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Photo: Lars Hagberg

AUS

Top Stories:

1. Playoff races are dwindling down across the country, and the chances of the Dalhousie Tigers making the playoffs aren’t zero, but the future of their season looks very bleak after failing to record a point over two games in which failure wasn’t an option. Now with Acadia and Saint Mary’s to round out their season, the Tigers will need to win both games and have Moncton lose both of theirs if they want to see postseason hockey. It’s going to take a miracle to revive a season that had so much promise going into the exam break.

2. The UPEI Panthers clinched a playoff position over the past week with a win over Dalhousie on Friday. It’s not the cleanest entry into the postseason for UPEI, but whatever, all that matters is they are in. We saw first hand last season what this team can do against any roster, so don’t be surprised to see UPEI in the next round. Moncton and UNB stand as the final two regular season opponents for UPEI who look to keep themselves in the fifth seed.

3. The Moncton Aigles Bleus did the exact opposite of what they needed to do this week, losing both games to SMU and Acadia. But fortunately for them, Dalhousie blew it this week too, and Moncton find themselves inside the playoff picture, although certainly not in the clear just yet. UNB and UPEI stand as Moncton’s final two opponents, neither of which are guaranteed wins, but all the Aigles Bleus need is a win to solidify their position in the playoffs. If they play UNB like they did last week, the Aigles Bleus can certainly keep the Varsity Reds to within striking distance.

4. The most interesting battle in the AUS this week could be between the StFX X-Men and SMU Huskies for the third seed in the AUS. Both teams square off on Friday night, and if StFX ends up with the win, it’s conversation over. But if SMU pulls one out of the bag on Friday, a win on Saturday against Dalhousie combined with a StFX loss to Acadia on the same night effectively places SMU third in the AUS. It may not seem like much, but with the AUS so tightly contested, both teams will desperately want the home-ice advantage down the stretch.

5. The Acadia Axemen don’t have much to play for this week, but that’s just the position Darren Burns wanted to see his team in heading into the playoffs. The Axemen have clinched the second round bye, and won’t have to relive anymore nightmares from last season’s AUS quarter-finals. Liam Maaskant‘s return to the lineup on Saturday was a very welcome addition, and the Axemen will do everything they can to remain healthy this weekend against Dalhousie and StFX.

Other Notes:

  • The UNB Varsity Reds received a scare on Friday when Jordan Murray went down clutching his hamstring in obvious pain. But with Murray seemingly returning to normal the next night, the Varsity Reds can breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Reportedly, SMU’s Ben Duffy still hasn’t started skating for the Huskies, but there’s a chance he could return in time for round one of the playoffs.
  • Sam Fioretti pulled off one of the rarest and most impressive feats in hockey this past week, scoring a Mario Lemieux hat-trick (1 PPG, 1 SHG, 1 5-on-5 G) against Moncton. The last AUS player to accomplish that was Liam Heelis, who did so in a 9-1 win over St. Thomas as a member of Acadia back on January 3rd, 2014. Worth noting, Fioretti’s hat-trick was natural, Heelis’ was not.
  • Brandon Thibeau and Matt Mahalak will end this AUS season as the only two goalies with more than 20 starts. It’s the lowest amount of 20+ game starters in an AUS season since 2006-07 when only Danny Battochio (StFX), Michael Ouzas (UNB), and Aaron Molnar (STU) had 20+ starts. It’s a testament to how deep goaltending is in the AUS these days, giving coaches more options than ever.

Unsung Heroes:

Brett Thompson, F | Acadia Axemen

Sam Fioretti may have stolen the show this week with his hat-trick against Moncton, but Brett Thompson has been the fuel to Acadia’s fire lately with six assists in his last seven games. A five-year grizzled veteran of the AUS, Thompson has a great understanding of the game, and his 91 career assists show he’s one of the best playmakers in the conference. Without Thompson, guys like Boston Leier, Sam Fioretti, and Remy Giftopoulos don’t score as often.

Marcus Power, F | UPEI Panthers

UPEI’s showdown with Dalhousie on Friday night had huge playoff implications, and with the pressure on, Marcus Power lifted the Panthers out to a big early lead, scoring twice in the first period. Power has a history of big goals, having scored UPEI’s series-clinching OT winner against Acadia last season, and having at least one game-winner in each of his three seasons. When the Panthers need an offensive boost, Marcus Power is one of the guys they turn to. This week, he delivered.

