U SPORTS News

Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.

Men’s Hockey

Thunderbirds fall to No. 7 Dinos in OT at Winter Classic, but clinch playoff berth with subsequent 2OT win 

One of the biggest U SPORTS events of this week came out in the UBC Thunderbirds’ fifth-annual Winter Classic Friday, where UBC hosted the No. 7 Calgary Dinos in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,766 at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Despite a late UBC comeback, Calgary eventually prevailed 3-2 in overtime, but the Thunderbirds earned a much-needed point in front of their fans. And they came out with a better outcome in the rematch Saturday, winning 4-3 in double overtime and clinching a playoff berth in the process.

On Friday night, Riley Sheen opened the scoring for the Dinos at 8:32 of the first period, but the Thunderbirds responded with a goal from Michael Stenerson just over seven minutes into the second frame. Sheen scored again for Calgary five minutes later, and the Dinos looked set to hold on from there, but UBC earned a third-period power play and Stenerson tied the game at the 14:20 mark of the period. That led to overtime, where Dane Gibson scored the winner for Calgary just under two minutes in.

The loss marked the Thunderbirds’ fifth in a row and their fifth to start 2019 (one of which was a double-overtime loss to the Alberta Golden Bears the previous Friday). But UBC head coach Sven Butenschon was pleased with how his team battled to come back, especially in the third period, and said that was a sign better results were ahead.

“It was a good character third period, we were down by one, found a way to tie the game up, very similar to last week against Alberta. We're learning a lot here, we're putting together bits and pieces of the game and we just have to come here tomorrow with the mindset to play for 60 minutes the right way. I think we're due to get some bounces, we're working real hard, we're trying with everything we got, I think eventually good things will happen."

And good things did indeed happen the next night. Calgary again struck first, with Jared Hauf scoring at 18:24 of the first period, but UBC responded with second-period goals from Adam Rossignol and Quentin Greenwood. Jordan Henderson tied it for the Dinos early in the third, but Matt Revel gave the Thunderbirds the lead on a power play with less than five minutes left. However, Dylan Busenius responded with a six-on-four empty-net power-play goal with eight seconds left to send the game to overtime. There, though, UBC emerged victorious just over a minute into the second (three-on-three) overtime, thanks to a great steal-and-rush play from Stenerson:

That was enough to give the Thunderbirds their first win of this calendar year, and to snap the Dinos’ four-game winning streak. More importantly, though, it meant that UBC officially clinched the fifth of six Canada West playoff berths. Now that they’ve snapped out of their 2019 slump, we’ll see if they can keep rolling.

Women's Basketball

No. 3 Rams edge Voyageurs in Gold Rush/Shoot for the Cure game 

The No. 3 Ryerson Rams are hosting the women’s Final 8 March 7-10, with the schedule and single-session tickets released this week, and they’re gearing up for that in a number of ways. One is with The Journey To student-produced behind-the-scenes documentary series (two episodes have been released so far), and another is with event games, like their annual Gold Rush/Shoot for the Cure game that took place Friday and also served as a kickoff event leading up to the Final 8. Friday’s game saw Ryerson beat the Laurentian Voyageurs 87-63.

Laurentian came out strong early Friday and took a 6-5 lead, but then Ryerson battled back. The Rams led 19-13 after the first quarter and extended that lead to 43-30 at the half and 64-47 after three quarters before putting the Voyageurs away with a 23-16 fourth quarter. Seven Ryerson players recorded eight points or more, led by Sofia Paska (who had 13 points and nine rebounds, both team-highs), while Mackenzie Robinson notched 23 points for Laurentian.

Friday’s game also saw several Ryerson women’s basketball and volleyball players get their hair cut on the court at halftime to donate it to charity. That was part of the U SPORTS women’s basketball Shoot For The Cure initiative, which has been running since 2007, has raised over $1.25 million for the Canadian Cancer Society and other local and provincial charities to date, and is in its eighth-straight year of having every school participate.Saint Mary’s, StFX, UBC Okanagan, Western, Manitoba, Lethbridge, McGill, and UPEI all also held Shoot For The Cure games this weekend. Here are some photos from the Ryerson event:

Swimming

Rouge et Or men win RSEQ’s fourth meet, the first RSEQ meet this year on a 50-metre course 

The fourth RSEQ meet of the season, hosted by the Laval Rouge et Or this weekend, carried an unusual element; it was held on a 50-metre course, a first this season for RSEQ swimmers. RSEQ events are usually held on a 25-metre course, but that was changed thanks to the upcoming U SPORTS national championships (set to be hosted by UBC in February) and the 2019 Summer Universade (to be held in Naples, Italy this July) both using a 50-metre course. And the Rouge et Or did very well indeed on the longer course, finishing first on the men’s side and second on the women’s side.

