Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Badgers achieve most dominant wrestling performance in OUA history at provincial championships
The Brock Badgers hosted the men’s and women’s Ontario wrestling championships this weekend, and they put on a show. They won both of those titles and captured 16 of 19 gold medals overall, putting forward what the OUA described as “the most dominant performance in OUA wrestling history.” Brock won seven of eight events on the women’s side and nine of 11 on the men’s side, finishing with 104 points on the men’s side (McMaster was second with 63) and 78 on the women’s side (Lakehead was second with 42). This marked the Badgers’ 20th OUA championship (and third-straight) on the men’s side and their 17th (and fourth-straight) on the women’s side.
On the women’s side, Samantha Romano (48kg), Kristina McLaren (51kg), Emily Schaefer (55kg), Hannah Taylor (59kg), Jessica Brouillette (63kg), Indira Moores (67kg) and Skylar Grote (72kg) all won gold for Brock, with the lone non-Badger champion being Guelph's Gracelynn Doogan (82kg). On the men’s side, Sam Jagas (57kg), Ligrit Sadiku (61kg), Mizam Tamaradze (65kg), Matt Jagas (68kg), Cruiz Manning (72kg), Tyler Rowe (76kg), Ty Bridgewater (82kg), Clayton Pye (90kg) and Richard Deschatelets (120kg) earned gold for the Badgers, while McMaster's Vidran Thanarajah (54kg) and Guelph's Job Reinhart (100kg) picked up the other golds. Reinhart and Taylor earned the men’s and women’s OUA Outstanding Wrestler awards, while Thanarajah and Romano won the men’s and women’s rookie of the year awards.
Elsewhere in wrestling, the Canada West championships were also held this weekend at the University of Alberta. The hometown Golden Bears and Pandas took both the men’s and women’s titles, marking their 11th Canada West men’s title overall (their second straight, and fifth in the last six years), their fourth Canada West women’s title (and first since 2014), and the first time that a single school earned both Canada West wrestling titles in the same season since the last time the Bears and Pandas did it in 2013-14. Alberta finished with 32 points on the women’s side (Saskatchewan was second with 27) and 48 on the men’s side (Regina was second with 36).
Next up in wrestling is the U SPORTS championships, which will be at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from February 23-25.
Greg Puhalski earns 100th regular-season win as Golden Hawks take Battle at the Aud
The Laurier Golden Hawks won the Battle at the Aud for the second straight year Wednesday, beating the crosstown rival Waterloo Warriors 4-2 in front of 1,005 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. And they made some history for their coach in the progress, as this marked Golden Hawks’ head coach Greg Puhalski’s 100th regular-season win. It also gave Laurier a 3-1 victory over Waterloo in the season series, snapped the Golden Hawks’ six-game losing streak, and knocked the Warriors out of playoff contention.
This was a close, scoreless contest through the first period, but Laurier took the lead in the second on a Brandon Robinson goal, then extended that with further goals from Trevor Sauder and rookie Kalob Witzell. This was only Witzell’s third OUA game, and it marked his first career OUA goal; he also became the 22nd player to score for the Golden Hawks this season. In the third period, Danny Hanlon extended the Laurier lead to 4-0, but Waterloo came on later in the frame, and pulled within two thanks to goals from Keigan Goertz and Zac Coulter. It was too little, too late, though, and the Hawks came away with the Battle of Waterloo Trophy.
Goalie Colin Furlong made 37 saves for Laurier in the win, and said afterwards it was special to beat the Warriors.
"Winning against your cross-town rivals is a special kind of victory, especially since a bunch of the players on the opposing team are friends who I know work hard and are great players," Furlong said. "It felt good that we broke the six-game losing streak and most importantly I think it was what the team needed as we head into playoffs. The Battle of Waterloo trophy was just a great bonus."
Here are some highlights and interviews from the game, from Darren Stevenson of 519 Sports Online:
Laurier followed that up with a 4-1 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves in their regular-season finale Saturday night. That result combined with the Western Mustangs’ 7-1 loss to the Windsor Lancers to put the Golden Hawks in fourth place in the OUA West. They’ll host the fifth-place Brock Badgers in the first round of the playoffs beginning Wednesday.
Elsewhere in men’s hockey, the No. 1 Alberta Golden Bears edged the UBC Thunderbirds 5-4 in overtime on the road Friday, but fell 4-3 in Saturday’s rematch. And the No. 2 UNB Varsity Reds beat the No. 3 StFX X-Men 5-2 Friday to lock up first place in Atlantic University Sport. StFX then fell 5-0 to the UPEI Panthers Saturday, while UNB finished their regular season with a 4-1 win over the Dalhousie Tigers.
Timberwolves upset Wesmen in playoffs, No. 10 Gee-Gees down No. 6 Voyageurs
There were a couple of big men’s basketball results this week. In Canada West, the play-in portion of the playoffs started, with teams from the 5th to 12th seeds facing off. There were several close games, but the only upset came from the 11th-seeded UNBC Timberwolves, who took down the sixth-seeded Winnipeg Wesmen 71-68 for their first-ever Canada West playoff win. That came thanks to stifling defence down the stretch, with Winnipeg not scoring in the final 5:27. Jovon Leamy led the way for UNBC with 18 points off the bench, while Vaggelis Loukas had 10 rebounds and eight points. Here are 10 of the top plays from that game:
In Ontario, there was another notable upset to end the OUA regular season. The No. 10 Ottawa Gee-Gees, coming off a close 67-56 loss to the No. 1 Carleton Ravens in last week’s Capital Hoops Classic, came up with an impressive 99-90 road win over the No. 6 Laurentian Voyageurs Friday. That was a reversal from the Gee-Gees’ 79-71 home loss to Laurentian Jan. 20.
