Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week
Lions pay tribute on #HumboldtStrong preseason tour
The April bus crash that killed 16 people associated with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Broncos and injured 13 more has had huge impacts across the sports landscape, including over $15 million donated for impacted people and families, tributes across the sports world, and a broadcast of the Broncos’ season opener and tribute to those affected across TSN and NHL Network. That crash has also been felt across the U SPORTS community, with many players and coaches having connections to those lost or injured, and one of the teams most impacted has been the York Lions; Humboldt assistant coach Mark Cross was one of those killed in the crash, and he spent five years playing for York from 2011-16.
That led to the Lions’ Mark Cross #HumboldtStrong Remembrance Tour this weekend, which saw them travel west to Saskatchewan for three preseason games and helping to raise funds for the Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund and the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation. First, on Thursday, the Lions faced the University of Regina Cougars in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, where Cross grew up playing youth hockey and where he coached minor hockey in 2016-17. The Lions started Thursday off by visiting Cross’ elementary school and then took on the Cougars that night, falling 3-2 but raising over $4,500 along the way. Here’s a video recap of that first day:
On Friday, the Lions travelled to Humboldt itself and took on the Calgary Dinos in the Broncos’ home rink, Elgar Peterson Arena. That game saw a special role for Lions’ forward Kaleb Dahlgren, who played with the Broncos last year and was one of the many injured in that crash. Dahlgren is still recovering from injuries sustained there, but he took the opening lap in the pre-game warmup and took part in the ceremonial faceoff and pre-game ceremony to help boost his “Dahlgren's Diabeauties” program, an initiative he started to help support local kids with diabetes.
The Lions also wore special pre-game jerseys honoring the Broncos in this one:
Calgary won that game 8-1, but it was still a special moment for the Lions and the community. York capped off that tour with a game in Saskatoon against the Saskatchewan Huskies Sunday, which had some extra impact as the last game in the Huskies’ old Rutherford Rink (they’re moving to the new Merlis Belsher Place this year). Here are some photos from that:
Before the tour, York head coach Russ Herrington told Darren Zary of The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix just how much Cross had meant to his program, including giving him credit for the Lions’ Queen’s Cup (the OUA championship) victory last year (after Cross’ graduation), and also discussed why the team decided to do this tour:
“We have had the success we have had in the past three-plus years that I have been here as a direct result of Mark Cross. …We won a OUA championship the year after Mark graduated, but he was the main reason we won it — and he didn’t even play on our team that year. His impact on changing the culture, and kind of not only holding people to a higher standard but pulling them up to that standard, remains to this day.”
“We want to keep Mark’s memory alive. We want to show the people of Saskatchewan where Mark went when he left Strasbourg, what he became a part of and, most importantly, show them the impact that Mark had on our program and our school here at York.”
Cross certainly had a major impact there, and while with the Broncos, he was still in touch with people at York; Zary’s article mentioned that with help from their connection through Cross, the Lions were actively recruiting Logan Schatz and Conner Lukan, who died in the accident, as well as Dahlgren. And Cross’ impact will live on; before the tour even started, the Lions had raised around $60,000 for The Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund, which has plans (in conjunction with Cross’ family) to create a scholarship at York in his name and more. They’ll also be playing a Mark Cross Memorial game at home against the Brock Badgers Jan.5 (as part of their alumni night), and they’ll present The Mark Cross “Heart of a Lion” Award annually to one of their players. So Cross’ name will long be remembered at York, but this tour was a neat way for the Lions to commemorate him in his home province.
Another significant men’s hockey preseason event came Friday night in Ontario, where a record crowd of 5,000 saw the host Brock Badgers defeat the Guelph Gryphons 3-1 in the 20th annual Steel Blade Classic at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines. That event has long been one of the highest-attended U SPORTS hockey games, and this year’s crowd beat even the 4,974 who watched it last year (a record for a university game in Ontario). And this one saw the Badgers return to the top on the ice as well; they’d won six straight Steel Blade Classic titles before a 5-3 loss last year, but came out on top Friday thanks to two goals from Connor Brown and the game-winner from Ryan Burton Brock head coach Marty Williamson was thrilled not just with his team’s play, but also with the atmosphere:
"How special is it when you hear the national anthem and everyone's singing it? It's crazy. It was so loud that I had to pat my players on the back to let them know they're going rather than calling their name, but it's fantastic. The drums, the singing, it's the atmosphere you love to see. You don't get opportunities often in U SPORTS to play in front of this kind of a crowd and you would never know this is an exhibition game by the way the two teams played out there."
Second half defensive effort sees Marauders take down No. 5 Golden Hawks
The Laurier Golden Hawks have suffered their second straight loss. Last week, the then-No. 4 Golden Hawks lost their first Battle of Waterloo since 2002, falling 34-32 to the crosstown Waterloo Warriors. They were still ranked at No. 5 this week, though, but lost 21-20 on the road to the McMaster Marauders.
That win came thanks to McMaster’s defence stepping up down the stretch. The Marauders gave up 16 points in the first two quarters and trailed 16-14 at the half, but held the Golden Hawks to just four points the rest of the way. The McMaster defence also scored the crucial game-winning touchdown in the third quarter when defensive tackle Mitch Lyons pressured Laurier quarterback Tristan Arndt, leading to a pass that defensive back Mitch Garland picked off and returned 12 yards for the score.
The Marauders’ defence stood strong from there, with defensive back Nolan Putt coming up with a crucial fourth-quarter interception off backup quarterback Connor Carusello near his old goal line:
But Laurier still had their chances, and could have won this late. However, Nathan Mesher missed a go-ahead field goal with 52 seconds left. McMaster then got three first downs to kill the clock and end the game.
