Men’s Final 8
Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Thunderbirds beat top-seeded Golden Bears 72-70 to win Canada West title
The men’s basketball conference finals took place this weekend across U SPORTS, and a particularly notable result came in Canada West. The UBC Thunderbirds were ranked ninth in the country last week and seeded third in the conference playoffs, but a pair of games in Calgary saw them beat the Saskatchewan Huskies in the quarterfinals and the No. 4 Calgary Dinos (the second seed in the Canada West playoffs) in the semifinals. Those wins moved the Thunderbirds up to sixth in the latest U SPORTS Top 10, and they continued their road success this week in the conference final, taking down the No. 3 Alberta Golden Bears (the first seed in the Canada West playoffs) 72-70 on the road Saturday in front of 1,780 fans.
This marked UBC’s first Canada West title since 2013, and the Thunderbirds got there in interesting fashion. UBC leapt out to a 24-10 lead after the first quarter thanks in part to three three-pointers from Manroop Clair, but Alberta cut the deficit to six points by the half, trailing 39-33 at the break. The Thunderbirds maintained a six-point lead heading into the final quarter (it was 59-53 after the third quarter), but the Golden Bears made it interesting down the stretch, with Tyus Jefferson’s steal-and-score giving them their first lead of the game (67-66) with 3:17 left. UBC managed to bounce back, though, and the Thunderbirds emerged with a 72-70 win.
Fifth-year guard Jadon Cohee led UBC with 24 points, while fellow fifth-year guard Clair added 19. And UBC head coach Kevin Hanson said afterwards his team was coming together at the right time:
"It's the old cliché – we're really just focussed on ourselves, and I think we really are. We're peaking at the right time and the guys are enjoying what they're doing. …"It was an emotional win for us. I thought our fifth-year guys Manroop Clair and Jadon Cohee hit some big, big shots for us down the stretch. Luckily we were able to hang on in the end there."
Elsewhere in men’s basketball, the OUA final saw the No. 1 Carleton Ravens beat the No. 8 Western Mustangs 90-68 at home to win their 12th Wilson Cup, while the No. 2 Dalhousie Tigers beat the StFX X-Men 76-64 in the AUS Men's Basketball Championship. In RSEQ play, the Bishop’s Gaiters beat the UQAM Citadins 73-72 to claim the conference title.
The 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championships (both men’s and women’s) will be hosted by the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Carleton Ravens, and the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group this week, with the championship-bracket games played at The Arena at TD Place with the consolation-bracket games played at the Ravens’ Nest on the Carleton campus.
The men’s Final 8 will feature the No. 1 Ravens (OUA champions), the No. 2 Tigers (AUS champions), the No. 3 Thunderbirds (Canada West champions), the No. 4 Golden Bears (Canada West runners-up), the No. 5 Mustangs (OUA runners-up), the No. 6 Gaiters (RSEQ champions), the No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA semifinalists and hosts) and the No. 8 Calgary Dinos (Canada West semifinalists, picked for the at-large berth). The tournament begins Friday and concludes with the championship game Sunday (at 8 p.m. Eastern), with all games livestreamed for free worldwide in English on CBCsports.ca, CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports app and French digital coverage on U SPORTS Live.
No. 6 Badgers win Critelli Cup for first time since 1983, beating No. 2 Rams in OUA final
The women’s basketball conference finals took place this week as well, and a significant result came in the OUA, where the Brock Badgers won their second-ever Critelli Cup. The No. 6 Badgers beat the No. 2 Ryerson Rams 84-71 Saturday night on the road in the OUA final.
That trophy is named after Chris Critelli, the former Canadian women’s basketball player (she competed for Canada in the 1976 Olympics, the 1979 Pan American Games, the 1979 World Championships, the 1979 FISU Games and more) who’s the only woman to ever win both a NCAA and Canadian university basketball title as a player (she won two of each, with Old Dominion University and Laurentian University respectively). She then went on to be a famed Brock coach and assistant athletic director.