Key Games This Week:

Moncton vs UPEI, Fri. Feb. 10th, 7:00pm AST

     

If Moncton can’t find a way to upset UNB on Wednesday, this becomes a must-win situation for the Aigles Bleus. It’s their final game of the season, and they’d rather not rely on Dalhousie faltering to secure their playoff aspirations. As for UPEI, they’re locked in, so who knows what we’ll see from the Panthers.

Acadia vs Dalhousie, Fri. Feb. 10th, 7:00pm AST

     

Dalhousie needs to win both games this weekend for at least a chance at the playoffs, so if they don’t pull it together against Acadia on Friday, it’s curtains for their season. The Tigers nearly upset UNB last week, so don’t be surprised if Dalhousie takes advantage of an Axemen team sitting back.

OUA East

Top Stories:

1. The 2017 Carr-Harris Cup Champions are the RMC Paladins after a Thursday night showdown against Queen’s in front of 3,042 fans at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston. For the majority of the game, RMC was actually shutting out nationally ranked Queen’s, but late markers from Darcy Greenaway and Dylan Anderson made it close. It’s a testament to how great RMC’s goaltending has been this season, and offensively, they’ve had just enough to get by. For all the hardships RMC has had to endure this season, like any other, I’d say this victory constitutes a successful year for the Paladins.

2. The Laurentian Voyageurs finally figured things out and guaranteed themselves a playoff position, slated to take on the McGill Redmen in round one of the OUA playoffs. On paper it’s a mismatch heavily in favour of McGill, but this Laurentian team has managed to subdue both UQTR and Carleton’s offences at times this year. McGill has seen their offence be stifled by teams like RMC and UOIT, so don’t count Laurentian out just yet. If they win the defensive battle, they’ll give themselves a chance to win. When both sides square off on Feb. 11th in the regular season finale, it’ll be a nice precursor to the playoff series starting up later in the week.

3. The UQTR Patriotes continue to get a jump start on recruiting, as they have received a letter of intent from Christophe Boivin of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Boivin lead the Titan in scoring as a 19 year-old, and is doing the same now in his overage season. Although a small forward at just 5-foot-7, Boivin has the same type of offensive sense that make Pierre-Maxime Poudrier and Tommy Giroux such dangerous threats for the Patriotes. It may take Boivin some time to adjust, but Boivin has the potential to be a 30+ point season player.

4. Here we are heading into the final week of the OUA regular season, and the Concordia Stingers are currently a top two team in the OUA East. Wins against Western and Guelph straighten the ship for Concordia after losing three straight towards the end of January, and now Concordia is in prime position to make a great run into the postseason. A regulation win against Queen’s on Friday would solidify their position in the OUA East top two, so there’s still some work to be done, but overall, this season has been a rousing success.

5. The Queen’s Gaels continue to struggle without their stars and head coach in the lineup. They still find themselves in a top-tier position heading into the playoffs, but losses to both RMC and UOIT definitely aren’t helping the morale. Since losing their stars to FISU, Queen’s has scored just six goals in four games, two of which were against non-playoff teams. Even with Doggett and Ming back in the lineup, Queen’s doesn’t have the offensive depth the other top teams in the OUA East have, but clearly there’s something missing from the Gaels’ mojo right now.

6. For a team missing nearly half their offensive output, the Carleton Ravens definitely don’t look that bad at all. On Thursday they managed to take down a much improved Ottawa team in double overtime, and the Ravens certainly held their own, if not outplayed, McGill on Saturday night in a 2-1 losing effort. Francois Brassard continues to prove he’s the starting goalie Carleton hoped they were getting in the offseason, but it will be Carleton’s defensive depth that determines how far they go into the postseason this year.

Other Notes:
  • The UOIT Ridgebacks got a much needed overtime victory over Queen’s on Saturday, but it also saw Malik Johnson take 24 minutes in penalties after two separate checking to the head minors and majors.
  • The UQTR Patriotes continue to flounder without their star players, as they lost a rather one-sided contest to Guelph on Friday, and then nearly let Saturday’s game against Western get away from them. The Patriotes can still finish as high as third in the OUA East, or as low as sixth.
  • Seamus MaGuire has turned out to be a great find for the RMC Paladins this season. Now on a three-game goal streak, MaGuire is tied with Dylan Giberson for most goals (5) on RMC.
  • Anthony Beauregard is already looking like a guy that can put up close to 40 points for the Concordia Stingers if he plays an entire season. Seven points this weekend, six of which were assists, now boost his overall point total to 17 in just 11 games.