Elsewhere, the No. 9 Saskatchewan Huskies beat the No. 8 Regina Rams 33-20 at home Friday behind 283 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Siemens. They also got defensive plays like this interception return for a touchdown from Jacob Solie:
Also, the Queen’s Gaels survived an 18-point fourth quarter rally from the No. 10 Guelph Gryphons to hang on for a 33-32 road win in Guelph’s Homecoming game Saturday. That win came thanks to a 32-yard field goal attempt from Gryphons’ All-Canadian kicker Gabe Ferraro sailing wide for a single point with just 9.2 seconds left.
No. 1 Spartans fall 3-2 at home to Griffins in first loss of year, Griffins’ first-ever win over TWU
The Trinity Western Spartans’ women’s soccer team got off to a great start this year, winning their first four games. However, things didn’t go so well for them Friday when they hosted the MacEwan Griffins, who edged TWU 3-2 on goals from Suekiana Choucair, Brittany Costa and Kaylin Hermanutz. That not only ended the Spartans’ 13-game unbeaten streak at Chase Office Field (dating back to a season-opening loss to UBC last year), it marked the Griffins’ first-ever win over them.
MacEwan continued on with their strong weekend with a 3-0 win over the UFV Cascades, bolstered by three goals in 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the Spartans bounced back with a 4-3 victory over the UNBC Timberwolves Saturday.
Elsewhere, the No. 8 Ottawa Gee-Gees came up with a 2-0 road win over the No. 7 Queen’s Gaels Saturday. That win came thanks to a free kick goal from Katherine Bearne and a penalty kick goal from Théa Nour, both as a result of fouls on Delaney Rickert-Hall. Margot Shore and Hillary Damman shared the shutout for Ottawa.
Gryphons sweep men’s and women’s titles at Bill Salter Western Invitational
Saturday marked a great day for the Guelph Gryphons’ cross country teams, as the No. 1 men and no. 3 women’s teams both picked up team titles at the Bill Salter Western Invitational. The Queen’s Gaels and Western Mustangs placed second and third respectively on the women’s side, while it was McMaster and Queen’s in second and third on the men’s side.
On the men’s side, Guelph’s Mark Patton won the race in a time of 24:15, just a second ahead of non-university runner Nick Falk. Teammate Connor Black finished fifth overall and fourth out of university runners, and the Gryphons saw their other runners place eighth, ninth and 12th out of university runners. The other places in the university top five were claimed by McMaster’s Josh McGillivray (second), Queen’s Mitchell Delange (third), and Western’s Jack Sheffar (fifth).
On the women’s side, Western’s Kristina Popadich won the race with a time of 20:29. The rest of the university top five saw Guelph’s Hannah Woodhouse second, Queen’s Makenna Fitzgerald and Taylor Sills third and fourth, and Western’s Kate Current fifth. Guelph took the overall title thanks to their other runners placing seventh, eighth, ninth and 13th amongst university runners.
Other cross country events this weekend included the St. FX Invitational and the Rouge et Or Invitational. St. FX won both the men’s and women’s team titles at their event, with Acadia’s Katie Robinson and St. FX’s Alex Neuffer taking the women’s and men’s individual titles respectively. Laval won the men’s and women’s titles at their event, with Rouge et Or runners claiming the top three places on the women’s side and the top four on the men’s side. Catherine Beauchemin won the women’s event there, while Jean-Simon Desgagnés won the men’s event.
Maude Charron dominates at FISU World University Weightlifting Championship
Canadian athletes saw some impressive results at the FISU World University Weightlifting Championship in Poland this week, led by Maude Charron. Charron, a former acrobat who started making waves in weightlifting with a win at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, has seen great results lately, including taking silver in the snatch event at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships and claiming the Commonwealth championship in that event. This time around, Charron won gold in both the snatch and the clean and jerk in the women’s 63 kilogram category, lifting 127 kilograms (24 more than her nearest competitor) in the latter event and taking the overall title. Fellow Canadian Alexandre Dumas earned bronze overall in the men’s 69 kilogram category, and Nicholas Vachon took bronze in the men’s 77 kilogram category.
In other international news, the mission staff for U SPORTS Team Canada at the 2019 FISU Winter Universiade was announced this week. Ottawa Gee-Gees’ assistant athletic director Roger Archambault has been appointed chef de mission, and he’ll be joined by U SPORTS Manager of International Games Operations Charonne Thomasos as assistant chef de mission, as well as Lia Taha Cheng as operations officer and Chris Zuk and Daniela Passarelli on the communications side. The mission staff will support a Canadian delegation of approximately 130, which will be travelling to Krasnoyarsk, Russia from March 2-12, 2019.
Social media posts of the week
The International Day of University Sport was celebrated around the world Thursday, and the U SPORTS office and many member schools took part. Here’s an Instagram compilation of some of those efforts:
Many individual athletes were also featured. Here are a couple of those posts:
Elsewhere, the very entertaining @SportsSled Twitter account (tweets about sports in the voices of musher Blair Braverman’s team of huskies) has been spotlighting some U SPORTS teams from time to time. This week, it offered a different perspetive on the Saskatchewan Huskies’ women’s soccer team’s snow-filled game:
And while the Guelph Gryphons may not have won that football matchup with Queen’s, they did certainly find an impressive way to deliver the game ball; via parachute, with a “Danger Zone” soundtrack no less.