Welcome to a special edition of Monday Morning Quarterback, this time looking at the top 10 moments from the fall term of U SPORTS action.
10. Men’s hockey: York’s Humboldt Broncos tour sees Dahlgren take the ceremonial faceoff
Tragedy struck the Canadian hockey world April 6 when 16 players, coaches, media and staffers from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Broncos were killed in a bus crash, and that tragedy hit the York Lions hard. Humboldt assistant coach Mark Cross was one of the 16 killed in the crash, and he not only played for the Lions from 2011-16, he was helping them recruit current Broncos. So York decided to do a Mark Cross #HumboldtStrong Remembrance Tour in the preseason, heading to Saskatchewan in late September and playing three games against the Regina Cougars, the Calgary Dinos and the Saskatchewan Huskies to raise funds for the Mark Cross Memorial Sports Fund and the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation.
A particularly poignant moment on that trip came ahead of that game against Calgary at the Broncos’ Elgar Peterson Arena, where Kaleb Dahlgren dropped the puck. Dahlgren was one of the Broncos’ players injured in the bus crash, and he joined the Lions this summer. He wasn’t yet recovered enough to play at this point, but took the ceremonial faceoff:
The Lions will host the Mark Cross Memorial Game on Jan. 5 where they will retire his No.18 jersey.
9. Women’s hockey: U SPORTS stars shine at Summer Showcase
There were 20 U SPORTS women’s hockey players selected to participate in Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase from Aug. 2-11, forming an all-star team that played four games. Two of those games were against segments of Hockey Canada’s National Women’s Development Team, and two were against Japan’s national women’s program. The U SPORTS side started with a close 3-2 loss to Japan, but bounced back to beat Hockey Canada’s Team James and Team Heaney by identical 3-1 scores and finished the event with a 6-3 win over Japan.
Sarah Bujold of the StFX X-Women led the U SPORTS team with three goals, second amongst all players in the event. Meanwhile, goalie Katherine Purchase of the Concordia Stingers posted a .943 save percentage (second in the tournament) and a 2.00 goals-against-average in two games, and fellow goalie Maude Trévisan of the Montreal Carabins posted a .886 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA in here two games.
8. Women’s rugby: Gee-Gees get last-second try to take national bronze
One of the most thrilling moments in U SPORTS competition this year didn’t come in a title game, but rather in a third-place game. In the women’s rugby third-place game Nov. 4, the Ottawa Gee-Gees (last year’s national champions) pulled off an incredible late comeback to beat the Laval Rouge et Or, with Michaela Haley somehow pushing in over the line in injury time for what would prove to be the game-winning try:
7. Women’s Field hockey: Vikes capture first McCrae Cup title since 2008, helped by a couple of Erin Dawson goals
The 2018 season marked a return to the top of the U SPORTS women’s field hockey world for the Victoria Vikes. They finished third at nationals in 2014, then second in 2015 and 2016, but didn’t make the event last year under the new format of Canada West champion versus OUA champion. The Vikes claimed the Canada West title right at the end of the season this year, though, starting with two draws before going 4-1-1 in their last six matches and earning the conference crown on goal differential.
Then at nationals Nov. 1-3, they Vikes swept the OUA champion and host York Lions 2-1 and 3-1 to take the best-of-three series and raised the McCrae Cup for the first time since 2008. One of the top goals there came from rookie Erin Dawson (who had both of the first game’s goals). Here she is opening the championship scoring after beating several defenders:
6. Swimming: Thunderbirds record sixth-straight Canada West sweep, 10th straight women’s title
The UBC Thunderbirds have long been a swimming powerhouse, and they continued that trend at the Nov. 23-25 Canada West championships in Calgary, where they won their 10th straight women’s title and their sixth straight men’s title. On the women’s side, the Thunderbirds outscored the second-place Calgary Dinos by 274, and on the men’s side, they edged Calgary by 98.5 points. Standout UBC swimmers included Markus Thormeyer (named male swimmer of the meet, he picked up 1,597 FINA points in the 200-metre freestyle and the 400-metre individual medley) and Hoi Lam Karen Tam (who set two conference records, one with a gold-medal swim of 54.44 seconds in the 100-metre freestyle).
5. Women’s rugby: X-Women earn fifth title in nine seasons, sixth overall
Once again, the StFX X-Women are on top of the U SPORTS women’s rugby world. They won their sixth title overall Nov. 4 at Acadia, beating the Guelph Gryphons 41-24 in the gold-medal game. That marked their fifth win in nine seasons, as they’ve won every other year since 2010. Sam Lake led the way on offence for StFX in this one with three tries, including this one:
4. Men’s soccer: Carabins win first title in extra time, get revenge on Capers
The Montreal Carabins came up with their first men’s soccer title this year, and they did so in style, beating the Cape Breton Capers 2-1 in extra time in Nov. 11’s gold medal match at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium. That was a rematch of last year’s title game, which Cape Breton won 3-2 on penalty kicks. And Montreal made a remarkable run to get back there, as they were ranked No. 6 in the final Top 10 ahead of nationals (versus Cape Breton’s No. 1 ranking), but beat the UNB Reds 3-0 and the Trinity Western Spartans 3-1 to make it to the final.
