially in junior. I’ve developed a lot, and I think [playing solid defence] changes the game a lot when you can play 200 feet, you’re more reliable, and your coach believes in you more. You start on defence and the offence will come.”
Pompei’s roadmap to success in the OUA has been a lengthy one, but you can’t argue with the philosophy of a guy who has 122 points in 114 career U Sports games. With his invitation to represent U Sports against Team Canada, Pompei is finally getting the respect and recognition he’s worked so hard for.
“I’m a late bloomer. I never gave up, and I just kept pushing and pushing through and I’m really happy about where I’m at today,” says Pompei.
Always confident in his ability to learn and adapt, Pompei still keeps an honest perspective of where he was as a hockey player in 2009.
“I never thought I would be [playing against Team Canada], and I never thought I’d be at McGill. It’s been unbelievable, and I’ve been quite lucky with the journey and how things have happened.”
But the job isn’t done yet for Pompei. McGill has a team capable of going and long way this year, and Pompei plans on continuing his hockey career in Europe next season after he graduates.
It’s a good thing Mathieu Pompei didn’t give the Yarmouth Mariners the choice to cut him back in 2010.
Written by: Victor Findlay (@Finder_24)
So I lied.... last week's Tuesday Morning Skate wasn't actually the last one of 2016. But whatever. I figured with all the info I've compiled while in Blainville, it was enough to constitute another edition, albeit a different one. The Christmas break is an odd time for U Sports hockey. Some teams are ravenously searching for another addition to their roster, while others rather not be part of the ruckus at all, unless a player falls right into their lap. There's still a few quality players available, some of which have already been scooped up. So put down your notes and take a study break, it's been a busy few days in U Sports hockey.
Canada: 5 U Sports: 3
Goals (CAN): Dylan Strome, Taylor Raddysh, Sam Steel, Mitchell Stephens, Sam Steel (2)
Goals (U Sports): Philippe Maillet, Brett Welychka, Nathan Chiarlitti
Goalies (CAN): Carter Hart, 10 S 10 SVS; Michael McNiven, 13 S 10 SVS
Goalies (U Sports): Connor Ingram, 29 S 24 SVS
1. Sam Steel, Team Canada (2-0-2)
2. Philippe Maillet - U Sports (1-1-2)
3. Elgin Pearce - U Sports (0-2-2)
Game Length: 2:07
1. The SMU Huskies have a commitment and enrollment from Aaron Berisha for second semester. That's about as official as it can get before a player hits the ice in U Sports. Berisha was a fairly big deal during his days as a Toronto Marlboro, taking the OHL Cup MVP honours in 2011 on a team with Nick Ritchie, Roland McKeown, and Josh Ho-Sang among others. Berisha posted an impressive 45 goals last year on a stacked London Knights team, and although the talent level isn't the same at SMU, they're a deep offensive team. Playing alongside Hunter Garlent or Ben Duffy could go a long way in seeing Berisha put up big goal numbers not just this year, but for seasons to come.
2. Ever since Jason Fram was released from his contract last week, it's been a general assumption that he is destined to play at the University of Alberta in second semester. When I spoke with a source at the U of A, he did acknowledge that "there is a good chance he ends up with us", but clearly it isn't a done deal just yet. Assuming things do pan out that way, Fram joins an notoriously deep Alberta team, and should be able to pencil right in as an impact player. Fram may be the type of defenceman who gets better with time, but as is the case with most teams, Alberta won't say no at an opportunity to make themselves better right now. Also worth noting defenceman Nick Charif is set to become eligible in January for Alberta.
3. The Alberta Golden Bears have reportedly landed forward Cole Sanford from the ECHL's Colorado Eagles. This is another humungous add for the Golden Bears who bring in another WHL player to have surpassed the 90-point plateau. Sanford isn't a large player at just 5-foot-8, but the impact he can have on any given game is giant. With both Jason Fram and Sanford in the lineup for second semester, the Alberta Golden Bears are changing the balance in Canada West, and will give the Saskatchewan Huskies all they can handle and more.
4. It's a fairly rare occurence to see a second round NHL draft pick appear on a U Sports roster, but Lukas Sutter (Winnipeg Jets) and Peter Delmas (Colorado Avalanche) are both recent examples of those who have. Gabryel Boudreau may be the next in line, as after being released by the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones last week, he's garnering a large amount of U Sports interest. It's hard to imagine UQTR isn't in the chase, as Boudreau seems to fit the Patriotes mold to a tee. But it's also not hard to picture an AUS team taking a good swing at Boudreau. Some teams with roster cap space and the resources to attract Boudreau will like his upside as a guy who can immediately produce when healthy.
5. The Moncton Aigles Bleus announced their signing of forward Joey Richard for the 2017-18 season. Richard was originally a Saint John Sea Dogs draft pick back in 2013, and went on to play 25 games with Saint John in 2013-14. Richard spent the next two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques and Moncton Wildcats before landing in the MJAHL with the Dieppe Commandos this year. Richard didn't score much in the QMJHL, but he's having a great season in Dieppe thus far, leading the team with 38 points through 27 games so far. Moncton hopes to find similar success with Richard that they've had with Robbie Graham, a recruit from Dieppe back in 2015.
6. The Concordia Stingers have made a big splash in acquiring the services of Anthony Beauregard for second semester. When I spoke with Concordia head coach Marc-Andre Element a few weeks ago, it seemed as though he was expecting that Beauregard would wind up staying pro. Clearly things have changed in that time span, as the Concordia Stingers now have another lethal offensive threat who is just a season removed from 93 points in the QMJHL with Val-d'Or. Expect the Concordia Stingers to be even better in 2017 with the addition of Mickael Beauregard on the blueline, as well as Marc-Antoine Turcotte in net.
7. As I was told this week, Jackson Houck has committed to staying pro for the rest of the season. However, another great WHL product in Jaedon Descheneau remains interested in U Sports hockey. The list of teams he is legitimately interested in is fairly small, and not entirely comprised of Canada West schools. With the University of Alberta supposedly not in on Descheneau, the recruitment battle is wide open.
8. Over about the last month or there have been rumblings about OUA Conference realignment. There's not much to report yet, other than the fact that it is being talked about in OUA circles. Most people tend to think it could mean more games against teams in close proximity (i.e. Carleton vs Ottawa, Toronto vs Ryerson), and may also end up meaning a few less long road trips throughout the course of a season. It's an interesting thought with a number of possibilities, and something that may not be too far ahead of the OUA's future.
1. Winners in four of their last six games, the Moncton Aigles Bleus are no longer in the AUS basement after dethroning both Dalhousie and StFX this week. The Saulnier's and J.F. Plante continue to bear the offensive weight of the team, but now Mtichell Robillard has a goal in three straight games, and with Steve Lebel and Robbie Graham, the Moncton offence has looked a little deeper over the last few games. Brandon Thibeau picked up a pair of much needed wins in net this week, but for Moncton the story of their first semester has been chronic struggles in the defensive zone.
2. After a November that saw them lose only three games, the Acadia Axemen are second in the AUS. Robert Steeves is arguably the biggest surprise performer in the AUS this year, and will need to continue to be very good to keep Acadia where they are in the standings. Stephen Harper and Remy Giftopoulos have been great this semester, and Brett Thompson goes into the break on a five game point streak, but Boston Leier leads Acadia offensively. 10 of his 19 points came in November as Leier is the heartbeat of an Acadia team that didn't go through the best month in October, but have turned things around quite nicely heading into the break.
3. The UNB Varsity Reds looked like the same old team again this week after beating Acadia and SMU, filling the net to capacity in the process. For UNB, this semester has gone exactly how it was supposed to for a team that's expected to be a favourite for a national title this year. The four losses this semester can certainly become teachable moments from a program that sometimes seems invincible. The offence has been virtually spotless, and the defence exceptionally strong. If there's anything UNB wants to improve on, it'll be consistent goaltending. The Varsity Reds rank surprisingly low in team save percentage at .894%, 23rd in the country. But overall, A+ semester for UNB.
4. A season ago the StFX X-Men were 11-2-2 at the break. This season they've matched that win total, however they've dropped seven contests, all in regulation. It's not an ideal start for the X-Men, but it's hard to imagine Brad Peddle doesn't have a good sense of what his team is capable of 18 games into the season. Holden Cook has been a standout for the X-Men this semester, and so has Chase Marchand in net. The X-Men have the talent to repeat what they did last year, it's simply a matter of better execution night in and night out. Despite a few road bumps along the way, StFX gets a passing grade by a comfortable margin this semester.
5. The Saint Mary's Huskies had their five game winstreak broken by UNB this week in a game which they gave the Varsity Reds a run for their money, although you wouldn't know it by the score. Four goals in the second half of the third period pulled UNB to an 8-3 victory in a game that was otherwise fairly close. It's been a semester of adversity for the Huskies who battled through their well-documented injury issues on the back-end. A streak of bad luck robbed their offence to start the season, but it's now clear Hunter Garlent, Ben Duffy, Bronson Beaton, and others are as good as marketed. Trevor Steinburg has to be happy with SMU's streak in November, but you can bet a healthy team and consistent goaltending are going to be on the top of his Christmas list this year.
6. As if the UPEI Panthers didn't have a bad enough end to their semester, Thursday's tilt against SMU was cancelled due to weather. UPEI turned around the next night lost a tight contest in the shootout to Acadia, but it inflates UPEI's losing streak to seven in a row. The play of Cody Payne, Beau McCue, and some of the other new recruits is promising, but UPEI will have to find a way to get better with the roster they have right now if they want to make the playoffs. Now behind Moncton, it's going to be a very tough upcoming semester for UPEI who are experiencing the pain of a bad streak in a short season where every game matters.
7. The success of the Dalhousie Tigers has been one of the best underdog stories in U Sports this semester, but after losing five of their last six, the Moncton Aigles Bleus are right on their heels. Dalhousie obviously has no deficiencies at all in net with Corbin Boes, but they need to find a way to score in second semester. Whether it's a player out of junior or pro, or somebody on their roster that steps up, 2.22 goals-per-game won't be enough to have success in the long-term. Definitely some positives with the Tigers this semester, but there will have to be a marked improvement still for this team to be a sure bet for the playoffs.
***Brett Thompson: F Acadia Axemen
Just two seasons removed from a 38 point year, Brett Thompson hasn't had the most productive start to his season, but he's turned it on lately for Acadia, registering a point in five consecutive games and posting four points over his last two games against UPEI and UNB. Don't be surprised to see Brett Thompson take over Acadia's offence come second semester.
**Allain Saulnier: F Moncton Aigles Bleus
It's been a pretty good week for Allain Saulnier who posted five points for Moncton in wins over Dalhousie and StFX this week, and was named to the U Sports All-Star team to take on Team Canada next week. This semester has been a roaring success for Saulnier who leads the country with a whopping 33 points despite having only scored four times. Not a surprise when you consider the 56 assists he posted in his overage year with the Moncton Wildcats.
*Philippe Maillet: F UNB Varsity Reds
After being held off the scoresheet in two consecutive regular season games for the first time since October of 2014, Philippe Maillet responded in a big way for UNB this week, slapping seven points on the board. Maillet has been dynamite for UNB's explosive offence this semester, and at this rate, he's likely to catch his career-high of 41 points, set back in his rookie season.
1. The Queen's Gaels have been very consistent this year, and that's why they lead the OUA East at the Christmas break. A win over the UQTR Patriotes on Saturday certainly turns some heads from out of conference as the Gaels join the Carleton Ravens as the only teams to hold UQTR to one goal in a game this season. Matter of fact, the last time Queen's held UQTR to just one goal was on Feb. 28th, 2008 with Brady Morrison in net. Kevin Bailie, Spencer Abraham, Slater Doggett, and Eric Ming have lead the way for the Gaels this semester, but players like Ryan Bloom, Jacob Brennan, and Warren Steele are what make Queen's deeper than last season.
2. The UQTR Patriotes had their winning streak abruptly stopped at five after losing to Queen's on Saturday, but UQTR closes out the semester as one of the best teams in the OUA. There's too many contributors this from this semester to name in one paragraph, but it's obvious that UQTR is just a little better with Sebastien Auger and Guillaume Asselin in the lineup on a nightly basis. Although UQTR didn't get off to the best start, they're still in a position to make another deep run, which has been the expectation all year for the Patriotes.
3. The Concordia Stingers have to be thrilled with their first semester. Coach Marc-Andre Element has done such a fantastic job in turning this program around to the point where they don't look out of place with the top tier teams at all. Anthony De Luca is an early candidate for recruit of the year, and Philippe Cadorette has done everything he's needed in net. Olivier Hinse and Philippe Hudon lead one of the OUA's deepest offensive groups, but Concordia still has a lot of work to do. It doesn't matter how good their regular season is, a first round exit from the playoffs will be a huge disappointment. Concordia has a tough schedule coming up with Ryerson, McGill, UQTR, and Queen's all set to face them in second semester.
4. When the Ryerson Rams and McGill Redmen met on Friday night in a battle of two of the OUA's best offensive teams, it was somewhat surprising to see a 1-0 OT final. That's a heartbreaker for McGill in what has to be a candidate for game of the semester, but the Redmen are still a juggernaut. Mathieu Pompei leads one of the most productive offences from first semester, and a blueline featuring Nathan Chiarlitti, Dominic-Talbot Tassi, and Gianluca Curcuruto has to be considered one of the best. With a healthy Etienne Boutet next semester they get even better, and rumours persist that Nikolas Brouillard will join them in January. Chances are, second semester version of the McGill Redmen will be better than the first semester version, and that's bad news for a lot of OUA teams.
5. The Ottawa Gee-Gees aren't just surviving their first season back in the OUA, but they're starting to thrive. Newcoming programs like Nipissing and Carleton have had success in their first year too, but you can make a good arguement that Ottawa has had to contend with a deeper conference than both Nipissing and Carleton did when they broke in. Kevin Domingue has been a great find for the Gee-Gees, and since returning, Marc Beckstead has easily been one of Ottawa's best players. With Ottawa's confidence starting to rise, it's no wonder the Gee-Gees came away with three points this weekend after forcing a shootout with the Ryerson Rams.
6. In what's becoming deja vu every week, the Carleton Ravens win their first game of the weekend, but fall short in the Saturday night contest. After disposing of York 4-0 on Friday, Carleton comes out the next night and gets shutout by the struggling Brock Badgers, 1-0 in double overtime. Carleton is over .500, but they're not going to be content with where they sit in the OUA East. The Ravens still have a top-heavy lineup with talent, and Francois Brassard has been very servicable for them in net this semester, but the Ravens struggle to put together consistency. It can be a frustratring things sometimes, but the Ravens need to come out a different team in second semester if they intend to go deep into the playoffs.
7. After a dominant start to the season, the UOIT Ridgebacks evened out a little throughout November into December. Still just two points out of first in the conference, UOIT have the tools to consistently win games, but they were missing a key contributer in Ben Blasko this week. His absence definitely hurt UOIT, but they still managed to muster three points in taking Concordia to overtime and downing RMC 7-2. Blasko along with Danny Elser, Mike Robinson, and Cam Yuill have been offensive leaders on a team primarily known for defence and grit. The deeper we get into the season, UOIT's roster will be pushed harder than ever with Queen's (x2), Carleton (x2), York, Ryerson, and UQTR all due up on their schedule.
8. The Laurentian Voyaguers are caught in another streak, and it's not of the friendly variety. They've dropped contests to Western, Guelph, and Queen's all in a row, and the Voyageurs now find themselves clinging to a playoff spot. Still without much starpower, Laurentian has relied on scoring by committee this semester, but Darcy Haines and Brent Pedersen stand just a step above the rest of the team. Charlie Millen and Joel Vienneau have both had good and bad outings this season, and looking ahead, Laurentian will only go as far as their goaltending allows them.
9. The RMC Paladins and Nipissing Lakers find themselves on the outside looking in at the end of the first semester. There's a solid five point gap between Laurentian and Nipissing, and although it's not insurmountable, the Lakers are going to have to be marginally better than they were this semester in order to capture that playoff spot come February. For RMC, they've been a fairly tale at times this year with a couple huge upsets, but getting them to the playoffs might be a little too much to ask. If they miss out, it's certainly not for lack of work ethic, which RMC arguably has the most of in the conference. But quite frankly, it's extremely difficult for RMC to compete in a conference as deep as the OUA East. Having said that, they should still be proud of their accomplishments in first semester.
***Raphael Lafontaine: F Concordia Stingers
Rafael Lafontaine's two goals against UOIT this week puts his grand total at seven, third most on Concordia, behind Anthony De Luca and Olivier Hinse. Lafontaine was a captain with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for a couple of season in the QMJHL, and although he was never a big-time point producer, he's a very valuable player, as evidenced by his production on Concordia this season.
**Malik Johnson: F UOIT Ridgebacks
Malik Johnson isn't your prototypical offensive threat for the UOIT Ridgebacks, but you wouldn't know it from his five point weekend against Concordia and RMC. Johnson posted some reasonable numbers with the Campbellton Tigers in the MJAHL, but he's played the role of an energy player to a tee this season. Don't expect numbers like this to consistently come from Johnson, but expect a great effort from him every night.
*Slater Doggett: F Queen's Gaels
Slater Doggett exploded for four points against the Laurentian Voyaguers in a Friday night 6-3 win, then one night later scored the late game-winner against the UQTR Patriotes to secure the perfect weekend for the Queen's Gaels. His 25 points lead the way for Queen's this season who expect to get just as much production from Doggett in the second semester.
1. The Ryerson Rams close out their first semester with a bang, carrying a program best eight game win-streak into the holidays. The Rams muscled out a pair of thrilling wins against McGill and Ottawa this weekend, and are on pace to set all kinds of program season records. Still lots of time left in the season, but it's been a virtually perfect first semester for the Rams, who prevail with 13 wins despite battling a rash of injuries through October and half of November. Aaron Armstrong continues to be a revelation on a team getting contributions from stars Alex Basso, Michael Fine, and Matt Mistele. The Rams will rest up for arguably their toughest road trip of the season when they face UQTR and Concordia in early January.
2. The York Lions are in a couple of ways Ryerson's arch-nemisis, and it's too bad they won't square off again in the regular season. A homestand against Carleton on Friday yielded a disappointing 4-0 loss, but the Lions rebounded with a 6-2 win against Waterloo on Saturday. Goaltending was somewhat of a question mark for the Lions coming into this semester, but both Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields showed they're capable of game-stealing performances in the OUA. The Lions have star-power with Trevor Petersen and Derek Sheppard again this season, so there's plently of reason to believe the Lions will be right in the race for the OUA West throughout the second semester.
3. The Windsor Lancers just won't go away. 10 of their 18 games this semester were decided by one goal, and despite the fact there's not a ton of star power on the Lancers they continue to find ways to win games. The Lancers grinded out a pair of wins against Nipissing this week, while Dylan Denomme, Todd Ratchford, and Justice Dundas lead the team in scoring after the first semester. The Lancers are a feisty, gritty team like year's past, and they certainly don't make many friends in the OUA. But I get the impression they're just fine with that. Expect a few great battles involving the Lancers come second semester.
4. Even though the Waterloo Warriors lost to York on Saturday, their huge victory over Western on Thursday keeps the Warriors in the playoff discussion. It's been a rough semester for Waterloo who are clearly in a period of transition, yet they've found a way to win some important games. Waterloo's offence continues to be what hurts them the most, but they have a goalie and a defence that can still frustrate the best teams in the league when they execute well. That execution will be paramount in second semester, as you can't expect Waterloo to be a completely different offensive squad come 2017, but you can expect the same fight and determination from season's past.
5. While the Warriors fight to make the jump back into playoff positions, the Western Mustangs fight to fall out. It's not a position I expected the Mustangs to be in at this point, but after a semester which saw a famine overcome the Mustangs' offence, here they are. The Christmas break could turn out to be well timed for the Mustangs who can use the time to refocus. For some teams, they'll want to start 2017 with a clean slate, Western is one of those teams. But amidst all the struggle, a late semester surge from Luke Karaim, and the seasoned Greg Dodds in net provide hope for the future.
6. A week after surrendering a third period lead to Lakehead, the Laurier Golden Hawks did it again on Wednesday when they blew a two goal lead late in the third and went on to lose in double OT. It highlights Laurier's consistency issues in their own end, which has certainly robbed them of a couple winnable games. On the upside, Colin Furlong has had flashes of brilliance, while Andrew Fritsch has been fantastic for the Golden Hawks offensively. Derek Schoenmakers has been scoring as per usual, and if the Golden Hawks could figure out their game in time for playoffs, they're a seriously dangerous team. Definitely some negative moments for the Golden Hawks this semester, but there's a lot to like too about Laurier.
7. Saturday night was a backup goalies delight when Carleton's Justin Nicholas and Alex Brooks-Potts from the Brock Badgers went toe-to-toe into double OT before Matt MacLeod scored the game-winner. 39 saves against the Carleton Ravens is nothing to scoff at, and it highlights what's been a turbulent start to Brooks-Potts' OUA career. For Brock, the win was needed in the worst way after losing six straight off the heels of a six game win streak. It's been a weird semester for the Badgers who have looked great one night, and unimpressive the next. They've still only scored five goals in their last five games, but with Andrew Radjenovic, Sammy Banga, Mitch Nardi, Adam Lloyd, and Matt MacLeod in the lineup for second semester, that number will improve. Getting Clint Windsor back in net theoretically helps a ton too. I still stand by my prediction that the Badgers are a top five OUA West team this season.