Critelli served as an assistant coach (beginning in 1982, and she was involved in their first OUA championship win in 1983) and head coach (beginning in 1984) with the Badgers’ women’s team. She recorded 393 wins as head coach, and then served as Brock’s associate athletic director from 2009-18. The OUA championship trophy was renamed after Critelli in 2016, and she said after Saturday’s victory that it was special to see the school she worked with for so long claim that title:
“Words can't describe it. I'm so overjoyed and happy for the team. I'm so proud that Brock has won the Critelli Cup. It's so special to have a trophy named after you and then give it to a school you put your heart and soul into for 36 years. It's pretty cool.”
Samantha Keltos recorded a game-high 42 points for Brock in this one, including eight makes on nine three-point attempts, and added 12 rebounds. She was named championship MVP. Melissa Tatti added 19 points and four rebounds, while Sofia Croce and Jessica Morris chipped in eight and seven points respectively.
The Badgers are now off to the 2020 U SPORTS Final 8 Basketball Championships this week in Ottawa, hosted by the Carleton Ravens, the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group. They’ll be the second seed. The Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies are the top seed, with the Rams seeded third, the RSEQ champion Laval Rouge et Or seeded fourth, the Canada West finalist Alberta Pandas seeded fifth, the AUS champion UPEI Panthers seeded sixth, the Canada West semifinalist Calgary Dinos seeded seventh (in the at-large berth) and the OUA quarterfinalist Carleton Ravens seeded eighth (in the host berth). The tournament begins Thursday and ends with the gold-medal game Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern, with all games livestreamed for free worldwide in English on CBCsports.ca, CBC Gem, and the CBC Sports app and French digital coverage on U SPORTS Live.
No. 2 Huskies claim Canada West title against No. 9 Thunderbirds, while No. 6 Axemen advance to AUS final over No. 10 Huskies
A pair of Huskies’ teams were involved in some notable men’s hockey clashes this week, with the No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies beating the No. 9 UBC Thunderbirds 3-2 and 3-1 (with both games at home) in the best-of-three Canada West final and the No. 10 Saint Mary’s Huskies falling in four games to the No. 6 Acadia Axemen in the best-of-five AUS semifinals. The Canada West series saw Jordan Tkatch, Carson Stadnyk and Layne Young score for Saskatchewan in the first game Friday, while Levi Cable scored twice for the Huskies in the second game Saturday and Stadnyk added another goal. Taran Kozun made 21 saves for Saskatchewan in the first game and 18 in the second game, helping the Huskies to their 11th conference title in program history and their first since 2016.
Meanwhile, the AUS series saw Acadia win the first two games at home (by scores of 4-1 and 5-2), but Saint Mary’s bounced back with a 6-2 victory in the third game. The Axemen then posted a 4-2 road win Tuesday to close out the series. Cristiano Digiacinto, Garrett McFadden, Owen Macdonald and Liam Maaskant all scored for Acadia in the decisive game, with Maaskant’s empty-netter providing some insurance in the final seconds.
Saskatchewan and UBC have both qualified for the 2020 Cavendish Farms University Cup, hosted by Acadia from March 12-15 in Halifax. The Axemen have also qualified as hosts, as have their AUS final opponents, the No. 1 UNB Reds. The OUA’s Queen’s Cup final matchup is set, with the No. 3 Guelph Gryphons facing the No. 4 Ottawa Gee-Gees, and both of those teams have qualified as well. So the remaining berths will go to the teams that win the OUA and AUS third-place series, featuring the No. 5 Concordia Stingers against the No. 7 Western Mustangs (OUA) and the No. 8 Moncton Aigles Bleus against the No. 10 Saint Mary’s Huskies.
No. 5 Martlets hold off No. 9 Carabins to claim Ed Enos Trophy
The RSEQ women’s hockey final this week saw the No. 5 McGill Martlets win their 15th conference title, taking down the No. 9 Montreal Carabins 4-2 at home Thursday and 4-1 on the road Saturday. Jade Downie-Landry notched three goals for McGill Thursday, including the game winner, while Emilia Cotter added the fourth goal. On Saturday, Kellyane Lecours, Stephanie Desjardins, Emilia Cotter and Downie-Landry all scored for the Martlets. Tricia Deguire made 23 and 31 saves respectively in the two games. And that sweep marked McGill’s first conference title since 2017.