Unsung Heroes:

David Weckworth, D | Carleton Ravens

Not many people have been talking about Carleton’s David Weckworth, but he’s quietly turned into a great defenceman for the Ravens. Not known for his offensive capabilities, Weckworth scored a double OT winner against Ottawa on Thursday, and now has 4 goals on the season. The most in a single season for Weckworth since he scored 18 with the Ottawa Senators Midget AAA program in 2009-10. Now the captain of Carleton with McNamee away, he’s supplied key defensive stability to his team all season.

Elliott Richardson, D | Laurentian Voyageurs

Given the context of Laurentian’s performances the last few weeks, they desperately needed a hero. Darcy Haines packed a big offensive punch this weekend, but it was the veteran blueliner, Elliott Richardson, who comes away with two game-winners in hand and sets a career high in single season points with 15. A long-time OJHLer, Richardson has developed into a real leader for the Voyageurs on the back-end, and this weekend was an indication of how valuable he is to his team.

Key Games This Week:

UQTR vs UOIT, Fri. Feb. 10th, 11:00am EST

     

A rematch of last year’s OUA East semi-finals, the Ridgebacks were outmatched in that playoff series. But with the way UQTR has been playing lately, winning this game definitely isn’t out of the realm of possibility for UOIT. Confidence can do wonders for a team heading into the playoffs. But can a win against UQTR do wonders for UOIT’s confidence after a shaky second semester?

Queen’s vs Carleton, Sat. Feb. 11th, 7:00pm EST

     

The Queen’s Gaels are getting their reinforcements back in time for the playoffs, but a turnaround weekend in the final week of the season could be what really sets them a foot ahead of the competition leading into the playoffs. Carleton has been playing hard despite some of their biggest weapons away at FISU. They won’t be easy for Queen’s by any stretch.

OUA West

Top Stories:

1. Are the Laurier Golden Hawks the real deal? It’s a valid question after their overtime win against Ryerson on Saturday, as they now sit third in the OUA West on a 7-3 run in their last ten games. If the OUA season was longer by 15-20 games, the Golden Hawks might surprise a lot of people, but Laurier left some points on the table early thanks to some consistency deficiencies. Laurier goaltending has been spectacular in second semester, and that’s been the difference maker, given their offence has consistently produced. The Golden Hawks may rely on their goaltending more than other teams, but the bottom line is they’re finding ways to win big games right now.

2. Tom Brady’s comeback in the Super Bowl may be one of the greatest comebacks of all-time, but it’s only the greatest since Shawn Camp coached the Guelph Grpyhons to a 3-12 first semester, only to turn things around, win a Queen’s Cup, and take bronze in overtime at nationals in 2013-14. A lot has changed at Guelph since that memorable season, but the Gryphons continue to emerge as a force out of the OUA West as the season draws to an end. Guelph’s offence is among the best across the OUA right now, and their shooting percentage is right on par with UQTR as the best in the OUA.

3. It’s now official. The Western Mustangs will not qualify for the OUA playoffs, something that has only happened twice since 1971. It’s a colossal disappointment for a team coming off a national championship appearance, as they become the first team since the ’08-09 Brock Badgers to miss the playoffs a season after qualifying for nationals. The Mustangs haven’t been as richly endowed the past few years when it comes to recruits, but ultimately, underperformance is what killed them this season. Now out of the playoff picture, step one to picking up the pieces of a broken season begins now. Keep a close eye on the Mustangs over the offseason.

4. The Waterloo Warriors have punched their ticket to the dance this week, but the Lakehead Thunderwolves didn’t exactly make it easy. Cody Alcock scored an absolute dagger on Friday to secure a win late in the third period after the T-Wolves were trailing by as much as 3-1. Saturday was a different story, with Waterloo winning 2-1. As a result, Cody Alcock’s goal turns out to be the one that secures Lakehead’s playoff position. As it stands, Lakehead would be taking on the Ryerson Rams, which isn’t a favourable matchup for them, given the fact they’ve been outscored 12-4 by the Rams this year.