8. The U of T Varsity Blues are one of those teams who'll be thrilled to see the Christmas break arrive. They're losers of five straight after dropping contests to McGill and Ottawa, and they continue to sink further and further out of the playoff picture. If anything, Matt Campagna, Charlie Connell, and Aidan Wallace have been bright spots this semester, but there's a lot to be desired from U of T. Grant Holliday becomes eligible for second semester, but even with him in the lineup, it's hard to see U of T pulling off a miraculous comeback. But I said the same thing about their chances in the playoffs last year, so what do I know?
9. Niether the Guelph Gryphons nor the Lakehead Thunderwolves had games this week, so they got a headstart on Christmas shopping and baking. Both teams have showed good and bad signs this semester. Lakehead is an improved team from last year, and a healthy Billy Jenkins makes them even more dangerous in second semester, but goaltending may ultimately tell the tale of how far Lakehead goes this season. Guelph's offensive explosion at the end of the semester is reason to believe they can still piece together a really solid run, but goaltending will also be crucial for them down the stretch. Both teams should be satisfied with their first semester.
***Trevor Petersen: F York Lions
Getting shutout by the Carleton Ravens on Friday certainly isn't a highlight, but Petersen's three point night against Waterloo on Saturday certainly is. York's affable star scorer hasn't missed a beat this year with 22 points through 18 games, including eight goals. At this rate, Petersen is on track to eclipse his 29 point season from 2015-16. Sometimes it's hard to believe this guy only scored eight times in his two season OHL career.
**Charlie Graham: G Ryerson Rams
The Ryerson Rams had a barn burner on Friday night when they took on the McGill Redmen, and the goaltending on both sides was terrific. However, Charlie Graham gets the edge because not only did he win the game, but Graham now has back to back shutouts having stonewalled the Waterloo Warriors back on November 18th.
*Dylan Denomme: F Windsor Lancers
Dylan Denomme is one of the brightest young players to come out of the LaSalle Vipers organization where he posted a couple of 70+ point seasons. He's continued that success with Windsor, as the third year forward is piecing together another productive season with 18 points in as many games. His four assists this weekend played a big part in Windsor's two wins over Nipissing.
1. It's usually a fantastic battle when the Alberta Golden Bears meet their arch rivals at Saskatchewan, but this week the Golden Bears just didn't seem to have the same team that beat Saskatchewan back in October. They only scored one goal this weekend thanks to Dylan Bredo, but even against Jordon Cooke, you'd expect more offence out of Alberta. Overall, it's been a great semester for Alberta who don't seem to have lost much talent from last year's roster. Many of their recruits have made a great transition to Canada West, and now with their goaltending starting to look comfortable, Alberta has to be happy with how they've set themselves up for second semester.
2. It almost didn't happen, but the Saskatchewan Huskies are the leaders of Canada West heading into the Christmas break. A lot of Saskatchewan's players got off to a hot start this season, but as the first semester progressed, some of their top offensive scorers went through minor droughts, leaving us with not a single point-per-game player on the Huskies. That hasn't crippled them however, as Saskatchewan's depth has been a crucial difference maker with eight players already in double digit point totals. Jesse Forsberg and Parker Thomas are both having career years, but the majority of Saskatchewan's scoring is coming from their top WHL recruits. Of course, Jordon Cooke has been fantastic. Saskatchewan has been every bit as good as they were projected to be at the start of the season.
3. With two regulation losses from the Golden Bears this week, the Mount Royals Cougars pounce into second place in Canada West with 22 points. It's not a surprise at all to see Mount Royal in this position, lead by a first semester MVP candidate in Connor Rankin. This week Mount Royal made quick work of the Manitoba Bisons as Matt Brown was reinserted into the lineup, winning both games 4-3, and 5-1. As long as Mount Royal holds the course, they'll cruise right into the playoffs, and a matchup against either Saskatchewan or Alberta could create some real fireworks out west. Apart from a few flat efforts, Mount Royal has had a textbook first semester.
4. The Calgary Dinos' offence still leaves a lot of room for improvement, but their defensive zone play this season has been so darn good it's no wonder they won 10 games in the first semester. But perhaps Calgary's biggest impact has been made in the crease. Coleman Vollrath hasn't had a great start but contains very high potential, meanwhile Steven Stanford has been rock solid, while Matt Greenfield is putting up ridiculous numbers with a 0.86 GAA and a .965 SV% through six games played. Calgary is turning out to be better than I expected, and now with Parker Bowles joining Elgin Pearce, Dylan Walchuk, and Cain Franson up front, the Dinos may see their offensive issues rectified in second semester.
5. The Lethbridge Pronghorns have been a hotbed for positivity this semester with their documented success against national opponents and what is a program blooming right before our eyes. Justin Valentino has been a sensation for the Pronghorns with 12 goals thus far, and Mitch Maxwell's 15 assists lead the conference. Tim Campbell has been a stud defensively, and it's clear the Pronghorns have a talented young netminder in Garret Hughson. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows this semester for Lethbridge who certainly fell on some hard times losing four straight over two weeks, but ending the semester with five wins in their last six games has to have the Pronghorns bursting with confidence going into the break.
6. The Manitoba Bisons are not making my preseason predictions look good right about now. Manitoba exits the first semester on a flat note having lost five of their final six games, but they still find themselves in a playoff position, albeit by two points. Remi Laurencelle has looked really solid as a rookie registering 11 points in his first 12 games, and Justin Augert and Shaq Merasty have complimented star Jordan DePape so far, but past that, there isn't much to get excited about with Manitoba's offence. Defensively, Blake Heinrich checking into the lineup in the second semester will help, but even then, Manitoba's defence will need to take a step forward. Byron Spriggs emerged as the number one goalie towards the end of November, but overall it's been a disappointing first semester for the Bisons.
7. It's been a trivial season for the UBC Thunderbirds. This weekend they go ahead and shutdown Calgary in a 2-1 win, but then drop the following contest, 4-1. You just never seem to know what you're going to get out of the UBC Thunderbirds. Their three game win streak a few weeks ago was promising, but now that they've lost five of their last six, that win streak is rather insignificant. The good news is UBC has a collection of very good hockey players. Austin Vetterl, Luke Lockhart, Chase Clayton, and Jerrett Smith are the real deal in this league. Besides them, there's definitely talent within UBC, but it hasn't always shown on the ice. Defensive breakdowns have killed them on a couple of occasions, and when their netminding isn't strong, the Thunderbirds have a real tough time competing.
8. The Regina Cougars limp into the Christmas break on a four game losing streak after what has been a difficult semester to say the least. The emergence of Tristan Frei, Cody Fowlie, and J.J. Coleshaw towards the end of the semester was a great sign, but Regina can't make the playoffs playing the way they have been. Defence needs to be the bread and butter of the Cougars in order to win, and their 74 goals against this semester suggest it's not where it needs to be at all. If Regina can get some game-stealing type goaltending from one of their netminders in second semester, then they have a chance on any given night, but as it stands, the Cougars have a lot of work to do to clamber into a playoff position.
***Jordon Cooke: G Saskatchewan Huskies
Anytime a goalie holds the Alberta Golden Bears to just one goal over the course of two games, it's worth recognition. It's not overly surprising to see Jordon Cooke post a .985 SV% this weekend, but it's a welcome sign after Cooke had a few unspectacular outings in November. No doubt he's still one of the best, and he'll show off his talents against Team Canada next week.
**Justin Valentino: F Lethbridge Pronghorns
Justin Valentino continues his torrent pace through the Canada West ranks, as two goals this weekend now tie him with Alberta's Jayden Hart for most in the conference at the break. Lethbridge had a breakout week from Jay Merkley too, which was key, but Valentino has been producing all season long.
*Connor Rankin: F Mount Royal Cougars
Connor Rankin ripped off another casual four goal weekend, and now stands atop the conference with 20 points. Rankin is in the conversation for Canada West MVP through the first juncture of the season, and after his last series against Manitoba now has 7 goals alone against the Bisons.
1. The UNB Varsity Reds finally dropped their first regulation game of the season on Friday night, and then proceeded to fall short against Saint Mary's the following game. Friday's game against Acadia was low scoring, at a 2-1 final, which is surprising given both team's high-power offences. But it's even more shocking when you consider the officials handed out 23 minor penalties between the two teams, and UNB went 0 for 11 on the man advantage. Acadia goaltender Robert Steeves had a lot to do with UNB's powerplay frustrations, but even then, UNB have to look at themselves. Two losses this week may end up serving as a teachable moment for Gardiner MacDougall's team. As I pointed out on Twitter, the last time UNB lost back-to-back games was November of last year, oddly against both Acadia and Saint Mary's. UNB gets a chance to reverse their fortunes this week when they take on Acadia and SMU again, but this time on home turf.
2. The Acadia Axemen are winners in five of their last six games, and now sit just one point back of StFX for second in the AUS conference. Acadia's offence continues to be one of the best in the AUS, and their powerplay is finally starting to come around at 18% in the month of November. But it's been the goaltending that has been Acadia's biggest storyline. Robert Steeves is the hero after slaying UNB on Friday and picking up another win against UPEI on Saturday. Steeves was quietly good last season too, with a .923 SV% to his credit, but simply didn't get starts behind Brandon Glover. With Acadia's goaltending having it's issues this year, the opportunity has presented itself, and Steeves has grabbed hold of it. With goaltending like this, Acadia can definitely be a top two team in the AUS.
3. Make it five consecutive wins now for the Saint Mary's Huskies as they take down both the UPEI Panthers and UNB Varsity Reds this weekend. This run is even more miraculous when you factor in SMU still only has four healthy natural defencemen. Credit to the resiliency of SMU for pushing through this stretch, and some recognition must be given to Eric Brassard who has started in all five consecutive wins for the Huskies. Hunter Garlent, Bronson Beaton, and Ben Duffy all continue to fire away on offence, all the while Calder Brooks, Anthony Repaci, Taylor Burke, and Bradley Latour have all chipped in lately too. It's been a full team effort from the Saint Mary's Huskies, and that's why they're winners of five straight games.
4. Although the Dalhousie Tigers came away with just one win this week, they have to be thrilled with their 2-0 shutout win over StFX. The occasion marks Corbin Boes' first career AUS shutout against a team that isn't Saint Thomas, and continues to pad the stats of arguably the best player in the AUS this semester. Dalhousie followed up with a 4-2 loss to Moncton, which hurts considering the standings. Fabian Walsh found the net twice this week, and without Phil Gadoury in the lineup, you can argue that Walsh should be considered Dalhousie's biggest offensive threat. They'll need him again this week against Moncton, but with the Saulnier's and J.F. Plante looming on their schedule, they'll need another air-tight start from Corbin Boes too.
5. The StFX X-Men continue to coast through their season in the AUS, as even though they were shutout by Dalhousie, they took down Moncton by a 6-2 final on Friday. While the AUS goalie spotlight has been on Corbin Boes this semester, Chase Marchand has been waiting in the shadows with his .918 SV%, second best in the AUS. Marchand started both games this weekend, and with the talented Brandon Hope at Brad Peddle's disposal, StFX arguably has the deepest goaltending in the AUS. Their offence is every bit as deep. Now with Holden Cook and Matt Needham on the sidelines, the X-Men lose some punch, but Bryson Cianfrone has put together a nice run with eight points in seven games. The X-Men go at it with Moncton again this week, a matchup they won't be taking lightly at all.
6. Things didn't get better at all for the UPEI Panthers this week, who drop another two contests, and surrender 11 goals in the process. Neither Matt Mahalak or Connor Wilkinson have been very good in net for UPEI recently, which is why their team save percentage stands at a dismal .823% in November. But goaltending isn't the sole reason for UPEI's sorrow, as the Panthers penalty kill has also been very poor in November, operating at just 64.3%. UPEI's defence should be better for a team that features the likes of Austin Levi, Brock Beukeboom, and Nelson Armstrong among others, and UPEI's top offensive producers haven't made much noise either lately. UPEI gets a pair of tough opponents in SMU and Acadia to close out their semester. The Christmas break could be what UPEI needs right now to refocus and get back on track.
7. Not much has changed for the Moncton Aigles Bleus this week, who get offensive contributions from J.F. Plante and the Saulnier twins, but still have some issues in their own zone. With Moncton's juggernaut first line dominating the headlines, Steve Lebel hasn't been getting much credit, but he's been secretly effective for Moncton. Lebel's 10 points in 13 games are the fourth most on the team, and the fourth year forward is on pace to hit a career high mark in points for an AUS season. He's part of the reason Moncton split the weekend and are starting to improve and show signs of getting out of the AUS basement.
***Bradley Latour: F SMU Huskies
Bradley Latour might not be putting up the most staggering numbers in the AUS, but he's making his goals count. Latour finds himself on a nice four game goal streak and has two game-winners (one against UNB) to his credit. Latour now has seven goals on his season, and the long-time Oshawa General looks to be finding his way in the AUS.
**Bronson Beaton: F SMU Huskies
Bronson Beaton has unquestionably been one of the best offseason recruits for the SMU Huskies this season. After posting some great numbers in October, Beaton was back at it again this week, putting up a four point night against UPEI, and then posting an assist against UNB. Beaton registered 29 goals and 60 points with the Quebec Remparts last year, and although he won't attain those numbers this year, his rate of production is right on par.
*Robert Steeves: G Acadia Axemen
Of all the goalies in the AUS to stop UNB in their tracks, who'd have thought it was going to be Robert Steeves? The reality is it was, and he's been Acadia's best option in net. He's won four straight games for the Axemen, and his .936 SV% in November is drastically helping what was at one point, one of the worst team save percentages in the country.
Key Games This Week:
Saint Mary's vs UPEI, Thurs, Dec. 1st, 7:00pm AST
A rare Thursday night showcase in the AUS, this game is important for a number of reasons. Saint Mary's is hot right now after beating UPEI and UNB last week. They get those same two opponents again this week. For UPEI, they've lost six straight, and although the break is a welcome sight, they'll desperately want to flip the script rather than ride a colossal losing streak into the break.
Acadia vs UNB, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 7:00pm AST
It happened last week, so why not do it all over again this week? Acadia is definitely a good team, but it's hard to imagine that UNB won't be better than they were last week when they lost to Acadia. This should be another great showdown from Fredericton and a perfect way to send the AUS into the Christmas break.
1. On one night the McGill Redmen look like an impenetrable force capable of running up the score against any opponent. One night later the McGill Redmen find themselves shutout by the Queen's Gaels' backup goalie. Granted, Jacob Brennan has played like a starting netminder all year, but the point is McGill had two very different games this week. Their 4-2 win over UOIT showed that you can ill-afford to make a mistake with the puck in your own zone against McGill, but the effort against Queen's shouldn't have been as bad as it was considering the magnitude of the game. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard sees his save percentage drop to .876, second last in the OUA, which is extraordinary given his history in the league. But make no mistake, the Redmen are still one of the best teams in the league. This weekend was not their best, and the Redmen will undoubtedly rise once again.
2. Ask any coach in the conference, and they'll all tell you the same thing. The UQTR Patriotes are as good, if not even better than they were last season. It wasn't an ideal start for the Patriotes this year, but now with the offence firing on all cylinders again, there's not a team that can hold UQTR at bay when they execute their gameplan. Sebastian Auger is finding his game lately too, with a .944 SV% in his last five games for UQTR. Both wins against RMC and Carleton were fairly close decisions, but as bountiful as UQTR's offence is, they'd rather score timely goals than have a high volume. UQTR gets RMC again this week, and will be put to the test with the stellar goaltending of the Queen's Gaels on Saturday to close out their first semester.
3. The UQTR Patriotes have an LOI from Antoine Marcoux of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for the 2017-18 season. UQTR got out to an early start on the recruit front last year when they locked up Gabriel Slight, Elie Berube, and Allan Caron all before the New Year, so it's not a surprise to see them get started this early once again. Marcoux missed a chunk of the season already with injury, but he's healthy now, and he's producing at about a half a point-per-game rate. Being a center, if UQTR keeps him there, he could put up bigger numbers in the OUA, and he's a decent face-off guy too. Marcoux adds depth and flexibility to UQTR's roster in 2017-18 if he indeed jumps to the OUA.
4. The Queen's Gaels have been back and forth since their five game winning streak came to an end, but they still find themselves in a lock on top of the OUA East, which is exactly where they wanted to be at this point in the season. Brett Gibson has told me on a couple of occasions this year that he genuinely believes he has a roster capable of hanging with the best in the OUA East and believes his team can hang around in the top three. With stars like Kevin Bailie, Slater Doggett, Eric Ming, and Spencer Abraham on the roster, there's good reason to believe they can be that team, but I'd like to see some more production from their depth players before I'm convinced this team is as good as the best in the OUA East.
5. After a hot start, the UOIT Ridgebacks have only two wins in their last five games, yet sit just one point behind the leaders in the OUA East. There's no shame in losing to McGill, and the 4-1 win against Ottawa is a source of confidence, so it's definitely not a state of concern for UOIT. However, some of the games they've lost this season are against opponents they're battling with in the OUA East, namely Concordia, UQTR, and McGill. If the Ridgebacks really want to take the next step, they're going to need to beat those other top teams in the OUA East a couple more times this season, especially if they want to parlay their season into an extended playoff run. They'll get their second shot at Concordia this Friday when the two teams meet in Oshawa, Ont.
6. The Concordia Stingers didn't have a particularly great Friday night when they were shutout by the Carleton Ravens, 4-0. But their 7-1, 58 shot win against RMC the following night quickly reminds us that Concordia is still among the deadliest of teams the OUA has to offer. Offensive outpourings from Anthony De Luca and Olivier Hinse against RMC are a good sign for Concordia, and so is the return of Philippe Sanche to the Stingers lineup. Concordia plays just one more game as they round out their semester against UOIT, but given the history of this program, regardless of the outcome Concordia will be happy with their first semester as they find themselves right in the thick of the race for top spot in the OUA East.
7. The Carleton Ravens continue their trend of splitting weekends as they beat Concordia 4-0 on Friday, and then lose 3-1 to UQTR on Saturday. The aforementioned Patriotes are hot right now, so limiting them to just three goals is a pretty solid accomplishment, but after already beating UQTR once this year, Carleton will wish they had a second chance at sweeping away the Patriotes. Francois Brassard has been the clear-cut number one goalie this semester and has maintained a nice statline, which includes two assists, a testament to his puck-moving ability. Brett Welychka has cooled off since his red hot start, but with Corey Durocher scoring for Carleton, their offence isn't any less dangerous than it was three weeks ago. Carleton will hope to close things out with a pair of wins this week coming against York and Brock.
8. The Ottawa Gee-Gees emerge from the week with another impressive victory, this time over Queen's, as their hunt for the playoffs intensifies. It may seem early to talk about the postseason, but with just 28 games in the schedule, the stretch run isn't that far away. Brendan Jacome and Jacob Hanlon each had three point nights in the win against Queen's, as Ottawa appears to be starting to get some depth out of their roster. Kevin Domingue, Marc Beckstead, and Jacob Harris have all pulled weight offensively, but if the Gee-Gees get contributions from players like Jacome and Hanlon moving forward, offence won't be an issue for them like it was in October.
9. The teams from up north, Laurentian and Nipissing, didn't have the best week, but the Lakers will be happy with their 3-1 victory over the Western Mustangs. Western hasn't been very good lately, but Nipissing will still relish the fact they beat a team from last year's national championship as Colin Campbell and Brock Morrison add to their team-leading point totals. Domenic Graham has been terrific for the Lakers lately, meanwhile Laurentian's goaltending wasn't playing their best this week. Losses to Guelph and Western set them back to seventh in the OUA East, but Darcy Haines continues to put up numbers for Laurentian as he approached career-high numbers.
10. The RMC Paladins didn't win a game this week, but they managed to hold UQTR to within two goals on Friday night, which is something to be proud of. Unfortunately Saturday's game against Concordia didn't yield the same results, but if you ask opposing coaches, they'll tell you that RMC is a harder team to beat this season than they have been in previous years. Even after giving up seven goals to Concordia, goalie Austin Hannaford made 51 saves, which is an impressive feat at this level. RMC will get another big test this week coming when they face UQTR and UOIT. Although a win is unlikely, never ever count out the RMC Paladins.
***Domenic Graham: G Nipissing Lakers
If there's anything that's gone well for the Nipissing Lakers this season, it's been the play of Domenic Graham. A decorated QMJHL starter with Ivan Hlinka Memorial experience, his .930 SV% in the month of November is among the league leaders. Graham was tough to beat again this week, posting a .962 SV%, and made 44 saves against the Western Mustangs to steal a win on the road.
**Slater Doggett: F Queen's Gaels
Slater Doggett appeared on the scoresheet just once against Ottawa on Friday, registering only an assist. But on Saturday, Doggett burst out for three points, including two goals in a 4-0 shutout win over the powerhouse McGill Redmen. Doggett wasn't making the saves, but he's been pulling his weight on the other end of the rink with six points in his last four games after a small three game dry spell.
