Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the weekend.
Voyageurs become first team to take points from Ridgebacks
The No. 2 UOIT Ridgebacks have had a remarkable run this year, going 10-0-0 heading into this weekend’s action. Led by two pairs of sisters (first-year defender Allison Lantaigne, third-year defender Kaitlin Lantaigne, first-year goalkeeper Olivia Tierney and third-year midfielder and captain Mikaela Tierney), they’ve looked like strong candidates to repeat as OUA champions and perhaps repeat or improve off last year’s bronze-medal finish at nationals. But, for the first time all year, the Ridgebacks were held scoreless Saturday in a 0-0 home draw with the unranked Laurentian Voyageurs.
The star of the day was third-year Laurentian goalkeeper Caitlin McNamara, who recorded nine saves (eight in the first half) for her sixth shutout of the season. She’s having a strong season overall with just six goals allowed in 10 games (a 0.63 goals-against average) and 69 saves. The Voyageurs also received a strong performance from third-year midfielder Brianne Rodrigue, who had a couple of excellent chances late. And they improved their unbeaten streak to eight games with this draw, then extended it to nine with a 1-1 draw with the Trent Excalibur Sunday. McNamara made seven saves there, while third-year defender Bianca Breiding scored for Laurentian.
The Voyageurs are now 6-3-3 and fourth in the OUA standings, while the Ridgebacks beat the Nipissing Lakers 1-0 Sunday to improve to 11-0-1 and remain atop the conference. Laurentian hosts the Ryerson Rams and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues next weekend, while UOIT hosts the Carleton Ravens and the seventh-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees (who picked up a nice 4-0 win over No. 10 Queen’s Sunday).
Four Top 10 schools get big wins
There were less football games than normal this week due to the Thanksgiving holidays, but four of the Top 10 schools were in action, and all recorded impressive wins. The No. 3 Laval Rouge et Or thumped Sherbrooke 46-15 on the road Saturday thanks to their ground efforts, with fourth-year running back Christopher Amoah collecting 180 yards on 21 carries and fourth-year quarterback Hugo Richard picking up 87 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. The Rouge et Or passing game wasn’t as strong, with Richard completing eight of 18 passes for 103 yards and second-year quarterback Christian Dallaire completing eight of 13 for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but it definitely got the job done. Laval has a bye next week before their big Oct. 21 showdown with the No. 1 Montreal Carabins, the only team to beat them this year.
Over in OUA play, the No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks topped the York Lions 53-31 in a high-scoring shootout Thursday, with third-year quarterback Michael Knevel completing 21 of 29 passes for 431 yards and five touchdowns. The No. 6 McMaster Marauders beat the University of Toronto Varsity of Blues 43-6 Thursday for their fourth-straight win, with first-year quarterback Jackson White connecting on 25 of 32 passing attempts for 345 yards and two touchdowns (with an interception). And the No. 4 Western Mustangs improved to 7-0 with a decisive 51-14 win Friday over the Carleton Ravens (who were coming off a big double-overtime win in last week’s Panda Game), with third-year quarterback Chris Merchant completing 20 of 34 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns (with two interceptions) and fourth-year running back Alex Taylor picking up 142 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Laurier plays the Guelph Gryphons on the road Saturday, while McMaster hosts the Windsor Lancers and Western has a bye before facing the Ottawa Gee-Gees Oct. 21.
No. 5 Gee-Gees get exhibition win over No. 1 X-Women in Rowan’s Legacy match, while No. 9 Gaels post 109-0 playoff shutout
There was a lot of great women’s rugby action this week, both exhibition and playoff. The No. 1 ranked St. Francis Xavier X-Women fell 33-19 to the No. 5 Ottawa Gee-Gees in the Rowan’s Legacy exhibition match in Ottawa Saturday, a rematch of last year’s national championship game (which St. FX won 27-19). This was tied at 14 early on in the second half, but Ottawa then went on a 19-0 run. The Gee-Gees got tries from five different players, with fifth-year centre Emma Sandström making four of five converts.
This was the first edition of the annual Rowan’s Legacy match, part of Ottawa’s efforts to honor Rowan Stringer, an Ottawa high school rugby player who was planning to attend the university but died at 17 in 2013 from Second Impact Syndrome thanks to multiple concussions in a short period. The university also announced the creation of the Rowan Stringer Bursary, “to be awarded each year to a student-athlete who exemplifies what it means to be a teammate on and off the field of play, with a focus on ensuring the health and safety of all Gee-Gees.”
