Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
OUA playoff race sees Warriors knock off No. 9 Marauders with 22 fourth-quarter points, maintaining hope for first playoff berth in 15 years
The Waterloo Warriors’ resurgence continues. Last season saw them start 4-0 (remarkable considering they’d gone 4-44 before 2017 since relaunching their football program in 2011), and while they finished 4-4 and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, there was definitely a sense of a team on the rise. That continued earlier this season when the Warriors won the Battle of Waterloo for the first time since 2002, besting the crosstown Laurier Golden Hawks (then ranked fifth nationally) 34-32, and another upset of a Top 10 team has Waterloo still alive for their first playoff berth in 15 years. This time around, that was a 34-16 home win Saturday against the No. 9 McMaster Marauders.
The Warriors’ offence struggled early on in that game, but they came through when it counted. They scored 25 straight points down the stretch, with 22 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tre Ford had a great day, completing 27 of 35 passes for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns and adding 99 rushing yards on 12 carries, while receiver Tyler Ternowski had 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. That gave Ternowski 12 TDs on the year, tops in Ontario and one behind the all-time OUA record held by former Laurier star turned coach Stefan Ptaszek (now the UBC offensive coordinator).
This was an awfully significant win for the Warriors, as it improved their record to 4-3 and put them in a four-way tie for fourth in Ontario with McMaster, Laurier and Guelph. That’s going to lead to an interesting finish, as second-place Ottawa (5-2 after a 33-0 loss to No. 1 Western) and third-place Carleton (5-3) are still within reach for win totals with one week left.
Next week, No. 5 Ottawa plays at 3-4 Queen’s, while No. 7 Laurier (4-3 thanks to a 39-24 win over Windsor Friday) travels to face 7-0 Western ,Waterloo goes on the road against No. 10 Guelph and McMaster plays at 1-6 Windsor. Wins by Queen’s, Laurier, McMaster and either Waterloo or Guelph could leave five teams with 5-3 records; all of those teams would make the six-team playoff (along with top seed Western), but the tiebreaking procedure would need to be used for seeding. Meanwhile, wins for Queen’s, Western, and Windsor would leave four teams with 4-4 marks going to the tiebreaking procedure for the final two slots (after Western, Ottawa, Carleton and the winner of the Waterloo-Guelph game).
In any case, the Warriors are still very much alive, and a win over the Gryphons would certainly get them in the playoffs. That would be another remarkable chapter in their comeback story.
Other notable football action this weekend saw Laurier receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and kicker Nathan Mesher set individual records in their win over the Lancers, with reigning OUA MVP Gittens becoming the conference’s all-time receptions leader and Mesher becoming the Golden Hawks’ all-time leading scorer. Gittens broke the OUA record held by former Windsor star Jordan Brescacin, making his 193rd career reception in the first quarter of that game.
Gittens had eight total catches on the day for a game-high 101 receiving yards, and he became just the fifth player in U SPORTS history with 200 career receptions. Meanwhile, Mesher put up 15 overall points in this one to become the Golden Hawks’ career scoring leader with 275 points, and he went four for four on field goals, tying Ronnie Pfeffer for the most career field goals in Laurier history with 53.
In Canada West, the UBC Thunderbirds improved to 3-3 with a 20-10 upset of the No. 8 Saskatchewan Huskies, fueled by four interceptions. Three of those came in the second half. And the No. 3 Calgary Dinos sealed first place in the conference with a 34-16 win over the Manitoba Bisons, led by plays like this 68-yard fumble return for a touchdown from linebacker Boston Rowe:
Pronghorns snap No. 5 Dinos’ 21-game Canada West winning streak
It’s always remarkable when a team puts up a multiseason winning streak, and it’s significant when one of those ends. The No. 5 Calgary Dinos’ women’s rugby team had won 21 straight regular-season Canada West games, but they fell 23-15 to the Lethbridge Pronghorns in their regular-season finale Thursday.
That result didn’t mean anything for either team’s playoff hopes, as Calgary had already clinched first in the conference and Lethbridge had already been eliminated (two weeks ago with a 41-17 loss to Calgary), but it gave the Pronghorns some measure of revenge for their own elimination and ended an impressive run from the Dinos. Abby Duguid scored two tries for the Pronghorns, while Carolyn McKee and Sydney De La Mare chipped in others and Caitlin Sears added a penalty.
Over in OUA rugby action, the conference semifinals took place this weekend, and the No. 3 Guelph Gryphons advanced to their 11th straight gold-medal game with a 97-12 win over the Brock Badgers. Emmanuela Jada led the Gryphons with three tries, while Amara Hill, Talia Hoffman, and Alexandra Everett added two each.
That OUA final this coming weekend will see the Gryphons facing the Queen’s Gaels for the second straight season (Guelph won 43-17 last year), thanks to the No. 6 Gaels’ 29-24 home win over the No. 9 McMaster Marauders Saturday. Queen’s star Nadia Popov put up 14 points for the Gaels in her final game at Nixon Field.
Queen’s and Guelph have both already qualified for the national championships, which will be held Nov. 1-4 at Acadia University. But there’s a lot on the line for both schools next week, as the Gryphons could claim their third consecutive OUA championship, while the Gaels could take their first since 2013 (when they beat the Gryphons in Guelph). We’ll see how that one plays out.