*Tommy Giroux: F UQTR Patriotes
Players like Guillaume Asselin and Pierre-Olivier Morin continue to produce for UQTR, but this week, it was the Tommy Giroux show. He added a pair of assists against RMC which turned out to be difference-makers, and then had a hand in all three of UQTR's goals against Carleton on Saturday. For a guy who scored 20 goals a season ago (fourth most in the country) and had 41 points, we haven't been talking much about Giroux, who is just as capable of lighting up a team as the rest of the UQTR lineup is.
Key Games This Week:
Ryerson vs McGill, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
This is a true clash of titans between the leaders in their respective OUA conferences. Ryerson has had substantial time off after last playing U of T on Wednesday, so expect them to be well rested and well prepared. For McGill, they're still without some weapons, but the Redmen are as hard a team as any in the OUA East to beat on any given night.
UQTR vs Queen's, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 7:30pm EST
UQTR downed Queen's in their first meeting a couple weeks back by a comfortable 5-2 margin. The Patriotes look as good, if not better than they did last season, and the Gaels will have to summon all their might to take down UQTR. But of course you can never count out Queen's with Kevin Bailie in the crease. If he comes with his A-game, this game could be a real battle for supremacy in the OUA East.
1. It wasn't that long ago that the Guelph Gryphons were losers of four straight games, and teetering on the edge of a playoff spot. One month later, Guelph has four wins in a row, and are just outside the top two picture in the OUA West. If the Gryphons taught us anything a few seasons back, it's to never count out a team coached by Shawn Camp. He's getting the most out of his players again, as Robert Lepine, Cody Thompson, and Seth Swenson lead the way for Guelph, and right on their heels is Trevor Morbeck, who has been surprisingly offensive this season. Scott Stacjer still isn't playing to his full potential, but the Gryphons' offence has been shooting out the lights recently, and that's why they find themselves third in the OUA West. This week saw them eek out a pair of close wins against Nipissing and Laurentian.
2. The York Lions were announced as the opponents of the UNB Varsity Reds for the Pete Kelly Cup coming up on December 29th and 30th. That should be a great test for the York Lions and could show us whether or not York should be in the conversation as one of the best teams in the country. At the moment, they're certainly one of the best in the OUA. Another two win weekend have them within striking distance of the Ryerson Rams, and with at least one Ryerson loss, the Lions can take control of the division before the semester's end. York's team save percentage in November was a fantastic at .931%, and the Lions have also received key contributions from Greg Milner and Kyle Campbell this month. They'll see both Carleton and Waterloo next week.
3. The Ryerson Rams had a quiet week with just one game against U of T on the schedule, but they made the most of it, winning 5-1 over their crosstown rivals in the 100th iteration of the downtown showdown. The Rams have scored four or more goals in seven of their last eight games, as they sit second to only UQTR in OUA goals this season. Aaron Armstrong had another multi-point game, and Matt Mistele continues to impress with seven points in his last five games. Only York and Carleton have been able to stop Ryerson this year, but apart from a four game stretch, the Rams have been fantastic all season. They'll get a big test this weekend when they visit McGill and Ottawa on the road.
4. The Lakehead Thunderwolves are good at winning one-goal games. Only one win (7-2 over UOIT) for Lakehead this year has been by a margin of more than one goal, and this week Lakehead was pushed to the limit by the Laurier Golden Hawks. Friday night saw the Thunderwolves score three goals in the third period to tie the game, and eventually capped it off with a double OT winner from Carson Dubchak. Lakehead grinded out another close contest on Saturday, winning another 4-3 game, but this time in regulation. Kelin Ainsworth continues to be one of the best players in the conference and leads a Lakehead team which has an average record, but are also one of the most entertaining teams to watch.
5. The Brock Badgers are marred amidst a nasty five game losing streak which saw them drop contests to both Windsor and Waterloo this week. The Badgers are starting to show signs of last year's team, with an offence that's been starved for goals lately. The Badgers are missing two key contributors in Matt MacLeod and Andrew Radjenovic, but they shouldn't be as bad as they are right now, even without those two. Having Clint Windsor sidelined hasn't helped at all either, as the Badgers are a lowly 1-7 without their starting netminder. Their relief goaltending continues to be spotty, and have allowed 26 goals over Brock's five game skid. If Murray Nystrom is able to keep his roster invested in the team this season, this will only be a road bump for the Badgers who are capable of much more. But Nystrom can ill-afford to have a repeat of last year.
6. On the topic of losing streaks, the Western Mustangs finally stopped their dismal seven game losing skid with a 6-3 win over Laurentian. But just one night later against the Nipissing Lakers, the Mustangs wound up with another loss, losing 3-1. It's just so uncharacteristic to see Western have so many offensive difficulties. They ran into a hot goaltender in Domenic Graham on Saturday, but it doesn't excuse their lack of production for the season. Even the goaltending has been shaky in the absence of Greg Dodds, as Lucas Peressini has a disappointing .884 SV% on the season. It's inevitable that the best is yet to come for Peressini, but now with Dodds back in the lineup, Clarke Singer's decision on a starting goalie won't be difficult this week.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks struggle for consistency continues after they lost a pair of games to Lakehead, one of which was a very winnable contest. One thing Laurier has done consistently this year is shoot the puck. The Golden Hawks' 539 shots on the season is third most in the OUA, but I've said it before, offence is not the problem for Laurier. Goaltending has been hit or miss this season, and the defence has struggled to contain the top offensive threats in the OUA West at times this year. It's becoming an old theme at this point, but if the Golden Hawks simply played better defence, they can be a top five team in the OUA West by season's end.
8. The Windsor Lancers have been a fairly quiet team this month, yet they carry right along in the OUA West. The Lancers aren't a great team, but they've been collecting points against teams they should be, and they've stolen a few wins from teams ranked higher than themselves. There's a few losses scattered here and there, but the Lancers don't seem to be going away any time soon. Kris Joyce had a splendid month in November with a .937 SV%, and a 1.98 GAA, making him a very capable starter, but nobody on the forward unit had a standout month. If the Lancers can find the offensive spark they had to start the season, don't be surprised if they poke into the top three in the OUA West sometime in second semester.
9. The Waterloo Warriors busted off a dominant 6-1 win over Brock on Saturday, ending a four game losing streak. But we need to see more from Waterloo before we can say their offence has finally arrived. This week they'll get Western and York, both teams that can be hard to score against if the goaltenders are hot. Meanwhile, the other team out of the playoff picture, U of T, quietly lost a pair of decisions to Ryerson and York, 5-1 finals in each game. Both Matt Campagna and Aidan Wallace continue to have respectable seasons, but there's still not much to write home about with the Varsity Blues.
***Seth Swenson: F Guelph Gryphons
Seth Swenson didn't score any goals this week, but he's sure been making an impact on the final score, with four assists to his credit this weekend. Swenson drew one assist against Nipissing on Friday, and then had three helpers in a tight 4-3 OT win against Laurentian. Swenson now has 16 points on his season, an OUA career high, and is also on track to best his WHL OA season numbers in 2013-14 spent with Seattle and Lethbridge.
**Kyle Campbell: F York Lions
The York Lions exacted their revenge on the Toronto Varsity Blues this week, handling them by a score of 5-2. Campbell lead the way for York with two goals and an assist on the night, and although Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen starred in York's win over Windsor, Campbell added another assist, which lands him on this list. Campbell's four points this week now give him 13 on the season, an OUA career high.
*Kelin Ainsworth: F Lakehead Thunderwolves
Kelin Ainsworth has been fantastic for the Lakehead Thunderwolves in November, racking up an impressive 16 points in this month alone. This week, Ainsworth added three assists against Laurier in game one, then scored the eventual game-winner against the Golden Hawks in game two of the mini series. The fifth year veteran has been huge for Lakehead this season, and is unquestionably one of the best players in the whole conference.
Key Games This Week:
Laurier vs Brock, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:15pm EST
The Brock Badgers need to stop the bleeding in the worst way, and Laurier is also looking to rebound after two losses at the hands of Lakehead. We know Laurier have the offensive weapons, but so does Brock. For both teams, goaltending has been suspect at times this year, and defensive inconsistencies have hurt them too. It's a tale of two similar teams looking to exit their first semesters on a high.
Carleton vs York, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm EST
The topsy-turvy season of the Carleton Ravens has been well documented, and they'll get another test with York this week. We know the Ravens can beat the best teams in the OUA, but they haven't done that consistently. For York, watching them attempt to shutdown Carleton's offensive threats will be a great storyline. The Lions have found themselves in some really tight games lately, so this could be another 'late-game heroics' type matchup.
1. The Alberta Golden Bears are the new leaders in the Canada West conference after they took three of four possible points from the Lethbridge Pronghorns this weekend. Despite a dramatic OT loss on Friday, the Golden Bears rolled right over Lethbridge on Saturday, winning 5-0, as Alberta's key contributors continue to produce. Saturday's win marked the second shutout of Brendan Burke's young Canada West career, and Graeme Craig tagged on a pair of goals as well. Luke Philp saw his 10 game point-streak snapped by Lethbridge on Friday, but responded with a goal on Saturday. The Golden Bears continue to impress as they get set for Saskatchewan to close out their semester.
2. The Lethbridge Pronghorns continue to play well against nationally ranked opponents, as they beat the Alberta Golden Bears in OT on Friday night. Justin Valentino and Tim Campbell continue to be great, but before the shutout loss on Saturday, Mitch Maxwell had a stretch of eight points in just three games, making him the hottest player on Lethbridge. I spoke with one coach this week who has been impressed with Lethbridge this season, and remarked, "They play with a lot of pace". That pace has been crucial to Lethbridge's success, as has the system implemented by coach Spiros Anastas. But if Lethbridge doesn't come out and set the pace for games like they have against the giants in Canada West, they can run into trouble. Lethbridge needs to continue to hustle and out-work their opponents if they want to keep winning.
3. The Mount Royal Cougars capped off one of the most entertaining nights of the season in Canada West with a dramatic three goal third period comeback to take down the UBC Thunderbirds in a shootout. Mount Royal didn't have a great 40 minutes, but they showed how dangerous their offence can be, even without Luke Simpson and Matt Brown, when they rallied for four goals in the third period to knot the game at 5-5. Jamal Watson, Connor Rankin, Matt Bellerive, and Sebastian Pare all headmanned the comeback, but credit to Cam Lanigan in net, who stayed between the pipes for a full 70 minutes despite allowing five goals. Saturday's game was much less tense for the Cougars, who cruised to a 5-3 victory and showed you can never count them out of a game.
4. It's been a really frustrating stretch for the UBC Thunderbirds who have been losers in four consecutive contests, and still have the country's worst powerplay, at just 5.0%. Their penalty kill isn't very good either, and overall, UBC has been as good as their special teams have been this month. The Thunderbirds still have a solid roster on paper, but consistency issues continue to stricken them. On the upside, they're definitely scoring goals this month, but goaltending has also been a problem at times. If the Thunderbirds can get every element of their game to be good at the same time, they can rattle off a few wins. It seems that there's always been something missing from UBC's games this year.
5. The Saskatchewan Huskies won't be happy about losing their coveted conference lead, but there's still plenty of time in the season to eliminate the one point gap between them and Alberta. Daniel Wapple got his second look at Canada West action when he got the start against Manitoba on Friday, and looked quite good, holding the Bisons to just one goal in a 2-1 victory. Saturday was a different story for Saskatchewan, who went back to Jordon Cooke and promptly lost 5-2. Given Manitoba's roster, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that Saskatchewan dropped the second game, but the lack of offence in November for Saskatchewan definitely raises an eyebrow. With a GPG of just 2.67 in November, the Huskies aren't scoring at the same rate they were to start the season. Although they ran into some good goaltending this week, you have to imagine coach Dave Adolph is looking for more from guys like Michael Sofillas, Logan McVeigh, and Kohl Bauml, who combined for just two points this weekend.
6. Saturday's 5-2 win for the Manitoba Bisons over Saskatchewan is a step in the right direction, but the Bisons need to build off this win for it to mean anything. Manitoba continues to hover around the .500 mark as they search for momentum. Byron Spriggs gave them two really good starts against Saskatchewan, which is a positive, but the Bisons didn't do much to get by Canada West greenhorn Daniel Wapple on Friday. Remi Laurencelle returned to the lineup this week, and Nick Zajac showed some signs of a breakthrough, but Manitoba needs more from it's depth players going forward. When you have a player like Jordan DePape on your roster, you don't want to waste that talent on a sub-par season.
7. The Calgary Dinos and Regina Cougars linked up for an entertaining affair on Friday night which saw every game in Canada West venture into overtime. Steven Stanford didn't have his best game, but after winning 5-4 on Friday, and 6-1 on Saturday, Calgary's offensive numbers suddenly don't look so bad. For Regina, their offence doesn't look so bad either with 15 goals in their last four games. Tristan Frei added another two points this week, and Cody Fowlie boosted his point total to nine, with a goal and an assist against Calgary. Regina is still a ways away from a team like Calgary, but November has brought some positive improvement to the Cougars.
***Nick Zajac: F Manitoba Bisons
Nick Zajac has a terrific WHL resume to his credit after a full five seasons with the Saskatoon Blades, but his WHL success hasn't immediately transitioned into Canada West. This week's four point showing is definitely a step in the right direction for the Manitoba forward, who hopes to ignite his game. He scored the Bisons' lone marker against Saskatchewan on Friday, then posted three points in Manitoba's 5-2 win on Saturday.
**Elgin Pearce: F Calgary Dinos
Elgin Pearce lead the offensive charge for the Calgary Dinos again this week, posting four points, including two goals against the Regina Cougars. Pearce got the scoring started in Friday's contest, and then put up a three-spot against the Cougars on Saturday. Pearce continues to be the heartbeat of the Dinos offence, and is on his way to usurp is 27 points from a year ago.
*Connor Rankin: F Mount Royal Cougars
It was another four point weekend for MRU's Connor Rankin, but he didn't get those numbers the easy way. After going down 4-1 to UBC, Connor Rankin sparked Mount Royal's second marker with an assist, then scored their third goal to kickstart the comeback. On Saturday, Rankin posted another two assists in a 5-3 win, increasing his team-leading point total to 16.
Key Games This Week:
Alberta vs Saskatchewan, Fri. Dec. 2nd, 7:00pm CST
For this matchup, I might as well have their Saturday game in the second slot for this segment, because both matchups will be tremendous. To me, these two teams have the best rivalry running in U Sports hockey right now, and it will show this weekend. There's everything on the line with the conference lead up for grabs, so expect this to be a real dogfight as per usual with these two teams.
Calgary vs UBC, Sat. Dec. 3rd, 4:00pm PST
Despite UBC's struggles of late, their games have been fun to watch. It doesn't seem to matter what the score is, UBC games are never over until the final buzzer sounds. For Calgary, they've had a few thrillers themselves too against Regina and Saskatchewan. Obviously the T-Birds are looking to go out of the first semester on a high, but Calgary will give them all they can handle.
1. If there were any doubts after a few early losses this season that the UNB Varsity Reds could be as good as they were last year, those should virtually be erased now as UNB continues to roll right along in the AUS. Cameron Braes returned to the lineup and immediately had an impact, registering six points over UNB's two wins against UPEI and Moncton. Chris Clapperton has scored in three straight, Cameron Brace recorded a hat-trick against UPEI, and of course all the usual suspects are producing for UNB. It's always worth watching to see if UNB adds another body over Christmas, but at this point, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player who can make them better. Maybe UNB looks for another d-man. Without Colin Suellentrop right now, they're a little shorthanded on the back-end.
2. Just like that the UPEI Panthers have lost four games in a row and are starting to seriously slide as the end of the semester approaches. Cody Payne was held off the scoresheet this week, but the Panthers continue to score at roughly the same rate they did in the first semester. Their .805 SV% in the month of November is dreadful, and the PK% is also a lowly 58.8% in their last six games. The Panthers need to figure out their defensive deficiencies before they hope to regain the success they had early beating teams like UNB.
3. While the Panthers struggle, the Saint Mary's Huskies may be starting to turn a corner. They've won three games in a row, including a dominant 5-1 win over StFX on Friday night. Ben Duffy is getting some serious traction again with nine points in his last five games, and with Hunter Garlent, Calder Brooks, and Taylor Burke stepping up lately too, the Huskies definitely aren't a bad offensive team by any stretch. Goaltender Eric Brassard seems to be putting it together lately too, with four consecutive starts under his belt. SMU's lack of bodies on defence is still hurting them, but look for them to add over the Christmas break with four roster spots open at the moment. Miles Liberati would be a real nice fit on the Huskies' blueline if they manage to get him.
4. Is Robert Steeves the new number one goalie for the Acadia Axemen? There's definitely no telling for sure just yet, but he has the best numbers of any goalie on the team. That's saying something considering this Acadia team features both Devin Williams and Brandon Glover in the crease, but Steeves' was an ex-CHL starter in his own right with the Gatineau Olympiques and Acadie-Bathurst Titan back in his day. If anything, Acadia's crease flexes their recruit muscles, with goalies from the QMJHL, WHL, and OHL on one team. The Axemen split this weekend after losing a tight one in OT to StFX, but bounced back with a 5-2 win over Dalhousie. Stephen Harper and Remy Giftopoulos continue to produce, but Matt Pufahl has exploded for eight points over a five game point streak.
5. The StFX X-Men split this weekend, taking down Acadia on Wednesday, but losing to SMU on Friday. Defenceman Cole MacDonald had the OT winner on Wednesday and the former Everett Silvertip is slowly but surely beginning to fill up the stat columns. Brandon Hope was pulled after allowing four goals to SMU on Friday and has been all over the map lately, so expect Chase Marchand to see some starts this week coming. Holden Cook sat out Friday's game against SMU which isn't a great sign, but StFX's depth is among the best in the conference. Perhaps this will give Nathan Pancel a better opportunity up front, as the ex-42 goal season man with the Sudbury Wolves is still searching for his first this year.
6. Allain Saulnier has just one goal on the season, yet leads in the country in points. That's ridiculous in every sense of the word. Even more so when you factor in Moncton has the country's leading goal scorer in J.F. Plante, yet still find themselves dead last in the AUS. Defence and goaltending issues continue to persist, and it's quite simply killing the Aigles Bleus. Moncton pulled off a 4-2 win against UPEI on Friday, but were quickly dismissed by UNB, 9-1. The good news is, they are comfortably under the roster cap and have a lot of flexibility in terms of adding players. But the question is, can they find anyone willing to commit mid-season?
7. Disappointing week for the Dalhousie Tigers who emerge with a pair of regulation losses. Corbin Boes is always a talking point when it comes to the Tigers, but it's extremely important they find some more production from the offence if they want to hold down their playoff spot. Yes, missing Phil Gadoury hurts, but good teams in this league are able to push through absences like that. Dalhousie should be pushing for another player addition over the break, and although the reacquisition of Chad Duchesne and/or Danny Moynihan is a possibility, the Tigers can't wait much longer.
8. The Aaron Berisha sweepstakes are really heating up. He's been visiting campuses across the country lately and his list begins to narrow. UPEI is an obvious contender with his brother Beni playing there, but Acadia could also very well be in on Berisha. From the OUA, Western is always poking away at available forwards, but Carleton and Ryerson are two other schools who have recruited well out of the OHL and pro ranks.
***Matt Pufahl: D Acadia Axemen
On a team with a plethora of offensive weapons up front, Matt Pufahl's five point week was an unexpected surprise. But it's less of a surprise when you consider he's just a season removed from 28 points, and totalled 49 points in his OA season with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. Acadia has a lot of threats on their forward unit, but Pufahl is proof you can't forget about their blueline either.
**Cameron Braes: F UNB Varsity Reds
Another week, and another UNB Varsity Red on the three stars list. But this position is well deserved for Cameron Braes, who returned from injury this week, and then promptly posted six points over his two games played, including a hat-trick against Moncton on Saturday. Braes is another great example of a guy who made the jump from the WHL to the AUS and is paying big-time dividends for his team.
*Ben Duffy: F SMU Huskies
Ben Duffy is one of the highest scoring QMJHL recruits to ever play AUS hockey. After a fairly slow start to the season, you had to figure it was only a matter of time before Duffy got the ball rolling this year. Six points this week, three in each game, highlight a nice 2-0 weekend for the SMU Huskies. Look for more to come from a former 100+ point scorer in the QMJHL.
Key Games This Week:
UPEI vs Saint Mary's, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm AST
UPEI is a team that needs to turn things around pronto, while Saint Mary's is starting to gather some momentum. This game will either see UPEI get back on track or Saint Mary's continue their mini-roll. On the adverse side, either UPEI's struggles will continue, or Saint Mary's will have issues preventing goals again.
UNB vs Acadia, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm AST
The UNB Varsity Reds look unstoppable lately, especially after the way they've run over StFX. They've already taken out Acadia once this year, 5-1, but if the Axemen get some timely goaltending, this game should be a lot closer. Both teams have deadly offences, so if neither side has sharp goaltending, this could quickly turn into a slobber-knocker.