This time around, Guy-Frank Essomé Penda scored for the Carabins just 84 seconds in off a long ball from Kareem Sow. Both teams had good chances from there, but the only other scoring in regulation came from the Capers’ Caelann Budhoo beating three defenders and then firing home just before halftime. In extra time, Montreal midfielder Omar Kreim showed some fancy footwork to beat defender Lewis White before setting up Frédéric Lajoie-Gravelle for what would prove the decisive goal.
Here’s a closer look at the experience of the tournament:
The Carabins will look to defend their title on home turf next season as host of the 2019 national championship.
3. Football: Hugo Richard leads Rouge et Or to 10th Vanier Cup in rematch with Mustangs
The Nov. 24 Vanier Cup saw the same matchup as last year, with the Western Mustangs again facing the Laval Rouge et Or and both teams again ranked No. 1 and No. 2 (with Western with the edge this time around) in the final Top 10, but it played out quite differently. Last year, it was Western quarterback Chris Merchant who particularly shone, winning the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as game MVP in a 39-17 win. This time, it was fifth-year Laval quarterback Hugo Richard who stepped into the spotlight and went out on top, throwing for 339 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 62 yards and another touchdown while leading the Rouge et Or to a 34-20 home victory and winning the Morris Trophy.
That win gave Laval their 10th Vanier title overall and their fifth in the last decade, and it furthered their Vanier titles lead over the Mustangs (who are second with seven). It also snapped Western’s 23-game winning streak, which was threatening the 25-game streak record Laval posted between 2012 and 2014. And it had a lot to do with some impressive play from Richard, like this touchdown run up the middle:
2. Cross country: Rouge et Or and Dinos claim first titles thanks to strong team efforts
This year’s Cross Country Championships saw a pair of new winners on the team side, with the Laval Rouge et Or women’s team and the Calgary Dinos men’s team both claiming their first titles in the championships held at Kingston’s Fort Henry Hill on Nov. 10. On the women’s side, the Rouge et Or were ranked No. 2 behind the host Queen’s Gaels in the final Top 10 rankings heading into the event, and Queen’s Brogan MacDougall won the individual title, but Laval’s Aurélie Dubé-Lavoie and Catherine Beauchemin finished second and third. That combined with sixth- and seventh-place finishes from Anne-Marie Comeau and Jessy Lacourse, plus a 37th-place finish from rookie Jade Bérube gave the Rouge et Or 55 points as a team, seven ahead of the second-place Gaels.
On the men’s side, the Dinos were ranked No. 3 heading into this, behind the McMaster Marauders and the defending champion Guelph Gryphons. And Guelph’s Connor Black took the individual title in a close finish over Laval’s Jean-Simon Desgagnés, but Calgary’s Russell Pennock picked up bronze. That combined with ninth- and 10th-place finishes from the Dinos’ Eric Lutz and Stefan Daniel, plus a 21st-place finish from Ryan Grieco and a 32nd-place finish from Tyler Kiyonaga gave Calgary a team score of 75 points, 14 ahead of the second-place Gryphons.
Here’s a closer look at the full event:
1. Women’s soccer: Gee-Gees win surprising title on home turf thanks to Smith’s screamer
The Ottawa Gee-Gees hosted the U SPORTS Women’s Soccer Championship for the first time this year, and they came out on top, winning their second national title (their first came in 1996) with a 2-1 victory over the Trinity Western Spartans in the gold medal game Nov. 11. And that wasn’t exactly expected heading into this year; Ottawa went 10-1-5 in the 2017 regular season, finishing third in the OUA East and falling to the Queen’s Gaels in the second round of the playoffs. And while the Gee-Gees improved this year, going 14-1-1 in the regular season and winning the OUA title, they were ranked No. 4 in the final Top 10 poll ahead of the national championship, behind the Canada West champion Spartans, AUS champion Cape Breton Capers and the RSEQ champion (and defending national champion) Montreal Carabins.
But Ottawa managed to pull it all together for an impressive run through the nationals, beating the Calgary Dinos 2-1 in the quarterfinals and then downing the McMaster Marauders 4-1 in the semifinals. And that paved the way for a great showdown against the highly-ranked Spartans, where Ottawa survived three early chances before Mikayla Morton scored to make it 1-0 Gee-Gees in the 19th minute. U SPORTS Player of the Year Seina Kashima tied the match for Trinity Western with a top-corner shot seven minutes later, though, and the Spartans had more chances to go ahead, but were foiled by Ottawa keeper Margot Shore. Then, in the 64th minute, Miranda Smith scored what would prove to be the game-winner, a dazzling strike from 30 yards out that went off the crossbar and in:
That’s a brilliant goal that stands as one of the best moments of this fall season.
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.