Meanwhile, the OUA playoffs got underway Friday, and there were some notable results. The 0-4 Western Mustangs beat the 1-3 University of Toronto Varsity Blues (who posted nine points during the season against Western’s one thanks to bonus points for scoring four or more tries or close losses, but play in the Russell Division, made up of last year’s No.6-10 finishers versus Western’s spot in the Shiels Division, made up of last year’s No.1-5 finishers) 50-10, led by four tries from fourth-year player Nikki Case. The 1-3 York Lions (Shiels Division) knocked off the 4-0 Brock Badgers (Russell Division) to make the first conference semifinals in program history, led by two tries from fifth-year No. 8 Cheyenne Legerton. The 2-2 Laurier Golden Hawks beat the 0-4 Waterloo Warriors 37-5 in an intra-Russell Division game, and the No. 8 Queen’s Gaels (2-2, Shiels Division) thumped the Trent Excalibur (3-1, Russell Division) 109-0, led by four tries from first-year back row player Sophie de Goede. Queen’s also got a nice highlight from some efficient passes out of a scrum, leading to an eventual try from first-year centre Emma Frey:
UNB starts title defence in strong form
The UNB Varsity Reds won last year’s University Cup, their second-straight and seventh overall national title, with a 5-3 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies. They got their title defence off on the right foot when the U SPORTS men’s hockey regular season began this week. UNB beat the Moncton Aigles Bleus 6-2 Wednesday and the UPEI Panthers 5-3 Friday. Third-year forward Stephen Anderson led the way with a hat-trick Wednesday and two further goals Friday. The Reds play Moncton again Wednesday.
The Huskies, last year’s runners-up, also got their season off to a good start. They beat the Regina Cougars 8-2 Friday and 6-0 Saturday. Friday’s game saw three goals in 59 seconds at one point, the fastest three goals in Canada West regular season history. First-year goalie Taran Kozun made 24 saves for the shutout in his first-ever U SPORTS game Saturday, while fourth-year goalie Jordon Cooke made 20 stops Friday. Third-year forward Andrew Johnson had a goal and an assist Friday and another assist Saturday, while fellow third-year forward Logan McVeigh had three assists Friday and a fourth Saturday. Saskatchewan next plays the Lethbridge Pronghorns Friday.
Rouge et Or dominate at home
The Rouge et Or Invitational went very well indeed for the home side Saturday, with Laval winning team titles on both the men’s and women’s sides. Fifth-year runner Yves Sikubwabo took first on the men’s side (31:43.1), with fellow fifth-year Danny Racine second. First-year runner Anne-Marie Comeau won the women’s race (29:00.6), with second-year athlete Aurélie Dubé-Lavoie placing third. The Rouge et Or will next compete at the Princeton Invitational in the U.S. this coming weekend. The Dalhousie Tigers finished second on the men’s side, with the McGill Martlets finishing second on the women’s.
No.5 Thunderbirds fall to Vikes
The UBC Thunderbirds were ranked fifth nationally with a 6-2-1 record heading into this weekend, but suffered a 2-1 home loss to the Victoria Vikes Saturday. That marked some nice revenge for the Vikes after UBC beat them 5-0 on the road Thursday. Fifth-year midfielder Tanvir Bhandal and first-year midfielder Will Adams scored for Victoria Saturday, with first-year midfielder Patrick Izett responding for the Thunderbirds. UBC hosts Thompson Rivers and UBC Okanagan this weekend, while Victoria faces the same schools in the opposite order.
Defending champion Pandas upset by Mount Royal
The Alberta Pandas picked up last year’s national title with a 2-1 win over the McGill Martlets in the championship game, and they started their title defence off decently with a 4-0 road win over the Mount Royal Cougars Friday. However, the Pandas were upset 2-1 by the Cougars in a shootout in the rematch at home Saturday, which marked just Mount Royal’s second-ever win over the Pandas in women’s hockey. Second-year forward Tianna Ko and fifth-year forward Reanna Arnold scored for the Cougars in that one. Alberta has goals from four different players so far. The Pandas will head on the road to face the Manitoba Bisons Friday and Saturday, while the Cougars will play the Regina Cougars those days.
Thunderbirds clinch Canada West title, will host U SPORTS Championship
The UBC Thunderbirds' quest for their seventh straight national title and McCrae Cup made significant progress this weekend. The Thunderbirds improved to 5-0-1 on the season with hard-fought 2-0 and 2-1 wins over the University of Victoria Vikes Saturday and Sunday, clinching their 10th Canada West title in 11 years. Fifth-year midfielder/defender Meghan Hayden led the way for UBC with a goal in each of the two games.The Thunderbirds still have two regular season games against Calgary, but will host the national championship against the OUA champion after that. The York Lions are currently in the pole position there, improving to 8-0 on the season with a 1-0 win over the Queen's Gaels Friday.