Both the Martlets and Carabins are headed to the Cavendish Farms 2020 U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship, which will be hosted by the UPEI Panthers in Charlottetown, PEI from March 12-15. They’ll be joined by the No. 3 Alberta Pandas (Canada West champions), the Mount Royal Cougars (Canada West finalists), the No. 2 University of Toronto Varsity Blues and No. 10 York Lions (facing off in the OUA final this week), either the No. 1 Saint Mary’s Huskies or the No. 6 StFX X-Women (facing off in the AUS final this week), and the host Panthers.
Gryphons upset No. 4 Rams in OUA quarterfinals
One of the most significant clashes in women’s volleyball this week came in the OUA quarterfinals, where the Guelph Gryphons took down the No. 4 Ryerson Rams in five sets (22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 15-11) on the road Saturday to advance to the OUA Final Four. Five Guelph players contributed at least nine kills there; Ally Proulx had 19, while Jessica Chung had 13, Lisa Wedel had 10, and Jade Ziebarth and Cassidy Collins each had nine. Gryphons’ setter Alex Curran had 50 assists and 16 digs, with that latter number being the second-highest on the team.
Another notable women’s volleyball match this week came in the AUS final, where the No. 2 Dalhousie Tigers swept the No. 9 Saint Mary’s Huskies in straight sets Thursday and Friday to claim their eighth-consecutive conference title. And in the Canada West semifinals, the No. 6 Alberta Pandas beat the No. 5 Mount Royal Cougars in three matches, while the No. 1 Trinity Western Spartans beat the No. 7 Thompson Rivers WolfPack in three matches.
No. 1 Spartans edge No. 8 Bobcats in Canada West semifinals
A key men’s volleyball clash this week saw the No. 1 Trinity Western Spartans taken to three matches by the No. 8 Brandon Bobcats in the Canada West semifinals. The Spartans hosted that best-of-three series (a rematch of last year’s Canada West and U SPORTS championship games; Brandon won the conference title last year, while Trinity Western won the national title), and they took the first match in straight sets Thursday, but fell in five sets (23-25, 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 14-16) to the Bobcats Friday. The Spartans bounced back Saturday, though, winning in four sets (25-17, 25-17, 22-25, 25-14) to move on to the conference final for the ninth-straight year. There, they’ll face the No. 3 Alberta Golden Bears, who beat the No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds in three matches.
Social media posts of the week:
In cross country, Victoria hosted the 2020 Pan American Cross Country Cup Saturday, and plenty of U SPORTS alums were involved. One, Guelph Gryphons’ alum Geneviève Lalonde, earned gold on the women’s side:
Meanwhile, fellow Guelph alum Connor Black recorded Canada’s highest finish on the men’s side, finishing third in the NACAC (North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association) category and fifth overall:
In sitting volleyball, the Canadian women’s senior team qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games thanks to a straight-sets win over Ukraine Saturday at the World ParaVolley Women's Paralympic Qualifier in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That team has plenty of Canadian university alums, including Heidi Peters (MacEwan University), who led the way with eight points Saturday.
In women’s rugby sevens, the Victoria Vikes claimed their third-straight Canada West title this weekend:
In men’s rugby sevens, the Canadian senior team (with plenty of U SPORTS connections, including the Vikes’ Phil Berna, Lucas Hammond and Isaac Kaay) finished ninth at the latest World Rugby Sevens tour stop in Los Angeles:
And in swimming, former UBC Thunderbird and three-time Canadian Olympian Brent Hayden continued his comeback in Calgary this weekend, taking part in his first competitive meet in almost eight years. He won the afternoon 100m freestyle final in a time of 49.51, and is looking good heading into the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials, to be held in Toronto at the end of this month.
Andrew has been covering university sports in Canada since 2005 at outlets such as The Queen's Journal, The CIS Blog, and Yahoo Canada, where he also served as the editor of the Canadian football blog 55-Yard Line. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University with a major in history, and currently works as a staff writer and editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBucholtz