U SPORTS men's & women's hockey championship previews
Mar 14, 2017
TORONTO (U SPORTS) – The UNB Varsity Reds will have home ice on their side in pursuit of their second straight University Cup while the UBC Thunderbirds look to become the ninth U SPORTS women's hockey team to lift the Golden Path Trophy in Napanee, Ont.
The 2017 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup will be hosted by the Varsity Reds for the first time since welcoming back-to-back events in 2011 and 2012, while the Queen's Gaels will organize the 2017 U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship for the first time in program history. The national tournaments get underway Thursday from the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton, N.B., and the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, Ont., culminating next Sunday, with the men's final at 1 p.m. AT (12 p.m. ET) and the women's championship at 7 p.m. ET.
The semifinals (12 and 4 p.m. AT/11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET Saturday) as well as the final of the University Cup will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now.
Following are previews of each tournament.
2017 U SPORTS Cavendish Farms University Cup (Aitken University Centre, University of New Brunswick)
The Varsity Reds were tabbed as the No.5 seed for the tournament, and will have an uphill battle if the University Cup is to remain on the east coast.
Looking for their 16th U SPORTS title and third national banner since 2014, the Canada West champion Alberta Golden Bears head in as the top seed, joined in Fredericton by the No.2 StFX X-Men (AUS champions) No.3 York Lions (OUA champions), No.4 Queen's Gaels (OUA finalists), No.5 UNB (AUS finalists/hosts), No.6 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West finalists), No.7 McGill Redmen (OUA bronze medalists), and No.8 Acadia Axemen (AUS bronze medalists). A full schedule is below.
Seven of the eight teams have hoisted the University Cup in the past, with Alberta holding the most titles (15), followed by UNB (6), York (3) and Acadia (2). Saskatchewan, StFX and McGill have one national banner each, with Queen's still looking for their first.
Canada West representatives
No. 1 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West champions)
National titles: 1964, 1968, 1975, 1978-80, 1986, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2014, 2015 2016 result: Lost in quarter-finals Off Rank: 12th (3.46 GPG) Def Rank: 7th (2.54 GAA)
The Golden Bears (18-8-2 regular season), earned their fourth No.1 seed in the last five years, after reclaiming the Canada West banner – the team's 26th overall – over Saskatchewan with a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the conference championship. Along the way, both Alberta and Saskatchewan (21-5-2) needed three games to eliminate cross-town rivals Calgary and Mount Royal in the Canada West semifinals.
"It has been a season full of growth for our team. With so many new faces on our roster, the regular season has provided our group with numerous learning opportunities," said Alberta head coach Serge Lajoie. "We've used these opportunities to continually strive to get better…The growth we have shown throughout the regular season and in playoffs has prepared us as well as we could have expected to head into this championship weekend with the necessary confidence level required for us to play our best. There is such parity between the teams - anything can happen."
"We are excited to once again represent the Canada West conference at the University Cup," said Saskatchewan bench boss Dave Adolph, the Canada West Coach of the Year. "Returning the majority of our team from the 2016 University Cup, we feel confident in our experiences gained at the tournament last year. We are hardworking group on both sides of the ice and expect to compete at the highest level."
Top scorer: Philippe Maillet (30 GP, 23 G, 32 A, 55 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Étienne Marcoux (15-1-1, 1.59 GAA, .910 SV%)
No. 8 Acadia Axemen (AUS bronze medallists)
National titles: 1993, 1996 Last appearance: 2015 Off Rank: 5th (3.70 GPG) Def Rank: 13th (2.75 GAA)
Top scorer: Boston Leier (30 GP, 18 G, 14 A, 32 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Robert Steeves (11-5-0, 2.46 GAA, .912 SV%)
The X-Men (16-12-2) captured back-to-back AUS titles thanks to a convincing two-game sweep of archrival UNB (25-2-3), with 2-1 and 5-4 victories. The win capped off a perfect 7-0 run through the conference playoffs for StFX, who also defeated Moncton in a best-of-three quarter-finals, and Acadia (20-8-2) in the best-of-five semis. The Axemen would go on to win two straight in the consolation series to earn the bronze medal over Saint Mary's, who fell to the Varsity Reds in the other semifinal matchup three games to one.