This time around, it was third-year player Calvin Epistola leading the way for the Gee-Gees, notching 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals in his first game as Ottawa’s starting point guard. Kenny Jean-Louis added 20 points, the best total in his Gee-Gees’ career, and also chipped in six rebounds, while Brody Maracle and Gage Sabean each had 15 points. And Ottawa converted from the line; they entered the game worst in the OUA in free-throw shooting, but went 16 for 18 on foul shots in this one (88.9 per cent). The Gee-Gees capped off the regular-season with an 85-60 win over the Nipissing Lakers Saturday, while Laurentian fell 101-60 to the No. 1 Ravens.
Morris and Lawes go for gold
There are 62 members of the Canadian Olympic team in PyeongChang with ties to U SPORTS member universities, including 21 who competed in U SPORTS-sanctioned sports or attended a previous Winter Universiade. Two notable ones already are finding success, with John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes advancing to the gold-medal match in mixed doubles curling. Morris attended Laurier and curled for the Golden Hawks, while Lawes attended the University of Manitoba. Both Morris and Lawes have previously won Olympics gold, with Morris claiming gold in 2010 as the third on Kevin Martin’s team and Lawes winning in 2014 as the third on Jennifer Jones’ team.
U SPORTS is well represented amongst the Canadian curlers in Sochi, as Laurier alum Brent Laing and Alberta alum Marc Kennedy are both in Kevin Koe’s men’s foursome (as second and third respectively), while Alberta alum Joanne Courtney is the second for Rachel Homan’s women’s foursome. Koe and Homan also both attended U SPORTS schools (Calgary and Alberta/Ottawa respectively), as did Homan lead Lisa Weagle (Ottawa) and third Emma Miskew (Carleton).
Other Olympic events that will feature those who competed in U SPORTS-sanctioned sports or at Universades include bobsleigh (11 athletes, including former McMaster football star Jesse Lumsden and former Alberta track star Neville Wright), hockey (McGill alumnus Melodie Daoust and UOIT player mentor/coach Natalie Spooner), cross country skiing (Laval’s Anne-Marie Comeau), skeleton (Guelph’s Mirela Rahneva, who played rugby for the Gryphons) and long track speed skating (Calgary’s Keri Morrison, who won bronze in the 3000m in the 2015 Universade in Spain).
Capers knock off Axewomen, Stingers upset Martlets
There were some great upsets in women’s basketball Saturday, with the Cape Breton Capers downing the No. 3 Acadia Axewomen 84-83 and the Concordia Stingers beating the No. 4 McGill Martlets 67-62. In that first one, Cape Breton trailed by 19 with 1:48 left in the first half, but reduced the deficit to 11 by the break and came out flying the rest of the way, including a dominant 23-14 final quarter. Alison Keough led the way for the Capers with 19 points and 12 rebounds, both team-highs, and said afterwards that this was about perseverance:
"The first half they got up on us big, by 16, but I think we kept our composure and we didn't give up, so I think that really kept us in the game. When the storm came, we kept going. This was definitely one of my better shooting nights, but I just try to shoot when I am open and hope they fall."
In the Concordia-McGill game, the key was a second quarter where the Stingers outscored the Martlets 20-8. That gave them a 34-19 halftime lead and helped them weather McGill’s attempted comeback. The Martlets could have tied it late, and they had the ball with six seconds left and a three-point deficit, but a shot-clock violation led to a turnover and to two further Stingers’ points. Caroline Task led the way for Concordia with 18 points and four assists.
Elsewhere in women’s basketball, the Canada West playoffs got underway with play-in games for the fifth through 12th seeds, with higher seeds Winnipeg, UBC, Victoria and Alberta all winning at home.
Social media posts of the week
Golden Hawks salute Rick Osborne, earn upset win over #8 Gaels
Laurier Golden Hawks’ women’s hockey coach Rick Osborne is retiring following this season after 15 years behind the Laurier bench, and the Golden Hawks gave him quite the tribute this week. Ahead of his final home game against the No. 8 Queen’s Gaels Saturday, they posted one video of him looking back on his career each day from Tuesday through Saturday:
That’s a great use of social media, and a way to not only build some excitement for Osborne’s farewell home game, but also look back at all the success he had with the team. And they then followed that with a nice pre-game ceremony Saturday:
But the real tribute came during the on-ice performance. Laurier, with a young team this year, entered this game with a 2-2-14-3 (wins-overtime wins-losses-overtime losses) mark, last in the OUA standings, while No. 8 Queen’s topped the OUA with a 14-3-3-3 mark. The Golden Hawks pulled out a shootout win over the UOIT Ridgebacks Friday, though, and they followed that up with a stunning upset of the Gaels:
That’s a pretty good send-off indeed.
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