Thursday Morning Skate: U Cup Day 1

The wait is finally over. After a two days of build up as teams arrive (or at least try to), the 2017 U Cup is set to kick off with the Alberta Golden Bears and Acadian Axemen featuring in the first game on Thursday afternoon. But before they drop the puck at centre ice, here’s everything you need to know from around the league heading into the tournament.

Top Stories:

1. The trivial travel tribulations of the Queen’s Gaels and McGill Redmen have been the dominant story of the U Cup ever since the Gaels had their flight cancelled from Toronto on Monday afternoon. The Redmen had intended from the beginning to take the bus, and now both McGill and Queen’s are stuck in the middle of Québec, about a 4-6 hour bus ride away until the morning of the tournament. Queen’s reportedly attempted to have their game time changed against UNB, but were denied. It’s an incredibly unfortunate break for either squad, and could put both teams at a serious disadvantage.

2. Philippe Maillet received the U SPORTS player of the year honour during the Wednesday night awards banquet. Jordon Cooke receives his second goalie of the year award, while Dave Adolph takes coach of the year, Jordan Murray takes defenceman of the year again, Elgin Pearce is the country’s most sportsmanlike player Aaron Armstrong grabs the Randy Gregg Award, and Anthony DeLuca wins U SPORTS rookie of the year.

3. The Carleton Ravens are on the recruit board after they added Ottawa 67’s forward Jared Steege last week Tuesday. A local product of the Ottawa Valley Titans minor hockey program, Steege is having a decent overage season with 14 goals through 49 OHL games and plays a stable role with the 67’s. He’s not going to be a top five point producer on Carleton next year, or at least that isn’t the expectation, but he has the potential to blossom into a real solid player for Carleton down the road.

4. The Queen’s Gaels added a body for 2017-18 over the weekend, as Penticton’s Duncan Campbell has committed. Although he’s a tier two recruit, Campbell has 148 games of WHL experience as a forward with the Brandon Wheat Kings, including three games at last year’s Memorial Cup. Campbell doesn’t pack a ton of offence, but he’s another quality forward added into the fold for Queen’s in ’17-18. It’s been guys like Campbell that have been key for Queen’s when necessary this season. 

5. Minor addition over the last week as Dalhousie adds forward Jonathan Cyr from Hawkesbury in the CCHL. Cyr put up 68 points this regular season in the CCHL and has been a mainstay with Hawkesbury for a number of years now. He’s a forward with good size, which makes him a typical Dalhousie player, but what he’ll actually play like with Dalhousie could be a mystery until training camp is over.

6. Jeremy Beaudry left the UQTR Patriotes this week in favour of a pro contract with the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL. It’s a blow to UQTR’s blueline, who lose Beaudry after just two seasons in addition to Martin Lefebvre, Charles David-Beaudoin, and Raphael Boudreau.

7. UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall, never one to shy away from the mic, had this to say in the coaches press conference.

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, UNB and Queen’s are gonna play at three. We’re gonna have a lot of grit, and we’re gonna have a lot of speed. And in UNB’s game number seven, a victory will take us one step closer to hockey heaven. It’s not all about the days, you wanna be bold, but if you make the days count, you’ll find a way to gold.”

Other News/Notes

– Spoke with Kevin Bailie yesterday who mentioned to me he’s treating this U Cup like it’s his last. Bailie will return for another season at Queen’s, but with how competitive the OUA East is, you can’t blame him. Queen’s has the right mindset and attitude going into the tournament, but will it be enough to make a difference against UNB?

– The Gaels are definitely up to something on the recruit front involving a pair of OHL catches, both of which are impact players.

– UPEI supposedly has a few done deals, but they’re not showing their hand for now. Still very early in the recruit season, AUS info will start to spill out in April.

– The McGill Redmen will be without Daniel MilneAlex Chenevert, and Jan Kaminsky at the U Cup. All are out for the season with injury.

– StFX won’t have Anthony DiFruscia at the U Cup.

– Jordan Murray will be back in the lineup on Thursday night against Queen’s after missing the AUS final due to a suspension incurred for shooting a puck at SMU’s Hunter Garlent late in game four of the AUS semi’s.

– UOIT Ridgebacks assistant coach Paul Ranger was named in the 2017 Whitby Sports Hall of Fame induction class on Thursday morning. Ranger, a Whitby Ont. native who played his junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals, came to UOIT this year to study kinesiology and help out the men’s hockey team on the side. Ranger spent 323 games in the NHL between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thursday’s Games:

#1 Alberta vs #8 Acadia: 1:00pm AST

Alberta comes into the tournament after knocking out the Saskatchewan Huskies in a three game Canada West final, while Acadia gets in as the AUS consolation final winner. Acadia is a big strong team that can skate, but Alberta has been playing their best hockey of the season lately. Whether or not Alberta can handle Acadia’s physicality will go a long way in determining who wins this game.

#4 Queen’s vs #5 UNB: 7:00pm AST

As mentioned, the Queen’s travel woes don’t exactly get them off to a running start against UNB. Meanwhile, the Varsity Reds will be as comfortable as ever at home where they’ve lost only once all season. Kevin Bailie will have to be huge for the Gaels to win this, but Queen’s might just be the most motivated team in the tournament. UNB won’t be happy either having lost in the AUS final, and a first round loss in front of the hometown fans would be terrible for them.