1. Having registered a point in eight consecutive games, the McGill Redmen are now tied on top of the OUA East with the Queen's Gaels. The Redmen had a close contest with the York Lions on Friday night, which saw OT determine the victor, but a night later, the Redmen bulldozed through the Brock Badgers 6-1. Dominic Talbot-Tassi is really starting to take over, as a five point week including two game-winners make him the highest scoring d-man in the OUA. Some news broke this week that McGill have an LOI from Nikolas Brouillard, a small but highly skilled defenceman currently with Orlando in the ECHL. McGill is short-staffed on the blueline without Etienne Boutet at the moment, and if Brouillard does indeed want to come to McGill, he helps them the second he steps on the ice.
2. This week saw the UOIT Ridgebacks slip to third in the East after a pair of losses in-conference to the Concordia Stingers and UQTR Patriotes. It's not a good sign for the Ridgebacks because if they have any intention of remaining a top three OUA East team, those are the teams they are going to need to beat. Concordia and UQTR both have high power offences, so it's imperative that UOIT plays well defensively and gets very good goaltending in order to win. That didn't exactly happen this week. The Ridgebacks faceoff against the McGill Redmen next week, which will be a huge test for a UOIT team who have already beaten the Redmen once this season.
3. The Queen's Gaels had their win streak snapped this week when they ran into the UQTR Patriotes. The Gaels certainly made a game of it going into the third period, but the Patriotes looked really, really good this week. Queen's held the Concordia Stingers to just one goal in the 2-1 win on Saturday night, and it signified another rock solid start for Jacob Brennan who has been very serviceable for the Gaels this year. Slater Doggett and Eric Ming both continue to fill the net for Queen's, and both should get serious consideration in the roster selection for the U Sports Selects team set to play against Team Canada in December.
4. The UQTR Patriotes looked like the Patriotes from last season all over again, taking down UOIT and Queen's this weekend. The Patriotes now lead the OUA with 61 goals, and Guillaume Asselin has made the offence look totally unstoppable. It's easy to say that even without Asselin, the Patriotes have the depth to compensate for his loss, but now that he's back, it really shows how much they've missed his presence. The Patriotes are 4-4 all-time when Asselin isn't in the lineup, and although that's not a terrible record, by UQTR standards over the last few seasons, that's below expectation. This week UQTR runs into both RMC and Carleton. Two wins put them right back among the leaders in the OUA East.
5. The Ottawa Gee-Gees nearly pulled off a six game win streak had it not been for the York Lions on Saturday night in a great back and forth OT game. But the point remains, the Gee-Gees have been a far better team in the month of November than they were to start the year. They're still not scoring all that much, but goaltending has combined for a .930 SV% this month, and the Gee-Gees possession numbers are starting to rise. These are all encouraging signs for Ottawa who seem to be a brand new team ever since Marc Beckstead joined their lineup seven games ago. But you can also see players like Kevin Domingue and Jacob Harris are playing a much more confident game, and their teammates are following suit.
6. After losing three straight games, the Laurentian Voyageurs immediately respond by rattling off another three consecutive in the win column. The win over Carleton on Friday has to be huge for their confidence, but a narrow double OT win over RMC on Saturday nearly saw them lose three straight games to the Paladins. Joel Vienneau finally captured his first career OUA win this week after going 0-12 to start his OUA career. That's not a particularly great record, but still, Vienneau can be a big difference maker for Laurentian in net when he's playing well like he did this weekend.
7. The Carleton Ravens continue to flip-flop as they lose to Laurentian on Friday, and then take down Nipissing on Saturday night. Carleton surprisingly mustered just 23 shots on net against Laurentian, and given Carleton's offensive talent, that's a disappointment. They spent the first part of the game against Nipissing in the penalty box, but once the Ravens got back to 5-on-5, they looked like the much better team. Corey Durocher broke a mini-goalless drought with a nice hat-trick on Saturday that carried Carleton to victory, but Carleton's inconsistency issues continue to plague them throughout the first semester.
8. After getting off to a very hot start in October, the Concordia Stingers are starting to look a lot more normal in November. They split this weekend, beating UOIT, but then lost 2-1 to Queen's a night after. The Stingers' offence has dropped by about a full goal-per-game this month, and the goals against average has risen by about the same margin. Anthony De Luca continues to be one of the hottest players in the conference, but Concordia would like to see more from guys like Dominic Beauchemin, Philippe Hudon, and Scott Oke, all of who have been relatively quiet so far this month.
9. RMC and Nipissing both find themselves out of the playoff picture as the Ottawa Gee-Gees start to heat up. Steve Deeg, Brock Morrison, and Colin Campbell all put up some nice numbers over two wins for Nipissing, but they were clearly outmatched again this week by Carleton. RMC comes away with a point from their game against Laurentian, but it's clear to see that stringing multiple wins together will be tough for them this season.
***Joel Vienneau: G Laurentian Voyageurs
Joel Vienneau not only recorded his first two wins in the OUA this week, but he also recorded his first career OUA point. Sure, it was just an assist on an empty net goal, but it was a fantastic pass that found Dylan Fitze and sealed the deal against the Carleton Ravens. Of course, Vienneau did a pretty good job stopping the puck this week too, holding Carleton and RMC to just one goal each.
**Guillaume Asselin: F UQTR Patriotes
Guillaume Asselin has missed half the season with injury, yet he still has the second most goals in the OUA with 11. That's ridiculous. The Patriotes just seem to be a different team with Asselin in the lineup, as they mowed down the competition this week behind three goals and five points courtesy of Asselin.
*Dominic Talbot-Tassi: D McGill Redmen
If there was such thing as a perfect week for a defenceman in the OUA, this would be pretty darn close. Dominic Talbot-Tassi scored two game-winners this week for McGill, and added another four assists to his total, solidifying his position as one of the best offensive defencemen in the whole country. Whatever the Redmen lost in the departure of Sam Labreque they seem to be getting out of Talbot-Tassi this season.
Key Games This Week:
UOIT vs McGill, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:30pm EST
The UOIT Ridgebacks already beat the McGill Redmen once this season, but the way McGill has been playing lately, UOIT won't be seeing the same team they saw earlier this year. However, McGill will likely be without Christophe Lalonde and Jasmin Boutet due to suspensions out of the Brock game, so UOIT could catch a break there, but there's a lot more to worry about on McGill's roster than just those two.
UQTR vs Carleton, Sat. Nov. 26th, 7:00pm EST
UQTR tore through their opposition this week, and with RMC coming up, that appears to be a mismatch. But Saturday could be a real good test for the Patriotes who already lost to Carleton this year back in October. For the Ravens, they certainly have the personnel to beat UQTR again, but will it all come to fruition? This should be anyone's game, and has all the makings of a classic.
1. The Ryerson Rams continue to sit on top of the OUA West and possess the best offence in the West by a fair margin. They've strung five wins together now since a disappointing loss to York, and Ryerson's top unit of Matt Mistele, Michael Fine, and Chris Marchese have found their game lately. The trio have combined for 21 points on their five game streak, but the Rams are finding serious contributions from their bottom six players too. Ryerson's ability to roll an effective four-line unit has been separating them from the pack this season, and make this Ryerson team arguably the deepest they've had in recent memory. Taylor Dupuis and Charlie Graham have both started to fare better in net too, improving the OUA's worst save percentage in October to a .911 SV% in November.
2. If you were wise enough to place a wager at the start of the year on the U of T Varsity Blues getting their first regular season win against the Western Mustangs, you're a very rich person. Western's seven game losing streak is the worst they've had in the Clarke Singer era as head coach, and losing to U of T on home ice rubs more salt in the wound. When I saw Western play Ryerson on Thursday, I didn't think they looked that bad, but their lack of offence was evident. Even with Matt Marantz and Andrew Goldberg back in the lineup, the Mustangs didn't have much to offer, and their offence is among the worst in the OUA, with just 28 goals to show through 13 games.
3. On the U of T Varsity Blues side, they'll be very happy about not just beating Western, but scoring a whopping seven goals in the process. Aidan Wallace is having a very productive season for the Varsity Blues, and with Matt Campagna and Charlie Connell stepping up, U of T definitely has some talent up front, although it's still not as much as last year. U of T turned around the following night from Western and then lost a close one, 5-4, to Laurier, but the Varsity Blues are starting to find ways to score. Much like last year, it doesn't matter how badly U of T is being outplayed, they always seem just one or two bounces away from being within striking distance again.
4. The York Lions have to be happy after coming away from a northern road trip with three out of a possible four points. They came very close to taking down the McGill Redmen on Friday, and went down to the wire with Ottawa too the next night. Alex Fotinos has looked very impressive lately, keeping the Lions close against some great teams. His .932 SV% shows that even though the Peruginis are gone, York hasn't seen much change in terms of quality netminding. Greg Milner has eight goals on the season now and continues to be one of the most underrated players in the OUA West, while the rest of the York Lions have been business as usual, playing as one of the hardest teams to score goals against.
5. The Brock Badgers are a really feisty team. Considering how their preseason went, I'm probably a month or two late to this conclusion, but the folks up in Quebec know it now too after the Badgers and Redmen had a penalty-filled contest on Saturday night. Clint Windsor remains on the shelf, and Brock has been forced to turn to their backups, but despite losing both games this weekend, Adam Beukeboom continues to fill in fairly well. His 45 saves on Friday kept Brock close against Ottawa, but Alex Brooks-Potts looked a little softer, allowing six goals to McGill on Saturday. Brock is on a bit of a roller coaster right now, but if they stick with the system and trust their coaching, there's no reason they can't stay inside the OUA West top five.
6. The Guelph Gryphons and Lakehead Thunderwolves had a real battle up north this weekend, with a combined 22 goals between the teams in a pair of Gryphon wins. Guelph's Rob Lepine lead the way with six points against Lakehead and headlines a Guelph offence which has looked really good at times this season, but at others, not so much. For Lakehead, Kelin Ainsworth continues to be one of the best players in the conference, but Lakehead's team save percentage is now tied with UPEI for second worst in the country. Lakehead has some consistency issues on defence too despite a talented group back there, but definitely need their goaltending to be better too.
7. The Laurier Golden Hawks come away from the weekend with a sweep to their credit after a couple of hard fought wins against Windsor and U of T. The Golden Hawks are actually starting to show some good signs as a team capable of poking around in the OUA West top five, but consistency will certainly determine whether or not they are worthy of that spot by the end of the semester. While Derek Schoenmakers continues to score at a steady pace, Andrew Fritsch has been a point-per-game player too, and Danny Hanlon doesn't sit far behind at nine points through 13 games.
8. The Windsor Lancers are looking to string together some consistency in the month of November, as they still hover around the .500 mark after splitting another weekend. The offence had gone quiet before their game against Waterloo, but goalie Kris Joyce has been supplying some good starts for them lately. Windsor had a bit of a tough time against OUA East opponents, but now that two straight in conference games against Brock and York, two wins could go a long way in placing themselves in a good position before the Christmas break.
9. The month of November hasn't been very kind to the Waterloo Warriors, especially offensively. The Warriors have just eight goals so far this month, three of which came against Windsor in their last game. Waterloo are losers of four straight games now and continue to search for any kind of offensive consistency. Before their two powerplay goal outburst against Windsor, the Warriors' powerplay was sitting at a dismal 1%. They haven't been getting a lot of bounces, but it's clear to see there isn't much finishing on this team either.
***Matt Mistele: F Ryerson Rams
Part of one of the deadliest lines in the league right now, Matt Mistele is finally starting to get his game going in the OUA. Injuries hampered his progress at the start of the season, but there's clearly chemistry with himself, Chris Marchese, and Michael Fine. Mistele netted five points this week for Ryerson, including a goal against Waterloo.
**Aidan Wallace: F U of T Varsity Blues
The second member of the 2015 Memorial Cup Champion Oshawa Generals on this list, Aidan Wallace factored a big part into U of T's 7-3 win against Western, and added another point against Laurier to cap his week off at four points. Wallace produced well for U of T at the start of the season, but after a few games without much to offer on the scoresheet, it looks like Wallace could be back to his early season form.
*Robert Lepine: F Guelph Gryphons
I always believed Robert Lepine was the best kept secret on a Guelph team that featured the likes of Robbie De Fulviis, Dylan Gilbert, Kyle Neuber, and Carlos Amestoy last season. But now that those players are gone, it's Lepine's time to shine. An impressive six point showing this week lead the Gryphons past the Lakehead Thunderwolves as Lepine's contributions will be a big part of Guelph's success moving forward this season.
Key Games to Watch This Week:
U of T vs York, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm EST
I get the sense Chris Dennis doesn't like playing the Varsity Blues. This was the team that knocked his York Lions out of the playoffs last year, and in their first meeting this year, the Lions just barely scraped past U of T by a score of 1-0 at home. Don't be at all shocked if Darren Lowe has something up his sleeve for York again this week.
Windsor vs Brock, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:15pm EST
We saw last week how chippy the Brock Badgers can play, and we know that the Windsor Lancers aren't a fun team to play against either. With the way both teams have been playing lately, this one could be a real bruiser of a matchup. The Badgers are on a bit of a slide without their starting goalie, Clint Windsor, and the Windsor Lancers need to muster some offence. It's a combination for success for the Lancers, but the Badgers have surprised more than a few opponents already this season.
1. The Lethbridge Pronghorns are seriously stepping up against nationally ranked opponents this season. With their surprise 2-0 sweep of the Mount Royal Cougars this week, the Pronghorns are 3-1 against nationally ranked opponents. It's been the midrange to basement teams in Canada West that are giving them trouble. All the while, Justin Valentino continues to be a great story. A fourth-line centre just two seasons ago, the former Swan Valley Stampeder leads Lethbridge in goals, but his nine markers are also tied with Jamie Crooks for second most in Canada West. Tim Campbell has been rock solid, and a big five point week for Mitch Maxwell contributed to Lethbridge's success.
2. The Mount Royal Cougars received a bit of a shock this week, but going through some adversity early in the season might help this team out a little in the long-run. The Cougars were simply outplayed by Lethbridge, and had a hard time beating Garrett Hughson. They also long to get their captain Matt Brown back, who missed more time this weekend. The two losses to Lethbridge don't constitute a slide yet, but if they drop a pair to UBC next week, you can bet some eyebrows will be raised.
3. The Regina Cougars nearly forgot what the win column looked like, but thanks to a pair of big wins against UBC this weekend, are back in the mix. When I last spoke with coach Todd Johnson, he told me that he expected Cody Fowlie could be in store for a better season. His five point week for Regina was certainly an encouraging sign for a former 40-point player with Everett and Kelowna in the WHL. J.J. Coleshaw's return was huge for Regina too, as he added four points this weekend. But it was the breakout from Tristan Frei that really has people talking. The first year forward registered six points, including three goals against UBC, and suddenly leads the Cougars in points. Don't expect the offence to produce at this rate consistently, but if Regina can continue to beat opponents like UBC, they won't be far out of the playoff picture.
4. Elgin Pearce continues to prove my statement that he's the most clutch forward in Canada West. Pearce beat Canada West's most clutch goalie, Jordon Cooke, in the shootout on Saturday night to solidify Calgary's 2-1 victory over Saskatchewan. The Dinos got great goaltending again from Matt Greenfield, but apart from Elgin Pearce, the offence hasn't been finishing much lately. For Saskatchewan, they continue to receive consistent production from guys like Michael Sofillas, Logan McVeigh, and Jesse Forsberg. It's going to be that type of consistency that lends itself to a deep run for Saskatchewan. They handled Calgary fairly easily on Friday with a 5-0 shutout victory, but the Huskies need to keep their momentum going if they want to hold off the Alberta Golden Bears.
5. The Alberta Golden Bears are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and are really starting to look like they've found their game early in the season. That's a crucial component to their success with such a large roster turnover, but so far, things are moving faster than I expected. You had to figure the Golden Bears would piece together their roster at some point, but players like Luke Philp, Tyson Baillie, and Trevor Cox are settling right in. That's a testament to Alberta's recruiting. Not only do they get talented hockey players, but they get guys who can adapt to the Canada West game quickly. It also helps that Jamie Crooks and Jayden Hart continue to put up crooked numbers, as their success is key to Alberta all season long. They sweep away the Manitoba Bisons this week and take on Lethbridge in a pair of games next week.
6. The Manitoba Bisons continue to lose games, but their roster makeup really makes you believe they can be a team that contends for a top three spot. Manitoba has been scoring right on par with most teams in the league, but they've sputtered going 5-5 in their last 10 games. Their 42 goals against definitely isn't a great number, as they still search for consistency in net, but I really do believe this team should be capable of turning themselves into a real threat throughout the second semester.
7. This was an awfully forgettable week for the UBC Thunderbirds who drop a pair of games to the lowly Regina Cougars. UBC has a strong cast of defenders and a netminder in Matt Hewitt who is capable of playing very well too, so there's really no excuse for giving up 10 goals this weekend. UBC has struggled with some consistency issues out of the gate, but we've seen when they play well they are capable of being a playoff team. Given the landscape of that program over the last few years, it's not a surprise to see them have a weekend like this, but they'll be afforded the opportunity to bounce back as they face Mount Royal and Calgary at home to close out the semester.
***Mitch Maxwell: F Lethbridge Pronghorns
On a big weekend where Lethbridge got contributions from all over their lineup, Mitch Maxwell prevails with a five point weekend. It had been a fairly quiet season for Maxwell up to this point, so perhaps this outburst is a sign of things to come later on this semester. It's definitely not a stretch to imagine, especially after Maxwell posted 21 points for Lethbridge a year ago.
**Jayden Hart: F Alberta Golden Bears
It was business as usual for Alberta this week as they cruised to another 2-0 sweep, but Jayden Hart really stood apart this week, as his three goals against Manitoba boost his season total up to 11. Hart never really got prime playing time with last year's cast of veterans on Alberta's roster. But now with the roster turnover, Hart is seeing big minutes, and he's making the most of them, as evidenced by his five point weekend.
*Tristan Frei: F Regina Cougars
Seeing six points come from one of Regina's freshest recruits this week wasn't something many could have seen coming. Tristan Frei wound up being a huge reason the Regina Cougars came away with a pair of wins against UBC. In addition to his six points, Frei had both game-winners. This is a promising sign for a Regina team who will take scoring from anyone in the lineup at this point.
Key Games This Week:
Saskatchewan vs Manitoba, Fri. Nov. 25th, 7:00pm CST
The Saskatchewan Huskies are still one of the best teams in Canada West, and the Manitoba Bisons could really use a few wins before the semester ends. We keep waiting and waiting on the Bisons to breakthrough, but if they do it this week, it's a great source of confidence for them moving into the Christmas break. Expect Saskatchewan to be as good as usual, but I'm really itching to see Manitoba break through.
Lethbridge vs Alberta, Sat. Nov. 26th, 7:00pm MST
Lethbridge has picked up three of a possible four points against nationally ranked opponents this year, and after Alberta lost to UBC earlier this season, another multi-point weekend for the Pronghorns is definitely within sight. The Pronghorns have been playing to their competition all season long, but with the way the Golden Bears are playing right now, this may be the best team they've seen to this point.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Last week the Dalhousie Tigers snapped an 11 game losing streak to the SMU Huskies with a 3-1 win. This week, they beat the Huskies once again. Back to back victories for Dalhousie over SMU in CIS men's hockey hasn't occurred since they defeated the Huskies on Jan. 12th, 2007, and then again on February 17th of the same season. Big thumbs up to Chris Donnelly and his boys for being right in the mix out of the gates.
2. The SMU Huskies are the most offensively starved team right now in the AUS, but it really shouldn't be that way. Bad bounces have plagued the Huskies early on this season, and against Dalhousie Corbin Boes made the difference in net. Even so, offence may not be SMU's biggest issue right now. Stephen Gillard, Mark Trickett, and Justin Weller are all out for the Huskies on defence, leaving them seriously short on the back-end.
3. Last time we checked on the Moncton Aigles Bleus, they were having trouble keeping pucks out of the net. One week later, things haven't really gotten any better. Another nine goals allowed against the UNB Varsity Reds on Friday lead to another embarrassing defeat, and goalie Brandon Thibeau's GAA stands at a dismal 6.02 currently. The good news for Moncton is they managed their first win in OT against the UPEI Panthers on Saturday. The OT marker from J.F. Plante gives Moncton their first two points of the season, and reminds us that the first line on the Aigles Bleus is still dangerous as ever.
4. The UPEI Panthers wound up losing both games this week, but still look like a team that can contend for the top seeds in the AUS this year. Matt Mahalak was sensational against UNB on Wednesday, but the 47 shots UNB sent UPEI's way that night was just too much. The new recruits for UPEI continue to lead the way for this team as J.C. Campagna, Cody Payne, Beau McCue, and Gabe Guertler have combined for nine of the 14 Panthers goals to this point in the season.
5. The AUS got it's first look at Chase Marchand this weekend as he started for the StFX X-Men on Saturday against the Acadia Axemen. 41 saves for Marchand in a 5-3 win should silence any doubters of the X-Men crease for the time being, especially with the start Brandon Hope got off to as well.
