Things appear to be settling down a bit in our CUSN Power Rankings as the playoffs near, but for the second straight week, we have a new team in our rankings.
#1 – UBC Thunderbirds (19-3-1-3, 1st in Canada West. No change from last week’s CUSN rankings):
- Friday: 4-3 W @Regina
- Saturday: 3-1 W @Regina
For the first time in their existence, UBC has a regular season hockey champion. In truth, it’s surprising it took this long for the T-Birds to clinch the regular season crown. They will now go two full weeks without having to play a meaningful game, which should be a nice break for a program with one of U SPORTS’ toughest travel schedules.
Forward Cassandra Vilgrain looked like herself for the first time since returning from an injury that kept her out for four weeks in the middle of January. Her five points brings the first-year transfer to 27 on the season, good for second in the conference scoring race.
#2 – Guelph Gryphons (14-3-1-2, 1st in OUA. No change):
- Thursday: 1-0 W v. Toronto
If there was going to be a time when the Gryphons would be vulnerable, it would be during the FISU Games. Both reigning Goaltender of the Year Val Lamenta and head coach Rachel Flanagan were in Kazakhstan, but Aurore Beaulieu held down the fort. In her five appearances this season, the rookie has given up five goals, all while keeping two shutouts. Did someone say goaltender of the future?
The Gryphons aren’t out the woods just yet, with their remaining four games coming against playoff-bound teams, including a match-up with second-place Nipissing on the final day of the regular season.
#3 – Alberta Pandas (15-4-3-4, 3rd in Canada West. No change):
- Friday: 4-2 W @Lethbridge
- Saturday: 4-3 W @Lethbridge
The Pandas were on their game once again this weekend, extending their winning streak to nine. Alberta has been brilliant since November, owning an incredible 16-2 record over that span. Even more impressive is that they won each of their last four games without the services of leading scorer Alex Poznikoff
Believe it or not, the biggest games of the season for Alberta are coming up next weekend. The winner of their back-to-back versus Manitoba will clinch second place in the conference and a first round bye.
#4 – McGill Martlets (13-4-0, 1st in Quebec. No change):
- Saturday: 7-4 W v. Carleton
To the surprise of no one, the Martlets have clinched the regular season title in Quebec with their victory over the Ravens. It wasn’t that the Martlets were that much better than the other teams in the conference, but they committed the fewest mistakes and fell victim to the fewest “off nights”.
McGill has by far the deepest program in Quebec, and some players who were waiting in the shadows came to play on Saturday. Shana Walker and Cora Constantinou had their strongest games of the season, while Gabrielle Davidson (back in her natural centre position) looked like her old self for the first time in almost a calendar year.
#5 – Nipissing Lakers (12-3-2-3, 2nd in OUA. No change):
- Friday: 2-0 W v. Laurier
- Saturday: 1-0 OTW v. Waterloo
Goaltender Jackie Rochefort is on quite the run. With two shutouts in less than 24 hours, she has now given up less than a goal-per-game since returning from an injury in mid-January. The fourth-year has been a workhorse for the Lakers, starting every single game she has been healthy for.
Rochefort’s play was essential to the Lakers, because Nipissing’s offense has dried-up in recent weeks; they have scored six goals in their past four games. But with an elite goaltender between the pipes, the sky is the limit.
#6 – Manitoba Bisons (16-3-2-5, 2nd in Canada West. No change in CUSN rankings):
- Friday: 3-0 W v. Saskatchewan
- Saturday: 3-1 W v. Saskatchewan
Business as usual for the Bisons, who played some really solid hockey against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Goaltender Rachel Dyke has quietly become one of the most reliable netminders in Canada, sporting a .938 save percentage while playing the third-most games in the conference. When you throw elite offensive talent like Lauryn Keen and Venla Hovi (one-two in conference points-per-game) into the mix, Manitoba is a force to be reckoned with.
The sad reality is that only one of Manitoba and Alberta can make it to the National Championships. The Bisons and the Pandas are guaranteed to meet in the second round of the playoffs, with the winner earning a trip to Kingston, and the loser going home.
#7 – Saint Mary’s Huskies (18-2-3, 1st in AUS. Up one spot):
- Friday: 4-3 OTW @St. Thomas
- Saturday: 3-1 W @UPEI
With the overtime victory over St. Thomas, the Huskies took the season series with their rivals, going 3-0-1. They have now wrapped-up first place in the AUS standings, despite trailing the Tommies for much of the season. Although they got points out of all four meetings, it is worth noting that three of the games were decided by one goal, which should make for a cracking AUS Championship series.
For the second straight week, Breanna Lanceleve was outstanding, recording a point on all seven goals the Huskies scored. Perhaps it is time to consider her among not only the conference’s, but the entire country’s elite forwards.
#8 – Montreal Carabins (9-7-1, 3rd in Quebec. Down one spot):
The Carabins sat idle this weekend, which is a good thing, considering they had four key players at the FISU Games. Montreal is now in a three-way battle for second place. As long as they do not finish in fourth and ultimately match-up with McGill in the first round, they should be comfortable with their chances of getting to Nationals.
#9 – St. Thomas Tommies (16-3-3, 2nd in AUS. No change):
- Friday: 4-3 OTL v. Saint Mary’s
After leading the league for most of the season, St. Thomas will have to settle for second-place. They did all they could against Saint Mary’s, including tying the game with a dramatic last-minute goal, but fell victim to a stunning goaltending performance but the Huskies’ Rebecca Clark. With a scoreline like this one, you wonder what kind of effect fifth-year captain Kelty Apperson (FISU) would have had on the outcome. Apperson will be available come playoff time
All is not lost for the Tommies however, as it seems to be a formality that they will play Saint Mary’s in the AUS finals. Furthermore, it seems highly unlikely that STU will be upset before the finals, so a Nationals berth is all but guaranteed.
#10 – Concordia Stingers (9-7-1, 2nd in RSEQ. First time being ranked):
- Saturday: 3-1 W v. Ottawa
Thanks to a four-game winning streak, Concordia has vaulted themselves into the playoff conversation. Some around the league are even speculating that the Stingers could be favored to go to the National Championships.
Goaltender Katherine Purchase is looking like the player who won the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year Award. She is still a ways away from her .959 save percentage of two seasons ago, but Purchase is clearly playing with a new-found confidence. Concordia is perhaps the best “team” in all of Canada, in the sense that they do not have any players who truly stand out from the rest. Marie-Pascale Bernier, Stephanie Lalancette and Audrey Belzile are a dynamic trio of rookies up front, but the Stingers supporting cast has really come into their own over the past couple of weeks.
Jackie Rochefort, Nipissing Lakers: As mentioned above, Rochefort has been stellar since returning from injury. Her individual statistics are impressive, but her conference-best .813 winning percentage is even more attractive. Wall
Breanna Lanceleve, Saint Mary’s Huskies: Lanceleve was in on every goal the Huskies scored last weekend, extending her point streak to twelve games. She has also scored multiple points in six straight, and has an eye-popping +26 rating on the year. Flying
Olivia Atkinson, McGill Martlets: Playing on a line with Melodie Daoust certainly helps, but Atkinson is in the midst of a dominant sophomore season. After only recording four goals and eight points last year, she now leads the conference with twelve goals. Prolific