Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week across Canada West, the OUA, RSEQ and the AUS.
No. 4 Varsity Blues best Lions 6-3 in second-annual Mark Cross Memorial Game, continue winning streak
Friday marked the second annual Mark Cross Memorial Game, a game set up by the York Lions in honor of former forward Mark Cross. Cross played with the Lions from 2011-16 and then went on to be an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos; he was one of the 19 killed in a April 6, 2018 bus crash. Last year, the Lions did a #HumboldtStrong preseason tour of Saskatchewan in honour of Cross and the others affected (including crash survivor Kaleb Dahlgren, who now plays for York), and they then hosted the first annual memorial game last January against the Brock Badgers. This year, the Lions hosted their crosstown rivals, the No. 4 University of Toronto Varsity Blues, in the Mark Cross Memorial Game Friday, with all admissions by donation and all donations going to support the Mark Cross Memorial Scholarship fund. And the team wore special jerseys in honour of Cross:
On the ice, this one didn’t go the Lions’ way. OUA leading scorer David Thomson opened the scoring for Toronto with his 11th goal of the season, and then Willy Paul and Evan MacEachern added power play goals to give the Varsity Blues a 3-2 lead. Scott Feser and Brendan Browne responded to pull York within a goal, but Curtis Harvey and Kyle Potts widened the Toronto lead. The Lions pulled their goalie with 7:30 left in the third period in an attempt to catch up, and that paid off with a Braydon Buziak goal that made it 5-3, but Potts then added an empty-netter to seal the victory for the Varsity Blues, giving them their 13th-straight win.
York finished the weekend with a 9-4 home loss to the Western Mustangs Saturday, while Toronto beat the Brock Badgers 7-0 at home to extend their winning streak to 14 games. That marked the first time they’d won 14 regular-season games in a row since the 1973-74 season.
Elsewhere in men’s hockey, the No. 2 Alberta Golden Bears posted a 3-0 road win over the No. 5 Saskatchewan Huskies in Canada West play Friday, but Saskatchewan struck back with a 5-0 win in Saturday’s rematch. In OUA play, the No. 3 Carleton Ravens beat the No. 10 UQTR Patriotes 4-0 at home Friday, but fell 3-0 to the McGill Redmen at home Saturday. In AUS play, the No. 1 UNB Reds posted 5-2 and 6-2 road wins over the Dalhousie Tigers and StFX X-Men Friday and Saturday.
There were also some notable exhibition results over the holiday break, including the Reds posting a 4-0 home win over the Windsor Lancers in the 2019 Peterbilt Atlantic Pete Kelly Cup, the No. 9 Guelph Gryphons recording a 3-2 double overtime road win against the NCAA’s Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, and the Redmen falling 4-1 on the road against the NCAA’s Yale Bulldogs.
Wesmen pull off straight-sets win against No. 8 WolfPack
The Winnipeg Wesmen women’s volleyball team got their year off to a good start with a home victory Friday, beating the No. 8 Thompson Rivers WolfPack in straight sets (25-19, 25-21, 25-22). Kalena Schulz led the way for Winnipeg with 14 kills and 12 digs, while Emma Parker added 10 kills and eight digs and Ashleigh Laube chipped in eight kills and 11 digs. Kendra Finch posted five kills and 13 digs for Thompson Rivers. Friday’s defeat marked the WolfPack’s first straight-sets loss of the season, but they rebounded with a four-set victory (23-25, 25-13, 25-20, 25-15) in the rematch Saturday.
Canada West is the only conference to resume women’s volleyball play so far, with AUS, RSEQ and OUA play beginning again this coming week. Other notable Canada West results this weekend included the No. 1 Trinity Western Spartans posting a pair of straight-set road wins against the Regina Cougars and the No. 9 Alberta Pandas recording their own pair of straight-set road wins against the Brandon Bobcats.
There were also some significant exhibition tournaments over the break. Those included the National Invitational Tournament at the University of Toronto this weekend (featuring the No. 4 Varsity Blues as hosts, plus the No. 2 Ryerson Rams, the McMaster Marauders, and the eventual champion McGill Martlets), the St. Thomas Tommies’ tournament this weekend (featuring the host Tommies, the UNB Reds, the Mount Allison Mounties, the UPEI Panthers, and two CCAA schools, the Université Sainte-Anne Dragons and the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics), the Wesmen Classic from Dec. 28-29 (featuring the No. 3 Dalhousie Tigers, the Saint Mary’s Huskies, the Lakehead Thunderwolves, the Guelph Gryphons, the McMaster Marauders, the Brandon Bobcats, and the host and eventual champion Wesmen), and the New Year’s Classic at the University of Alberta (featuring the No. 9 Pandas as hosts and eventual champions, plus the MacEwan Griffins, the Regina Cougars, and a CCAA school, the University of Alberta Augustana Vikings).
Dinos earn split with Bisons, while No. 1 Spartans swept NCAA competition
The men’s volleyball season also resumed in Canada West this week, with six matches taking place. A notable result there came from the Calgary Dinos’ road trip to face the Manitoba Bisons. On Friday, the Bisons came out with a five-set win (23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 15-7), but on Saturday, the Dinos won in straight sets (25-22, 25-23, 25-21).
Friday’s game saw Manitoba’s Kevin Negus lead the way with 27 kills, while Ben Carleton had 10 kills, five aces and four blocks. Hamish Hazelden had 16 kills for Calgary. On Saturday, Mac McNicol led the Dinos with 18 kills, while Negus had 15 kills for the Bisons. The other Canada West contests this week saw the host Saskatchewan Huskies split a pair of matches with the MacEwan Griffins and the Winnipeg Wesmen win a pair of matches against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.
Men’s volleyball also saw some notable exhibition tournaments over the break, particularly the Can Am Holiday Showcase in Toronto in late December. That event featured the U SPORTS defending champion (and current No. 1) Trinity Western Spartans, the No. 4 McMaster Marauders, the No. 9 Alberta Golden Bears and the Ryerson Rams in action against four top NCAA Division I teams; the defending national champion and current No. 4 Long Beach State 49ers, the current No. 2 UCLA Bruins, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the No. 6 Lewis Flyers (a Division II school that competes in Division I in men’s volleyball). U SPORTS teams won six of the 12 matches, including the Spartans edging the 49ers in a thrilling five-set battle between the defending national champions on each side of the border.
Trinity Western won all three of their matches in the tournament, beating the 49ers, Bruins and Flyers. The Spartans then took down the Brock Badgers in further exhibition action this week before falling twice to McMaster.)
Other significant exhibition action saw the No. 2 Brandon Bobcats and the Guelph Gryphons each tour California, with Guelph facing the No. 9 Pepperdine Wave, the No. 5 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos and the No. 13 Cal State Northridge Matadors from Dec. 29-Jan. 3 and Brandon facing Pepperdine, the No. 8 UC Irvine Anteaters, and the UC San Diego Tritons. The Canadian teams each lost all of those matches, but the Bobcats took Pepperdine to five sets and the Gryphons took the Wave to four sets.
Sea-Hawks and No. 1 Huskies both start the new year on a high note
AUS and Canada West women’s basketball action resumed this week, and both conferences’ leaders got off to a good start. The Memorial Sea-Hawks entered the new year with an AUS-high 16 points and added eight more this weekend thanks to a pair of home wins over the Dalhousie Tigers in four-point games. On Saturday, Memorial posted a 78-45 win, led by 34 points from Hallie Nickerson and a triple-double (10 points, assists and rebounds) from Jane Baird.
On Sunday, the Sea-Hawks won 79-66, with Nickerson notching a game-high 26 points and Sammi Deakin-Sharpe adding 21 points off the bench. Memorial now holds an 8-2 record and sits atop the AUS standings with 24 points, well clear of the UPEI Panthers and Acadia Axewomen (who each have 14 points).