"We are extremely pleased to be heading back to the 2017 U SPORTS University Cup," said StFX head coach Brad Peddle. "It is an outstanding field of teams that will make for a very competitive and exciting tournament, requiring you to be at your best every game. We look forward to the challenge."
"It's always a special feat to be part of the national hockey championship, and a double special opportunity to be the host team for the University Cup," said AUS Coach of the Year Gardiner MacDougall. "It has been said that 'Consistency is the mother of excellence and incremental improvement is the father.' This weekend we are looking forward to raising our consistency standard and finding ways to improve that standard on a period by period basis."
"We are extremely proud to be bringing Acadia back to a national championship," said Acadia head coach Darren Burns. "We have the most loyal fans in U SPORTS. It is important for our team to remain focused as the competition is going to be extremely intense and at the highest level."
No.3 York Lions (OUA champions)
National titles: 1985, 1988, 1989 Off Rank: 23rd (2.86 GPG) Def Rank: 2nd (2.00 GAA)
No.4 Queen's Gaels (OUA finalists) Last appearance: 1981
Off Rank: 25th (2.82)
Def Rank: 6th (2.37)
Top scorer: Slater Doggett (22 GP, 13 G, 20 A, 33 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Kevin Bailie (8-4-2, 2.31 GAA, .925 SV%)
No.7 McGill Redmen (OUA bronze medallists) National titles: 2012
Last appearance: 2014
Off Rank: T-6th (3.68 GPG)
Def Rank: 5th (2.19 GAA)
Top scorer: Mathieu Pompei (23 GP, 9 G, 24 A, 33 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Jacob Gervais-Chouinard (10-2-0, 2.28 GAA, .915 SV%)
York (18-6-4) kept the Queen's Cup away from the trophy's original donors Saturday, winning its first OUA Championship since 2004 by edging the Gaels 4-3 at home. The game marked the first all-Ontario final dating back to the Lions' last title 13 years ago. The win capped off a 7-1 postseason for York, after sweeping Lakehead and Guelph in two games each in the first two rounds, before needing three contests to take out Windsor in the OUA West final. Queen's (18-7-3), meanwhile, swept McGill in the East final, after eliminating Ottawa and Concordia in three games apiece. The Redmen (21-4-3) would later secure the bronze medal with a 6-3 victory in a one-game playoff over Windsor.
"We are very proud we were able to get this program back to the national championship," said York head coach Chris Dennis, who won his second straight OUA West Coach of the Year honour. "There has been complete buy-in from everyone on the team and their hard work and dedication has gotten us this far. To be successful, we need to play with pace and focus on our game. If we can do that and play to our potential, we have a chance to do something special this week."
"We are excited to head to the University Cup for the first time in 36 years," said Queen's head coach Brett Gibson, who coached Canada to a bronze medal at the 2017 Winter Universiade last month, while also serving as bench boss of the U SPORTS All-Stars against the Canadian World Junior squad this season. "Our expectations are the same as they were all season and that is to respect everyone and fear no one. We pride ourselves on structure, discipline and work ethic which has brought us to this tournament."
"Our team has been through plenty of adversity this season and is a resilient and battle-hardened group," said McGill head coach Kelly Nobes. "The OUA East continues to improve, is extremely competitive and has well-prepared us for the postseason. We have smart players that play a fast, structured, and gritty game. We are looking forward to our first game against StFX and we expect a battle at the Aitken Centre."
SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times AT)
Wednesday, March 15 7:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Men's Hockey All-Canadian Awards Thursday, March 16
1:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.1 Alberta vs. No. 8 Acadia (USPORTS.LIVE)
7 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No.4 Queen's vs. No. 5 UNB (USPORTS.LIVE)
Friday, March 17
1 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No.3 York vs. No. 6 Saskatchewan (USPORTS.LIVE)
7 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No.2 StFX vs. No.7 McGill (USPORTS.LIVE)
Saturday, March 18
12 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
4 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now) Sunday, March 19
9:30 a.m. Bronze (USPORTS.LIVE)
1:00 p.m. Final (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
2017 U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship (Strathcona Paper Centre, Napanee, Ont.)
The No.1 ranked team since the third coaches' poll of the campaign, the UBC Thunderbirds were a fitting choice as the team to beat at the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship.
The Thunderbirds are joined in Napanee, Ont., by the No.2 Guelph Gryphons (OUA champions), No.3 Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS champions), No.4 McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions), No.5 StFX X-Women (AUS finalists), No.6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West finalists), No.7 Concordia Stingers (RSEQ finalists) and No.8 Queen's Gaels (Hosts). A complete schedule is available below.
Only three teams in the field have previously lifted the Golden Path Trophy, with Alberta holding the most championships (7), followed by McGill (4) and Concordia (2).
Canada West representatives
No.1 UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West Champions)
2016 result: Silver Off Rank: 5th (3.07 GPG) Def Rank: 5th (1.60 GAA)
No.6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West Finalists)
Last appearance: 2015 National titles: 2000, 2002-2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 Off Rank: 14th (2.57 GPG) Def Rank: 2nd (1.32 GAA)
Top scorer: Alex Poznikoff (24 GP, 13 G, 12 A, 25 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Lindsey Post (15-2-1, 1.31 GAA, .929 SV%)
After losing Game 1 of the best-of-three Canada West Final to Alberta 2-0, the Thunderbirds (23-4-1 regular season) captured their second straight conference championship and third in the last five seasons, rallying to take the final two games of the series, capped off by a 1-0 shutout on home ice. UBC also defeated Saskatchewan in three games in the semis en route to the title, while Alberta (21-4-3), beat Manitoba in two games.
"Our program is excited and honored to be a part of this national event where the top teams will come together and compete," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "We are very proud of our group and what they have accomplished this season. Our entire team is looking forward to this tournament and to represent UBC."
"We've got a young team this year comprised primarily of first and second-year players, so it took a bit to get our feet underneath us," said Alberta head coach Howie Draper. "We've seen a significant amount of growth over the second half which has been encouraging and hope to find our peak in Napanee. I feel like our team is pretty well balanced offensively and defensively as a whole and we have strong goaltending that gives us a chance to win every game. Our girls form a determined group that have dominated at times, and shown resilience in times when things haven't gone so well. Nationals provides another step in the maturation of our team and I'm confident that we'll compete as well as any team in the hunt for this year's championship."
Guelph (20-3-1) won its second straight OUA McCaw Cup via a convincing 6-1 win over an upstart Nipissing squad that was playing in just its fourth season of U SPORTS Women's Hockey. The Gryphons' suffered only a single loss in claiming their sixth conference title in school annals, sweeping Windsor in two games in the opening round before edging Waterloo in three games in the semifinals. Queen's (14-8-2), meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Toronto in the quarter-finals, losing 2-1 in double-overtime on the road in Game 3, in a series that featured three one-goal contests
"We started the season thinking it was a rebuild with 10 rookies and only two players on our roster who were in their fourth year of eligibility," said OUA Coach of the Year and Guelph bench boss Rachel Flanagan, who also led Canada to a silver medal and the 2017 Winter Universiade last month. "By mid-season, we started thinking that we might be able to host a playoff series. Then after Christmas, we decided that maybe it wasn't a rebuilding year but a repeat year.
"Our rookies quickly bought into our team culture and a number of them have played significant roles this season. We've depended on a strong core of second and third-year athletes to be leaders both on and off the ice and they've exceeded our expectations. We're hoping our experience at nationals in the past two seasons will provide focus and calm during games."
