Sunday Morning Skate: U Cup Day 4

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was sitting in my ‘Journalism’s Best’ course at the back of the room, eagerly anticipating the start of UPEI and Moncton, the first game of the 2017 U SPORTS MHKY season. I remember I couldn’t care less about the lecture that day, all that matter was the game at hand. Here I am six months later, still blowing off assignments in anticipation of the most important university hockey games of the year. Today, day four of the U Cup, is the final punctuation mark on another season of Canadian university hockey.

Top Stories:

1. The most surprising performance from the 2017 U Cup easily has to be StFX losing 8-0 at the hands of Saskatchewan. The X-Men’s eight game win streak is abruptly snapped, as StFX seemed to be right in the thick of the game after the first period. The next 40 minutes were a nightmare for the X-Men, who had no answer for Saskatchewan’s onslaught of goals, and couldn’t find a way to beat Jordon Cooke either. It’s a disappointing end to StFX’s season, especially knowing they had a shot to take out UNB in the final had they won this game. An 8-0 on national television isn’t a great look either, as it’s hard to imagine this game would’ve drawn many viewers.

2. The Saskachtewan Huskies finally found their regular season form again yesterday, and it spelled bad news for a StFX team who didn’t have their A game at all. The Huskies looked much faster than they did against York, and capitalized on nearly every single chance they were given. The game served as a breakout for Logan McVeigh, who’s been searching for offence ever since his successful regular season campaign came to an end. Jordon Cooke continues to be flawless, and his back-to-back shutouts is a first at the U Cup since UNB’s Travis Fullerton in 2011. This was the kind of game that can win Saskatchewan the gold on Sunday.

3. Another impressive outing from the UNB Varsity Reds who just looked like the better team in their 3-0 shutout victory over the Acadia Axemen. Nobody should be happier about this win than Etienne Marcoux, who had his best game in a few weeks time. Gardiner MacDougall has always been one to protect his players, so on the outside, he’s always supported Marcoux. But after playing the way he did against Acadia, MacDougall can rest a little easier on the inside. He’s a big believer in his team, who haven’t done much wrong all tournament. But they’ll have to be as precise as ever to beat Saskatchewan in the final.

4. It may be for bronze, but the Acadia Axemen have a big game coming up where they can take a second round exit from the playoffs and still salvage themselves as the third best program in the country. Robert Steeves hasn’t flinched as one of the best goalies in this tournament, and defensively, Acadia did a nice job of limiting UNB’s chances on Saturday afternoon. The lack of production on the powerplay however lead to a number of missed chances, and that’s where the Axemen simply need to be better in order to win. If they can’t find a way to execute better offensively against StFX, it’s going to be a disappointing end to Acadia’s season.

5. Since the University Cup changed it’s format is 1998, there have only been two coaches to go on to win a national championship after taking CIS coach of the year honours. Mike Kelly did it with UNB in 1998, while Clarke Singer did it with Western in 2002. Dave Adolph looks to become the third coach to do this, and the first since Singer in ’02. Adolph has already become only the seventh coach to make it to the championship final as a national-level coach of the year.

Other News/Notes

– In defeating StFX, coach Dave Adolph now has 600 career wins. When asked what a national title would mean on Sunday, Adolph responded with, “It means I’ll probably keep my job for another year. Other than that, no pressure.”

– Between Etienne Marcoux and Jordon Cooke, the 2017 U Cup has equaled a record for most shutouts in a single tournament with three. The feat was accomplished last during the 2005 U Cup, and before that in the 1975 edition.

– This year marks the first since the tournament format change in 1998 that the fifth and sixth seeds are meeting in the national final. Never before has the sixth seed won, while the five seed has done it twice.

– Nothing more I can say past this, but there’s ample reason to believe that 2018-2019 could be the next year we see an ex-NHLer suit up for a university hockey team.

Sunday’s Games:

#2 StFX vs #8 Acadia: 9:30am AST

The only thing worse than losing a game 8-0 is having to turn around after a loss like that and play another game at 9:30am the next morning. But StFX won’t make any excuses. They see this game as a chance to go out on a winning note, which certainly means something to these players no matter what anyone says. Acadia looks at it the same way. After two disappointing results in the AUS playoffs, a bronze would be a big accomplishment for the Axemen this year. This bronze medal game may turn out to be better than some people think, with both teams having reason to be motivated.

#5 UNB vs #6 Saskatchewan: 1:00pm AST

It’s easy to look at this matchup and see it as two lower seeds squaring off in the final, but Saskatchewan and UNB have been matched up as the number one and two teams in the U SPORTS rankings each year. By those rankings, the two best programs in the country will meet in the final. Coming off a much better game against StFX, Saskatchewan should have no issues with confidence or nerves in this one, and the same goes for UNB. The Varsity Reds are the class of the league, but Jordon Cooke has been flawless at the U Cup thus far. The first goal of this game could go a longer way than usual in determining the final outcome. Expect the stars to shine bright in the biggest game of the season.