6. Greg Betzold is back on CIS radars after being released from the Cincinnati Cyclones this past week. At the moment, there's nothing concrete to suggest that he ends up in the AUS, but some teams are certainly mulling the idea over. Bringing Betzold into a program at this point is much easier said than done, and especially with the roster cap, it's going to take a fairly bold move to get him in for second semester. The AUS is definitely a possibility for Betzold, but it's certainly no guarantee either.
7. Add Miles Liberati and Aaron Berisha as candidates for Christmas adds in the CIS. Berisha had been garnering plenty of CIS interest before turning pro this year, and Miles Liberati had been fairly dead set on giving pro a chance before considering CIS. With both players now in the ECHL, if neither gets a shot at the AHL by December, CIS teams will be pitching very hard to bring in either of these two. Worth noting, there is confirmed OUA interest in both players as well.
***Alex Pawelczyk: F Dalhousie Tigers
The aforementioned Dalhousie Tigers are off to a solid start this season, and Alex Pawelczyk has been an instrumental part of that. Brought in to add some serious size for Dalhousie, Pawelcyzk has found the net three times already, and had a pair of key goals this weekend. His game-tying goal against Acadia on Friday ensured the extra point for Dalhousie in overtime, and a game-winner against Saint Mary's the following night gave Dalhousie their second win.
**Holden Cook: F StFX X-Men
On a team featuring Eric Locke, it's hard to bet against him to put up the best numbers on the X-Men, but right now, Holden Cook is standing toe-to-toe with Locke as the team's most productive player. Another three points over two games for Cook including the eventual game-winning goal against Acadia highlight his week.
* Stephen Anderson: F UNB Varsity Reds
Philippe Maillet and Jordan Murray have been stealing the show for the V-Reds offensively, but let's give Stephen Anderson some credit this week. A fairly reputable scorer in the QMJHL who had a relatively quiet rookie season last year with UNB, Anderson has broken out early with seven points in four games. Anderson's speed and skill has been on full display lately, and he hasn't looked out of place at all with UNB's top threats.
Key Games This Week:
UPEI vs Dalhousie, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm ADT
This matchup features a pair of programs off to solid starts this season and could feature a great goaltending matchup if both Matt Mahalak and Corbin Boes get the start for their respective teams. UPEI's rookies should be on full display again, and seeing how Dalhousie counters that could make for a very entertaining affair.
UNB vs StFX, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm ADT
Breakout your split-screen folks, because this is a can't miss game. A rematch of the 2016 AUS and University Cup final, the V-Reds and X-Men have one of the best rivalries going right now in the CIS. Some elements from what made last year's rivalry so great are now gone, but game one between these two teams offers the chance for anyone in the lineup to step up and be a hero. Expect nothing short of a classic.
1. The instability in the OUA East early on may be the most surprising storyline from this conference at the start of the season. Every team has shown weakness, and even the 4-0 UOIT Ridgebacks blew leads late this weekend to both Laurentian and Nipissing forcing overtime. Perhaps the power in the OUA East isn't as top heavy as we thought it would be this season.
2. The Concordia Stingers came away with a big win this week over the Carleton Ravens on Saturday. Even after losing to the McGill Redmen the night before and allowing six goals, the Stingers rebounded very well to stymie the Ravens, holding them to just two goals. Philippe Cadorette had his first hiccup this season on Friday, but was rock solid again the following night. Anthony DeLuca, Antoine Masson, Olivier Hinse, Scott Oke, and Dominic Beauchemin all got the ball rolling this week for the Stingers offensively.
3. The Carleton Ravens responded to the RMC loss by defeating the UQTR Patriotes rather convincingly 5-1 on Friday night. Francois Brassard appears to be emerging as the early favourite out of the Carleton crease, now with a .929 SV% to his credit, and a 2-1 record. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the momentum from the win against UQTR was counteracted by a 3-2 loss to Concordia on Saturday. Losing to Concordia this year is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Ravens would've loved to get the 2-0 weekend. Either way, better terms for Carleton this week than last.
4. The UQTR Patriotes have had a somewhat disheveled start to their season. Sebastien Auger is still on the shelf, and now Guillaume Asselin joins him after missing Friday's game against Carleton. Luckily for the Patriotes, Carl-Antoine Deslisle has been off to a hot start, and they're still towards the top of the standings. Still lots of time for the Patriotes, but without Auger and Asselin at the moment, this could be the weakest UQTR has been in the last two seasons.
5. The McGill Redmen have had an eventful start to their season, but for the wrong reasons. L.P. Guindon got the start this week against Concordia, and held the fort for about two and a half periods. After going up 6-1 on the Stingers, the Redmen let the flood gates open as Concordia sniped four unanswered past Guindon to make the score a frightening 6-5 final for McGill. The schedule doesn't get any easier for McGill who see Carleton and UQTR this coming weekend. Don't be shocked if coach Kelly Nobes throws Joe Fleschler out for a start sometime soon if things don't settle down.
6. A week after the biggest upset of the season, the RMC Paladins came back down to earth losing to Ottawa and Laurentian. The game against the Gee-Gees wasn't ever close, but the Paladins put together another formidable effort against the Voyaguers on Saturday, losing by a score of 3-1 after conceding a late empty-netter. Early indications are the Paladins are definitely a bigger team than last season, and in some ways, deeper too. Blowouts like what happened against Ottawa on Friday still aren't a surprise, but expect more tight games out of the Paladins like we saw on Saturday against Laurentian.
7. The UOIT Ridgebacks made some program history last week when they became nationally ranked for the first time in men's hockey program history. After going 2-0 again this week, they'll remain high in those rankings. Tyson Teichmann and Brendan O'Neill are statistically the best one-two goalie punch in the OUA right now, which may come as a surprise to some, especially given Teichmann's previous numbers in the CIS. But as one AUS coach told me this week, he can be a good goalie given a stable defence that allows him to see the puck. The Ridgebacks are unquestionably one of the best defensive teams, but guys like Connor Jarvis, Ben Blasko, and Danny Elser have given them some heavy-duty offensive punch too.
8. The Nipissing Lakers are scheduled to get Domenic Graham back from suspension this week. That should help them in net, but credit to Jeremy Pominville who filled in quite well after sitting out the entire 2015-16 season. The Lakers upset Queen's in double OT on Friday, and nearly did the same to UOIT on Saturday. They can be a dangerous team when they skate well.
9. The Ottawa Gee-Gees muster their first win back as a revamped program, downing the RMC Paladins by a convincing 7-2 score on Saturday. It's been a far from perfect start for the Gee-Gees who have seemingly struggled to carry momentum over from the preseason, but they hope the multi-point games from Jacob Harris, Jacob Sweeney, Mathieu Newcomb, and Cody Drover spark something offensively going forward.
***Nick Esposto: F Laurentian Voyageurs
Early indications show that the Laurentian Voyageurs are a much improved team from last season, despite the 1-2-1 record, and this week it was Nick Esposto who provided some offensive punch. Laurentian doesn't have many offensive threats, so it's extremely important Esposto helps deliver timely points this year for Laurentian, and his three point weekend suggests he's ready for the task this season.
**Jimmy McDowell: D Nipissing Lakers
Although held silent against UOIT on Saturday, Jimmy McDowell was the difference maker for the Lakers on Friday night against the Queen's Gaels. A pair of second period goals gave his team the lead, but it was his double OT winner and hat-trick completer that sealed it for Nipissing. 12 career CIS goals in two seasons prior to his big night against Queen's shows McDowell is no slouch offensively for the Lakers on the back-end.
*Scott Oke: F Concordia Stingers
Four points this week for Oke, who was a part of the charge which saw Concordia make a late run against McGill, and had another two points against the Ravens in a big 3-2 win. Oke is no stranger to scoring in this league with 18 career goals to his credit, but he looks to rebound this season after scoring just six a year ago.
Key Games This Week:
Carleton vs Ottawa Wed. Oct. 19th, 7:00pm EST
On paper, this one looks like a mismatch in favour of Carleton, but you could've said the same thing about Carleton's home opener against the RMC Paladins, and look how that turned out. If anything, the atmosphere will be great for this game, with TD Place playing host to what they call, "The Colonel By Classic". Let the Carleton vs Ottawa men's hockey rivalry (re)commence.
Concordia vs UQTR Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:30pm EST
The Concordia Stingers continue to be one of the most watchable teams in the country, and with the UQTR Patriotes weakened with some key injuries, this is the perfect time for the Stingers to strike. Two of the best offences will shine Friday night, and that combination could make for a real flashy battle for supremacy in Quebec.
McGill vs UQTR, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 7:00pm EST
Anytime McGill and UQTR meet, it's always set to be a classic matchup. Passionate fans on either side, and two teams stockpiled with major junior talent essentially make this a QMJHL game. McGill needs to sort out goaltending early, and who knows what we might see from UQTR. Lot's of questions to be answered for both these teams on Saturday.
1. The strangest game I've ever attended in my life happened this past Wednesday between the Ryerson Rams and the Brock Badgers. An 11:30am puck-drop at Meridian Centre in front of a non-existent crowd with a final score of 8-6 made for one head-scratcher of a game. Odd decision to have an 11:30am puck-drop for a non-school day game.
2. The 15 goals conceded by the Brock Badgers this week shows that the goaltending depth may not be as deep as initially thought. Clint Windsor went down with injury last week against Western, and sat out both games this week. Both Adam Beukeboom and Alex Brooks-Potts did little to help Brock out in both losses against Ryerson and Guelph. Disappointing week for the Badgers who looked much less impressive than they did in week one.
3. On the Ryerson Rams' side, they've definitely proven they have as much talent offensively as anyone in this league. They got away with a slugfest against Brock on Wednesday because of offensive talent, and with Chris Marchese returning on Thursday against Lakehead, and Matt Mistele close as well, the Rams will get even stronger on offence. Wednesday's victory also marks the first time in program history the Rams have gone 3-0 to start a season.
4. The Guelph Gryphons dominated the Brock Badgers in a disappointing rematch of the Steel Blade this week, but were more notably stopped by Laurier, 5-1 on Friday. The Gryphons had an offensive hiccup, and Scott Stacjer didn't have his best showing in net, but the Gryphons are still a strong-looking team early on. Chemistry seems to be oozing out of this team right now.
5. The Laurier Golden Hawks should have come away with two wins this week, but handed a 4-3 decision to York on Saturday. The Golden Hawks surrendered four second period goals to the Lions and never recovered, moving to 2-2 on the season. Andrew Fristch, Danny Hanlon, and Derek Schoenmakers all seem to be clicking offensively for the Golden Hawks, but the rest of the team needs to stay consistent in order to close out teams like York.
6. The York Lions rebounded from a disappointing 0-2 start with a pair of clutch wins this week. They barely skimmed by U of T, 1-0, on Friday after being stoned by Andrew Hunt for most of the game, but came up big against Laurier on Saturday. Both Derek Sheppard and Trevor Petersen seem to have found their feet this week for York, and with them clicking, the Lions become marginally better. What the Lions need to stop doing is sacrificing early leads, something they've done in three of their four games this season.
7. The Lakehead Thunderwolves kicked off their season this past weekend with a back-to-back against the Windsor Lancers in front of 2000+ fans each night at Fort William Gardens. The Thunderwolves actually looked pretty good in their first two games, coming back late to beat Windsor in game one, but losing 6-3 to the Lancers on Saturday. Brennan Feasey torched Lakehead on Saturday with his first career CIS hat-trick, and keeping goals out of the net may be a challenge for Lakehead this season. The good news is, the offence doesn't look half bad at all for the Thunderwolves, especially with a returning Kellin Ainsworth.
8. Fabrizio Ricci was recently cut from the Missouri Mavericks this week and is officially a free agent. If he plays CIS, he won't be eligible until second semester, but still offers a good quality add if an OUA team wants to pick him up. Although initially committed to Ryerson, don't expect Ricci to land back there with a lineup already bursting at the seams with forwards. Ricci and the Waterloo Warriors had talks this offseason, so if he lands with a CIS team in second semester, Waterloo may be a serious contender for his services.
***Aaron Armstrong: F Ryerson Rams
Aaron Armstrong's first career CIS hat-trick came at the right time for the Rams this week who needed as many goals as they could get against Brock on Wednesday. Armstrong also set up his teammate John Carpino late for a crucial marker. Maybe the ex-Junior C star finally found his offensive spark at the CIS level.
**Justice Dundas: F Windsor Lancers
After a relatively quiet opening week for Dundas, he left his mark on the Lakehead Thunderwolves. Dundas had the go-ahead goal in a two-point effort despite the loss on Friday. Although Brennan Feasey stole the show on Saturday night, Dundas had a pair of helpers, crucial to his team's 6-3 win over Lakehead.
*Derek Sheppard: D York Lions
Derek Sheppard looked fantastic this preseason, and it's clear he put in the work this offseason to make this year his best of his CIS career thus far. His big four-point night against the Laurier Golden Hawks fueled the comeback for the Lions in the second period. Sheppard is certainly York's number one d-man this season and can make a serious case for OUA First Team All-Star honours if he keeps this up.
Key Games This Week:
Guelph vs Windsor, Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:30pm EST
The three-game playoff series these two teams had in the first round of last year's OUA playoffs was an absolute war. A very physical series capped off by a classic decisive game three lead to some great entertainment, and inevitably, some bad blood.
Laurier vs Waterloo, Sat. Oct 22nd, 4:00pm EST
It's been a tough start to 2016-17 for Waterloo, but anytime they meet their bitter rivals at Laurier, the result is usually a pretty spirited affair. The Golden Hawks on the other hand have been hot and cold in their first four games, so they'll search for some consistency this upcoming weekend.
1. It's not everyday you can say a team scored two goals all weekend and still came out on the other side with a 2-0 record. But that's the situation this week with the Calgary Dinos. Certainly not the most graceful way to sweep the UBC Thunderbirds, but Steven Stanford was perfect in net, and Dryden Dow and Logan Fisher supplied all the offence necessary. Odd way to start the season for Calgary, but they'll gladly take it.
2. The UBC Thunderbirds haven't scored a goal in precisely 204:05 of Canada West game action. You really have to feel for coach Sven Butenschon and his team, because to not score for that period of time with the shot totals UBC has takes some bad misfortune too. Luke Lockhart has the only goal so far for UBC this season, and that needs to change this week against Alberta. On the upside, Matt Hewitt and Derek Dunn have both shown positive signs in net for the Thunderbirds.
3. The Saskatchewan and Alberta series this weekend totally lived up to expectation. In my opinion, it's the best rivalry going right now in CIS men's hockey. Jamie Crooks capped off a thrilling comeback OT win for Alberta on Friday night, but on Saturday the Huskies got their vengeance, beating Alberta 4-2. Watching these two teams duke it out all year will be an absolute pleasure to watch.
4. Interesting start for the Alberta Golden Bears who wound up turning to Kenny Cameron in net for their first two games. Brendan Burke will get a shot this season, and with Luke Siemens in the mix, it's difficult to remember a time when the Alberta Golden Bears crease was this wide open. From top to bottom there's still a ton of talent on paper with Alberta, but it may take awhile for it to all come together this season.
5. Rough start to say the least from the Manitoba Bisons. Outscored 8-2 this week by the Mount Royal Cougars, the Bisons were looking great on paper, but it clearly didn't translate on ice this weekend. Part of that was due to the absence of Jordan DePape, but he is expected to return this weekend. The Bisons are better than what they showed this weekend, but it's certainly not a triumphant start to their season. If they don't find their offensive groove against Regina, they could be in for a tough weekend ahead.
6. The Mount Royal Cougars on the other hand looked very solid against the Bisons. Goalie Colin Cooper was big for the Cougars last year, and doesn't seem to be any different early this season. Connor Rankin appears to have finally arrived on the CIS scene, notching three goals and an assist this weekend to jumpstart his season, and rookie Jamal Watson chipped in with a pair of goals himself. Great start for the Mount Royal Cougars who may end up knocking on the door of the top two this year if Alberta or Saskatchewan slip up.
7. The Regina Cougars and Lethbridge Pronghorns kicked off their seasons with a bit of a dogfight out west. Splitting the weekend, the Cougars got the better of Lethbridge in a 2-1 final on Friday, but the Pronghorns got back at Regina the following day, winning 4-2. Andy Desautels got the nod in both games for Regina and looks good early on for the Cougars. If Regina finds a number one goalie with Desautels, that's huge for them moving forward. We'll find out for sure in the coming weeks if Desautels is the real deal at this level.
8. Parker Bowles was released from his try-out with the Iowa Wild last week and has yet to land anywhere in the pro ranks. The deadline for players to suit up in first semester has now passed, so if a CIS school wants to bring him in, they'll have to wait until second semester to do so. It was rumoured over the summer that U of C managed to get an LOI from him, but I have yet to receive comment from the Dinos, so until that happens, it's purely speculation.
***Jamie Crooks: F Alberta Golden Bears
Crooks finishes his week with two goals and an assist, but none of his points were bigger than his OT winner against Saskatchewan in Alberta's season opener. Not to mention, Crooks' first goal with nine seconds remaining in regulation was the reason the game even went to the extra frame. On a team littered with young stars, Jamie Crooks should lead the charge as the veteran presence on Alberta this season.
**Connor Rankin: F Mount Royal Cougars
Big week for MRU's Connor Rankin, who according to coach Bert Gilling has taken another step forward this season. Three goals and an assist against Manitoba show MRU fans that even without Tyler Fiddler, this Cougars team is more than capable of filling the net. I get the feeling this isn't the last you'll see of Rankin on the three stars list.
*Steven Stanford: G Calgary Dinos
A perfect week for Stanford in net, stopping all 54 shots he faced. The Dino's have another pair of back-stoppers in Coleman Vollrath and Matt Greenfield who garnered great reviews from junior last season, but if Stanford keeps playing like this, crease-time in Calgary could be very, very hard to come by.
Key Games This Week:
Mount Royal vs Calgary, Fri. Oct. 21st, 7:00pm MDT
The Cougars and Dinos have a great rivalry going on right now in Canada West, and both their men's hockey programs are fit to be very competitive with each other. We'll see how Calgary deals with a more dangerous offensive team in Mount Royal, and if the Dinos have a strong showing this weekend, they may warrant more credit than given after the offseason.
Manitoba vs Regina, Sat. Oct. 22nd, 3:00pm CST
The Bisons are in dire need of at least one win this weekend, and after their first week, who knows what will happen in the second game of their mini-series against Regina. The Cougars are a defensively tough team, and if goaltending comes through again for them this week, they are definitely capable of beating the Bisons at least once.
Written by: Victor Findlay
What a wild week in CIS hockey… and seven teams haven’t even played yet. It was a week where we saw the RMC Paladins defeat the Carleton Ravens on the same night UOIT tops McGill 5-2, and UPEI knocks off UNB in a shootout. To sort out and digest everything from around the CIS this past opening weekend, here’s the Tuesday morning skate.
1. Huge win for UPEI this past week against UNB in a shootout, and the Panthers now find themselves 2-0. I always fancied UPEI as having one of the most underrated recruit classes in the CIS, and that's holding to be true early on, with four of their top five scorers being first year players. As long as the Panthers get good goaltending this season, there's no reason to believe they can't hang around as one of the better teams in the regular season.
2. From the UPEI vs UNB game, we got our first look at the AUS five minute three-on-three overtime format. Unfortunately, there's not much more to say about it. Both teams played it very hesitantly, and as a result, minimal risks were taken. The jury is still out on whether or not this rule change was a good adaption to the AUS, but as one coach told me this week, "it's still better than four-on-four for 10 minutes".
3. Brad Peddle's StFX X-Men are off to a flying start, downing the Dalhousie Tigers and the Acadia Axemen. Brandon Hope got the start in both games and looked great, while Holden Cook carried the weight offensively with a pair of goals and assists. Bryson Cianfrone, Anthony DiFruscia, and Sam Studnicka all ended up reaching the scoresheet for the first time in their CIS careers.
4. It's a good thing Darren Burns brought goaltender Devin Williams into the program in late August, because with Brandon Glover on the shelf at the moment, Williams got serious playing time this weekend. Robert Steeves was yanked fairly quickly against StFX, and Williams kept them in it the rest of the way. More bad injury news as well for the Axemen who lost Stephen Harper about three shifts into their season opener against SMU, and did not play the following night against StFX. Acadia hopes both players will be healthy this weekend.
5. The Moncton Aigles Bleus could be in for an topsy turvy season this year. J.F. Plante, Allain Saulnier, and Alex Saulnier combined for a ridiculous 13 points against UPEI on opening night, and then were promptly shut down by UNB 9-0 on Saturday. Moncton's certainly feeling the effects of not having goalie Adrien Lemay back this year, and need to find a way to keep pucks out of their net, quickly. The offence is clearly there, but 16 goals allowed in your first two games is a terrible start.
6. NHL/AHL/ECHL teams are releasing players left, right, and centre, and as a result, it's becoming harder than ever to land a stable spot in pro as an undrafted over-ager in junior hockey. The trickle down comes all the way to CIS, and as a result, there could be some very good players available at Christmas. Keep your eyes on Aaron Berisha and Mathew Santos. Both will certainly get AUS interest, but OUA teams will be in on them too if they choose CIS.
