Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Rouge et Or down X-Men in Uteck Bowl, Mustangs best Huskies in Mitchell Bowl
The U SPORTS football national semifinals took place this week, and the results mean we’ll get a rematch of last year’s Vanier Cup national championship between the Western Mustangs and the Laval Rouge et Or. The OUA champion Mustangs, ranked first in every Top 10 ranking this season (the first team to do that since Laval in 2014), beat the Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies 47-24 at home in the Mitchell Bowl, while the RSEQ champion Rouge et Or (second in every Top 10 raning this season) thumped the StFX X-Men 63-0 at home in the Uteck Bowl. This is Laval’s third-straight trip to the Vanier Cup; the Rouge et Or beat the Calgary Dinos 31-26 in 2016 and fell 39-17 to the Mustangs last year.
In the Uteck Bowl, the Rouge et Or scored touchdowns on their first two possessions (with the second touchdown coming just over nine minutes in) and added a safety to lead 16-0 after the first quarter. They extended that lead to 39-0 at the half, then put up 24 further points in the second half to seal the deal. Laval quarterback Hugo Richard was named game MVP after completing 22 of 27 passes (81.5 per cent) for 327 yards and five touchdowns in just over one half of play, while RSEQ rookie of the year Vincent Forbes-Mombleau posted nine catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns (all game-high marks). And on the ground, Alexis Cote collected 207 rushing yards (9.0 per carry) and three touchdowns for the Rouge et Or. A full recap of that game can be found here.
In the Mitchell Bowl, Western quarterback Chris Merchant left the game with a lower-body injury following a late hit that ended the Mustangs’ first drive, and Saskatchewan jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Merchant was able to return to the game late in the first quarter and tie it up with a touchdown strike, though, and while the sides battled back and forth from there (the Huskies led 17-14 at one point and the game was tied at 17 at the half), Western pulled away in the second half, leading 26-17 after the third quarter and outscoring Saskatchewan 21-7 in the fourth. Merchant was named game MVP after completing 17 of 28 passing attempts (60.7 per cent) for 251 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 10 times for 82 yards (8.2 yards per attempt) and a touchdown, while Alex Taylor rushed 12 times for 141 yards (11.8 yards per rush) and two touchdowns. A full recap of that game can be found here.
The Mustangs and Rouge et Or, both undefeated this year, will now face off in the Vanier Cup this coming Saturday. That game will be played at Laval’s Stade TELUS, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern, and can be seen on Sportsnet 360 and TVA.
Ravens pick up 4-3 shootout win over No. 4 Gee-Gees in front of 2,578 at Colonel By Classic
The men’s half of the third-annual Colonel By Classic between the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees was a wild one. That game between 6-2-3 Carleton and 9-0-1 No. 4 Ottawa was played at TD Place Arena Friday night in front of a crowd of 2,578.
The Ravens had a great chance to score on a two-on-none rush seven minutes in, but Gee-Gees’ goalie Anthony Brodeur (mentioned in this column last week for playing in the Hockey Hall of Fame’s induction game, representing his father, famed NHL goalie Martin) slid over to make a terrific save off of Aaron Boyd’s one-timer. The first period ended scoreless, and Ottawa took over in the second with goals from Kevin Domingue and Quinn O’Brien.
In the third period, Carleton struck back with an early goal from defenceman Josh Burnside. Cody Drover responded for Ottawa two minutes later on the power play, but the Ravens refused to go away; Jared Steege scored at the 15:13 mark, and Jake Smith tied it up (on a breakaway, following a pass from Boyd) with just 1:12 left.
And Smith’s goal came after a great play by Carleton goalie Francois Brassard; he was headed to the bench for an extra attacker, but was able to dive back and prevent an empty netter on a long shot following a turnover. Those heroics paved the way for Smith’s equalizer, and then for overtime. No one could score in the extra frame, but Matthew Forchuk and Smith tallied for the Ravens in the shootout, while Brassard stopped both Domingue and Yvon Mongo.
This result saw the Ravens take the Colonel By Classic banner back. They won the inaugural 2016 contest 6-2, but fell 4-3 to Ottawa last year. And that result proved important for the Gee-Gees’ season last year; they’d lost four straight heading into that rivalry game, but used it as a spark to bounce back, and finished the regular season with a 17-8-4 record before beating Carleton 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs (Ottawa then fell 2-1 to McGill in the OUA semifinals). We’ll see if the Ravens can use this as a similar building block this year. This was only one half of this year’s Colonel By Classic, though; for information on the women’s game, see the next item.
Ravens get first win of year, claim Alerts Cup with win over Gee-Gees in Colonel By Classic
The Carleton Ravens’ women’s hockey team had a rough season last year, finishing last in RSEQ play with a 3-15-4 mark, and they started this season 0-5 with just three goals for. But their fortunes changed in an event game against the crosstown rival Ottawa Gee-Gees Friday. In a school-day game played at Ottawa’s Minto Sports Complex, the Ravens downed the Gee-Gees 5-2.
Carleton’s Jamie Wainman scored the only goal of the first period, and the Ravens headed to the intermission with a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 8-5 in that frame. In the second period, Katia Boulianne extended Carleton’s lead to 2-0. Alexe Drouin responded for the Gee-Gees before Nicole Allison made it 3-1 heading into the second intermission. The Ravens then got empty-net goals from Leah Scott and Shannon Pearson around a reply from Ottawa.
That victory gave Carleton the newly-restored Alerts Cup, a trophy first created for the GeeGees-Ravens clash in the 2004-05 season in honor of the Ottawa Alerts, one of the first-ever women’s competitive hockey clubs in Ottawa. The original Alerts represented Ottawa from 1915-1930, including winning a world title in 1917 against the Pittsburgh Polar Maids. The Alerts Cup got some extra attention this year thanks to the women’s game being incorporated into the Colonel By Classic between the Ravens and Gee-Gees, which also included the above-discussed men’s game.
No. 2 Rams beat Badgers 71-62 in front of almost 3,200 at Meridian Centre, while Mustangs beat Lancers 74-57 at WFCU Centre
The Brock Badgers had a big "Paint The Meridian Red" event doubleheader Saturday, with both their women’s and men’s basketball teams hosting the Ryerson Rams’ men’s and women’s teams (both 5-0 and ranked No. 2) at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines. Close to 3,200 fans came out for those games, with the 2-3 Badgers’ women’s team falling 81-55 and the 4-1 men’s team losing 71-62. The men’s game was particularly interesting, with Brock jumping out to a 27-11 lead after the first half and extending that to 38-22 at halftime, but Ryerson storming back. The Rams outscored the Badgers 23-14 in the third quarter and 26-10 in the fourth to come away with the victory. But there was still a great turnout of Brock fans for this one.
Fifth-year guard Jean-Victor Mukama led the way for Ryerson in this one with 21 points (on nine-of-16 shooting from the field) and five rebounds, while fellow fifth-year guard Major Charvis had 19 points (on six-of-12 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists. Another fifth-year guard, Yusuf Ali, had eight points, three rebounds and three assists, while third-year guard Jayden Frederick had nine points and six rebounds. For Brock, fourth-year-guard Johneil Simpson had a team-high 19 points and seven rebounds, while both Cassidy Ryan and Tyler Brown had 10 points each.
Elsewhere in men’s basketball, the Windsor Lancers hosted the Western Mustangs Saturday at the WFCU Centre in downtown Windsor, as part of a doubleheader with the Windsor Express of the National Basketball League of Canada. Western beat the Lancers 74-57, led by 17 points from Amar Shiddo and 13 points and 13 rebounds from Julian Walker. Telloy Simon scored 18 points for Windsor in the loss.
Tigers and Martlets win Kemp-Fry Invitational
A key U SPORTS swimming meet this week was the Kemp-Fry Invitational, hosted by the Dalhousie Tigers. The host Tigers claimed the women’s title, while the McGill Martlets claimed the men’s title. The event was held over three days, with Dalhousie winning two of four finals on Friday, five of 16 on Saturday and eight of 18 on Sunday.
On the women’s side, Isabel Sarty led a Tigers’ medal sweep in the 100-metre freestyle, taking first in an AUS-record time of 55.66 seconds. Sarty also won the 400-metre freestyle with a U SPORTS-qualifying time of 4:20.27, and was part of the gold-medal 400-metre medley relay team with Claire Yurkovich, Alexis Bragman and Lise Cinq-Mars. Cinq-Mars also won the 50-metre butterfly and qualified for nationals there, while Sarah Knott won both the 50-metre breaststroke and 200-metre breaststroke in U SPORTS-qualifying times.
