1. The big story this weekend out of the AUS is the status of UNB forward Chris Clapperton, who was knocked out on the ice 88 seconds into UNB’s contest against Acadia on Friday after an ugly hit which planted his head into the glass. After being hospitalized, Clapperton returned home the following day and was briefly around the rink on Saturday. Coach Gardiner MacDougall told the Daily Gleaner’s Bill Hunt, “he’s in darkness, with a blazing headache”. Clapperton is out indefinitely, and clearly suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Nobody really knows when he’ll be back, but it won’t be anytime soon. In the meantime, UNB has submitted video of the hit to the league anticipating supplemental discipline for Acadia’s Alex Lepkowski who threw the hit. Lepkowski has expressed his remorse, and reportedly feels terrible about what’s happened to Clapperton, but a multi-week suspension is almost guaranteed at this point. It’s an unfortunate situation for all involved.
2. Already minus defencemen Geoff Schemitsch and Matt Pufahl, the Acadia Axemen are going to need to figure out how to carry on without Alex Lepkowski on their blueline. The burden on Liam Maaskant and Marc McNulty is already heavier than normal, and they’ll now need Stephen Woodworth, Tyler Ferry, and Michael Zipp to step up too. Acadia have already been in a number of high-stress games early in the season, including a 7-5 gun show win over UPEI on Saturday. It’s been a somewhat frantic start to Acadia’s season, but the way their forwards have played so far could very well be the reason they’re still a top three team. The unit of Owen MacDonald, Kyle Farrell, and Ryan Foss continue to be surprisingly productive.
3. The StFX X-Men took care of business this week with two wins over Moncton and Dalhousie again. If you look back to last season including the U Cup and AUS playoffs, the X-Men are 21-4-0 in their last 25 games. Although UNB is a touch better at 21-3-1, the point is the X-Men are one of the best teams in the country. But unlike Alberta and UNB, without Eric Locke, there’s no clearcut star on StFX. But that hasn’t slowed them down for a moment this year. The X-Men have been the pinnacle of team production, with game-winners from five different players, and feature different contributors on a nightly basis. It’s hard to imagine at some point during the season StFX won’t run into some sort of difficulty, but after speaking with Brad Peddle last week, it doesn’t appear there’s anything he doesn’t like about his squad right now.
4. New week, same story for the UPEI Panthers. They fall short in two games, blowing a 3-1 lead against SMU to lose in OT, then losing a slugfest against Acadia on Saturday. Make it five straight losses for the Panthers now. It’s starting to feel a lot like last year’s seven game losing skid they brought into the Christmas break. Through the first five losses of that streak UPEI was outscored 27-13. On their current streak, they’re being outscored 31-12. With Moncton and Dalhousie on the schedule four times through the month of November, it could provide a chance for UPEI to get back on their feet. After all, the Panthers were 5-3-2 against Moncton/Dal last year, 6-12-2 against everyone else. But even against those schools, defence is key. Two of their victories over Dalhousie were shutouts.
5. Nobody saw more ice-time this week than SMU‘s Alex Peters who returned from injury to immediately be thrust into a shutdown role against UPEI and UNB, two of the conference’s best offensive teams. The Huskies love his leadership, and think he can be the face of their defence and leadership contingency for years to come. As for the rest of the team, their comeback win vs UPEI is a positive, their 5-1 loss to UNB is not. This week was somewhat of a microcosm of what’s been an average start for Saint Mary’s, a program still capable of challenging the top guns in the AUS.
- Nice return from the shelf for Acadia’s Sam Fioretti who scored twice in a 7-5 win over UPEI.
- Dalhousie split their second straight weekend beating Moncton but losing to StFX. Nothing special to come out of this program so far, and a quiet start from Corbin Boes too.
- Stephen Anderson now has nine goals on the year for UNB. That’s already a career-high for him in the AUS, and not all that far away from his QMJHL career-high of 26.
- Rough start for the Moncton Aigles Bleus who have lost eight straight under new coach Judes Vallée. On the upside, J.F. Plante registered his first goal of the season after being held off the scoresheet in the first seven games.
- After serving as an assistant last year, Brad Peddle will be the head coach for the U SPORTS all-stars when they play Team Canada U-20 on December 13th and 14th in St. Catharines, Ont. He’ll be joined by SMU coach Trevor Stienburg.
Adam Stevens, F | StFX X-Men
Every week StFX keeps winning, there always seems to be somebody new stepping up to the plate. It’s a testament to how deep they’ve been this year, and this week’s unsung hero is Adam Stevens. A fourth year forward who’s pieced together fairly average numbers in the AUS, he’s now riding a four game point-streak, the longest of his AUS career. Typically a great depth piece, Stevens always picks key spots to get involved offensively and is a great example of somebody who’s able to elevate their own game when there’s a hole in the lineup.
Mark Simpson, F | UNB Varsity Reds
On a forward unit scattered with enough offence to account for 23% of the entire goal output in the AUS this season, it can be easy to forget how crucial Mark Simpson is to UNB’s success. With three goals and four points this past week, Simpson is showing signs he’s taken a step forward in his skill level from his rookie season. But his contributions to the best penalty kill in the AUS and being one of the best face-off men in the conference are still huge reasons why he’s one of the best depth players in the entire country.
Key Games This Week:
SMU vs StFX | Wednesday, November 1, 7:00 pm ADT
After cruising past Moncton and Dalhousie the last two weeks, Saint Mary’s is the wakeup call for the StFX X-Men who look to keep their record perfect. The Huskies are every bit as capable of taking down the X-Men than any of the other AUS power houses are. But on the flip side, if StFX simply execute their game plan, they’ll inevitably have a chance to win. The X-Men have had some lapses in consistency in the past, so here’s a chance to put that trend to rest this week.
1. Yes, the UQTR Patriotes have rattled off six straight wins, yes they’ve deserved to win all six of them, and yes they’re nationally ranked. But I’m not ready to jump on the Patriotes bandwagon just yet. Of all the teams in the OUA East, UQTR has had, by far, the easiest schedule. All six of UQTR’s wins have collectively come against Lakehead, Laurentian, and Nipissing. All three of those programs have recently struggled to squeak into, or miss the playoffs altogether. The single loss UQTR took this year was against McGill, a 3-0 shutout. They’ll see Queen’s twice this week, and Carleton in a couple of weeks, but UQTR will also see RMC three times, and UOIT and U of T twice each to close out the semester. There’s no reason UQTR shouldn’t have another six wins before the break. I’ll be waiting for the new year to see if this year’s version of UQTR is truly the real deal.
2. Big week for the Ottawa Gee-Gees who get Patrick Grandmaitre back behind the bench and immediately win back-to-back contests against RMC and McGill. Obviously the win against the Redmen stands out more, especially considering they’re the first team to have scored more than 5 goals on them since McGill lost 6-1 to UQTR on Jan. 27th/2016. Kevin Domingue is quickly proving he’s one of the league’s very best goal scorers when he wants to be. Now with seven markers on the season, he leads the OUA. On the downside, Jonathan Bourcier joined Adam Beveridge and Patrick White on the shelf for Saturday’s contest, but the Gee-Gees still pulled through without three fairly important players. For those thinking the new divisional format would cause problems for Ottawa (myself included), they may want to think again. Since the reincarnation of the Gee-Gees, they’ve gone 5-2-1 against McGill, UQTR, and have yet to lose to Concordia. That’s impressive.
3. Nobody has a tougher schedule at the moment than the Queen’s Gaels. After taking on, and beating, the nationally ranked Ryerson Rams last week, they saw both McGill and Concordia this week, and will see UQTR at Le Colisée twice next week. Losing both contests this week is disappointing for a program that expects to be not just competitive, but able to beat the best. The silver lining is both losses occurred in overtime, so the Gaels still pick up four of a possible six points in their last three games. The biggest challenge for Brett Gibson and company at the moment might be coming from within. With so many ex-major junior pieces on the roster, the Queen’s Gaels have one of the hardest rosters to manage in the league. As a result, players like Ben Fanjoy, Graeme Brown, Damian Bourne, and Alex Row haven’t seen as much ice as they probably deserve.
4. Over the offseason, the RMC Paladins put together a recruit class some would consider above average for what the program often brings in. Riley Brandt was among their most promising additions, but even then, not many people could have seen him fourth in country-wide scoring a full four weeks into the season. With his hat-trick against Nipissing, Brandt has six goals on the season. Their leading scorer from last year (Seamus MaGuire) took 26 games to reach that mark. Eric Louis-Seize was the last Paladin to reach double-digits, with 10 goals in 2014-15. But at this rate, Brandt might be in the conversation to rival Paul Bradley‘s 17 goal season from 2007-08, which stands as the most single season goals by a Paladin in the last decade.
5. The Nipissing Lakers won both games on back-to-back days against UOIT and RMC this week. Before that, Nipissing hadn’t swept a back-to-back series on the road since they beat Lakehead 2-0 on a trip to Thunder Bay back in early November, 2015. It took the extra frame in both contests for the Lakers to take the win, with both Danny Desrochers and Colin Campbell netting game-winners. Lakehead transfer Jake Wright seems to have found a home with the Lakers, now tied for the team lead in points with five. But even then, the Lakers still don’t look any more intimidating offensively than they did last year. In net, it’s clear now that Mike McParland sees Brent Moran as the number one goalie, despite having three other goalies in the program, including proven starter Domenic Graham.
- Two years ago the McGill Redmen had a PP% of 30%. This season, it currently sits at a measly 7.5%. Astounding considering some of the players this team has. But last year’s power play struggles for Saint Mary’s indicated a talented forward unit doesn’t always equal success on special teams.
- Slow start for the UOIT Ridgebacks, who were nationally ranked this time last year. But nice start for Brennan Roy who has burst out of the gate for six points in six games as a rookie defender.
- In a somewhat surprising move, Antoine Dagenais is getting crease-time with the Concordia Stingers. In three starts, he’s 2-1-0 with a 3.17 GAA and a .910 SV%. But his defence wasn’t much of a help in a 6-3 loss to Carleton where they allowed three power play goals.
- The Carleton Ravens should absolutely be considered a threat in the OUA East again. All despite a hefty turnover on the ice and on the bench, they’ve looked rock solid in their first few weeks. However, consistency was an issue for them last year, it’s yet to be seen if they can sustain it this year.
- ICYMI: Dakota Odgers and Justin Doucet had a good ol’ fashion slugfest on Friday. Props to the 5-foot-10 Odgers for taking on the 6-foot-4 Doucet in a real clash of titans.
- Nice recognition for Gee-Gees coach Patrick Grandmaitre who was named to the U SPORTS all-star team coaching staff last week. U SPORTS will play Team Canada U-20 December 13th and 14th in St. Catharines, Ont.
Guillaume Naud, F | Nipissing Lakers
Playing in his first game back from injury since December 2nd, 2016, Guillaume Naud made his presence felt for the Nipissing Lakers. Although Nipissing allowed 55 shots to RMC in a game where the Paladins gave them all they could handle, Naud found the scoresheet in the second period with a key power play goal. The road to recovery from any injury can be difficult, but after nearly 11 months out of action, hats off to Naud for sticking to the process over a lengthy recovery period.
Key Games This Week:
Queen’s vs UQTR | Friday, November 3, 7:00 pm EST
Here’s the first great chance for the UQTR Patriotes to prove their national ranking is a true reflection of how good they really are. They get Queen’s twice at home this weekend, so there’s no excuse for coming out of the gate shy. For the Gaels, they’ve lost two straight to Quebec schools and need to start beating teams like UQTR to regain their national ranking and have a shot to contend at the national tournament again this year.
1. The York Lions aren’t the most ostentatious team, nor the quickest, and they’re certainly not the flashiest. But of all the teams in the OUA West, nobody executes their game plan more consistently and effectively than the Lions. The way York plays the game is so perfect for the roster they possess, and when it all comes together, they’re incredibly difficult to beat. As pointed out on Twitter this week, York is 31-5-3 when scoring first since 2015-16, and they’re also 28-10-1 at home in that timeframe. The Lions play airtight defence that involves all five skaters on the ice, and when it breaks down (which is rare) they have one of the country’s best goaltenders to bail them out. Perhaps the most impressive achievement from Chris Dennis’ time behind the York bench is the fact that not only did he create a winning system with a roster that comprised the worst team in the OUA West before his arrival, but it’s so good and so simple that he doesn’t even need to be there for it to continue to work.
2. Life without starting goaltenders continues to be an adventure for the Western Mustangs who are still managing to make games close, but sit dead last in the OUA West. Their dreadful PK% of 56.0% isn’t helping either, but if anything, is a reflection of the work that needs to be put into this team defensively. It’s inevitable that with Liam Herbst and Luke Peressini back in the net, Western is going to be a tougher team to beat. But even then, are they good enough to crawl out of the OUA’s basement? Their forward unit suggests they definitely are. But if the Mustangs can’t find ways to play in their own zone, they aren’t going very far. After losing to both Guelph and Brock last week, they’re in for two tough match-ups against Windsor and Laurier this week. In both those games, they’ll look to get Anthony Stefano and Cordell James going. Both players have had a slow start to their OUA careers.
