Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Thunderbirds record third-straight title sweep, with men coming from behind to beat Dinos
The UBC Thunderbirds hosted the U SPORTS national championships this weekend, and they came away with the national titles on both the men’s and women’s side for the third-straight season. That marked the UBC men’s fourth win in the last five years, and the women’s seventh victory in eight seasons. But it wasn’t an easy win for either; the No. 2 Thunderbirds’ women narrowly edged the No. 1 University of Toronto Varsity Blues with 1,255.5 points to 1,230.5, while the No. 1 Thunderbirds’ men came from behind on the final day of the event to beat the No. 2 Calgary Dinos 1,075-925.5.
Some particularly remarkable showings in the championships came from UBC’s Markus Thormeyer and Emily Overholt,Toronto’s Kylie Masse, and Manitoba’s Kelsey Wog. Thormeyer was named U SPORTS male swimmer of the year after setting six records in the meet, including a personal best of 48.71 seconds in the 100m freestyle, while Masse won her fourth-straight U SPORTS female swimmer of the year award for a dominant performance that included her fourth national titles in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke. Overholt beat the U SPORTS 800m freestyle record by almost 10 seconds with a time of 8:46.89, while Wog set a U SPORTS record with a time of 2:25.50 in the 200m breaststroke. Full coverage of the championships can be found here.
Badgers sweep national titles for sixth straight season
Once again, it was the Brock Badgers who wound up on top of the U SPORTS wrestling world. The Calgary Dinos hosted the national championships this weekend, and the top-ranked Badgers took home the titles on both the men’s and women’s side for the sixth consecutive year. The Badgers’ women finished with 53 points to 48 for the Saskatchewan Huskies and 37 for the Concordia Stingers, while the men recorded 83 points to Concordia’s 58 and the Alberta Golden Bears’ 52.
A few especially impressive individual performances came from Brock’s Jevon Balfour and Emily Schaefer, as well as UFV’s Ana Godinez Gonzalez and Concordia’s Alex Moore. Godinez Gonzalez was named the female wrestler of the year after her win at the 63 kg level, while Moore took home that award on the men’s side after winning in the 90 kg class. Balfour earned his fifth-straight individual national title in the 76 kg class, while Schaefer won at 55 kg to finish her varsity career in style. Full coverage of the championships can be found here.
Track and Field
Golden Bears’ Austin Cole breaks 35-year-old record, Huskies claim first Canada West title sweep since 2004
The Canada West track and field championships were held this weekend at the University of Alberta, and the Saskatchewan Huskies recorded their first sweep of the men’s and women’s titles since the 2003-04 season and their eighth sweep of those titles overall. But one of the most impressive individual performances broke an even longer-standing record. That came from third-year Alberta Golden Bears sprinter Austin Cole, who won his second straight Canada West gold in the 300m dash Friday and did so in a time of 33.44 seconds. That time beat the previous conference record, which was set by Saskatchewan’s Cyprian Enweani back in 1985. Enweani (who also set records in the 60m and 200m events) went on to compete for Canada at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Cole went on to be named the conference’s male track athlete of the year after also claiming gold in the 4X200m and 4X400m relays and placing sixth in the 60m dash.
On the team side, the No. 2 women’s Huskies led from start to finish, edging the No. 7 Calgary Dinos 160-145 in the end. (The host No. 9 Alberta Pandas were third with 86 points.) But the No. 8 men’s Huskies faced a tougher challenge, starting off strong but falling behind the No. 3 Manitoba Bisons on the second day of the meet before rebounding with dominant third-day performances in the shot put (gold and bronze), the heptathlon (gold) and the high jump (silver and bronze). Strong individual performances for Saskatchewan came from Kieran Johnston, who set a new record while winning gold in that heptathlon and was named the conference’s male field athlete of the year, and from Juliane Labach, who claimed gold in the 600m and 1000m races and silver in the 1500m and the 4X400m relay. Full Canada West championship results can be found here. The other track and field conference championships this weekend also saw title sweeps, with the Guelph Gryphons, Laval Rouge et Or and Dalhousie Tigers respectively winning the OUA, RSEQ and AUS men’s and women’s titles.
Fourth-ranked Gaels and Gryphons knock off top seeds in Queen’s Cup playoffs
The best-of-three second round of the OUA’s Queen’s Cup playoffs took place this weekend, and there were two major upsets of the top seeds. In the East Division, the No. 10 Queen’s Gaels took down the No. 4 Ottawa Gee-Gees, while in the West Division, the unranked Guelph Gryphons beat the No. 8 Ryerson Rams. Both Ottawa and Ryerson were the top seeds in their divisions, with both Guelph and Queen’s seeded fourth, but it was the lower-ranked teams who prevailed in the end, with both winning decisive third games on the road Sunday night.