On the men’s side, McGill’s Samuel Wang won the 50-metre butterfly with a U SPORTS qualifying time of 24.26 and also won the 200-metre freestyle, while teammates David Brenken and Adrian Haasler posted wins in the 400-metre freestyle and 200-metre breaststroke respectively. Brenken also won the 1500-metre freestyle for McGill and was part of their gold-winning 800-metre freestyle relay team alongside Haasler, Will Simpson and Clement Secchi. Secchi also won the 200-metre backstroke and the 50-metre backstroke, and teamed with Wang, Kade Wist (who also won the 100-metre butterfly) and Marius Collin to win the 400-metre freestyle relay in a U SPORTS qualifying time of 3:22.97.
Social media posts of the week:
Bisons’ Gavin McHale steps in for Capitals, York’s Dahlgren speaks out on diabetes, Redmen basketball players shine internationally, Ravens’ Bitar taken first overall, Thunderwolves snap Ravens’ streak, and Pandas, Thunderbirds and Wesmen host Shoot For The Cure nights
Gavin McHale, the goalie coach for the reigning U SPORTS champion Manitoba Bisons’ women’s hockey team, got to be a NHL player for one night Wednesday, and for an unusual team. McHale is normally one of the Winnipeg Jets’ emergency goalie contacts, but was called on as an emergency backup (less than two hours before the game) for the visiting Washington Capitals thanks to an injury to starter Braden Holtby. Regular backup Pheonix Copley played the whole game for the Capitals (which they wound up losing 3-1 to the Jets), but the 31-year-old McHale got to warm up with the team and was on the bench in case of injury. Here’s a look at him in warmups:
McHale told CBC afterwards that was an amazing experience:
"You know, I was totally star-struck, and then the nerves started to set in, realizing the situation at hand. And then I settled in as the game got going, and the normalcies of hockey kind of took over."
"I think every single person in this room introduced themselves to me. It just made me feel a lot more calm, and they just kind of let me do my thing. I mean, they had to get ready for a game so … it just made me feel really welcomed …Every guy in here was so nice to me and made me feel so good, that you know, just to be a good person — it's a really important piece of what hockey players are."
This was the second time that McHale had been called on for emergency NHL backup duty. In February, he jumped in on the bench for the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of a game against the Jets after Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier was hit in the head. Backup Semyon Varlamov played the rest of that game, but McHale was available if needed, as he was Wednesday for the Capitals. And he may get called on again down the road.
Sticking with hockey, earlier this year, we discussed the York Lions’ men’s hockey team’s Mark Cross #HumboldtStrong Remembrance Tour preseason tour of Saskatchewan where they paid tribute to the 16 people associated with the Humboldt Broncos who were killed in an April bus crash. York has strong ties to that team, as crash victim Cross (an assistant coach with the Broncos) played for the Lions from 2011-16, while York was actively recruiting fellow crash victims Logan Schatz and Conner Lukan for 2018-19.
Kaleb Dahlgren, another Broncos’ player who was injured in that crash but survived, committed to the Lions in May. While he was still recovering from injuries and unable to play during that preseason tour, he took part in a ceremonial faceoff and pre-game ceremony in Humboldt for his Dahlgren's Diabeauties program, a program he founded there to help local kids with diabetes. Dahlgren himself has diabetes, and York spotlighted his efforts to help those with the disease on Wednesday, which was World Diabetes Day:
Elsewhere, four McGill Redmen men’s basketball players represented their school at the fourth annual FISU 3x3 Basketball World University League Finals in Xiamen, China this week, earning that invite thanks to their school’s previous success at this event (a team representing McGill won gold in 2016 and bronze last year). The McGill team of Noah Daoust, Avery Cadogan, Isaiah Cummins and Alex Paquin wound up winning silver after losing a hard-fought game against hosts Huaqiao University in the final.
And 21 U SPORTS men’s soccer players were selected in the Canadian Premier League’s inaugural draft this past week, with Carleton Ravens’ second-year forward Gabriel Bitar going first overall to Calgary’s Cavalry FC.
In some less-stellar news for Carleton, though, their women’s basketball team’s OUA-record 46-game winning streak was snapped in a 56-52 loss to the visiting Lakehead Thunderwolves Saturday. But they had a nice post commemorating that streak:
And one school’s loss is another’s gain; the Thunderwolves, understandably, were pretty excited about that one.
Also in women’s basketball, there were three Shoot For The Cure events to raise money for breast cancer research this weekend, with the Alberta Pandas, the UBC Thunderbirds, and the Winnipeg Wesmen all hosting those nights at their games. All 47 U SPORTS women’s basketball programs will participate in that campaign for an eighth-straight year this season; a full schedule of Shoot For The Cure events, and more information on the initiative, can be found here. The campaign was launched in 2007-08, and has raised over $1.25 million so far. Here are some looks at the ones this weekend.