3. The first win of Marty Williamson‘s OUA career took a little longer than expected, but he’ll be happy with Brock’s 2-0 weekend against Windsor and Western. Not much appears to be changing for Brock goaltending. Last year Brock goalies saw approximately 0.70 shots per minute, which ranked highest in the country by a fair margin. Clint Windsor has shown he’s consistently been able to deal with the taxing workload, and his 217 saves over his six starts already lead the OUA. As far as how the team plays in front of their goalies, the big surprise thus far has been Brandon O’Quinn. Rarely do NCAA III transfers turn into effective point producers at the OUA level, but here’s O’Quinn with six points in as many games, tied with Matt MacLeod for the team lead.
4. The Ryerson Rams were given a close call by the Laurier Golden Hawks on Wednesday night in front of a raucous student-heavy crowd in the first shootout for the men’s hockey team at Maple Leaf Gardens since February of 2013. Taking the 4-3 win, the Rams haven’t lost a shootout since the 2011-12 season. That isn’t so surprising when you consider some of the offensive weapons this team has packed over the years (Jamie Wise, Domenic Alberga, Michael Fine, etc.). But what is surprising is the lack of physicality the Rams have shown so far. Without Alex Basso this week, their defence was under major stress, and were run over by the York Lions on Saturday in a 4-1 loss. Early signs are the Rams still have the deepest offensive cast in the OUA West, but can still be outworked by teams like York and Laurier.
5. I was about to write about how the Guelph Gryphons are off to a fairly slow start, especially for how good they look on paper. But as recent history suggests, the first few months of the regular season for Guelph haven’t counted for very much down the stretch. Most notably, this was outlined by their 3-12 start in 2014-15, only to go on to win the Queen’s Cup later that season. A 2-3-1 start isn’t great, but it’s an opportunity for coach Shawn Camp to evaluate where his team needs to be better, and allows him lots of time to patch up the cracks before the games become a matter of life and death. One thing that’s become apparent early on is even though Mathieu Henderson and Patrick Kudla are top-end OUA defenders, without Mark Raycroft and Josh McFadden in the lineup, Guelph’s defence suffers from a lack of depth. There’s going to be a lot of teams (more than usual) in the market for players around Christmas time, but the Gryphons would be wise to add another defender to the fold for insurance down the stretch.
- Laurier continues to impress me with how tough to close out they can be. But Kyle Jenkins especially stands out. Once Alex Basso and Derek Sheppard graduate from the OUA, don’t at all be surprised if Jenkins emerges as one of the league’s best blueliners in a year or two.
- U of T came back down to earth a little this week with back-to-back losses at home. As hard-working as they are this year, there’s still a big gap between them and the top contenders in the OUA West when it comes to skill.
- The Windsor Lancers were the most shorthanded team in the country this week, dressing just 15 skaters in their 5-3 win over Guelph. Impressive feat without Kyle Hope and Dan Beaudoin in addition to the already injured Justice Dundas, Todd Ratchford, and their suspended captain Blake Blondeel.
- The 2017-18 season hasn’t been very kind to Waterloo‘s Mike Morrison thus far, but it’s been a different story for Trevor Martin. Martin was brought in to take over once Morrison graduates after this year, but his 1.92 GAA and .949 SV% in his first couple starts suggest he might be ready to take the reigns sooner rather than later.
Trevor Sauder, F | Laurier Golden Hawks
One of the smallest players you’ll find in the country listed at 5-foot-7, Trevor Sauder made a name for himself in hockey as one of the GOJHL’s best defensive forwards, winning the Jr. B version of the Selke Trophy four consecutive seasons. He’s carried that defence-first mentality to Laurier in the OUA, but didn’t see ice-time this year until this week against Ryerson and U of T. After earning three of a possible four points, Sauder emerges with two goals and two assists. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty for a bottom six center expected to back-check every shift.
Key Games This:
York vs Laurier | Thursday, November 2, 7:00 pm EST
The undefeated York Lions hit the road to take on Laurier this week, who have looked better in all three zones compared to previous years. Historically, the Golden Hawks are one of the few teams to come back against York when down multiple goals. Either they know something nobody else in the OUA does, or the York Lions have simply taken them too lightly in the past. If they do that again on Thursday, their record won’t be perfect for very long.