The series between the Gaels and Gee-Gees started with Queen’s picking up a 3-2 win in Ottawa Wednesday, but the Gee-Gees bounced back with a 5-2 road victory in Kingston Friday. That paved the way for Sunday’s game three in Ottawa, where the Gaels emerged with a 6-5 win. Jared Bethune led the way for Queen’s with a hat trick, including the Gaels’ fifth and sixth goals of the night 51 seconds apart in the third period, while Slater Doggett added two goals and Mason Kohn had another. Justin Fazio made 33 saves for Queen’s in the win. The Gaels’ fifth goal, which Bethune scored after some nifty passing set up an end-to-end break, was particularly spectacular:
Afterwards, Queen’s head coach Brett Gibson tweeted his admiration for the Gee-Gees’ team and for coach Patrick Grandmaître, and also said he was impressed with his own team’s resilience:
The Guelph-Ryerson series followed a similar pattern, with the Gryphons winning the first game 4-1 on the road Thursday but the Rams bouncing back with a 6-5 overtime road win Saturday. That set up Sunday’s decisive game in Toronto, and Guelph came out with a 4-3 win there, buoyed by four second-period goals in under six minutes. The first two of those goals came from fifth-year captain Scott Simmonds; the third and fourth came from Ryan Valentini and Nick Boyer, and both are shown in this clip.
Mikkel Aagaard and Connor Bramwell each had two assists for the Gryphons, while Andrew Masters made 24 saves in the win. That victory means Guelph will face the Western Mustangs in the OUA West final, while Queen’s will take on the No. 6 Carleton Ravens in the OUA East final. Three of those four teams will advance to the national University Cup championships, hosted by the Lethbridge Pronghorns from March 14–17. Hosts Lethbridge have already qualified for that, as have the Canada West finalists, the No.1 Alberta Golden Bears and the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies. The three OUA berths are still up for grabs, as are the two AUS berths, where the No. 2 UNB Reds and No. 5 Saint Mary’s Huskies both currently hold 2-0 leads in best-of-five semifinals over the UPEI Panthers and St. FX X-Men respectively. The third games in both of those series take place Monday night.
No. 5 Huskies outlast Pronghorns, while No. 6 Cougars edge No. 7 Dinos
The Canada West participants in the Women’s Final 8 (hosted by the Ryerson Rams March 7-10) are now known, with the No. 5 Saskatchewan Huskies and No. 6 Regina Cougars advancing to the conference finals and claiming the two Canada West berths at nationals as a result. Interestingly enough, it was the Huskies who wound up in a tougher fight in the best-of-three semifinals, heading to their sixth-consecutive conference final after 74-62 and 78-72 wins over the Lethbridge Pronghorns (who were in their first conference semifinal since 1995 after an upset of the Alberta Pandas in the quarterfinals last weekend). Meanwhile, the Cougars beat the Dinos 72-58 and 82-65.
For Saskatchewan, Summer Masikewich was particularly strong in this series, posting 22 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1 and adding 20 points and 14 rebounds in Game 2. Libby Epoch was also impressive in the second game with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Asnate Formina responded for Lethbridge with 15 points and six assists in the first game and 33 points, five assists and five steals in the second. For Regina, Macaela Crone led the way in Game 1 with 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench, while Kyanna Giles had 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Game 2.
Beyond Saskatchewan and Regina, the only other team to claim a Women’s Final 8 berth so far is the host Rams (currently ranked fourth nationally, but they fell 74-49 to the No. 9 Carleton Ravens in the OUA quarterfinals this weekend. The No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees, No.3 McMaster Marauders, and No. 8 Lakehead Thunderwolves are moving on to the semifinals along with the Ravens; the winners of each semifinal matchup (Carleton-McMaster and Lakehead-Ottawa) will claim the remaining two OUA berths. The RSEQ and AUS regular seasons ended this week, with the playoffs still to come, and the champion of each of those conferences will earn a Final 8 berth.
Tigers’ and Reds’ first RSEQ seasons end with semifinal losses to No. 3 Rouge et Or and No. 10 Carabins
This was a different season for the Dalhousie Tigers, as they and the UNB Reds both competed in the RSEQ conference instead of AUS for the first time. The two teams continued with AUS play last season on a waiver after the Memorial Sea-Hawks discontinued their team, but as the conference usually requires three teams for a sport, that led to UNB and Dalhousie joining RSEQ for this season. The Reds and Tigers posted 6-10 and 5-11 regular-season marks this year, but put up good fights in the best-of-three conference semifinals against the No. 10 Montreal Carabins and No. 3 Laval Rouge et Or respectively, both stretching a match to five sets.
The Rouge et Or picked up a comfortable 25-23, 25-13, 25-21win over the Tigers in Friday’s series opener, but Saturday’s 25-17, 21-25, 24-26, 25-19, 15-12 victory was more contested. Alexandre Obomsawin led the way for Laval Saturday with 16 kills, while Jeffrey Walton had 11 for Dalhousie. Meanwhile, the Carabins survived to win 23-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-13, 15-8 Friday, led by 19 kills from Youssef Baati, and then wrapped up their series with a 22-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-21win Saturday. Both the Rouge et Or (as hosts) and Carabins are now qualified for the national championships, which Laval will host from March 15-17; berths in other conferences are still to be determined, as are the two wild-card berths.