***G Brandon Hope: StFX X-Men
Excellent start to the season for Brandon Hope. After getting the call on back-to-back nights, Hope slammed the door shut on Dalhousie, and then only allowed one goal to Acadia the following night. Goaltending will be huge if StFX has a chance at an AUS title this year, and so far, so good from Brandon Hope.
**F Allain Saulnier: UdeM Aigles Bleus
How rare is five assists in a single CIS hockey game? So rare it’s impossible to find the last time it happened in UdeM history. Unfortunately, the Aigles Bleus are off to a very rough start, but Allain Saulnier’s five assist effort against UPEI on Wednesday is worthy of recognition.
*D Jordan Murray: UNB Varsity Reds
Fantastic start for the defending CIS defenceman of the year. Clearly he’s picked up right where he left off, registering four goals and an assist in his first two games of the season. However, I’m sure he’d rather have won the game against UPEI than be on this list.
Key Games This Week:
Wed. Oct. 12th, 7:00pm AST: UPEI Panthers vs UNB Varsity Reds
After taking down the Varsity Reds earlier this week, the timing of this rematch couldn't be better for either squad. This gives UNB the chance to figure things out after dropping a decision to UPEI this past weekend, but if the Panthers pull out another big win on Wednesday, their confidence should be through the roof.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm AST: StFX X-Men vs Acadia Axemen
Another quick turnaround rematch, this could be a tougher game for StFX to close, especially if Stephen Harper is ready to go for the Axemen. Worth keeping an eye on Brandon Hope to see if he can keep up the standard he set this past weekend.
1. Great starts for both the Ryerson Rams and Guelph Gryphons. The Gryphons clearly don’t have many ill-effects from losing a number of players to pro, and goaltending from Scott Stacjer has been great to this point. Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine both got involved on the scoresheet, and expect both of them to stay there for the rest of the season.
2. On Ryerson’s side, they managed to down Laurier in the opener, then grinded out a big win against Windsor after falling down early, 2-0 to the Lancers in the first period. Charlie Graham made all the saves he needed to this week, and the Rams talent on offence is certainly showing. Unfortunately for Ryerson, they're already starting to get hit with the injury bug as Matt Mistele, Josh Chapman, Luke Mercer, Devon Paliani, and Chris Marchese have all been banged up this week.
3. The York Lions stumbled out of the gates this week, dropping games to both Brock and Laurier. In both games, York made a late surge, but it was too little too late. The Lions also flipped between Alex Fotinos and Mack Shields in net, showing there’s no clear number one goalie on campus at the moment. This definitely wasn't the start Chris Dennis was looking for out of his team.
4. The Western Mustangs were in tough for both games this weekend, losing their season opener 3-2 at the hands of Guelph, and then inching past Brock 4-3. Western’s defence has undergone a dramatic makeover this offseason, and it could definitely take a while for them to sort things out on the back-end before they make a run this year. For now, Greg Dodds and Lucas Peressini could be seeing a lot of rubber.
5. A couple early favourites for the classic ‘where did he come from’ recruits. Danny Hanlon looked good for Laurier against Ryerson, and then snuck a pair of goals past York on Saturday. Despite losing to Ryerson on Saturday, goalie Kris Joyce looked very solid for the Windsor Lancers. Don't be surprised if either of these players wind up as integral parts of their teams by the end of the season.
6. The Laurier Golden Hawks had a fairly poor showing against Ryerson on Thursday, but rebounded with a win against York on Saturday. They look better defensively at the moment, but with so many new players in the fold, it may take a while before this program actually hits their stride this season. Coach Greg Puhalski told me earlier this week that his team had some great outings in preseason, but also some pretty bad ones. That could turn out to be the story of the Golden Hawks this season.
7. The Brock Badgers picked up a huge win on Wednesday against York. Even after losing to Western on Saturday, Brock’s confidence should be pretty high. Great starts for Adam Lloyd, Chris Maniccia, and goalie Clint Windsor have definitely helped, but if Brock continues to be a difficult task for opponents this year, it will be because they play well as a team. Definitely some individual talent here, but if they hit the ice trying to win the game for each other, they'll be ten times better this season.
***F Jamie Lewis: Ryerson Rams
Tied atop the scoring leaderboard in the OUA West with fellow Ram Alex Basso at four points, Jamie Lewis is picking up right where he left off for the Ryerson Rams. Five points in as many playoff games last year made him the second most productive player on the Rams, and his 2016-17 season is off to a hot start.
**F Adam Lloyd: Brock Badgers
Big week for Adam Lloyd, as with a goal and three assists, he is rolling out of the gates. All three assists came in Brock’s statement win against the York Lions on opening night, and although Brock couldn’t take down Western over the weekend, Lloyd tagged on another goal for the Badgers.
*G Scott Stacjer: Guelph Gryphons
The Gryphons had a good week from a few players like Cody Thompson and Robert Lepine, but Scott Stacjer’s statline is the best among OUA West goalies at the moment. A shutout on Wednesday against Waterloo got things started, but his 36 save performance against Western showed he can be depended on when the Gryphons need a big save.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: York Lions vs U of T Varsity Blues
The first regular season matchup between the two since the V-Blues knocked the Lions out of the first round of last season’s playoffs in shocking fashion. After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, this is already a very, very important game for the Lions.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:30pm EST: Brock Badgers vs Guelph Gryphons
After the way the SteelBlade turned out, do I really need to say anything here? You better believe the Gryphons are out for vengeance, and should be fired up by a great start and a homecampus crowd at the Gryphon Centre.
1. The RMC Paladins are atop the headlines across the country this week with their gigantic upset win over the Carleton Ravens. Despite a typically quiet recruit season, perhaps we need to be giving this Paladins team more credit. As one coach said in reference to RMC, “They have much better depth this year.”
2. A bit of a disaster here on Carleton's side. Justin Nichols got the call against RMC, and got the hook before the end of the game. It's way too early to press the panic button if you're Carleton, but it's a serious wakeup call. Worth noting also that Brett Welychka did not dress against the Paladins, and could have been a huge difference maker. Welychka is hoping to return this weekend against Concordia at the latest.
3. Worth noting that the Paladins also gave McGill a bit of a run after Bruce Hornbrook scored 50 seconds into their game on Friday night, and held the lead for most of the first period. Tough way to start your CIS career if you’re McGill goalie L.P. Guindon, but he rebounded nicely for the win.
4. Speaking of McGill goalies, L.P. Guindon and his fantastic .948 SV% in the preseason could be giving Jacob Gervais-Chouinard a serious run for his money in net. Especially after Gervais-Chouinard allowed four goals on 29 shots to UOIT in a 5-2 loss.
5. For UOIT, what a fantastic start for them. A shutout victory over Ottawa was a perfect start to their season, and a huge 5-2 win over McGill is a big-time statement. UOIT is now 19-10-0 under coach Curtis Hodgins, and could be one of the best defensive teams all year long if they keep up their pace.
6. Another team off to a great start is the Concordia Stingers. A perfect 2-0 after downing Nipissing in a pair of games, outscoring the Lakers 9-1. The 70 shots Concordia conceded this weekend is probably more than they’d like, but so far, Philippe Cadorette is definitely living up to the hype in goal. It’s also fairly clear that Concordia’s offence hasn’t missed a beat either.
7. On Nipissing’s end, this certainly wasn’t the start they were looking for. A four game suspension to starting goalie Domenic Graham doesn’t help, but being outscored 9-1 this weekend can’t be entirely blamed on the absence of Graham. Strange note here as well, as Colin Campbell’s first and only goal for Nipissing so far this year was scored at 19:59 of the 3rd period, as per OUA Leaguestat. Talk about a shutout spoiler….
8. How about the Laurentian Voyageurs this weekend. Despite losing both games, they get thumbs up for a great effort against the UQTR Patriotes. Friday night was the better of the two games they played, as for sections of the game, they lead UQTR in both shots and goals. Eventually Marc-Olivier Mimar saved UQTR from what would’ve been another humungous upset after he scored late in the third period to secure the 3-2 victory. Keep your eyes and ears open for Laurentian this year, they’re poised to be much better than last season.
9. Finally, the Ottawa Gee-Gees hit a bit of an offensive wall as it took them just over five periods to find the net. Connor Sills gets credit for the first goal of the resurgent Gee-Gees, but Ottawa came up short against both UOIT and Queen’s. After a strong preseason, perhaps some of the new Gee-Gees are just finding out right now what CIS hockey is all about.
***F Danny Elser: UOIT Ridgebacks
As mentioned, big week for the Ridgebacks, and Elser had a lot to do with it. His two goals against the Gee-Gees in the season opener ensured their victory, and his goal against McGill was the backbreaker that made the game 4-2 in the third period. After scoring just two goals in nine games of action last year, Elser has been a great early spark-plug for UOIT.
**F Eric Ming: Queen’s Gaels
This spot could’ve easily gone to Ming’s teammate, Slater Doggett, but Ming had a pair of crucial goals this week. After going down 3-0 to Carleton on Friday, Ming made the game close with a pair of goals, and his two markers on Saturday lead to a 4-2 victory for Queen’s over Ottawa. Four goals this weekend from Ming lead the way in the OUA.
*G Philippe Cadorette: Concordia Stingers
One second away from perfection. Tough way to end the second game against Nipissing, but regardless, Philippe Cadorette looked fantastic for the Concordia Stingers. A .986 SV% and 69 saves on 70 shots makes Cadorette the first star out of the OUA East this week, and Concordia hopes this was just a precursor for what’s to come from their young goalie.
Key Games This Week:
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs UQTR Patriotes
After a nightmare of a Saturday night in front of their hometown fans, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Carleton Ravens. In some ways, rebounding against the defending OUA champs would be great for morale, but that’s not going to be easy. Very important game for the Ravens on Friday.
Fri. Oct. 14th, 7:00pm EST: McGill Redmen vs Concordia Stingers
Much like Carleton, McGill needs a bounce-back game, and this should also be a great test to see where the Concordia Stingers are at after last week. If the Stingers aren’t careful defensively, McGill will punish them, and Cadorette will end up seeing more rubber than he saw against Nipissing.
Sat. Oct. 15th, 7:00pm EST: Carleton Ravens vs Concordia Stingers
Another great test for both teams here, this could be a fantastic showdown given the circumstances. If Concordia pulls out even one win this weekend against either McGill or Carleton, that’s huge for them moving forward.
1. Not much out of Canada West this week, as just two games, both between UBC and Saskatchewan are in the books. The Huskies took both games and looked like the better team overall in both contests. Just in case you were wondering, Jordon Cooke hasn't missed a beat.
Stand by until next week, Canada West will get the same treatment as the other conferences, it's just a matter of getting their season kickstarted.
The UQTR Patriotes are set to defend their OUA titles out of the East this year, and as usual this conference provides us with some top-heavy talented teams. UQTR, McGill, and Carleton are all favourites to stay on top of the standings, but the league behind them continues to get deeper this season.
1. McGill Redmen: 2015-16, 22-6-1 (43 pts)
Team Strengths: The McGill Redmen are covered on all of their bases this season. Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, Joe Fleschler, and L.P. Guindon make a case for the best goaltending trio in the CIS this season, Mathieu Pompei highlights a star-studded offence, and AUS transfer Nathan Chiarlitti fits into a top-end defence including Dominic Talbot-Tassi, Gianluca Curcuruto, and Etienne Boutet. The Redmen have it all this season, and are perhaps the team best suited to dethrone UQTR. The Redmen have always been a talented offensive team, but now with the acquisition of players like Alexandre Sills and Samuel Tremblay, they are deeper than ever in the bottom half of their lineup.
Team Concerns: Tough to find one on McGill, but perhaps the biggest concern might be staying the course this season. If the Redmen look too far ahead, they could find themselves in trouble. Coach Kelly Nobes however is not the kind of coach to lose sight of the one step at a time approach, and a successful veteran of this league, he'll find a way to bring McGill back even if they do start to veer off course. On paper, this team is nearly flawless, but teams don't usually stay that way when the regular season gets going.
Recruit Class: Fantastic job from top to bottom in bringing in some of the best talent the QMJHL had to offer this offseason. Jasmin Boutet, Samuel Tremblay, and Alexandre Sills will all come into their first years of CIS hockey as effective bit-pieces, and will function as the classic 'type of players you win with' this year for McGill. Guillaume Gauthier possesses great potential to be a dominant offensive force in this league after scoring 86 points last year in the QMJHL. Nathanael Halbert has been spoken well of as a hard-nosed defenceman from the QMJHL, and as mentioned, L.P. Guindon comes into a crowded crease, but has had a standout preseason for McGill. Harlan Orr joins the team out of the BCHL, and finally, two-time AUS second team all-star Nathan Chiarlitti comes to McGill to close out his CIS career. The Redmen have had a fantastic offseason.
Verdict: It's impossible not to buy into McGill after what they've done this offseason. On paper they look amazing, but we'll find out for sure if they can back it up when they hit the ice. There's still a lot of time for things to change as the season progresses.
2. UQTR Patriotes: 2015-16, 24-3-1 (49 pts)
Team Strengths: The UQTR Patriotes were the best offensive team in the OUA last year, and what's scary is the fact they have a minimal roster turnover. Guillaume Asselin, Tommy Giroux, Martin Lefebvre, Marc-Olivier Mimar, and the usual suspects return again for UQTR, and make them undeniably one of the deadliest offensive teams on paper in the country. The Patriotes will be flying up and down rinks again this year, torching teams who come ill-prepared on defence. In net, Sebastien Auger returns again after a stellar first season and there shouldn't be any questions about his ability to be a game-changing goaltender in the CIS.
Team Concerns: As the saying goes, perhaps too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That good thing in UQTR's case is offence. Offseason acquisitions Elie Berube and Allan Caron should stabilize UQTR's defence a little more than last year, but players like Charles David-Beaudoin and Jeremy Beaudry can't afford to let their guard down this season defensively. Some questions exist about UQTR being a soft team, but they hope players like Gabriel Slight solve any problems in that regard.
Recruit Class: UQTR didn't do a whole lot this offseason, but they really haven't needed to do much at all. Deven St-Hilaire and Timothé Simard will both likely be depth pieces this season, and Gabriel Slight should help them with size and physicality on their forward unit. Allan Caron and Elie Berube are decent defensive recruits from the QMJHL, and goalie Alex Belanger is expected to head back to UQTR after giving pro a chance first.
Verdict: UQTR will be every bit as deadly this year as they were last, and in theory, even got a little better with their offseason recruits. The Patriotes will inevitably be in the chase for the top seed in the OUA East, and once they make it into the playoffs, who knows what could happen.
3. Carleton Ravens: 2015-16, 20-7-1 (41 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ravens retain their top three scorers from a year ago and hope to get just as much this season from Mike McNamee, Ryan Van Stralen, and Brett Welychka. Brent Norris was an underrated contributor last season, and with Corey Durocher compose a very reputable top six in the CIS. The Carleton Ravens have had possession numbers in the stratosphere recently, with a shots for/against differential of a whopping +1169 in the last three years. To put that into perspective, UQTR's differential is +340 in the same time period. The Ravens also had a fantastic defence last season, most of which returns in 2016-17.
Team Concerns: It feels weird putting Carleton goaltending in this category after they've been the envy of the league for the past few seasons. With a grand total of zero games of CIS experience, nobody really seems to know for sure what Justin Nichols, Francois Brassard, and Matt Jenkins can offer the Ravens this year. Nichols and Brassard are both accomplished goalies from major junior, but will it translate to CIS? The Ravens lose their captain Joey West for this season, but leadership shouldn't be much of a concern with players like McNamee and Durocher still on the roster.
Recruit Class: The Ravens were another OUA East team with a small recruit class, but again, didn't really need to add much. The void in net has been taken care of with Brassard and Nichols, and both Josh Burnside and Evan De Haan come into the program out of major junior. De Haan gives coach Marty Johnston another option on defence, and Josh Burnside is the ultimate utility player from the OHL. The Ravens will wish they had been able to hang on to Nathan Todd, but they're still a top team even without recruiting him from the Ottawa 67's.
Verdict: The biggest question mark here is in net, and if it's answered early on, there's no reason the Ravens can't contend for OUA East supremacy again. We saw last year that this team was very worthy of being at the University Cup, but if the Ravens can't solidify their crease in the regular season, they could possibly slip as low as fourth in the conference.
4. Queen's Gaels: 2015-16, 17-7-4 (38 pts)
Team Strengths: As long as Kevin Bailie is with this team, you cannot count out the Queen's Gaels. Among the cream of the crop at this level of goaltending in the country, Bailie can keep Queen's in any game and if he retains form this year, will be the main attraction on the Gaels. Defenceman Spencer Abraham is a great player in his own right, and is primed for another great season at Queen's. Forwards Eric Ming and Slater Doggett have flexed their muscles in this league, and with help from a resurgent Darcy Greenaway solidify a very talented top six.
Team Concerns: The Gaels ran into some depth exposure issues last season, and although it's something they believe they've addressed this offseason, we won't know for sure until this team hits the ice. Some defensive issues have also risen in the past for Queen's, and as good as Kevin Bailie is, they'd rather not have to rely on him to steal a game every week. A returning Warren Steele could help, but the Gaels could use their whole defence to take a step forward if they want to improve in the standings.
Recruit Class: You can tell by the sheer volume of players that coach Brett Gibson is looking at a number of options to find scoring depth. Brothers Luke and Brock Edwards from the NCAA could be the answer, but Dylan Anderson, Luke Bertolucci, and Francesco Vilardi may also help. Andrew Ming, Ted Hunt, and Eric Margo all hope to eventually be what Patrick McGillis was for Queen's last year. Nevin Guy and Graeme Brown hope to help Queen's out defensively this season. Overall not a bad recruit class for Queen's at all, but no particular standouts either.
Verdict: Brett Gibson must know he's in a unique window where the time limit on Kevin Bailie and Spencer Abraham in the CIS is being to draw near. For years the Gaels have been close, but just outside the picture of the big three in the OUA East. With some serious star power on his team, Gibson must be chomping at the bit to catch the top teams in this league.
5. Concordia Stingers: 2015-16, 10-12-6 (26 pts)
Team Strengths: The Concordia Stingers are a program on the rise, and after a successful offseason, have to be taken seriously this year. Over the past three seasons, the Stingers have the second highest shooting percentage in the conference, trailing only UQTR in that regard. It's a reflection of how deadly this team has always been. The returning Olivier Hinse is one of the most dangerous forwards in the OUA, and will be Concordia's shining star once again. With Philippe Hudon, Dany Potvin, Scott Oke, and Dominic Beauchemin back for another year, offensive fire power will be Concordia's strength once again.
Team Concerns: Historically, the Stingers have been held back by goaltending and poor defence. This season, coach Marc-Andre Element hope he's found the solution to those problems. Philippe Cadorette manning the crease this year is huge for Concordia if he lives up to the hype. Defensively, Concordia needs to play better team defence and can't afford to go all-in all the time on offence. They can fly around the ice, but need to sort out any defensive deficiencies before they can improve as a team.
Recruit Class: Hats off to Concordia for a great job of brining in some serious fire power with Anthony DeLuca and Philippe Sanche. Already a deadly team up front, the Stingers got even better with these two. Alex Gosselin, Mathieu Desautels, Anthony Gingras, and Philippe Bureau-Blais are all brought into the overhauled defence, and hope to stick as key cogs. In net, the aforementioned Philippe Cadorette may turn out to be Concordia's saving grace if he pans out the way his resume suggests he might.
Verdict: The Stingers definitely got better on paper in the offseason, and that's a step in the right direction for a program that seemed to be floundering in the OUA East for too long. Rumours still exist that Anthony Beauregard may wind up at Concordia before season's end and make this team even better offensively. Stacking the offence to max capacity worked for UQTR, maybe the same happens for Concordia.
6. UOIT Ridgebacks: 2015-16, 18-8-2 (38 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ridgebacks contain a unique identity in the OUA East as one of the most physical teams the league has to offer. There's rarely an easy win against this squad, who will take any chance to punish you. Coach Curtis Hodgins clearly found something that worked for this team last year when they went on a run into the second round of the OUA playoffs. Ben Blasko showed what he's capable of offensively, but it's the gritty players like Loren Ulett, Mitch Bennett, and Jake Logan that make them so hard to play against.
Team Concerns: The Ridgebacks are already off to an unlucky start despite looking good in preseason action. Loren Ulett looks to be out long-term with an upper-body injury, and UOIT wound up losing Mark Petaccio, Jesse Stoughton, and James Woodcroft from their top six. Blasko remains, and nine goals last season from Connor Jarvis offers some promise, but the Ridgebacks will desperately need to find offence from somebody else if they want to stay afloat in the OUA East.
Recruit Class: Definitely not the most star-studded, but UOIT has seemingly done a nice job of finding guys to fit into their system. Defenceman Kyle Locke was one of the most physical players in the OJHL a year ago, and forward Malik Johnson should fit right into UOIT's style of play. UOIT hopes Anthony Latina or MacKenzie Brown can be a source for offence, while Josh Carrick adds major junior experience to the back-end. Jack Patterson is an experimental player, and goalie Tyson Teichmann adds better depth in net and rounds out UOIT's recruit class.
