Tuesday Morning Skate: Week 3, October 24, 2017


Top Stories:

1. The Acadia Axemen come away with a big statement week after a crucial 3-2 overtime victory against UNB and a commanding 8-2 victory over UPEI the following night. The Axemen fell victim to some goaltending troubles early in the season, but Robert Steeves and his 42-save performance against UNB suggest those early season struggles were just a blip on the radar. Another bright spot for Acadia was the combination of Kyle FarrellOwen MacDonald, and Ryan Foss, each putting up four points against UPEI (1G, 3A each). Multi-point games are becoming a theme for Farrell, while Foss’ outburst was a surprise, and a four-point night was something MacDonald only did once during his OHL career. Every top team in the AUS has depth, and Acadia’s top three lines are no exception, with players that can burn you on any given night.

2. The penalty kill of the UPEI Panthers fell apart in abominable fashion this week after failing to kill off any of SMU’s five power plays on Friday, then allowing another two power play goals to Acadia on Saturday in an ugly 8-2 loss. UPEI have allowed a power play goal in each of their first six games, and their PK% of 58.8% is third-worst in the entire country. Not to mention UPEI’s team save percentage is a dismal .857%, with only the Moncton Aigles Bleus owning a worse number in that category amongst all 35 programs. We figured out that the Panthers can score and even after scoring just two goals this weekend, it shouldn’t change that perception. But there are some clear patterns early that indicate this team still has a ways to go defensively. The Panthers are in a strange position on the outside looking in at the top four powerhouses in the AUS (UNB, StFX, Acadia, SMU) and they’ll never break into that bunch until they can find ways to improve their 5.60 team GAA.

3. The StFX X-Men are now the undisputed kings on top of the AUS standings with a perfect 6-0 record after wins against Dalhousie and Moncton. With both opponents on deck again this week, an 8-0 start to the season should be very much in play for the X-Men. Not only has StFX won six-straight to start the season, their offence has been rock solid through all six games. The offence has strung together at least four goals in five of those six games which will give you a chance to win in most cases. Defensively, the X-Men have had some close calls, but when one part of the team starts to struggle, there has always been somebody else there to pick them back up. It may take a while before we start to see cracks (if any) in StFX. But as they showed us last year at nationals, sometimes things can fall apart quicker than expected.

4. It is always news when UNB loses in this day and age, and that doesn’t change after they lost 3-2 to Acadia in overtime. UNB now sits second overall in the AUS standings, and are likely to lose their top spot in the national rankings after Alberta stayed undefeated out West with two hard-fought wins over Calgary. But there is still nothing to worry about in Fredericton. UNB still has an unblemished record at home in the regular season over the last two seasons, and there are a few pieces of their roster that are starting to really fit snugly into their system. Namely Tyler Boland, who now has seven points in his last three games and is an impressive 66% on face-offs over the last two weeks.

5. We’ve been waiting ages for SMU‘s power play to break through, and this week they finally did. Saint Mary’s popped off for five power play goals against UPEI and added another on the weekend against UNB. Anthony Repaci and Aaron Berisha reaped the benefits for the most part, combining for four of those power play markers, but Hunter Garlent also had four assists on the man advantage. Speaking of Garlent, he is already at the 57-point mark after just 36 games in his university career. To put that into perspective, one of the best AUS players in recent history, Marc Rancourt, only had 45 points through his first 36 career AUS games.

Other Notes:

  • If Jagger Dirk scores at least one more goal this year (which he likely will) he’ll join Max IaFrate, Joshua Day, and Spencer McAvoy as the only StFX d-men to score more than five goals in a single season since 2010.
  • Judes Vallee gave Brandon Thibeau a fair shot at the starting job to start the season for Moncton, but after a few suspect performances, it looks like Alexi Thibaudeau will get a shot to prove he is Moncton’s man between the pipes this year.
  • The Dalhousie Tigers blew a 3-1 lead to Moncton Wednesday, but managed to recover in the shootout thanks to a goal from Aiden Jamieson who also had two in regulation. Over 203 career OHL games, Jamieson never had a multi-goal game.