No. 2 Dinos and No. 6 Thunderbirds punch tickets to Final 8
The No. 2 Calgary Dinos and No. 6 UBC Thunderbirds will face off for the Canada West men’s basketball title next week, but they’ve both already qualified for the Final 8, which the Dalhousie Tigers will host from March 8-10. Calgary got there thanks to 97-63 and 117-77 wins over the Saskatchewan Huskies in the semifinals, while UBC beat the No. 5 Alberta Golden Bears 74-62 in Game 1 Friday before falling 92-86 Saturday, but rebounded to win 84-78 Sunday. Jadon Cohee (who gave UBC the lead with 35 seconds left) and fellow fourth-year guard Manroop Clair both had 21 points for the Thunderbirds Sunday. Two OUA berths in the Final 8 are still up for grabs, as are an AUS berth, a RSEQ berth and a wild-card berth.
No. 1 Pandas, No. 2 Carabins, No. 3 Bisons and No. 6 Martlets qualify for nationals
Five of the eight participants in the March 12-15 women’s hockey national championships have now been determined. The host UPEI Panthers will be there, and the No. 1 Alberta Pandas, No. 2 Montreal Carabins, No. 3 Manitoba Bisons, and No. 6 McGill Martlets clinched spots this weekend. The Bisons beat the No. 10 UBC Thunderbirds 4-3 and 2-1 to move on to the Canada West final, where they’ll meet the Pandas (who beat the Saskatchewan Huskies 2-0 and 2-1). The Carabins beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees 4-0 twice to advance to the RSEQ final, where they’ll face the Martlets, who took down the No. 5 Concordia Stingers 6-2 and 5-3. One AUS berth and two OUA berths are still up for grabs.
Social media posts of the week:
One of the top highlights this week came from the Brock Badgers’ OUA men’s basketball quarterfinals against the Western Mustangs, where Ty Brown got off a buzzer-beater with one second left on the clock to give the Badgers an 89-88 road win and advance them to the semifinals:
Elsewhere, for the first time since the Edmonton Oilers signed former UNB Reds star Hunter Tremblay in 2011, a former U SPORTS player has been signed to a NHL entry-level contract. That would be goalie Evan Cormier, who started the 2018-19 season with the Guelph Gryphons after playing in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit. Cormier shone for the Gryphons early and was named the school’s male athlete of the week in November. After posting a 2.27 GAA and .926 save percentage in 13 games for them this fall, he then signed with the Binghamton Devils (the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate) December 29, posted four straight wins there, had a brief stint with the associated ECHL Adirondack Thunder, and then was recalled to Binghamton earlier this month. And now, he’s signed an entry-level contract with New Jersey, which is a big deal.
An entry-level contract is a two-way deal, so it doesn’t necessarily mean Cormier is set to stick in the NHL for good. But it’s still a big step for younger players looking to make the big leagues. And while other former U SPORTS players like former Alberta Golden Bears star Derek Ryan have signed NHL deals since Tremblay, that’s usually come later in their careers after pro hockey in European or other leagues. The cut-off for ELCs for North American players is age 24, so they’re only for younger players NHL teams believe in. And Cormier’s now the latest in that camp, as Victor Findlay tweeted Sunday:
Speaking of former U SPORTS athletes, plenty of former U SPORTS curlers took part in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts over the past couple of weeks. One notable one was Laurier alum Sarah Wilkes, who was the third for Chelsea Carey’s Alberta rink and helped them lift the trophy Sunday:
Also on the curling front, Alberta Pandas skip Selena Sturmay led a Canadian team that finished second on the women’s side at the world juniors, while Laurier’s Matthew Hall played second on Tyler Tardi’s rink that won men’s gold:
Elsewhere in international competition, the Canadian senior men’s basketball team currently involved in FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers has several U SPORTS alums flavor. Led by Ryerson coach Roy Rana, the team also includes the likes of Phil and Thomas Scrubb (Carleton), Aaron Best and Adika Peter-McNeilly (Ryerson), and Conor Morgan (UBC). They beat Venezuela 95-55 Sunday, with Phil Scrubb posting 14 points and adding eight assists and five rebounds.
And long-time Trinity Western Spartans men’s volleyball coach Ben Josephson has been named an assistant coach for Volleyball Canada’s senior women’s team, working under incoming head coach Tom Black.
In further international news, Manitoba Bisons’ alum Desiree Scott will again feature on the Canadian women’s soccer team; she was announced as part of their roster for the 2019 Algarve Cup (February 27-March 6) in Portugal, the last tournament they’re playing in before this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
And in sadder news, Laval Rouge et Or women’s soccer coach Helder Duarte passed away at 56 this week from a heart attack.
Our thoughts go out to Duarte’s family and friends, and to everyone at Laval.