Verdict: UOIT could be up against it this year offensively. If Curtis Hodgins can keep the Ridgebacks solid defensively and a tough, rugged team to play against, then the Ridgebacks definitely have a chance to stir up the standings in the East like they did last year, but it won't be easy.
7. Ottawa Gee-Gees: 2015-16, N/A
Team Strengths: It's tough to evaluate a team full of players who have never played a regular season game against any of the teams in this league before (except Gabriel Vermette). So essentially, your guess as to what the Gee-Gees will do well this year is as good as mine. They've managed to bring in some seemingly talented junior hockey players, but on a team full of first years, it's impossible to tell for sure how they'll all come together.
Team Concerns: Well... I suppose I sort of underlined the biggest concern this team has in the strengths section. Forgive me, it's been a long week.
Recruit Class: Overall, I give coach Patrick Grandmaitre two thumbs up for the work he and his team have put in to making the Gee-Gees a reality once again. Building a team from scratch is a tall task, especially when you have to deal with the powerhouses of the OUA East taking the majority of the talented major junior players. Regardless of all that, Ottawa managed to bring in reputable names such as Jacob Sweeney, Anthony Brodeur, Jacob Harris, Quinn O'Brien, and Marc Beckstead.
Verdict: The Ottawa Gee-Gees: the great unknown of the CIS this season. It's not like first year programs haven't done well before. Nipissing, Carleton, and Lakehead all had successful first seasons, and with how the Gee-Gees have looked during the preseason, it shouldn't come as a surprise if this team leapfrogs right into the playoffs.
8. Laurentian Voyageurs: 2015-16, 7-15-6 (20 pts)
Team Strengths: Laurentian believes they've made themselves a better defensive team this offseason, and in the end, that will be what wins them games. Joel Vienneau holds down the net, and although he's barely played in the last two seasons, he wasn't a UNB Varsity Reds recruit for no reason. Long-time Voyageur Vincent Llorca returns to the defence and is joined by another CIS veteran Elliot Richardson. Andrew Tessier becomes eligible after transferring from Lakehead, and now Jayme Forslund will also play for Laurentian. All together, not a shabby looking defence on paper.
Team Concerns: Offence was the kryptonite for the Voyaguers a season ago, and there's no guarantees they got substantially better in that category this offseason. Brent Pedersen was an offensive highlight last year, but it's imperative the Voyageurs get more contribution from other players. Nick Esposto could potentially provide that assistance, but players like Brandon Francisco, Dylan Fitze, and Sebastien Leroux could also step up.
Recruit Class: Laurentian's best bet offensively out of the new group could be Blake Luscombe, who put up some solid numbers in Caledonia a year ago. Cray Roberge, Derek Varrin, and Ryan Wildman were all serviceable players at the junior level, but come with some question marks into CIS. Scott Pedersen represents the only pure recruit on defence (not counting Tessier or Forslund), and finally Gunner Rivers gives Laurentian a three goalie rotation. No particular standouts in Laurentian's recruit class just yet.
Verdict: Laurentian's defence should be the highlight of their season, and although they won't be the most fun team to watch, if they get the job done, that's all they care about. Not convinced they are again the fourth place OUA East team from 2014-15, but can be better than they were last season for sure.
9. Nipissing Lakers: 2015-16, 12-12-4 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: The Nipissing Lakers believe they are anchored by a strong goaltender in Domenic Graham this season, and expect to be a harder team to score on than they were last season. Defenceman Jimmy McDowell is one of the tougher players in this league to play against, and will be relied upon this year to matchup with the best forwards in the OUA. Erik Robichaud and Colin Campbell both return for Nipissing and will have to carry the weight again this year offensively for this team to do well.
Team Concerns: Both offence and defence were issues at times last year for the Lakers. More consistent defence will be necessary this year, and they'll need to get scoring past guys like Robichaud and Campbell. Most importantly, Nipissing needs to figure out an identity here. Right now it's tough to place a particular style with this team, and because of that, it's very hard to predict which version of Nipissing you're going to get on any given night.
Recruit Class: Nipissing brings an assortment of players in from across the country to comprise a fairly large recruit class. Taylor Davis has the OHL experience on defence, whilst Tyler Edwards is a defenceman from the MJHL. Adam Clements is a nice puck moving d-man from the Trenton Golden Hawks, and forwards Deverick Ottereyes and Jeremy Butterworth have experienced various levels of success out east. The biggest highlight for Nipissing this offseason was bringing in Danny Desrocher, captain of the Sudbury Wolves. He adds front-end talent and leadership. But perhaps the biggest story is who Nipissing didn't get, as Jordan DaSilva, Brett Jeffries, and Drake Lindsay were all announced as recruits, but are strangely absent from Nipissing's roster page. It certainly throws up a few red flags when three players mysteriously disappear from a team's roster.
Verdict: It's tough to get a solid reading on Nipissing right now, and the sense I get is that this could be an on and off again team this season, much like they were in 2015-16. The Lakers will need a big contribution from Domenic Graham and will need to find alternate contributors on offence if they want to have playoff success this year.
10. RMC Paladins: 2015-16, 4-21-3 (11 pts)
Team Strengths: No strangers to being the underdogs, the RMC Paladins always seem to find a way to upset at least a couple of teams each season. Believe it or not, the Paladins have also improved statistically in the last three seasons. Their possession numbers have seen increases in each of the last few seasons, and the argument can be made that they have continued to become more and more competitive. If they can take another step forward this year, it'll be a great sign out of a program with more obstacles than any other team in the CIS.
Team Concerns: As usual, can RMC just be good enough to contend with teams this season? Talent-wise, they don't compare to most teams in the league, but that hasn't stopped the Paladins from pulling off upsets in the past. RMC will struggle throughout the season to keep up stats-wise with the rest of the league, but the question is how many times will this team catch other opponents off guard?
Recruit Class: Pretty much the usual here for RMC, an assortment of tier II players from around the country. Seamus MaGuire's 71 points last year in the NOJHL is an acquisition the Paladins will be very happy about, and brining in Mathew Michie after a full season in the BCHL is pretty good too. Goalies Austin Hannaford and Michael Desgroseillers will jostle for crease-time this season. Defencemen Colton Keuhl, Matthew McGall, and Matthew Muller join forward recruits Scott Emerson and Torin O'Brien to complete RMC's 2016-17 recruit class.
Verdict: Bruce Hornbrook and John Livingston should both be good again for the Paladins, but it takes some serious stones to predict RMC as a playoff team this season. But as always, RMC seems to sneak out a few wins here an there which can really upset a season for an OUA East team searching for a playoff spot. The Paladins are well coached by Richard Lim and hope to continue to improve their program this season.
Last season proved that the OUA West can be the wildest conference in the CIS, with teams one through six jockeying for positions on the final day of the season. With 2016-17 on the horizon, you should definitely expect the unexpected again from the OUA West, which remains wide open once again.
1. Western Mustangs: 2015-16, 18-10-0 (36 pts)
Team Strengths: With Greg Dodds and Lucas Peressini tending the net this year at Western, the Mustangs have the best one-two goalie punch in the OUA West. Dodds is a proven winner in this league, and the reviews of the 2014-15 OHL goalie of the year, Lucas Peressini, have been very good. Mike DiPaolo will return to the Mustangs this year giving them some truculence, and the prospect of getting Robert Polesello in a top six role early in the season could give Western an offensive boost. Matt Marantz, Spenser Cobbold, Andrew Goldberg, and Ray Huether all return to Western's forward unit and look to build off strong showings in 2015-16. The Mustangs are notoriously well coached, and always seem to find ways to win games.
Team Concerns: Western loses some very key players in David Corrente, Stephen Gaskin, Shaun Furlong, Alex Micallef, Stephen Sanza, and Noah Schwartz. Not only were they point producers, but great leaders with substantial CIS experience on their side. Western will now need players like Sean Callaghan and Jonathan Laser to take a step forward this season on defence. If they don't, their defence could run into some trouble. After not having a single player reach double digits in goals last year, Western wouldn't mind someone taking control of the offensive squad this year, but the fact they still managed to score 103 goals in the regular season a year ago shows how deep they are.
Recruit Class: It's very strange seeing just one player coming to Western directly out of the OHL. However, Lucas Peressini is one heck of an OHL player, and any team would be thrilled to have his services. Defencemen Rylan Bechtel and Austin Adam are two big bodies who looked good in preseason, and Rylan Ball can fit in with Western too. Mitch Brooks and Mitch Fitzmorris both have a certain tenacity about them that make Western a little tougher up front, but certainly don't replace the scoring of Furlong or Schwartz. Western's recruit class includes a few solid players, but by Mustang standards, there's a strange absence of star power.
Verdict: Western has every right to be considered the team to beat in the OUA West again this year. Had it not been for a roster riddled with injuries last season, Western would have inevitably had a better regular season. But they still managed to put the pieces together late in the season and wound up at nationals in March. This year it's a different Western team, but don't expect anything less than the usual from the Mustangs this year.
2. Ryerson Rams: 2015-16, 14-13-1 (29 pts)
Team Strengths: The Ryerson Rams have arguably the most talented roster in the OUA West this season. After two offseasons with major-junior heavy recruit classes, the Rams have more than enough offensive and defensive talent to contend with the powerhouses of the OUA. Michael Fine returns for his fifth season, poised to break a number of franchise records, and with players like Matt Mistele and Josh Sterk on his wing, the Rams top six has a ton of potential. Defensively, Alex Basso comes back fully healthy, and Brandon Devlin looks stronger than ever after a great finish to his 2015-16 campaign.
Team Concerns: No more Troy Passingham in net for the Rams, who turn to Taylor Dupuis, Charlie Graham, and Brodie Barrick in the net. It's a relatively inexperienced crease without a clear-cut number one at the moment. Someone needs to step up and be a brick wall if the Rams intend to go on an extended playoff run. Much like last season, there's definitely star power on the Rams, but can they find chemistry early in the season? Chemistry was a problem at times for the Rams in 2015-16 when they stumbled through a few tough stretches in the season. The sooner the Rams figure out their chemistry, the better they will be.
Recruit Class: Hard not to consider what Ryerson has done on the recruit front this year as some of the best offseason work in the OUA. Matt Mistele is debatably the most notable recruit in the school's history, and Josh Sterk was highly sought-after out of the OHL. Landon Schiller and Devon Paliani both add depth and more grit to the team, while NCAA transfer John Carpino offers speed and top six potential. Defensively, Austin Kosack and Daniel Poliziani add puck-moving presence, Matt Nosella will be a project player, and Josh Chapman adds another element of toughness to the lineup when he gets healthy. Finally, Charlie Graham in net had a very nice training camp, and will be in tough competition with Dupuis and Barrick this season.
Verdict: Call it a homer pick if you want, but the Ryerson Rams have the tools to contend for top spot in the OUA West. The potential has existed for a while, but the Rams have never been able to put it all together over a full regular season. Despite that, there's good reason to bet this is the year the Rams finally hit their stride.
3. Windsor Lancers: 2015-16, 14-11-3 (31 pts)
Team Strengths: The Windsor Lancers were quietly the second best offensive team a season ago in the OUA West. Their 101 goals ranked second only to Western, and Windsor had the best possession numbers in the OUA West as well. Eric Noel and Ryan Green are both substantial losses, but Dylan Denomme has proven over his two years with the Lancers that he's one of the most gifted scorers in his conference. Justice Dundas scoring 14 goals a season ago was a surprise to many, and will be given the chance to prove he's no fluke. In net, Windsor will get Blake Richard back after his OUA all-rookie team honours from last season, get the SJHL MVP in Kris Joyce, and long-time LaSalle Vipers goalie Paolo Battisti. The Lancers have historically been one of the hardest teams to beat in the league, and will be so again in 2016-17.
Team Concerns: Losing Kenny Bradford and Paul Bezzo was definitely a blow to them defensively, and the Lancers will have to look elsewhere to replace their leadership and physicality. The Lancers always seem to strike gold finding players from Jr. B, but this year their defence is full of them, and they'll have to find a way to get them up to speed in this league very quickly. Some scoring depth was also lost from last season, and the Lancers will again have to turn to a group of youngsters to supply a secondary punch.
Recruit Class: The Lancers didn't bring much in the way of major junior experience, but Kevin Hamlin has a knack for finding successful CIS players from the junior hockey ranks. LaSalle Vipers captain Nathan Veres could turn out to be a nice find on defence, and joined by Todd Ratchford and Chadd Bauman give coach Hamlin a solid toolset to work with on the back-end. Ian Faubert was a big-time scorer in Chatham last year, and Konnor Haas put up some good numbers in the MJAHL. Marcus Messier also comes into this program after a year out of hockey. In net, Paolo Battisti and Kris Joyce are both interesting players who could turn out to be nice finds for the Lancers down the road.
Verdict: The Lancers are experiencing a pretty big roster turnover on defence and lose some scoring, but they still have the capability of being a top four team in the OUA West. No matter how much they do or don't score, Windsor will make you work for every last inch of ice and will be one of the most physical teams in the CIS all year long.
4. York Lions: 2015-16, 16-7-5 (37 pts)
Team Strengths: Chris Dennis proved to be a complete game changer for the Lions last season as he completed the 'worst' to 'first turnaround in 2015-16. Having had a season to fully understand his roster, Dennis will get a chance to attempt some more advanced tactics in 2016-17. In recent history, York has had one of the best defensive teams, having allowed the second least amount of shots of OUA West teams in the last three seasons. Derek Sheppard remains one of the best defenceman in the conference and is joined by a steady cast of reargaurds again this season.
Team Concerns: No Justin Larson this year, and that may wind up taking a serious chunk out of York's offence. Last season was a much better offensive year for the Lions who had poor offensive showings in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Trevor Petersen obviously provides a big punch for the Lions, but no other forward came close to Larson's 21 assists a year ago. No Andrew Perugini in net for the Lions either, who now turn to Mack Shields, Mitch Maraschiello, and Alex Fotinos. Much like Ryerson, the Lions don't have a clear-cut number one at the moment, and the sooner someone steps up, the better.
Recruit Class: Daniel Nikandrov was a nice snag out of the OHL, and if Steven Janes puts it all together this year, he offers some promise for York's forward unit. Bryce Milson brings CIS experience and stability to the table, Aaron Spivak has proven to be a great team player in the past, and both Dexter Bricker and Scott Feser have been drawing solid reviews from sources out west. On defence, Jack Goranson and Nick Zottl are both big bodies, but will need to prove their worth at the CIS this season. Goaltender Alex Fotinos is coming off hip surgery and Mack Shields bring starter experience out of the WHL. Overall, it's an interesting assortment of players from across the country and shows a clear effort by York to find good players.
Verdict: Not many, including myself, would have seen the Lions winning the OUA West last year, but it turned out to be all for naught after a disappointing first round exit at the hands of the U of T Varsity Blues. York doesn't have the star power that Ryerson or Western have, but with strong defence and good goaltending, the Lions can definitely find a place in the division's top four.
5. Brock Badgers: 2015-16, 6-15-7 (19 pts)
Team Strengths: If the Brock Badgers buy in, they will be one of the most difficult teams to beat this season. The key here is they have the elements to be a difficult team to close, and now with some extra offensive firepower added to the equation this offseason, the Badgers have to be taken seriously. Players like Brody Silk and Mack Lemmon pose nightmares for opponents to deal with, and players like Andrew Radjenovic, Sammy Banga, Mitch Nardi, Matt MacLeod, and Chris Maniccia can torch you on the scoresheet.
Team Concerns: Last year, the season fell off the rails for Brock at about the halfway point. By the end of the year, it looked like everyone including coach Murray Nystrom was taxed, and understandably so after a second half which saw all the offence dry up. If the Badgers are going to have a better year in 2016-17, they simply cannot have a repeat of last year's second semester. Defensively, they lose Jake Cardwell and Dan Tanel. Two very different players, but both serving a purpose on the Badgers last year. They'll need to be replaced for Brock to have success this year.
Recruit Class: Defenceman Dexter Weber and forwards Matt MacLeod and Andrew Radjenovic highlight Brock's offseason. Weber is a well thought of all-around defenceman from the QMJHL, and Matt MacLeod was a bright spot on an otherwise punchless Saint Thomas Tommies team. Andrew Radjenovic returns after a year away from CIS, and has looked fantastic as captain of the Badgers in preseason. NCAA transfers Braden Pears and Sam Quaranta join the Badgers blueline, and Matt Manella, Nicholas Santoro, Jesse Blais, and Brandon Cercone are coming out of various junior leagues. Alex Brooks-Potts and Adam Beukeboom will backup Clint Windsor this year, and all together cap off a class with a few respectable pieces, but a lot of players who have a lot yet to prove.
Verdict: There's no reason Brock can't be right in the thick of the OUA picture this season. They'll pose a challenge for everyone from Laurier to McGill, but only if they buy in right from the get-go. If Brock stays the course, expect a much better season out of Murray Nystrom's boys in 2016-17.
6. Laurier Golden Hawks: 2015-16, 14-14-0 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Derek Schoenmakers comes into 2016-17 as the leading active scorer amongst OUA West players. His 40 career CIS goals in essentially only three season confirm his place as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the West. Past Schoenmakers, Will Cook and Christian Mroczkowski emerged as effective offensive set pieces last year, and if Andrew Fritsch and Brandon Robinson can put things together at Laurier, they suddenly become one of the better offensive teams in the OUA West. Colin Furlong, Vinny Merante, and Chris Festarini have all played well in the past, and especially if Festarini stays healthy this year, Laurier should be able to find someone who can give them a chance to win between the three of them.
Team Concerns: If Brandon Robinson and Andrew Fritsch don't figure things out at Laurier, this team could be in some offensive trouble. Mac Clutsam was one of the better defenceman in the conference last year, but overall Laurier's team defence last year wasn't great, and they had among the worst possession numbers in the OUA West. If Laurier can find someone either from within, or out of their recruit class to step up and help out Clutsam, that would be huge. But first and foremost, they need to play better team defence this season, which they are definitely capable of.
Recruit Class: Laurier threw in a lot of players this year in hopes that some will pan out to be great pieces. Neil Aird, Jacob Hetherington, Cole Porter, Jeremy Leclerc, and Alex D'Oliveira are all picks out of leagues from across the country. Danny Hanlon offers some offensive flair out of the Trenton Golden Hawks organization, as does Lucas Batt with the Carleton Place Canadians. Alex Annechiarico and Braydon Blight are a pair of big bodies with major junior experience who Laurier hopes can add more of a physical edge to their blueline. Jimmy Soper is a good player who produced in the MJAHL, but Andrew Fritsch and Brandon Robinson are the real wild cards. If they both pan out to their potential, they certainly take Laurier to the next level.
Verdict: Laurier goaltenders ended up getting shelled a lot last season. That showed us that a) Laurier has some resilient goalies capable of stealing a game every now and then, and b) they need to spend less time in their own zone if they want to be consistent. Consistency will be key for Laurier this year, and if they find it, can upset the power balance in the OUA West.
7. Waterloo Warriors: 2015-16, 16-11-1 (33 pts)
Team Strengths: The Waterloo Warriors had one of the best defences in 2015-16, and now even without Joe Underwood, still have one of the best defensive groups in 2016-17. Cam Wind continues to be as steady as they come in the OUA, Stephen Silas is one of the best puck-movers, and there isn't much between Michael Moffat and an OUA first team all-star selection. Eric Diodati comes into Waterloo as a nice fit on defence, and solidifies a top four that will be able to compete with the best forwards in the league. Goalie Mike Morrison has also been known to be air-tight from time to time, making Waterloo a very frustrating team to try and score on.
Team Concerns: No more Colin Behenna, Andrew Smith, or Brett Mackie at Waterloo. Behenna is the biggest loss of the three as the reigning OUA West MVP, and Waterloo will have a hard time outscoring opponents like the used to. Joey Champigny offers promise offensively, and 13 goals out of Riley Sonnenburg last season was a pleasant sign, but Waterloo simply won't have the wealth of offence that they had last season.
Recruit Class: Waterloo is taking a stab at brining in some junior A scorers with Michael Morgan, Cole Murphy, Nick Halagian, Kenny Turner, Michael Siddall, and Zac Coulter. It's possible they hit a homerun with one of these guys, but it's going to take awhile to know for sure. Eugene Makarski will be the third string goalie, and Nik Knezic returns to hockey after multiple years away from the game battling cancer. Eric Diodati stands out as the most notable recruit for Waterloo this offseason.
Verdict: Waterloo will need some time to recover from losing the offensive power they did last season. Waterloo will win games this year by shutting down their opponents, and will need Mike Morrison to give them everything he's got this season. If the Warriors are able to adapt to life without the luxury of having the OUA West MVP on their side, they can still play a factor in the OUA West.
8. Guelph Gryphons: 2015-16, 16-11-1 (33 pts)
Team Strength: The Gryphons have a quietly solid defensive group with the likes of Mac Nichol, Tom Kohler, Reilly O'Conner, and Josh McFadden among others in a cast of steady defenceman. The Gryphon's 69 goals allowed last season was best in the OUA West, and although a big part of that was due to Andrew D'Agostini, he'll be the first to tell you his defence helped him out all year. The Gryphons are comfortable with being the underdog team, and for whatever reason coach Shawn Camp always seems to get the absolute best out of his players every year.