Unsung Heroes:

Nathan Pancel, F | StFX X-Men

Scoring three goals in a single weekend of AUS hockey action is hard not to notice, but it is especially important for Nathan Pancel. After scoring against Dalhousie and twice vs Moncton, Pancel equals his goal output from a season ago. After scoring 11 for StFX in 2015-16 and having been a 40+ goal scorer in the OHL, last year’s offensive numbers were a big disappointment for Pancel. Offensively active once again this week, it is a good sign that Pancel is making frequent appearances on the boxscore once again.

Mark Trickett, D | SMU Huskies

After missing a large chunk of his AUS rookie season suffering from mono, Mark Trickett is off to a very solid start in his sophomore season. Now a feature on the back-end of SMU’s power play, Trickett added a couple points on the man advantage this week, including a goal against UNB. A healthy and motivated Trickett can be a game-changing defenceman, and that has been the case so far.

Key Games This Week:

Acadia vs UNB | Friday, October 27, 7:00 pm ADT

A week after Acadia handed UNB their first loss since the 2017 AUS Final, these two teams will go at it again, this time from Fredericton, N.B. That’s a key factor, considering Acadia was the last team to beat UNB at the Aitken Centre in a regular season contest, doing so on October 30, 2015 with a shootout winner from Zach Franko. Two very different rosters for this week’s game, but still two ultra-competitive AUS programs capable of going blow-for-blow.

OUA East:

Top Stories:

1. Not much changes this week for the McGill Redmen who coast by the cross-over competition of the Guelph Gryphons and Brock Badgers this week. McGill piled on a massive 26 shots in the first period of their game against Brock, and lead the OUA with 246 shots on net (second place UQTR has 202). Alex Sills has quickly established himself as a number-one centre for McGill, and Frederic Gamelin is showing promise in an increased role with a point-per-game thus far. Still without Daniel MilneDylan Montcalm, and Nikolas Brouillard, there is still potential for McGill to get even better should they stay healthy as the season progresses.

2. Brent Sullivan gathered his first career win as a head coach with the Ottawa Gee-Gees this week when they took down the Windsor Lancers 3-2 on Friday. It’s a nice opportunity for Sullivan, who filled in for head coach Patrick Grandmaitre who is away taking care of his newborn son, Frederic. It is actually the second time Sullivan has taken over head coaching duties, as he was forced to fill in for Grandmaitre in a game against Guelph when he came down with a serious stomach virus on the road. This week the Gee-Gees get RMC on the road and McGill at home, as they attempt to rebound after an ugly 7-3 loss to Western. The usual suspects of Kevin Domingue and Eric Locke are off to hot starts, while the play of defenders Matthew Dunlop and Jean-Robin Mantha have impressed the coaching staff early this season.

3. The Concordia Stingers‘ suffered a close loss in overtime to Ottawa last week, but barely flinched this week with wins over Guelph and Brock at home. Anthony Beauregard looks ready to bear the weight of Concordia’s offence with four goals this week, including a hat-trick. Alexis Pepin and Scott Oke are also piecing together great offensive starts for Concordia who got another two solid outings from goalie Marc-Antoine Turcotte. But arguably the most encouraging stat thus far is Concordia’s penalty kill, which is operating at 94.7%, third-best in the league. Concordia’s penalty kill was average at best last season, and the big question recently with this program is can they play defence? Maybe a defensively minded captain in Philippe Hudon has done the trick this season.

4. It was an up-and-down week for the Queen’s Gaels who lose a winnable matchup against U of T on Friday, but rebound to squeeze by nationally-ranked Ryerson on Saturday, 4-3. Offensively, it has been a great start for Luke Edwards who leads the Gaels with four points after red-shirting last season. But what really stands apart for Queen’s early is the depth this team has. Coach Brett Gibson isn’t afraid to roll all four lines, and has one of the most versatile defensive groups in the conference (even with Nevin Guy out long-term with a broken ankle). Jacob Brennan continues to make a case for the country’s best backup netminder, as even though he takes the loss to U of T, his career numbers in the OUA stand at a record of 14-3-3, 2.04 GAA, .931 SV%, and four career shutouts. But even those numbers pale in comparison to Kevin Bailie‘s career 2.28 GAA, .932 SV% and whopping 11 shutouts (playoffs included).