"We are thrilled and proud to be hosting this year and it's been an amazing season leading up to this point," said Queen's head coach Matt Holmberg. "We are ready to compete with the best in the country and look forward to an exciting weekend of great hockey!"
No.3 Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS champions) 2016 result: Bronze Off Rank: 4th (3.08 GPG) Def Rank: 7th (1.71 GAA)
Top scorer: Breanna Lanceleve (24 GP, 15 G, 24 A, 39 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Rebecca Clark (14-2-3, 1.64 GAA, .933 SV%)
No.5 StFX X-Women (AUS finalists) Last appearance: 2015 Off Rank: 2nd (3.46 GPG) Def Rank: 21st (2.52 GAA)
Top scorer: Sarah Bujold (24 GP, 24 G, 19 A, 43 PTS) Probable starting goaltender: Ariana Orasanin (13-2-0, 2.09 GAA, .904 SV%)
In a thrilling conclusion to the AUS season, Saint Mary's (18-3-3) outlasted StFX (16-8-0) in Game 3 of the final, with third-year forward Gemma MacDonald scoring at 7:17 of triple-overtime to end the second-longest game in AUS history. In defending their conference crown and earning their sixth championship, the Huskies also went the distance with Moncton in the semifinals, while the X-Women swept Dalhousie and defeated St. Thomas in three games.
"We are looking forward to the challenge of playing the best teams in the country," said StFX head coach David Synishin. "Our success this year has been based on our work ethic, which will be extremely important moving forward into the championship tournament this weekend."
"We are looking forward to travelling to Napanee and representing SMU as AUS champions at this year's national championships," said head coach Chris Larade, the AUS Coach of the Year. "(We) look forward to testing ourselves against the best competition and teams in the country."
McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions) 2016 result: Lost in consolation semifinal National titles: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 Off Rank: 8th (2.85 GPG) Def Rank: 8th (1.75 GAA)
McGill (16-4-0) reclaimed the RSEQ banner after conceding it to Montreal in three of the last four seasons, shutting out Concordia (10-9-1) by a combined 7-0 score over two games. The Martlets also beat Ottawa in a three-game semifinal, while Concordia (10-9-1) swept the defending national champion Carabins to secure their first berth at the U SPORTS Women's Hockey Championship in 12 seasons.
"It's a very strong field and all the teams are good enough to win it," said McGill head coach Peter Smith. "We had some injuries to deal with and had a lot of new faces at the start of the year. It took us a while to find our identity and our structure. But it is a very coachable group that has worked extremely hard. We had a challenging exhibition schedule which prepared us well for the regular season. The RSEQ conference has become extremely competitive and has prepared us well for this tournament. We are peaking at the right time and have played some very good hockey the past five or six weeks."
"We've been committed to a process all year long. Our hard work and commitment to that process allowed us to play great hockey, especially in the second half, and it earned us the opportunity to compete at the nationals," said Concordia head coach Julie Chu.
"We'll continue to be committed to our process in our preparation for Friday's game and being ready for that moment. Once we are finished with Friday's game, we'll focus on the next steps of our preparation and execution.
"We're excited about the type of hockey we're playing right now."
SCHEDULE & RESULTS (All times ET)
Wednesday, March 15 6:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Women's Hockey All-Canadian Awards
Thursday, March 16 3:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.4 McGill vs. No.5 StFX
7:00 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No.1 UBC vs No.8 Queen's
Friday, March 17 11:00 a.m. Quarter-final 3: No.3 Saint Mary's vs No.6 Alberta
3:00 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 2 Guelph vs. No. 7 Concordia
7:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2
Saturday, March 18 11:00 a.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4
3:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2
7:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4
Sunday, March 19 11:00 a.m. 5th-place game
3:00 p.m. Bronze
7:00 p.m. Final
About U SPORTS
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