Team Concerns: Guelph is undoubtedly one of the best schools in the CIS for sending players to pro, and although that's great for some guys, it can hurt the team after an offseason like this which saw eight players move on to pro. A number of key players are gone, and it may take another full season for Guelph to fully replace them. The Gryphons lost contributors offensively, defensively, and in net too.
Recruit Class: Guelph had been silent for most of the offseason, and most recruits didn't become public until the end of August into September. Blaize Bridges comes into Guelph after tearing up the MJAHL, and although a small player, holds offensive potential. Ryan Migliaccio finds his home with the Gryphons after playing on the local circuit for years, and joins another former Guelph Storm player in Marc Stevens this year. Nick Boyer transfers from the NCAA, and Guelph also brings in defenceman Max McCutcheon from the Windsor Lancers who should add some size to the d-corps. Josh McFadden stands above the rest as the most recognizable recruit, with AHL games to his credit, and will make a big impact on Guelph's defence.
Verdict: This could be a tough season for Guelph, but as mentioned, Shawn Camp always has a tendency to get the most out of his players. The still have some stable defensive pieces, and if Scott Stajcer regains his pre-CIS form he had with the Owen Sound Attack in net, or even his stint in pro, there's reason to not count the Gryphons out just yet.
9. Lakehead Thunderwolves: 15-16, 8-16-4 (20 pts)
Team Strengths: Lakehead returns for 2016-17 with nine of their top ten scorers from last season. Billy Jenkins proved he's a force to be reckoned with in this league, and having Kelin Ainsworth back this season is a huge offensive boost for the Thunderwolves. Carson Dubchak returns with his leadership, Cody Alcock hopes to stay healthy this season and the Thunderwolves still have ex-OHLers Jacob Ringuette and Justin Sefton on the back-end. All-together, the top-end talent definitely still exists on this Thunderwolves team.
Team Concerns: Without Jeff Bosch in net, the Thunderwolves will need Devin Green, Justin McDonald, or Riley Corbin to step up. Green seems to be the logical choice at the moment, but that may change very quickly if things don't start well for Lakehead. The Thunderwolves allowed the most goals in the OUA West last season, and will need better defence to aid their goaltending as well this year. Now especially without Luke Maw, the Thunderwolves will have to find some more bodies to step up and be defensively responsible all year long.
Recruit Class: Fairly quiet offseason for Lakehead, who don't lose a bunch of players, but after a poor regular season in 2015-16, perhaps could have done a little more. Jonathon Masters, Dillon Donnelly and Patrick Murphy theoretically give the defence a much needed boost. If they all play to their potential, Lakehead should be keeping more pucks out of their net. Evan Mignault, Zack Whitlock, Grant Valiquette, Devin Fullum, and Liam Alcalde will all look to help Lakehead's low goal total last year, but we'll find out for sure what roles they fill come opening night.
Verdict: Lakehead has no excuse to be as bad as they were in the first semester of last year. They have top-end talent, but need to find much more consistency this year. Lakehead is still trying to get back on track to where they were before, and it may still take more time for them to get there.
10. U of T Varsity Blues: 2015-16, 11-15-2 (24 pts)
Team Strengths: The U of T Varsity Blues don't necessarily have to have a great regular season in order to have a solid playoff run. They proved that last season when they snuck into the playoffs, proceeded to knock off the #1 seed York Lions, and then brought the Western Mustangs down to the wire. Game stealer Andrew Hunt returns in the net for the Varsity Blues, and it doesn't matter what team you put him on, Matt Campagna is a standout forward. Accompanied by Connor Cleverley, Toronto has a quick-strike offence and the lock-down ability to take the occasional game they shouldn't.
Team Concerns: The U of T Varsity Blues had two of the most lethal weapons in the conference last year with Christian Finch and Patrick Marsh. Without those two this year, they lose scoring talent out of their top six, which they haven't seemed to replace in the offseason. Defence was troublesome last year for U of T, and now without veterans Matthew Oakley and Dylan Heide, there are some serious questions. Luckily for U of T, Josh Hanson is a great defender, but he can't hold down the fort himself. With a big-time loss of veterans, there's no immediate answers for U of T's holes on paper right now.
Recruit Class: For a team that lost as many players to graduation as they did, it was a little surprising to see U of T add so little this offseason. Willy Paul and Evan MacEachern hope to help out the defence, and the hope is that Connor Bebb will turn out to be a classic case of an OJHLer turned CIS sniper. Evan Johnson has been brought in as another option in net along with Mark Manolescu, but who knows how much playing time they'll see if Hunt continues to play well. Connor Graham was a nice late add from the Ottawa 67's, but you can't help but feel like U of T could've done more this offseason.
Verdict: Tough to buy into U of T right now with so many unanswered questions. It's possible that Darren Lowe's tier II recruits blow the doors off the league and make him look like a genius, but it's a bit of a long shot. U of T will need to grind out wins this year, and if things don't go their way this season, it might be time to reevaluate.
The CIS season is just days away from being upon us, and the Canada West conference is set to be as competitive as ever. Last year the fourth and seventh place teams were separated by just four points, and this year may turn out to be just as tight.
1. Saskatchewan Huskies: 2015-16, 22-6-0 (44 pts)
Team Strengths: They have a brick wall in the net named Jordon Cooke. Daniel Wapple is a nice acquisition in the backup role as well and makes the Saskatchewan Huskies crease air-tight before the start of the regular season. This Huskies team may also be the deepest they've had in recent years, with an excellent recruit class joining a number of returning veterans who know this league well. Leaders such as Kendall McFaull, Jordan Fransoo, and John Lawrence among others really stabilize this lineup and make them one of the best on paper in the entire country.
Team Concerns: Tough to find one on this roster, but if anything, some inexperience may come into play. With such a large recruit class, especially up front, the Huskies will have to rely on some youngsters who will inevitably go through a transition period in this league. It's certainly possible that Saskatchewan hits a wall at some point this season as their young guns adjust to CIS hockey, but as evidenced by the first line of Kohl Bauml, Andrew Johnson, and Levi Cable last season, experience doesn't always trump talent in this league.
Recruit Class: Certainly one of the best in the country. Colby Harmsworth and Tanner Lishchynski both offer short-term assistance and provide great potential to be leaders deep into their CIS careers. Anytime you get a 90+ point scorer from the CHL, you're going to be extremely happy. The Huskies get exactly that with Alex Forsberg, but also bring in proven WHLers Connor Gay, Wyatt Johnson, Jordan Tkatch, Carson Stadnyk, and now having Lukas Sutter on the roster gives coach Dave Adolph another option.
Verdict: The Huskies are a fantastic team on paper, but perhaps what will separate them from everyone else in Canada West is how they went out of the University Cup a season ago. Their veterans will want it more than ever now, and after finding a way to beat Alberta in the Canada West final last season, they have the confidence to beat anyone in this league on any given night. This team contains a number of excellent leaders, and it could be those key veterans that allow the youngsters on this team to really shine. If that happens, the Huskies will be at the top of the standings all year long.
2. Alberta Golden Bears: 2015-16, 19-7-2 (40 pts)
Team Strengths: Talent, talent, and more talent. When it comes to CIS hockey, there's a definite disparity in talent between this league and junior hockey with the top junior players going to pro. But the Alberta Golden Bears always seem to find a way to reel in some extremely talented players, and even with a large roster turnover, still possess one of the league's most talented rosters. Tyson Baillie, Jamie Crooks, Trevor Cox, Stephane Legault, and Luke Philp headline Alberta's offensive cast. There's certainly no shortage of offensive potential or creativity this year, and once they settle into their own game, Alberta will be as dangerous as ever.
Team Concerns: It's been the talk of Canada West all offseason; the huge roster turnover for the Alberta Golden Bears. It doesn't seem to matter which team and what players they get, there are always questions about the transition period for rookies in the league, and Alberta is no exception to that this season. Relatively inexperienced at forward, defence, and goaltending up in the air too, the Golden Bears certainly need to get their rookies adjusted to CIS as quick as they can. It's not hard to imagine Alberta hitting a few bumps in the road this season, and how they bounce back will define their season in 2016-17.
Recruit Class: The Golden Bears took total advantage of a fantastic WHL overage group which was the deepest of any junior hockey league this season. Jason Fram, and Ryan Rehill were both top five d-men available to CIS teams this offseason. Ben Carroll provides stability, and Graeme Craig could emerge as a go-to defenceman early this season. Up front, Tyson Baillie is an A-list recruit, as is Trevor Cox and Luke Philp. Cole Linaker is a great piece, and Taylor Cooper adds some depth up front too. Todd Fiddler may turn out to be the biggest X-factor if he can return to his 50 goal season form, but needs to recover from the pro-hangover first. In net, Brendan Burke and Kenny Cameron will challenge Luke Siemens, but are they Canada West championship goalies? Time will tell.
Verdict: As always, the Golden Bears will be in the mix for another Canada West title, but this year may provide more challenges and obstacles than they've ever had before. Regardless of how the Golden Bears finish their regular season, watching them duke it out with the Saskatchewan Huskies all year will be a blast to watch, as Canada West's battle of the titans has never been more competitive.
3. Mount Royal Cougars: 2015-16, 17-8-3 (37 pts)
Team Strengths: Lead behind the bench by two-time Canada West coach of the year, Bert Gilling, the Mount Royal Cougars are one of the best examples of a well run program still relatively new to the league. Now with Wyatt Hoflin joining Colin Cooper and Cam Lanigan in the crease, goaltending should not be a problem this season at all. Even after losing Jordan McNaughton and MacKenzie Johnston on defence, they still have a fairly deep group on the back-end. Brett Zarazun and Grant Baker both return on defence after full seasons, but it's the new faces MRU brought into the program that make the biggest difference. They don't have the offence on paper that Alberta or Saskatchewan has, but a deep defence and strong goaltending will keep them in the picture all year long.
Team Concerns: No more Tyler Fiddler at Mount Royal, and they haven't exactly brought in many recruits who immediately jump off the page as someone who can immediately fill that void. Having the point-per-game version of Devin Gannon this season would be nice, but who knows where his game is at after taking a year off from hockey. Inexperience on defence may come into question too, but overall shouldn't be a huge concern. Mount Royal is a solidly built team all-around, but the lack of star power may be what holds them back from the top of the standings.
Recruit Class: As mentioned, the defensive group brought in looks great on paper, with Jesse Lees and Colton Waltz coming in as seasoned WHLers, and Dominic Thom, Maddison Smiley, and Taylor Green bringing in more reliability. Devin Gannon is a bit of a wild-card who could turn out to be great after sitting out a year, and the same applies to NCAA transfer Luke Simpson. Jamal Watson is the most accomplished forward coming into the program, and as a former captain of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, could add some valuable leadership down the road. Finally, Wyatt Hoflin is a decent acquisition in net, but if Colin Cooper continues to get better, Hoflin may have to wait to get the coveted starts.
Verdict: All-around a very solid roster. Certainly don't have the flair that Saskatchewan and Alberta have, but they don't need to have it in order to beat them. Bert Gilling knows his team well, and it's clear he's assembled this team around his own gameplan to knock off the top seeds in Canada West. Even without Tyler Fiddler, the Mount Royal Cougars can absolutely contend for the top spot again in 2016-17.
4. Manitoba Bisons: 2015-16, 13-13-2 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Lots of returning talent this year for the Bisons who retain their top five scorers from a season ago. Obviously Jordan DePape headlines this group as one of the most talented goal scorers in the CIS, and will pack a definite punch again this season for Manitoba. Plenty of returning talent on defence as well for the Bisons who get Lee Christensen back for a fifth season, Channing Bresciani and Rene Hunter return, and Adam Henry is expected to take a step forward as well. The Bisons don't have an abundance of offensive talent, but much like Mount Royal, don't need it in order to win.
Team Concerns: It could very well be the goaltending that makes or breaks the Manitoba Bisons this season. Just like the defence and forwards, the crease has a wealth of CIS experience. Experience is great, but it means nothing if the goalies don't play well, and although the Bisons have a very solid defensive group, their goaltending will be relied upon in games against the best teams in the league. Justin Paulic is the public favourite to carry the workload this season, and rightfully so, as he played well in a number of games for Manitoba last year. But if things get shaken up, Byron Spriggs will need to step up, which could be a tall task against the powerhouses of Canada West.
Recruit Class: Despite not bringing in a haul of WHL talent like Saskatchewan and Alberta did this offseason, coach Mike Sirant will be happy with his recruit class. With so many returnees, there wasn't a gaping need anyways, but players like Nick Zajac, Remi Laurencelle, and Hudson Friesen can all make this team better right away. Quintin Lisoway and both Shawn and Brad Bowles could turn out to be interesting experiments. Defensively, Garrett Johnston rounds out a solid defence, but if Blake Heinrich indeed ends up with the Bisons, he'll be their most notable recruit this season. A Manitoba defence with Heinrich in the lineup in addition to all their experience certainly takes them to another level.
Verdict: Another really solid all-around roster here. The Bisons have the potential to nose their way into the top three if the goaltending shines for them this season, but it's hard to picture them as a top two team in this league by season's end. All the Bisons need is a decent regular season, and with a full roster in the playoffs, will certainly make some noise.
5.Lethbridge Pronghorns: 2015-16, 11-15-2 (24 pts)
Team Strengths: There's a lot of optimism around a Lethbridge team coming off of one of it's most successful recruit classes in recent years. Not only is there an injection of WHL talent coming into this program, but eight of their top ten point-getters are returning for 2016-17. Lethbridge narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year in a season that came right down to the wire, and guys like Mitch Maxwell and Brandon Clowes won't forget that anytime soon. Another example of a strong defensive squad in Canada West, Ayrton Nikkel and Evan Wardley continue to add to a stable and experienced defensive group in Lethbridge, which will be their biggest strength this season.
Team Concerns: The leading scorer on the 2015-16 Lethbridge Pronghorns was defenceman Tim Campbell. His 12 goals aren't anything to scoff at, but ideally you'd like to get more production out of your forwards, and coach Spiros Anastas will be pushing for that this season. We know Maxwell and Clowes can put pucks in the net, but can a guy like Connor Sanvido come over from STU and make an impact on the scoresheet? If it comes down to the wire again this season, it could very well be as little as one goal that separates a team from the postseason. In net, Garret Hughson provides promise after a stellar playoff run in the AJHL, but needs to prove himself at the CIS level too. Both Damien Ketlo and Warren Shymko will also need to step up their game if they get called on.
Recruit Class: As mentioned, very nice class for a program who has been fighting to stay out of the basement of the league for a number of years now. Ayrton Nikkel and Evan Wardley are prized possessions on defence, and Clint Filbrandt adds flexibility too. Forward-wise, Russell Maxwell has scored before, but we'll see how much of an effect a couple of seasons away from the game has on him. Connor Sanvido holds potential, and both Torrin White and Ryan Chynoweth will both be project players. Corey Millette is their most reputable forward acquisition and can make a difference in this league right away. Netminder Garret Hughson could prove to be one heck of a steal, but we'll have to wait and see for sure.
Verdict: Another step in the right direction for Lethbridge, and after being right in the midst of the playoff race last year, will be right back there again this season. They're still steps behind the best teams in this league, so it'll be extra crucial for Lethbridge to win their games against teams like UBC and Calgary.
6. Calgary Dinos: 2015-16, 12-12-4 (28 pts)
Team Strengths: Elgin Pearce, Chris Collins, and Cain Franson all return to the Dinos this year. A combined 31 goals between them last year equated to 36% of the team's entire offensive output from 2015-16. Those three players will be relied on heavily for the Dinos, and all having CIS experience on their resume suggests they're safe bets to play well. Goaltending has also been a point of discussion with Calgary in the preseason, as their crease consists of CIS veteran Steven Stanford, RBC Cup champion Matt Greenfield, and highly valued WHL starter Coleman Vollrath. Stanford's numbers last year were well off the mark for what he's capable of, so if he's unable to recover his old form, Vollrath and Greenfield provide great insurance policies.
Team Concerns: There were times last season when a lack of offensive depth was noticeable with Calgary, and that may show now more than ever with some good teams getting even deeper in Canada West. Both Kevin King and Spencer Edwards are not returning for Calgary this year, so they'll need to find somebody to produce secondary scoring as they did last season. Max Ross and Alex Dzielski's absence from the blue-line leaves a couple holes that Calgary has the material to patch back up, but it could take some time. Time could very well be what hinders Calgary the most this season, as the short regular seasons don't leave much time for the Dinos to settle into a comfort zone with their roster.
Recruit Class: 13 recruits make Calgary's class the largest in the CIS (apart from Ottawa). In a year with great WHL talent available, Jared Hauf, Luke Harrison, Logan Fisher, and Coleman Vollrath are good pickups, but you can't help but think Calgary wanted a little more out of the WHL given what some of the other teams came away with. Taylor Dumonceaux and Brayden Sherbinin are a pair of NCAA transfers who hope to fit in with the Dinos, and the rest of Calgary's recruit class consists of some successful junior players from tier II. It's a large class containing some decent talent, but also leaves many questions to be answered.
Verdict: Last year was a step back for Calgary after 20 wins in the 2014-15 season. This year will likely act as another step towards recovering their old form. They're not quite there yet, but Calgary's large recruit class shows they're willing to try anything at the moment to find what sticks.
7. UBC Thunderbirds: 2015-16, 11-13-4 (26 pts)
Team Strengths: After an off-year for recruiting in 2014-15, UBC comes back with a much better recruit class this year and hope to stay as healthy as possible all season long. Last year it was the injuries that hurt them down the stretch, and it's very believable that UBC could have had a few more wins if given a healthy roster all season. This year they come back with an even deeper defensive corps including Kyle Becker, Josh Connolly, Brandon Underwood and new recruits Joseph Carvalho and Tanner Faith. Their back-end depth will make them a difficult team to beat all season long.
Team Concerns: Injuries last year exploited a few depth issues, and the Thunderbirds hope to be better off in that regard this year. Luke Lockhart, Austin Vetterl, and Anthony Bardaro will lead this team again offensively, but if they want to take the next step forward, UBC will need to find more scoring deep into their lineup. Rookie head coach Sven Butenschon will be put to the test this year and will have a chance to prove to himself and everyone else he deserves to have the reins at UBC. No matter how his season goes, it's inevitable Butenschon will learn a lot by the year's end.
Recruit Class: UBC definitely got in on the wealth of talent from the WHL this year by grabbing Carvahlo, Faith, Jerret Smith, and Carter Popoff. Faith is a big defenceman who can be a big-time player if he stays healthy, and can be one of the best defenceman in his conference. Jake Lebrun comes in as a forward from the BCHL, and UBC brings along three NCAA transfers in forward Michael Stenerson, goalie Derek Dun, and forward Justin Rai. Finally, Kyler Nachtigall, originally committed to NCAA, will come into UBC's program and has impressed in the preseason.
Verdict: Even though I don't have UBC marked down as a playoff team here, they absolutely can be. If Lethbridge or even Calgary run into injury issues or UBC simply outplays them, they're every bit as much of a playoff team. Much like last year, the separation between seventh and sixth is going to be very, very close.
8. Regina Cougars: 2015-16, 7-21-0 (14 pts)
Team Strength: The popular strategy to beat the top offensive teams in Canada West these days seems to start with building a strong defensive group, and Regina is no exception to that. As evidenced by the four defenceman brought into the program this year, the Regina Cougars are aiming to be a tough, rugged team to play against. There's good reason to believe they'll be just that with a defence featuring Carter Hanson, Tyler King, Isaac Schacher, Landon Peel, and Tyler Bell among others. Regina's toughness and grit will be what makes this team capable of upsets on any given night in the CIS.
Team Concern: Scoring at Regina right now is certainly not their strongest attribute. Ian McNulty and Miguel Pereira have both found ways to score goals, but overall Regina is not a deadly offensive team. Their 73 goals for last season wasn't horrible, but given the fact they allowed 134, most in Canada West, that's not a formula for success. Goaltending needs to be better for Regina this year too. A strong defence will help, but it doesn't matter if it's Andy Desautels, Mitch Kilgore, or Dawson MacAuley, one of them needs to step up to the plate this year and play well. MacAuley in particular has shown some promising signs, but it's now or never for the three Regina goalies to prove they belong as starters in this league.
Recruit Class: The Cougars will definitely be happy with who they brought in on defence. They don't all have flashy numbers, but Regina is simply looking for guys who'll get the job done. Offensively, it's clear that due to their 11 player recruit class, the Cougars are willing to try some new things and give players an opportunity to prove themselves as capable scorers. Players like Brandon Halbgewachs, and Tristan Frei have succeeded well in their respective levels of junior hockey, but will need to take a big step forward to compete in this league. Tyson Predinchuk is another meat and potatoes type player who fits into the system, and Colton Sparrow, Corey Kosloski, Logan Harland, and Gray Marr will also get chances up front.
Verdict: Regina should be harder to score goals against this year, which is how they are going to win games. They'll have to work very hard and get solid goaltending to be in the playoff conversation, but the Cougars shouldn't be considered a doormat in this league. They possess upset potential.