Other Notes:

  • McGill’s Alex Sills becomes the first player in U SPORST MHKY to score a Mario Lemieux hat-trick (one PPG, one SHG, and one even-strength goal in the same game) since Acadia’s Sam Fioretti did so against Moncton on February 4, 2017. Sills accomplished the feat in McGill’s 7-4 win over Guelph on Friday.
  • Old news at this point, but still worth noting. UOIT lost both Everett Clark and Bradley Power during training. Both had second thoughts about playing with the Ridgebacks, and neither are expected to play university hockey this season.
  • Going back to last season, the RMC Paladins scored their first power play goal in seven games against York on Saturday. Scoring isn’t ever going to be RMC’s strength, but the power play needs to be better for RMC to come away with more frequent wins.
  • On a team so renowned for dominating the scoresheet with QMJHL talent, the leading goal-scorer on the UQTR Patriotes right now is Flin Flon Bombers product Jason Lavallee. Mind you, ex-Acadie Bathurst Titan standout Christophe Boivin is right there with him.

    Unsung Heroes:

    Dalen Hedges, F | Carleton Ravens

    Without Mike McNamee on the roster this year, there was a gaping hole on the Carleton Ravens top six. Early indications are Dalen Hedges is the guy to fill that position. Highly coveted by Marty Johnston during his time with the Ravens, Hedges has made the jump from the NCAA and has seamlessly become an integral part of Carleton’s forward unit. This week he registered the game-winner against Western, and posted Carleton’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Windsor.

Games to Watch:

Concordia vs Queen’s | Saturday, October 28, 7:30 pm EST

A battle of the only two teams in the OUA East that have yet to be defeated in regulation this year should create for a terrific clash. These are the games Queen’s needs to win should they have any intent to get back to nationals this year, while Concordia will certainly remember that this is the same Gaels team that knocked them out of the playoffs a season ago. Another matchup of a lethal offence against an impenetrable defence and goaltending.

OUA West:

Top Stories:

1. The U of T Varsity Blues turned some heads very quickly this week when they took down the nationally-ranked Queen’s Gaels in overtime, 2-1. Evan MacEachern played the role of hero, scoring both of U of T’s markers, doubling his university career goal total in a single game. Ryan KirkupLuca Leone, and Josh Hanson have also impressed as the Varsity Blues currently own a winning record. The Varsity Blues suffered their first loss to UOIT after blowing a two-goal lead in a third period in what was a disappointing effort all around. But you had to know there would be a few road bumps along the way this season. Not to fire up the hype train prematurely, but don’t forget it wasn’t that long ago the York Lions went from worst to first in the OUA West under a new coach with a virtually identical roster. To me, it’s more difficult for U of T to do that now, especially with Ryerson and York in their division, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see U of T comfortably nestled in the midst of the OUA standings come January.

2. The Western Mustangs still don’t have either of their OHL goalies back in action, but that didn’t stop them from winning their first game of the season against Ottawa with Dan Davies between the pipes. Davies, who’s been a nice surprise for Western, stopped 45 of 48 shots sent his way by the Gee-Gees and now sports a very nice looking .920 SV% on the season. Not bad for a goalie, who before his relief appearance against Waterloo, hadn’t even hit the ice in a month. Apart from the goaltending, Western’s forwards are looking more like what we expected against Ottawa. Steven BeyersKolten Olynek, and Chris Corbeil were all involved offensively and seem to be getting a grasp of the team’s systems. The Mustangs might still be exposable in their own zone at the moment, but their forward unit has to be taken a lot more seriously than last year.

3. Going back to last regular season, the York Lions are 8-0-2 in their last 10 games. When it comes to efficiency, nobody has grabbed more points than the York Lions have in the OUA West over the last two seasons. Week One suggested it, this week proved it for good; the York Lions play an identical system to last year. Like they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As a result, Mack Shields is off to another strong start, and it’s mainly the familiar faces leading the way offensively. Although Kyle Campbell‘s five points have been a welcome surprise to start the year. This week the Lions will match up against Ryerson on Saturday night at home, a place where they’ve had great success specifically against the Rams recently.