5. When it came to bonus hockey this week, both the Ryerson Rams and York Lions had some difficulty sealing the deal. The Rams finally ran into a hot goalie over at Laurier, and were held to under three goals for the sixth time this season. York doesn’t have the same offensive punch Ryerson does, and their offence ended up costing them this week in back-to-back losses to both Nipissing and Laurentian. If York doesn’t take RMC seriously this week, they’ll find themselves stumbling their way into the postseason.

6. The Brock Badgers are in an interesting spot in the OUA West right now, as they can finish as high as fourth in the conference, or as low as eighth depending on how things pan out. Brock gets both U of T and RMC at home to round out the schedule, giving them a healthy opportunity to close out the season with another four points in hand. Brock has played far from their best hockey of the season in second semester, and still don’t have their starting goaltender, but I stand by my prediction from the start of the season that Brock is a top five OUA West team. We’ll find out for sure by the end of the week.

Other Notes:

  • The York Lions may not be winning, but Greg Milner keeps on scoring. Now with 15 goals on the season, Milner ranks third amongst goal-scorers in the OUA, leading the Lions in that regard. Those are big numbers from a guy who never scored more than 23 goals in a single season of junior B.
  • At what point do we throw Aaron Armstrong in the OUA West MVP conversation, if not already? This guy has been mowing down the OUA since the start of second semester, and now has 20 points over an eight game point streak. Armstrong continues to be a human highlight reel on a nightly basis.
  • Alex Brooks-Potts picked up his 2nd shutout on the season for the Brock Badgers against Nipissing on Friday. One of the most hot/cold goalies in the league, Brooks-Potts has been a difference maker in both positive and negative ways for Brock. The Badgers hope this is the Brooks-Potts they continue to get while Clint Windsor is on the shelf.

Unsung Heroes:

Colin Furlong, G | Laurier Golden Hawks

Another splendid weekend for Laurier’s starter who not only brings home two wins, but made 68 saves in the process of beating both U of T and Ryerson. U of T isn’t exactly the most dangerous offensive team in the league, but Furlong’s first career OUA shutout is still notable. His performance on Saturday night stands apart, as he stonewalled the Ryerson Rams 43 times in a winning effort. No other goalie has made more saves against Ryerson in a single game this season.

Marc/Michael Stevens, F | Guelph Gryphons

Ever since being reunited at the University of Guelph this season, the Stevens brothers are putting up the best single season offensive numbers of their careers. This week Michael got the scoring started against UQTR, and Marc added another two markers against Concordia. The OUA often provides the opportunity for players to reinvent themselves, but it seems all these two needed was a little brotherly love to spark their offence.

Key Games This Week:

Ryerson vs Guelph, Thurs. Feb. 9th, 7:30pm EST

     

In Ryerson’s first trip to Guelph since a nightmarish game three of the 2016 OUA semi-finals, it may be a meaningless game from a standings perspective, but it’s a chance for the Rams to exercise a few demons in time for the playoffs. Guelph is playing great hockey right now, and are one of the biggest threats to Ryerson in the OUA West.

Windsor vs Waterloo, Fri. Feb. 10th, 7:00pm EST

   

Both teams are gearing up for the playoffs, and with a fairly turbulent semester in the books, Windsor could really use a turnaround against a team that’s playing their best hockey of the season. For Waterloo, we know they’re in the playoffs, so fine tuning their game this week is a priority.

Canada West

Top Stories:

1. The Lethbridge Pronghorns did themselves a giant favour this week in beating the Alberta Golden Bears by a 4-3 score on Saturday night. The last minute surge is a season saver for Lethbridge, who were looking very fragile for sometime after losing six in a row to start second semester. The job isn’t done yet, but with the tiebreak in hand over the trailing UBC Thunderbirds, all Lethbridge needs to do is win at least one game this week, or have UBC lose, to clinch the final Canada West playoff position up for grabs.

2. The UBC Thunderbirds find themselves in a very precarious position on the outside looking into the Canada West playoff picture. They did everything they could this week, taking down the Regina Cougars in both games, yet still sit back of the Lethbridge Pronghorns. With Mount Royal as their final opponent of the season, UBC needs to throw everything they have at them, as just one win this week won’t do the trick. UBC needs to be perfect, and have some luck, to make the playoffs this season.