1. Just when the opportunity to get back on track is presented to the Lethbridge Pronghorns with a two-game set at home against UBC, the door gets slammed shut in their face by Matt Hewitt. The fourth year goalie made 88 saves against the Pronghorns this week alone, facing 57 shots in a 6-4 win on Saturday. If you’re Lethbridge, there isn’t much more you can do offensively. This one might hurt the Pronghorns more than you think, especially when it comes to confidence. This is a UBC team that butted them out of a playoff spot late last year, and had their way with them again this week. Now’s the time for Lethbridge’s stars to step up to the plate in the face of adversity with a 1-6-1 record on hand. At the end of the day, this program will only go as far as their top guns take them, and the confidence and self-belief this team has will also play a big factor. They’ve got a week to regain their thoughts and focus before hitting the road to take on the juggernaut Alberta Golden Bears.
2. After falling just short to the Alberta Golden Bears last week, this was the big week the Calgary Dinos were hoping for. They didn’t go 2-0, but taking three of a possible four points in a series against the Saskatchewan Huskies is a huge accomplishment. Matt Greenfield went toe-to-toe with Jordon Cooke in a 2-1 shootout loss on Friday, and Cain Franson led the way offensively in Saturday’s 4-2 win. The veterans continue to get the job done for Calgary, with four of their top five point-getters in their senior year. Also worth noting, the Dinos did all of this without their leading scorer Riley Sheen. For Saskatchewan, just about any loss this season is news. But that’s what happens when you’re nationally ranked and played on the final day of the U Cup in the last two years. Jaimen Yakubowski checked back into the lineup this week, which in theory makes Saskatchewan better. But if anything, actually makes Dave Adolph’s job harder. Whenever this team is fully healthy, there’s going to be a couple of very capable players sitting in the stands. That can make for a difficult and stressful season from a coach’s perspective, even if their team stays consistently in the win column.
3. The Alberta Golden Bears were given all they could handle this week by the Regina Cougars, who despite being down 3-1 on Friday, managed to give Alberta one of their best late-game efforts of the season. The 4-3 final was only the second one-goal game the Golden Bears had this season. Although a win for the Cougars this weekend would’ve been a candidate for upset of the year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they kept it close. They’ve played with much more structure then they’ve had in the past. But in the second game, the disparity in talent was still apparent, with the Golden Bears outshooting Regina 40-9 through the first two periods. Shoutout to Regina netminder Dawson MacAuley who made 45 stops against Alberta in his first appearance of the season.
4. Big week for Michael St. Croix and Zach Franko of the Manitoba Bisons who lead their program to a two game sweep of the MRU Cougars. After being held pointless in four straight, St. Croix exploded for four points while Franko tallied two goals and had three points of his own on the week. In addition to those two, Adam Henry and Brett Stovin also played well this week. Along with good goaltending and Nick Zajac, those are all key parts that need to be working in order for Manitoba to win. This week it all came together. For Mount Royal, this is a setback, but by no means does it derail their season. Jamal Watson kept up his offensive production, and last year’s Canada West points leader Connor Rankin returned to the lineup. Although strangely, the Cougars have yet to win a game this season with Rankin in the lineup. $50 to whoever can make sense of that.
- With another game-winner this week against Lethbridge, UBC’s Michael Stenerson leads the country with three GWG this year, all of which came in a row.
- Huge addition for Mount Royal who get d-man Maddison Smiley back well ahead of schedule. He’s got top two pairing potential this season.
- For the second straight year, Calgary Dinos coach Mark Howell will join the coaching staff for team U SPORTS when they take on Team Canada U-20 in St. Catharines on December 13th and 14th.
- With a conference-wide bye-week, there won’t be much Canada West news in the next little while. It’s a good opportunity for teams to get healthy, and players to get focused on mid-terms…. or recover from.
Zach Sawchenko, G | Alberta Golden Bears
The Golden Bears had a very close call this week at the hands of the Regina Cougars, who were biting at their heels in a 4-3 decision on Friday. After allowing two goals on 11 shots, Serge Lajoie had seen enough of Brendan Burke to pull him from the game after 33 minutes. In came Zach Sawchenko who allowed one goal the rest of the way, and stifled the Regina offence for only a single goal the following night in a 4-1 victory. Now with a 1.35 GAA and a .938 SV% Sawchenko is showing everyone he was worth the hype.
Adam Henry, D | Manitoba Bisons
For all he’s done in the last three years at the University of Manitoba, Adam Henry doesn’t get enough credit. He’s an ex-WHL defender with great pedigree who’s now a top-minutes guy for the Bisons. His seven points this season are one shy of the country lead amongst defenceman. He’s not the tallest of defenders, but he’s a strong and sturdy player who has above average offensive capabilities from the backend. It’s no coincidence that when Henry gets on a roll, so do the Bisons.
Key Games This Week:
No games this week!