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.
Thunderbirds snap eight-game losing streak with Winter Classic win, while Paladins edge Black Knights
Several big men’s hockey games took place this weekend, with the UBC Thunderbirds’ 6-2 home win over the Manitoba Bisons Friday particularly standing out. That game was an important one for the Thunderbirds, as they’re in a tough battle for one of the final playoff berths in Canada West, entering that game one point back of the Regina Cougars for the sixth-place berth. And it was also UBC’s sixth-annual Winter Classic, so that added even further importance to this game. But in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 5,500 fans, UBC ended an eight-game losing streak with a 6-2 win Friday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
That losing streak deserves further discussion. The Thunderbirds’ last win before this came at home on Nov. 16 against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. They’d since lost two games to each of the Mount Royal Cougars, the Alberta Golden Bears, the Calgary Dinos and the Regina Cougars (albeit with two of their three most recent losses coming in overtime against Calgary and Regina). So this was a big turnaround for them Friday, and it started with a first-period goal from rookie Quinn Benjafield, giving them a 1-0 lead.
After that, UBC struck twice late in the second, with Tyler Sandhu setting up Austin Vetterl and then scoring himself. Ben Dalke responed for Manitoba in the third, but Maxwell James restored the Thunderbirds’ three-goal lead soon after. Adam Henry scored to bring the Bisons within two, but Colton Kehler and Sandhu then added empty-netters to seal the deal. And that gave UBC’s crowd a lot to celebrate.
UBC head coach Sven Butenschon said afterwards his team keyed off the atmosphere well.
"It's always fun, it's always electric, tons of energy in the building and our guys fed off of it. We were really strong on pucks and I think we just had a little more jump in our legs and we really fed off the crowd."
The Thunderbirds then picked up their second win of the weekend Saturday, beating Manitoba 2-1 in double overtime on the strength of a pair of goals from Vetterl. Elsewhere, the RMC Paladins continued their cross-border series against the Army Black Knights Saturday in a game at the Leon’s Centre (home of the Kingston Frontenacs). That series dates back to February 1923, when it was initiated by General Douglas MacArthur (superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point early in the 1920s) and Major General Sir Archibald MacDonnell (then the commandant of RMC) of the Canadian Forces, and it’s believed to be the longest-running international series. The Paladins won Saturday’s game 3-2 in overtime thanks to goals from Samuel Cameron, Cameron Lamport and Cole Noble, improving their all-time record against the Black Knights to 30-47-7 and posting their first win against Army since 2002. Here’s Noble’s overtime goal to win it:
This also capped off a big alumni weekend for RMC:
There were some notable Top 10 matchups as well, with the No. 1 UNB Reds beating the No. 6 Acadia Axemen 2-1 at home in a shootout Friday, the No. 8 Ottawa Gee-Gees beating the No. 7 McGill Redmen 3-1 on the road Friday but falling 2-0 to the No. 5 Carleton Ravens on the road Saturday, and the No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies downing the No. 9 Calgary Dinos on the road Friday (4-0) and Saturday (3-0). Those latter games saw Saskatchewan goalie Taran Kozan not only post back to back shutouts, but also become the first Huskies’ goalie to score a goal:
No. 9 Badgers best No. 6 Lancers for first time in 13 years as part of Pink Weekend and Shoot For The Cure events
The Brock Badgers hosted a multi-sport Pink Weekend event this weekend, with all proceeds from the games they hosted (across six sports: men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, and volleyball) going to the Canadian Cancer Society. As part of that, the women’s basketball team hosted their annual Shoot for the Cure night (part of the national campaign that all 48 U SPORTS women’s basketball teams are a part of, which has raised over $1.3 million since 2007) against the No. 6 Windsor Lancers. That game was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but was postponed to Sunday morning thanks to inclement weather delaying Windsor’s arrival. When it did take place, the Badgers beat the Lancers 63-54 after coming back from a 28-18 halftime deficit. That marked their first win over Windsor since Jan. 17, 2007.
In Sunday’s game, Brock’s Melissa Tatti had 24 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds, while teammate Sam Keltos added 12 points and 13 rebounds and Sofia Croce chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. Kristin Gallant also contributed nine points and Jenneke Pilling, who was facing her old team, posted five points and five rebounds. And afterwards, Badgers’ coach Mike Rao said his team really came alive in the second half once they woke up:
“We woke up in the second half. Let's play. They got here late, so they needed some time and we have to try and accommodate that. Momentum is a real thing, especially once you start getting into a little bit of a rhythm and the ball starts moving a little bit. …Melissa got her shot and then we hit a couple of shots and we got on track."
Other Shoot for the Cure games this weekend included the Fraser Valley Cascades at the Trinity Western Spartans, the Laurentian Voyageurs at the Nipissing Lakers, the UNBC Timberwolves at the UBC Okanagan Heat, the No. 5 Ryerson Rams at the Toronto Varsity Blues, the Thompson Rivers WolfPack at the Brandon Bobcats, the MacEwan Griffins at the Alberta Golden Bears, the Mount Royal Cougars at the Lethbridge Pronghorns, and the Western Mustangs at the McMaster Marauders.
There were also some notable Top 10 clashes this weekend, with the No. 7 Queen’s Gaels falling 81-71 to the No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees on the road Friday but beating the No. 4 Carleton Ravens 80-75 in overtime on the road Saturday and the No. 8 Laval Rouge et Or beating the No. 10 Bishop’s Gaiters 60-55 on the road Saturday and 57-55 at home Sunday.