The Laval men’s team picked up 350.5 points over the event, ahead of the Montreal Carabins (307) and the McGill Redmen (227.5). On the women’s side, it was Montreal in first with 465 points, but Laval second with 237 and the Ottawa Gee-Gees third with 174. But it was the men’s result that was particularly unexpected, as the Rouge et Or have often finished fourth on that side this year.

Some key performances for the Laval men included captain Alexis Michailof winning the 50-metre freestyle, the 4x100m freestyle relay team of Jean-Philippe Dufresne , Pierre-Adrien Simard , Ambroise Petit and Samuel Bélanger taking gold in a great come-from-behind finish, Petit adding a silver in the 400-metre individual medley, Simon-Pierre Bélanger claiming silver in the 50-metre breaststroke and Jérémie Déry-Bergeron earning three medals (silver in the 100-metre breaststroke, silver in the 4X100-metre medley relay, and bronze in the 50-metre breaststroke). For the Laval women, Magalie Poudrier stood out with bronze medals in the 200-metre freestyle, the 50-metre breaststroke and the 4x100-metre freestyle relay. The Rouge et Or swimming team will next be in action at the RSEQ championships, which the Montreal Carabins will host from Feb. 1-3.

Women's volleyball

No. 5 Pandas take down No. 2 Dinos before Dinos get revenge

One of the biggest battles in women’s volleyball this weekend was the series between the No. 2 Calgary Dinos (14-2 on the year heading in) and the No. 5 Alberta Pandas (12-4). On Friday, it was the visiting Pandas who got the edge, picking up a close 25-19, 20-25, 25-23, 22-25, 20-18 win. That marked the Dinos’ first home-court loss in almost two years, and it came thanks to Alberta fending off a succession of two-point Calgary leads in the decisive fifth set. Kory White led the way for the Pandas with 21 kills, including the match-sealing one, while Julia Zonneveld added 17 further kills. Kate Pexman had 16 kills for Calgary.

On Saturday, the tables turned in favour of the Dinos, who picked up a 21-25, 25-18, 25-18, 32-30 victory. That game saw another marathon clinching set, but it went the other way this time, with third-year Calgary outside hitter Hannah Tanasichuk recording a career-high 27 kills (one short of the school record), including one to earn the game-clinching point. Pexman added 17 kills and five service aces, while White had 22 kills for Alberta.

The Pandas host the Saskatchewan Huskies for a pair of matches next week, while the Dinos have a bye.

Track and Field

Tigers shine at Athletics Nova Scotia Indoor Open 

A notable track meet this weekend was the Athletics Nova Scotia Indoor Open, with all the AUS schools that compete in track and field participating, as well as high school and club athletes. And the Dalhousie Tigers picked up some impressive results there, adding to what’s been a strong 2019 for them so far.

The Tigers’ women are looking to earn their 30th consecutive conference title this season, while the men are looking to improve off a best-ever ninth-place team finish at last year’s nationals, and both earned good results at last week’s Jumpstart Open (hosted by the Moncton Aigles Bleus). And those results carried into this week.

On the women’s side, some notable victorious Tigers included Taylor Mattinson (60-metre dash and 300-metre dash, ages 18-19), Maya Reynolds (60-metre dash, ages 20-34), Georgia Waller (1,000-metre run, ages 18-19), Savanna Jordan (1,500-metre run and 3,000-metre run, ages 20-34), Olivia Hill (60-metre hurdles, ages 18-19), and Lorena Heubach (high jump and long jump, ages 20-34). On the men’s side, some of those who came away with wins included Alex Godfrey (60-metre dash, ages 18-19), Matt Coolen (60-metre dash and 60-metre hurdles, ages 20-34), Noah James (600-metre run, ages 18-19), Hudson Grimshaw-Surrette (1,000-metre run, ages 20-34), and Kaelen Schmidt (high jump, ages 20-34).