4. The Ryerson Rams lost their first regular season game at home since November 5th/16 when they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Queen’s Gaels. In a back-and-forth game that saw the Rams control the play in the third period, goaltending ultimately let Ryerson down on Saturday. For a team with all the offence and depth in the world, goaltending was one of the biggest questions for this team coming into the season with the late departure of Charlie Graham. Mario Culina had a great preseason, but after his first two starts in the OUA, Taylor Dupuis appears to be the better goalie at the moment. The one thing separating the Rams from every other top team in the OUA right now is a clear-cut number one goalie. York, Queen’s, McGill, UQTR, and Concordia all have one. That could wind up being the difference this season for Ryerson when it comes to contending and pretending.

5. As suspected in the offseason, offence is going to be a battle for the Lakehead Thunderwolves this year. After being limited to just one goal against UQTR at home in a pair of losses, the only Thunderwolves player with good numbers through the first two weeks is Scott Gall. Gall’s three goals have been a nice surprise for a team that was without Billy Jenkins again on Saturday. Elsewhere, Nic Renyard was ok, and Dylan Butler is also off to a decent start. But Lakehead’s 0-3-1 record is not a great start to a season where there’s more questions about this team than answers through the first two weeks of the season.

Other Notes:

  • Minor addition for Lakehead. They bring on defenceman Aaron Wesley-Chisel out of the Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL). He saw his first OUA action Saturday against UQTR.
  • Another minor addition sees the Brock Badgers add defenceman Dale Deon who last played for the Nipissing Lakers in 2015-16. After sitting out a season, Deon joined Brock’s blueline Saturday against McGill.
  • Don’t expect either Lucas Peressini or Liam Herbst to be ready for Western on Thursday. But at the moment, it appears Herbst is closer to a return than Peressini.
  • The Windsor Lancers are back in trouble with the OUA, more specifically Alex Friesen. After receiving a five minute major for slew footing, Friesen is suspended indefinitely along with Blake Blondeel in addition to the injured ToddRatchfordJustice Dundas and Jack Van Boekel
  • The Waterloo Warriors are scoring 5.00 goals per game, and ex-MJAHL wrecking ball Daniel Perigo is leading the way with seven points. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.

Unsung Heroes:

Frederic Foulem, G | U of T Varsity Blues

Evan MacEachern will get most of the credit for U of T’s upset over Queen’s on Friday (and deservedly so), but the Varsity Blues don’t even get to OT without their netminder, Frederic Foulem. After finishing last season with the Dieppe Commandos in the MJAHL, Foulem outplayed two fifth year goalies at U of T to win the starting job, and has posted a .943 SV% (fifth in OUA) through his first three starts of the season. Impressive for a goalie no one gave much of a thought of in the offseason.

Games to Watch:

Western vs Guelph | Thursday, October 26, 7:30 pm EST

Really disappointing week for the Guelph Gryphons who drop both contests to Concordia and McGill. They are in dire need of a bounce-back week against another in-conference opponent. With Western still expecting to have Dan Davies in the net, the Gryphons smell blood, but as Ottawa found out last week, you can’t sleep on the Mustangs’ forward unit.

Canada West

Top Stories:

1. The Alberta Golden Bears are now one of three perfect teams in the country with a sweep of the Calgary Dinos this week. It didn’t come easy, with Friday being a 7-5 slugfest win, and Saturday’s contest turning out to be a 3-2 OT thriller. If anything, it suggests the Golden Bears can win any type of game they find themselves in, which only a select few programs in this country can say. Not only is Ablerta’s offence plentiful, but it’s about as widespread as anybody else in the league with 14 different goal scorers already, none of which are Trevor Cox or Luke Philp. For Calgary, losing two to Alberta is definitely a set-back, but at least their game on Saturday shows they can hang with the Golden Bears. Falling behind multiple goals early to Alberta will always lead to a very tough uphill battle the rest of the way, and that’s a good part of the reason Calgary fell short in both games. They can thank Drydn Dow for a late marker with two seconds to go in regulation in game two for the extra point.

2. The Saskatchewan Huskies looked a lot more normal in their 4-3 OT loss to the Manitoba Bisons this week, but quickly silenced any doubters with their 6-0 win the following night. Ultimately the Huskies couldn’t hold on to a 3-2 lead late in the third period as they were shorthanded, and finally lost in overtime where they’ve gone 10-3 since the beginning of 2015-16. For Manitoba, a three assist performance from Brett Stovin shows he’s still one of the best play-makers in the conference. Kamerin Nault has three goals, which is already a great improvement from his single marker last season. On the downside, after posting four assists in his first two games, Michael St. Croix has been held off the scoresheet in each of his last four games.