Out east, the No. 2 StFX X-Women edged the No. 8 Acadia Axewomen 22-20 Sunday to close out the AUS regular season. And they did so thanks to a remarkable comeback; Acadia took an early 15-0 lead, but StFX recovered thanks to tries from Joanna Alphonso, Amelia Hatfield, Sophie Parker and Alison Blanchard, plus a conversion from Dani Franada. Acadia’s Keisha Kane responded with a try in the final seconds, but the Axewomen weren’t able to convert it for the tie. The win saw the X-Women finish the AUS schedule with a perfect 6-0 record and claim a first-place bye; the 4-2 Axewomen will host the UPEI Panthers in the semifinals this coming weekend.
Huskies upset No. 3 Capers, while Vert et Or end No. 1 Carabins’ shutout streak
One of the biggest upsets this week in any sport came when the Saint Mary’s Huskies took down the No. 3 Cape Breton Capers on the road Friday, winning 1-0. That match was played in heavy rain, and Anna Erikson scored the only goal in the 12th minute, while Kyanna Gilks made 12 saves to pick up the shutout. That marked Cape Breton’s first loss of the season and dropped them to 6-1-1, while the Huskies improved to 3-4-1.
Elsewhere in women’s soccer, the No. 1 Montreal Carabins saw a long shutout streak end thanks to a 2-2 draw with the Sherbrooke Vert et Or Friday. They’d held opponents without a goal for 21 straight games, but that fell apart in this one.
Out west, the No. 2 Trinity Western Spartans beat No. 9 Alberta 2-0 Friday, handing the Pandas their first loss of the year thanks to goals from Kathryn Harvey and Jenaya Robertson. The Spartans also thumped the Mount Royal Cougars 7-0 Saturday, with TWU third-year forward Seina Kashima collecting three assists in that one to give her 13 on the season, passing the previous Canada West single-season record of 11 (recorded by Calgary players Tessa Miller in 2013 and Jordan Smith in 2016). Kashima already held the conference record for assists, and has now extended that to 40.
Bisons best No. 2 Golden Bears
The Manitoba Bisons came up with a huge home win Friday night, beating the No. 2 Alberta Golden Bears 2-0. Alberta scored two early goals in that one, but the Bisons bounced back thanks to tallies from Devon Skoleski, Brett Stovin and Nick Zajac and 36 saves from goalie Byron Spriggs:
The Golden Bears responded with a 4-1 win over the Bisons Saturday, getting goals from Jason Fram, Taylor Cooper, Grayson Pawlenchuk and Luke Philp.
Elsewhere in Canada West, the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies had a great showing in their first game at their new arena Merlis Belsher Place Friday, defeating the Calgary Dinos 5-4 in a shootout. Jesse Forsberg, Collin Shirley, Carter Folk and Levi Cable scored for Saskatchewan in regulation, while Shirley notched the only goal in the shootout; Taran Kozun made 28 saves for the Huskies in regulation and stopped all three shootout attempts he faced. Saskatchewan also beat Calgary again Saturday, this time by a 3-2 score.
In Ontario, the No. 8 Ryerson Rams knocked off the No. 7 Guelph Gryphons 4-3 on the road Thursday thanks to goals from Vince Figliomeni, Mathew Santos, Matt Mistele and Marcus Hinds. A late comeback from Guelph didn’t get far enough. And the No. 9 Ottawa Gee-Gees pulled off a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Carleton Ravens in their season opener Friday thanks to tallies from Kevin Domingue, Connor Sills, and Yvan Mongo.
Dinos’ draw means Vikes have to wait
The Victoria Vikes entered the weekend with a good chance of locking up the Canada West berth at nationals, needing two victories over the visiting Calgary Dinos to achieve that. However, while they picked up a 5-1 win over the winless Dinos Saturday, the Vikes were held to a 2-2 draw Sunday, one that saw Calgary coach Peter Taylor thrilled with his team’s performance afterwards.
"The girls played what I would consider the best game we have ever played," said an elated Dinos head coach Peter Taylor, whose team improves to 0-4-2. "We committed ourselves the whole 70 minutes. We played tough and we really put the Vikes under pressure."
Indeed they did. Chloe Keeler-Young and Jenna Bower scored for Calgary in that game, the Dinos’ second tie of the season. And that marked significant improvement; facing Victoria and UBC in Canada West, they hadn’t recorded any points since 2012, so the two draws this year are something to build on. Ingrid Ulrich turned in a terrific performance in goal for Calgary, including stopping six penalty corners late in the half. And the Vikes will now have to wait and see how the Dinos do next week against UBC; if the Thunderbirds pick up two wins with a large goal differential, they can claim the berth at nationals, but otherwise, it will be Victoria facing the OUA champions.
Social media posts of the week:
Los Angeles Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty ran into a familiar-looking face this week, meeting lookalike Ottawa Gee-Gees’ hockey player Kevin Dominigue. Here’s a photo of that pairing from Fox Sports West’s Patrick O’Neal:
Also speaking of the Gee-Gees, the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Russia is fast approaching in March, and Canadian Chef de Mission Roger Archambault (the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ associate athletic director) was there for meetings this week:
And in women’s hockey, the No. 8 Alberta Pandas bested the No. 1 Manitoba Bisons twice in a clash of the national champions from the last two seasons, recording shutouts Friday and Saturday. Saturday’s game saw a cool photo gallery post from Alberta sport photographer Dennis Carter:
Finally, the UNB Reds officially returned to U SPORTS women's hockey for the first time since the 2007-08 season with a team introduction Friday and games Saturday and Sunday. UNB lost 2-1 in double overtime to the Mount Allison Mounties Saturday and fell 2-1 (also in double overtime) to the St. Thomas Tommies Sunday in the revival of the "Battle of the Hill" rivalry, but there were some cool social media posts around both games: