Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Golden Hawks take down Voyageurs on women’s side, but fall on men’s
The Ontario University Athletics curling championships are underway in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., at Algoma University, and Sunday night’s quarterfinals saw two surprising results involving the Laurier Golden Hawks. On the women’s side, the Golden Hawks came away with a 6-5 extra-ends upset of the Laurentian Voyageurs, the defending OUA and U SPORTS champions. On the men’s side, the three-time reigning OUA champion Golden Hawks fell 5-4 in extra ends to the Waterloo Warriors, failing to advance to the national championships for the first time since 2013.
In the women’s match, the Golden Hawks’ team of skip Kaitlin Jewer, third Riley Sandham, second Kelly Middaugh and lead Bridget Ribau battled back and forth with the Voyageurs throughout. Laurentian scored one with the hammer in the first end and then stole a point in the second, but Laurier forced a third-end blank and scored a point of their own in the fourth. The Voyageurs were able to extend their lead to 5-3 heading into the eighth end, but the Golden Hawks scored two there thanks to a great final shot from Kaitlin Jewer and forced extra ends as a result.
Then, in the ninth end, the Golden Hawks kept rocks in the house for much of the time, and Laurentian’s Krysta Burns missed her final shot to give Laurier a one-point win and keep the Golden Hawks’ hopes of a berth at nationals alive. The OUA championships will conclude Monday, with the top two teams qualifying for the Mar. 24-28 nationals in Leduc, Alta.
On the men’s side, Laurier came into their match against Waterloo with those three consecutive OUA championships under their belt, but they were only 3-3 in the round-robin stretch this time around compared to the Warriors’ 6-1 mark. However, they kept it very close early with a bunch of blanked ends, and even took a 1-0 lead after a steal in the fourth.
Waterloo scored two in the sixth before Laurier responded with three in the seventh to take a 4-2 lead, but the Warriors picked up two in the eighth to force extra ends. And Golden Hawks skip Matt Hall couldn’t make his final shot in the ninth, which hit a guard and came up short, giving the Warriors a hard-fought 5-4 victory and sending them through to the semifinals.
Cougars knock off Bisons, No. 6 Gryphons survive challenge from Lancers
The U SPORTS hockey playoffs are underway, and there have already been some interesting results. One came in Canada West, where the Mount Royal Cougars (the conference’s sixth seed) beat the third-seeded Manitoba Bisons 3-2 and 5-3 on the road to move on to the semifinals.
The first game saw both teams battle back and forth throughout before the Cougars’ Jamie King scored in the final minute to pick up the win. The second game saw Mount Royal storm out to a 4-0 lead before Manitoba fought back to make it 4-3, but Jamal Watson’s empty-net goal (his second of the night) wound up sealing the deal for the Cougars. Cam Lanigan made 34 saves for Mount Royal.
In Ontario, the Guelph Gryphons (ranked sixth nationally, and seeded first in the OUA West after a 21-6-1 regular season) faced a surprisingly-stiff test from the Windsor Lancers (seeded eighth in the division after a 10-11-7 regular season). Guelph picked up a 3-1 win in the first game at home Thursday, led by two goals from rookie Todd Winder and another from Seth Swenson.
On Saturday, Windsor came out with a 4-3 victory at home, with backup goalie Matt Badour (playing thanks to starter Johnathan Reinhart being out after taking a puck to the face late in the first game) making 32 saves and Todd Ratchford, Ben Assad, Kyle Hope and Ian Parker all scoring. But Guelph sealed the series with a 6-1 home victory Sunday, led by two goals from Winder and four assists from Josh McFadden.
No. 2 Badgers, No. 7 Tigers and No. 8 Voyageurs fall in regular-season action, while top seeds win in Canada West playoffs
There were plenty of interesting results in men’s basketball this week, but most came in the regular season instead of the playoffs. The Canada West playoffs are well underway, but as with the play-in games last week, the higher seeds have continued to win. The four top Canada West seeds (No. 3 Alberta, No. 5 Calgary, No. 4 UBC, and Lethbridge) all won their best-of-three series in just two games. But the regular season in other conferences saw some notable upsets, with the No. 2 Brock Badgers, No. 7 Dalhousie Tigers and No. 8 Laurentian Voyageurs all falling.
In OUA action, the Badgers got their week off to a good start Wednesday with a 92-51 win over the Western Mustangs, improving to 21-2, but they then fell 96-83 on the road against the 12-11 Windsor Lancers Saturday. That was a special result for the Lancers, as it came on Mike Rocca Day in honour of their fifth-year guard and captain, who posted a game-high 27 points (on 58 per cent shooting) with five assists. Lucas Orlita added 18 points and seven rebounds and Marcus Jones had 11 points, five assists and four steals, while Johneil Simpson led Brock with 22 points off the bench.
Elsewhere in OUA action, the No. 8 Laurentian Voyageurs suffered a couple of losses. On Friday, they fell 92-80 on the road against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, and on Saturday, they lost 76-74 to the Ryerson Rams. Friday’s game saw Evan Shadkami lead the way for Toronto with 18 points off the bench, while Reilly Reid added 15 points and seven rebounds.
For Laurentian, Anthony Iacoe had 24 points and three rebounds, while David Aromolaran had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. On Saturday, Manny Diressa led the way for Ryerson with 20 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Nelson Yengue had 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Voyageurs.
In Atlantic University Sport action, the No. 7 Dalhousie Tigers ran into some trouble Saturday against the Acadia Axemen, falling 75-63. Nick De Palma led the way for Acadia with 15 points, three assists and three rebounds, while Erik Nissen added 14 points, 12 rebounds and three assists and Ben Miller had 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. For Dalhousie, Sven Stammberger had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Alex Carson added 17 points and four rebounds
Curling rinks battle on, Spooner and Daoust help Canada to women’s hockey gold medal game, Nick Polionato and Jesse Lumsden seventh in two-man bobsleigh
There are 62 members of Team Canada in the PyeongChang Olympics with ties to U SPORTS institutions, and 21 competed in U SPORTS-sanctioned sports or attended a previous Winter Universade. That latter group is finding a fair amount of success in PyeongChang, with gold medals so far coming from John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes in mixed doubles curling.
The other Canadian curling teams involve several players who competed in U SPORTS-sanctioned sports or attended a Winter Universade, including Laurier alum Brent Laing and Alberta alum Marc Kennedy (second and third respectively on Kevin Koe’s men’s foursome) and Alberta alum Joanne Courtney (second on Rachel Homan’s women’s foursome). The women’s team lost their first three matches, but has now won three straight (including an 8-3 win over Japan Sunday) to improve to 3-3 and keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the men started 4-0, but have since dropped to 4-3, including a 9-7 loss in 11 ends to the U.S. Sunday.
Elsewhere, the Canadian women’s hockey team is finding significant success. They went 3-0 in the preliminary round, then beat the Olympic Athletes from Russia 5-0 in the semifinal. The win sets up a rematch with the United States on Wednesday night, where Canada will be looking for its fifth straight Olympic gold medal. Forward Melodie Daoust, the former McGill Martlets’ star and captain, has led the way with three goals and three assists, while forward Natalie Spooner (a player mentor and coach with the UOIT Ridgebacks) has two assists and 12 shots on goal so far.
And in bobsleigh, one of Canada’s two-man sleds involves two veterans of U SPORTS-sanctioned sports: Jesse Lumsden and Nick Poloniato. Both played football at the U SPORTS level, with Lumsden suiting up for the McMaster Marauders and Poloniato playing for the Bishop’s Gaiters. Lumsden went on to a CFL career before shifting to bobsleigh as a brakeman, while a broken leg stopped Poloniato’s CFL dreams, but led him to become a bobsleigh pilot. The duo finished seventh out of 30 teams.
Aigles Bleues advance after tough series against Tigers
The women’s hockey playoffs are under way in Canada West and Atlantic University Sport, and one of the more notable results so far came from the Moncton Aigles Bleues’ victory over the Dalhousie Tigers in a best-of-three quarterfinal series. Dalhousie posted a better regular-season mark (12-12-0 versus 10-10-4), and thus had home-ice advantage here. The Tigers took advantage of that in a 7-2 win Tuesday, led by five points (a goal and four assists) from Lisa MacLean. However, Moncton struck back with a 4-1 home win of their own Friday, led by a hat-trick from Katryne Villeneuve. And the Aigles Bleues capped off the series with a 3-1 road win Sunday, bolstered by two power-play goals from Janelle Graham and an even-strength goal from Villeneuve. They’ll now move on to the semifinals.
Social media post of the week
RMC Paladins congratulate men’s hockey rookie Riley Brandt on U SPORTS-leading 21 goals
The Royal Military College Paladins face some unique challenges when it comes to U SPORTS recruitment, as their athletes are Canadian military officers in training. RMC’s athletic programs haven’t always won a lot of conference championships as a result, with an example being how their men’s hockey team finished just 7-16-5 this year. But there was an incredible bright spot for the Paladins in rookie Riley Brandt, who finished the season with 21 goals, not only tied for a school record but the best total across U SPORTS this season. And they sent a neat tweet to congratulate him on that accomplishment:
While the 7-16-5 mark wasn’t great for RMC, it was better than last year’s 6-20-2 record. And there may be further improvement ahead, and Brandt may spur them towards that. At any rate, it was neat to see the Paladins recognize an individual athlete who had such a great year for them.
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