The CWHL All-Star Game Sunday in Toronto featured a strong U SPORTS contingent, with alumni Ann-Sophie Bettez (McGill), Liz Knox (Laurier), and Brigette Lacquette (Manitoba) taking part, with Knox and Lacquette serving as team captains. Team Gold, featuring Knox and Bettez, came out on top 8-4 over Lacquette’s Team Purple. Knox played half the game in net, while Bettez had a goal and two assists and was named the second star of the game. Knox even pulled off a mid-play goalie change with teammate Noora Raty:

Speaking of all-star games, four U SPORTS football players took part in invitational U.S. college all-star showcases this weekend, with Laval’s Mathieu Betts and Calgary’s Joel Van Pelt going to the 94th East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida and Concordia’s Maurice Simba and Laval’s Alexandre Savard heading to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

In the Shrine Game, Betts started for the East team at defensive end and recorded a solo tackle, while Van Pelt subbed in for the West team (also on the defensive line) and notched two solo tackles and an assisted tackle. In the Collegiate Bowl, Simba saw some action on the offensive line while Savard lined up at receiver, but didn’t record a stat. Here’s an interview Van Pelt did with FootballGameplan.com’s Emory Hunt ahead of the game about what participating in the Shrine Game meant for him:

Also in football, former McGill offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was able to return to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Duvernay-Tardif had been out since breaking his leg Oct. 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was activated off injured reserve this week. He was on the 53-man depth chart for Sunday’s game as a backup lineman, but was later named as one of the team’s seven inactive players. The Chiefs eventually lost 37-31 in overtime to the New England Patriots, ending Duvernay-Tardif’s hopes of winning a Super Bowl this season. But he was excited to be able to get back to football this week:

Elsewhere in football, a Canadian U-18 national team coached by Carleton head coach Steve Sumarah (also the permanent junior national team head coach) and assisted by Guelph defensive coordinator Adam Grandy, Regina receivers’ coach Jeff Stusek and others fell 27-10 to the United States in the tenth-annual International Bowl this weekend.

An event with plenty of current U SPORTS players was the Alberta women’s rugby sevens tournament, a Canada West event hosted by the Alberta Pandas Saturday and Sunday. Most of the rosters featured plenty of players from Canada West universities’ 15-player rugby teams, which take part in U SPORTS national competition in the fall. The UBC Thunderbirds’ sevens team came out on top this weekend, taking down the Lethbridge Pronghorns 19-12 in the final. Two of UBC’s three tries came from athletes who also play for their 15-player team, Kally King and Nicole Mallow:

Also in rugby, two inductees to the Rugby Canada Hall of Fame were announced this weekend, and both have significant U SPORTS connections. In addition to her long career in rugby (which currently includes coaching the Regina Cougars’ women’s rugby sevens team), Foster was a dominant player for the Cougars’ women’s hockey team from 1999-00 through 2002-03 (earning two national all-star nods), and has been an assistant coach with that hockey team since 2004. Meanwhile, Scott Stewart’s long rugby career includes playing at UBC and coaching at Western; he’s currently the UCLA Bruins’  head men’s rugby coach.

In curling, the Brock Badgers hosted their own Brock Invitational this weekend, but new skip Sam Steep was otherwise occupied. He’s representing Ontario in the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Prince Albert, Alberta, and was involved in an epic 12-end match:

In men’s hockey, there was an interesting international game this week, with the RMC Paladins playing the Army Black Knights at West Point. RMC lost 5-2 in the end, but it was within a goal inside the final five minutes. And that game produced some good tweets about the series:

And on a sadder note, long-time CBC, TSN and Alberta radio broadcaster Peter Watts passed away Friday. Watts was long associated with Canadian university sports, from his start at Queen’s radio station CFRC through his work for CBC and TSN (which saw him honoured with the national Sgambati Media Award in 1987) through his time overseeing media relations for the annual BLG Awards. Tributes to him poured in from the U SPORTS community last week when it was reported that he was unlikely to recover, and those continued this weekend, including from TSN’s Jermaine Franklin:

Our thoughts are with Peter’s family and friends.