3. The Crowchild Classic provided everything we love about Canadian University hockey with the Mount Royal Cougars and Calgary Dinos duelling in one of the most memorable games of the entire U SPORTS hockey season in front of 11,902 strong at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary had to dig themselves out of a 3-1 hole, but an eventual overtime winner from Danny Gayle did the trick. Unfortunately for Mount Royal, they now find themselves amidst a dismal four game slide after dropping Friday night’s follow-up contest by a score of 2-0. The Dinos have now leapfrogged into third place in Canada West, and with the Regina Cougars on the schedule this week, are in prime position to hold onto that top three spot.

4. The Manitoba Bisons are looking a lot like the Laurier Golden Hawks of Canada West right now. Their 4-0 shutout of Saskatchewan suggests their 6-1-1 record in January wasn’t an accident, and if this season was more like 40 games long, Manitoba may well have ended in a top four or even three Canada West position. Inconsistencies hindered the Bisons back in first semester, but now with goaltender Byron Spriggs as the clear number one, and an offence operating at it’s most efficient rate of the season, the Manitoba Bisons are peaking at the right time to make a good playoff run.

5. While it’s still possible the Calgary Dinos overtake them, the Alberta Golden Bears are looking pretty good for the number two spot in Canada West right now. Last week saw Kenny Cameron get the lion share of the crease time, and Cole Linaker lead the way offensively. Neither of those occurrences are likely to become themes in the playoffs, but it looks like Alberta may be trying to squeeze as much potential as they can out of their lineup before cruising into the postseason. There’s still sufficient reason to show up and play this week with a first round bye just one win away.

Other Notes:
  • Watching students play giant beer pong at centre-ice with paid tuition on the line at the Crowchild Classic is one of the most intense intermission promotions I’ve ever seen in my life. When can we get this at Ryerson?
  • The 11,902 fans in attendance at the 2017 Crowchild Classic isn’t quite a record, but it’s still the second most attended Canada West conference game of all-time.
  • Jayden Hart must’ve read last week’s edition of TMS. He immediately broke his goal drought against Lethbridge with a game-winner on Friday night.
  • Big week from Lethbridge‘s Mitch Maxwell who recorded his first career Canada West hat-trick on Saturday against Alberta. Maxwell has been electric for the Pronghorns in second semester, as he’s posted 11 points in 10 games since the turn of the calendar.
  • Logan McVeigh was on fire for the Saskatchewan Huskies before Saturday’s 4-0 shutout loss. McVeigh had a stretch of 10 points in just four games coming into Saturday’s contest. That’s a rare offensive outburst from a team who finds offence from a number of different sources up front.

Unsung Heroes:

Austin Vetterl, F | UBC Thunderbirds

While the majority of the focus remains on Anthony Bardaro, Austin Vetterl is putting up a very good season with the UBC Thunderbirds. Now riding a five game point streak, which has yielded nine points in that timespan, Vetterl now has 13 of his 23 points in second semester alone. Vetterl has been a fundamental piece of UBC’s offence all season long with great playmaking and finishing ability.

 

Chris Collins, F | Calgary Dinos

Chris Collins may not have supplied all the drama from the Crowchild Classic last week, but he certainly supported it. Collins assisted on Jared Hauf’s first period marker, and collected another two assists for Calgary in their 2-0 shutout victory over Mount Royal the following night. Collins now has 16 assists on the season, one shy of a career high. His tremendous use of social media to correctly prophesize the Crowchild Classic is arguably the most underrated power move of the season.

Key Games This Week:

UBC vs Mount Royal, Fri. Feb. 10th, 7:00pm MST

     

It’s do or die for the UBC Thunderbirds who need two wins this weekend to keep their playoff dreams alive. On the other hand, if Mount Royal goes on to lose both games this week, it would be a catastrophic end to their regular season, already coming into this series with a four game losing streak.

Lethbridge vs Saskatchewan, Fri. Feb. 10th, 7:00pm MST

     

Lethbridge can eliminate the UBC Thunderbirds with just one win this weekend, and with Saskatchewan not having anything to play for, Friday night could be the night Canada West is set for the postseason. Worth noting, if Jordon Cooke winds up starting a game this week for Saskatchewan, he’ll have a shot at the Canada West single season shutout record (5).

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Victor Findlay is CUSN’s premier men’s hockey insider. Currently enrolled in his fourth year of Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts, Sport Media program, Victor is the voice of the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team, and hosts “Double Shifting with Victor Findlay”, Ryerson men’s hockey podcast.

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