In Canada West, the No. 1 Saskatchewan Huskies posted an impressive weekend of their own, stretching their unbeaten record to 10-0 thanks to a pair of wins over the Trinity Western Spartans. On Friday, Saskatchewan won 83-39 behind 29 points and eight rebounds from Summer Masikewich. On Saturday, the Huskies won 101-47 thanks to 19 points and 10 rebounds from Masikewich, plus 19 points from Megan Ahlstrom.
Track and field
Blues shine at Sharon Anderson Memorial
The University of Toronto Varsity Blues hosted the annual Sharon Anderson Memorial meet this weekend, and they posted plenty of impressive results. On the men’s side, rookie Adam Exley and fifth-year veteran Anthony Kwon finished first and second in the men's 60m hurdles with times of 8.35 and 9.05 seconds respectively, while fourth-year thrower Kevin Kiezen and rookie Frank Vreugdenhil placed first and second in the men's weight throw (throwing for 15.13m and 14.57m respectively). Vreugdenhil won the men’s shot put as well with a throw of 13.69m.
On the women’s side, a pair of rookies shone for the Varsity Blues, with Elizabeth Martin winning the 60m dash in 7.61 seconds and Christina Esposito placing third overall in the women's 1500m in a time of 4:54.63. Full meet results are available here. Next up for Toronto is the Can Am Classic, hosted by the Windsor Lancers this coming weekend.
Social media posts of the week
In men’s hockey, the Canadian team won the U20 world junior championship for the third time in six years this weekend. That team competed in a pre-tournament exhibition series against the U SPORTS All-Stars as part of their preparations for the event. But there were some even more significant U SPORTS connections with the Canadian team that won the Spengler Cup in late December:
In women’s hockey, the Canadian team made it to the finals of the U18 world junior championship earlier this week before losing to the U.S. team. The head coach of that team is Howie Draper, the head coach of the Alberta Pandas, and many of those players may wind up on U SPORTS rosters soon.
Speaking of U SPORTS women’s hockey coaches, Sportsnet featured Ryerson Rams head coach Lisa Haley as part of their Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast Sunday. Haley’s coaching career includes a lot of success at the U SPORTS level with the Saint Mary’s Huskies and now the Rams, plus work with numerous Canadian national teams, including a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics as an assistant coach with the women’s national team. Here’s the video of Haley discussing her coaching career and her passion for coaching:
Also in women’s hockey, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association visited Kingston this weekend in the latest stop on their Dream Gap exhibition tour. Plenty of U SPORTS alums are amongst the players there, including former McGill Martlet Mélodie Daoust, who was named the first star of the game:
And the PWHPA stars hung out with fans and with the Queen’s Gaels’ women’s hockey team at a brunch Sunday:
In swimming, Canadians Mary-Sophie Harvey, Penny Oleksiak, Kayla Sanchez, Kierra Smith and Rebecca Smith helped Energy Standard to the first-ever International Swimming League championship in the league’s final event of the year Las Vegas in late December. But two of the most notable U SPORTS performances there came from athletes competing for other teams; Manitoba Bisons’ swimmer Kelsey Wog finished fourth in the 200m individual medley for the Cali Condors, while University of Toronto Varsity Blues’ swimmer Kylie Masse finished fourth in the 100m backstroke.
Earlier in December, long-time Varsity Blues’ assistant Linda Kiefer was named Swimming Canada’s women’s coach of the year for the third straight year, with that award also spotlighting her work with Masse (who was also named Swimming Canada’s female athlete of the year for the third consecutive year):
And in women’s rugby, the Canadian U18 team (full of players with U SPORTS ties) toured California in late December and played a full match against the U.S. U18 team on Dec. 30, winning 29-24.
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.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBucholtz