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.
Timberwolves beat Pronghorns 93-85 in double OT
The Canada West women’s basketball playoffs started up this week with single-elimination play-in games, and the only road win came from the UNBC Timberwolves, who beat the Lethbridge Pronghorns 93-85 in double overtime Friday. The Pronghorns led by as many as 15 points in this one, and were up 21-18 after the first quarter and 43-30 at the half, but the Timberwolves rallied late to take the lead before Lethbridge’s Kacie Bosch scored to make it 70-70 heading into overtime. The sides each scored eight in the first overtime, but UNBC pulled away late in the second overtime thanks to a superlative effort from senior Emily Holmes:
Holmes finished with 14 points on the night, with 11 of those coming in the overtime frames, and she said afterwards this was an incredible experience for her to see her team rally back this way.
Madison Landry was also key for the Timberwolves in this one, recording a game-high 30 points. She said afterwards that comebacks have been a trend for UNBC this season, saying “In the half, we were like, ‘13 points (down)? We’ve come back from way worse than 13!”
The Timberwolves are moving on to the Canada West quarterfinals, where they’ll face the top-seeded Calgary Dinos (ranked No. 3 nationally) on the road Thursday. The No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies will host the Victoria Vikes in Saskatoon that day, with the UBC Thunderbirds and Winnipeg Wesmen also facing off in Saskatoon and the No. 9 Alberta Pandas facing the UFV Cascades in Calgary. The winning teams in each city will face off in semifinals Friday night, with the conference final held Feb. 29 at the home of the highest-ranked participating team.
Also in women’s basketball, the OUA regular season wrapped up this weekend, and saw several Top 10 clashes along the way. The No. 7 Brock Badgers beat the No. 1 Ottawa Gee-Gees 69-63 on the road Friday but fell 65-49 to the No. 10 Carleton Ravens on the road Saturday, while the No. 5 Western Mustangs beat the No. 6 Windsor Lancers 71-64 at home on Senior Day, rallying from a 12-point deficit at one point.
In further women’s basketball news, the U SPORTS-wide Shoot for the Cure campaign has almost reached its goal of raising $100,000 for breast cancer research this season. That campaign had pulled in more than $99,500 through this weekend, which saw the Ravens, the Laval Rouge et Or, and the Saint Mary’s Huskies all host Shoot for the Cure games. And the unveiling of the Top 100 U SPORTS women’s basketball players of all time (in celebration of the 100th year of Canadian university women’s basketball competition) continued this week with players from 1981-90.
No. 6 Gryphons take down No. 9 Golden Hawks in three games
The men’s hockey playoffs started this week across U SPORTS, and a notable Top 10 clash came in the OUA West semifinals, where the No. 6 Guelph Gryphons faced the No. 9 Laurier Golden Hawks. Laurier won the first game 3-1 on the road Thursday, but Guelph responded with a 6-3 road win of their own Saturday. That set up a third and decisive game Sunday, and the Gryphons pulled off a 4-2 win there to advance to the OUA West semifinals.
In Sunday’s game, Guelph started things off with a power-play goal from Marc Stevens less than two minutes into the game, but Neil Aird notched an equalizer for Laurier in the second period. The Gryphons then took the lead again on another power-play goal, this time from Todd Winder.
Matt McJannet tied the game up for the Golden Hawks just over five minutes into the third period, but Guelph’s Bobby Dow made it 3-2 just a couple of minutes later. Then with just over six minutes left in the game, Ryan Valentini put the Gryphons up 4-2. Guelph would hold on to that lead and advance to the semifinals:
The Gryphons will now face the Brock Badgers in the best-of-three OUA West semifinals, with that series beginning Thursday in Guelph. Other notable OUA men’s hockey playoff action this weekend included the No.3 Carleton Ravens beating the RMC Paladins in two straight games, the No. 5 Ryerson Rams sweeping the Lakehead Thunderwolves in two games, the Western Mustangs taking down the No.7 Toronto Varsity Blues in three games, and the No. 8 UQTR Patriotes beating the Queen’s Gaels in straight games.
In Canada West play, the No. 10 Calgary Dinos beat the Manitoba Bisons in two games, setting up a semifinal matchup with the No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies next week. The other semifinal will see the UBC Thunderbirds face the No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears. In AUS play, the Moncton Aigles Bleus beat the StFX X-Men in straight games to advance to face the No. 1 UNB Reds in one semifinal, while the Saint Mary’s Huskies took down the UPEI Panthers in two games to advance to face the Acadia Axemen in the other final.
Gryphons, Gaels and Badgers take out top teams in OUA Curling Championships
The OUA Curling Championships are ongoing in Guelph, with the Guelph Gryphons hosting, and the Gryphons were involved in notable quarterfinals upsets on both the men’s and women’s sides Sunday. The Guelph women’s team (seeded fourth in their pool) beat the pool B top seed, the Waterloo Warriors, 5-4 in extra ends, and head coach Byron Scott was thrilled with his team’s performance afterwards:
“The girls played the best game they played all week and I think we proved we belong in the final four. We played a very clean game against them and matched them shot for shot. We capitalized on the one miss they made early on to get our deuce, which was the only deuce of the game.”
Also on Sunday, the Gryphons’ men’s team (also seeded fourth in their pool), took down the Pool D top seed, the McMaster Marauders, by a 9-6 score. Meanwhile, the Brock Badgers beat the Carleton Ravens, the defending OUA and U SPORTS champions, 8-7 in an extra end. And on the women’s side, the defending OUA champion Queen’s Gaels were seeded fourth in their pool, but beat the top-seeded Laurentian Voyageurs (the defending U SPORTS champions) 5-3.
Monday’s semifinals will see the Marauders facing the Laurier Golden Hawks and the Gryphons taking on the Gaels on the women’s side, with the men’s side seeing the Golden Hawks playing the Gryphons and the Toronto Varsity Blues facing the Badgers. The gold-medal and bronze-medal matches on each side will follow, with the top three men’s and women’s teams each advancing to the 2020 U SPORTS / Curling Canada Curling Championships (to be held in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba from March 11-15).
Tommies and Aigles Bleues bounce back to even their playoff matchups
The Canada West and AUS women’s hockey playoffs began this week with the quarterfinals in each conference, and the AUS ones delivered some particularly notable results. In one best-of-three quarterfinal series, the No. 4 UPEI Panthers beat the Moncton Aigles Bleues 8-0 at home in Game 1 Wednesday, but Moncton bounced back with a 1-0 home win in Game 2 Sunday. Game 3 of that series is at UPEI Tuesday.
In the other quarterfinal, the UNB Reds edged the defending AUS champion St. Thomas Tommies 2-1 at home Thursday. The Tommies then pulled off a 2-1 win of their own at home in double overtime Saturday, though. That sets up Game 3 at UNB Monday night.
Also in women’s hockey, the Canada West playoffs also began this week, and the quarterfinals saw a pair of sweeps. The Mount Royal Cougars beat the Regina Cougars 1-0 (in double overtime) Friday and 2-0 Saturday, with both of those wins coming at home, while the UBC Thunderbirds edged the Saskatchewan Huskies 3-2 Friday and 1-0 Saturday. The RSEQ and OUA regular seasons also finished this week, and a notable regular season result came from RSEQ play Friday, where the No. 6 McGill Martlets beat the No. 8 Montreal Carabins 3-0.
Cascades edge Wesmen in OT to advance in Canada West playoffs
The men’s basketball playoffs also got underway this week in Canada West with single-elimination playoff games, and all four home teams won. One of the most notable results there came in Abbotsford, B.C., where the host UFV Cascades beat the Winnipeg Wesmen 92-86 in overtime Friday. That came even with UFV fifth-year stars Parm Bains (injury) and Sukhjot Bains (fouling out) unavailable down the stretch, and with the Cascades going from leading by six with 3:30 left in regulation to trailing 76-72 with less than 20 seconds left. But then Matt Cooley made a free throw, and Jordyn Sekhon sent the game to overtime with a three-pointer inside the final five seconds.
In overtime, UFV outscored Winnipeg 16-8 to earn the win, with Cooley and Daniel Adediran each recording seven points in the extra frame. On the night, Cooley and Adediran each had 14 points for the Cascades, while teammate Vick Toor led the way with 19 points. The Cascades will now go on to face the No. 4 Calgary Dinos in a Canada West quarterfinal matchup Friday.
No. 4 Carabins and No. 5 Thunderbirds post Top 10 wins
The men’s volleyball season wrapped up this week in RSEQ and Canada West, and each of those conferences featured notable Top 10 clashes. In Canada West, the No. 5 UBC Thunderbirds posted four-set home victories over the No. 9 Brandon Bobcats Friday and Saturday, winning 25-21, 26-28, 26-24, 25-23 and 25-21, 25-22, 21-25, 26-24. Matt Neaves led the Thunderbirds with 17 kills Friday, and Nick Mickleberry posted 13 kills for UBC Saturday. In RSEQ play, the No. 4 Montreal Carabins beat the No. 8 Laval Rouge et Or in straight sets (26-24,25-21,25-16) on the road Friday, led by 11 kills from Youssef Baati.
Social media posts of the week
In track and field, Toronto Varsity Blues’ runner Lucia Stafford set a new U23 Canadian record in the 1000 metres at the Boston University David Hemery Valentine Invitational Friday:
And this came just a week after her older sister, Gabriela DeBues-Stafford (a Varsity Blues’ alum and 2016 Canadian Olympian), also set Canadian records in the mile and 1500 metres at the NYRR Wanamaker Women’s Mile at the Millrose Games in New York City:
Also in international accomplishments, the Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team were honoured by Ottawa mayor Jim Watson this week for their gold-medal performance at the inaugural FISU University World Cup back in November:
And in further honours, McGill University honoured Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the former McGill football player and McGill School of Medicine grad who just won the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs. And he gave a powerful speech in a ceremony at the school:
In international field hockey, Canada’s NextGen Women’s program has nearly 70 athletes (plus coaches and support staff from Field Hockey Canada) in Chula Vista, California at the moment for a series of training sessions and games against U.S. national teams. The games so far have involved U18 teams, with the U21 team (involving several current U SPORTS players, including Robin Fleming and Erin Dawson of the reigning U SPORTS champion Victoria Vikes) featured in several games this coming week.
And lastly for this week, CBC Sports and U SPORTS announced this past week that CBC will provide free live English-language streaming coverage of four 2020 winter national championship events, both in Canada (on CBC Gem) and around the world (on CBC Sports digital platforms). Those events include the U SPORTS swimming championships (in Victoria from Thursday to Sunday), the men’s and women’s basketball Final 8 Championships (in Ottawa from March 5-8), the Cavendish Farms University Cup men’s hockey championship (in Halifax from March 12–15) and the Cavendish Farms women’s hockey championship (in Charlottetown from March 12–15).