This is also the centennial season of U SPORTS women’s basketball. To commemorate that, the national office announced a pair of initiatives Friday; the Top 100 players of the century, chosen by a committee of U SPORTS women’s basketball coaches and partners, will be unveiled over the second half of this season, and the first-ever Shoot for the Cure marketing campaign is being launched in an effort to raise $100,000 in honour of the centennial season.
No. 6 Martlets upset No. 1 Stingers, while Gaiters move to U SPORTS level
In women’s hockey this week, one significant result came from the No. 6 McGill Martlets beating the No. 1 Concordia Stingers 4-3 in double overtime Saturday. That marked McGill’s fourth consecutive win, and it came thanks to goals from Jade Downie-Landry, Marika Labrecque, Lea Dumais and Kellyane Lecours. However, the Martlets fell 5-4 to the Ottawa Gee-Gees Sunday.
Also in women’s hockey, the Bishop’s Gaiters announced that they will compete at the U SPORTS level in the 2020-21 season. The MacEwan Griffins and Trinity Western Spartans had previously been announced as teams joining the U SPORTS level in 2020-21. Elsewhere, the Ryerson Rams hosted their annual Do It for Daron (DIFD) game in support of youth mental health initiatives (and the legacy of Daron Richardson) Saturday against the Western Mustangs, but fell 2-0 in that contest.
No. 7 Carabins take down No. 2 Rouge et Or
A notable Top 10 clash in men’s volleyball this week saw the No. 7 Montreal Carabins defeat the No. 2 Laval Rouge et Or in four sets (25-23, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21) at home Sunday. Rookie Alexis Tournier led the way for Montreal with 17 kills and 20 points in that one, while Youssef Baati had 14 kills and setter Gabriel Chancy had 46 assists.
Also in men’s volleyball, the No. 8 Queen’s Gaels defeated the No. 10 Windsor Lancers in straight sets (28-26, 25-22, 25-21) on the road Saturday. Adam Boljkovac posted 13 kills for the Gaels, while Zac Hutcheson added 12 kills and five digs and Julian Krygel chipped in eight kills and a solo block.
Track and field
Tigers shine at Athletics NS Indoor Open
There were plenty of significant track and field meets this weekend, including the Athletics NS Indoor Open in Halifax. That one saw the Dalhousie Tigers post a lot of impressive results, including wins in the women’s 18-19 60-meter dash (Chloe Richardson), the women’s 20-34 60-meter dash (Maya Reynolds), the women’s 20-34 60-metre hurdles (Olivia Hill), and the women’s 20-34 3000-metre run (Renata Kingston).
Other notable track and field events this weekend included the Alberta Golden Bears’ Golden Bear Open, the Toronto Varsity Blues’ Fred Foote Memorial, the Western Mustangs’ Don Wright Meet, and the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ Winter Invitational.
Social media posts of the week
In football, McGill alumnus Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is set to become the fifth U SPORTS product to compete for a Super Bowl ring. Duvernay-Tardif is a starting offensive guard for the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Tennessee Titans 35-24 Sunday in the AFC Championship Game to advance to the Super Bowl. Duvernay-Tardif is the only current NFL player who’s also a doctor, as he graduated from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in May 2018, but fellow former McGill player J.P. Darche is also now a Chiefs’ doctor.
And Darche (who suited up for the Seattle Seahawks as a long-snapper in Super Bowl XL in 2006) is one of a small list of U SPORTS alums to dress in the Super Bowl. That list also includes Ken Clark (Saint Mary’s Huskies, Los Angeles Rams, 1980), Israel Idonije (Manitoba Bisons, Chicago Bears, 2007), and Jon Ryan (Regina Rams, Seattle Seahawks, 2014 and 2015). Other U SPORTS products have been on teams that have made the Super Bowl (including the Western Mustangs’ Tyrone Williams with the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 and 1994, the Calgary Dinos’ Dan Federkeil with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007 and 2010, the Sherbrooke Vert et Or’s Samuel Giguère with the Colts in 2010), but haven’t dressed for the big game. So Duvernay-Tardif is joining quite the select group.
Also in football, the Alberta Golden Bears’ Carter O’Donnell and the Montreal Carabins’ Marc-Antoine Dequoy competed in the East-West Shrine Bowl Saturday:
And the Laval Rouge et Or’s Ketel Asse took part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Saturday:
In hockey, Rogers Hometown Hockey saw host Ron MacLean tour the Fox 40 whistle headquarters in Hamilton this week, notable considering how Fox 40 is the title sponsor of all the U SPORTS Coach of the Year awards:
In general U SPORTS news, U SPORTS announced the Peter Watts Memorial Grant this week for prospecutive Canadian university journalism students. The $3,000 annual grant will be given to an incoming first-year student for the next six years, to be put towards their education in journalism, media studies or communications. Watts, who passed away last January, was known for his work at CBC and TSN and for his involvement in founding the Queen’s University campus radio station CFRC. He also served as a media relations consultant for the Lieutenant Governor Athletic Awards held in Calgary, honouring the U SPORTS Athletes of the Year.
In volleyball, Volleyball Canada announced its 2020 national beach volleyball teams this week, including Melissa Humana-Parades (York), Sarah Pavan, Heather Bansley (Toronto) and Brandee Wilkerson (York) on the women’s side and Sam Schachter (Laurier), Sam Pedlow (Queen’s), Ben Saxton (Alberta) and Grant O’Gorman (York) on the men’s side. The team of Pavan and Humana-Paredes is currently the only team qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but those other teams all still have a shot.
And in wrestling, Calgary Dinos’ alumna Erica Wiebe won gold at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series tournament Thursday:
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