3. Just hours after CUSN’s Adam Shell posted an article explaining the early season struggles for the Mount Royal Cougars they turn around and sweep the Lethbridge Pronghorns. After a very strong rookie campaign, Jamal Watson has quickly become a leader for MRU, and his four point weekend led the way for the Cougars. On the Lethbridge side, with a national championship bid on the table, the pressure is on for them to prove early this year that they’re capable of contending at the U Cup tournament. Their 1-4-1 start doesn’t suggest that they are yet. Not saying it’s desperation time for the Pronghorns yet, but the urgency for a win (if not a sweep) this week has to be extremely high.

4. UBC takes home a couple of hard fought wins over the Regina Cougars this week at home. The T-Birds were down 2-1 to Regina on Friday night before storming back late in the third to win 4-2, and received some more third period heroics on Saturday to win 3-2. Michael Stenerson scored the eventual game-winner in both contests for UBC who now has three goals this season as an ex-NCAA D1 transfer. Austin Vetterl appears to have absorbed the offensive roles left behind by Anthony Bardaro and Luke Lockhart with 9 points through the first few weeks, including five goals, enough for second most in Canada West. But health is still somewhat of a concern for UBC with Tanner FaithShaun DosanjhGraham Millar, and Josh Connolly all out of the lineup. Regina is still showing themselves to be a tougher out than last year, which is great. But whether or not the Cougars end up on the right side of close games, like the ones against UBC, will determine how well they do this season.

Other Notes:

  • With his 6-0 shutout of the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday, Jordon Cooke ties Ryan Holfeld for second-most shutouts in Huskies program history with eight. This also ties him for fourth overall in Canada West history.
  • Not only is Luke Philp‘s country-leading 12 assists an impressive stat, but the fact he’s drawn assists on goals from six different players this years goes to show how much of an affect his chemistry has on the whole team.
  • Riley Sheen garnered some great reviews out of training camp, and so far the hype is proving to be real. He leads Calgary with five goals.
  • In less encouraging Calgary Dino news, top-recruit Ryan Graham is now in the ECHL playing with the Jacksonville Icemen along with Tyler Coulter. Graham played one game with Calgary before turning pro, but maybe his new teammates Elgin Pearce will talk him into heading back to Calgary for second semester.

Unsung Heroes:

David Stephens, F | MRU Cougars

Of the 900 Canadian-born players in U SPORTS hockey this year, David Stephens is the only one representing the Yukon. This week he represented his home-province well with a pair of two point efforts in each of Mount Royal’s wins. Now a fourth year veteran, the door is open for Stephens to establish himself as a key contributor for Mount Royal and take his game to the next step. After three years of average stats, his start to 2017-18 is definitely a step in the right direction for his development.

Kamerin Nault, F | Manitoba Bisons

If you’re looking for a way to demoralize an opponent heading into the the locker room at intermission, scoring a late period back-breaker is one of the best ways to do it. That makes Kamerin Nault one of the league’s most dreaded players. His three goals is a nice number by itself. But what’s really impressive is how all three have been scored on the power play within the final two minutes of a period. None was bigger that his third period marker against Saskatchewan with 15 seconds on the clock which set up an eventual OT winner from Zach Franko. This is clutch production coming from a guy who only scored once in the 11 games he played in as a rookie last year.

Key Games This Week:

Saskatchewan vs Calgary: Saturday, October 28, 6:00 pm MDT

After dropping both games to Alberta last week, the Dinos have a second chance to still prove themselves as a top two contendor when they play Saskatchewan this week. The Huskies are coming off a loss to Manitoba last week, but a 6-0 shutout the following night suggests their first loss will only be a speed bump this season.

UBC vs Lethbridge | Friday, October 27, 7:00 pm MDT

If there’s any game the Lethbridge Pronghorns should have had marked down on their calendar this season, it’s their first meeting against the UBC Thunderbirds. UBC slipped into the playoffs last year after one of the more miraculous late season runs in Canada West history. But it was at the expense of the Pronghorns, who were bumped out of a playoff position on the final night of the regular season.