1. When Kameron Kielly announced his commitment to the UPEI Panthers, many figured his presence would give the Panthers’ forward unit a boost. But few could have foreseen him leading the country in points on the AUS’ highest-scoring offence through the first four games. Offensively, it’s been a dynamite start for UPEI who feature Darcy Ashley, Marcus Power, and Brent Andrews who are all off to great starts. But the reality is that UPEI’s 20 goals haven’t counted for as much as they should have. Their 19 goals against is second-most in the AUS, and as a result have won only two of those four games. It is a promising start for the Panthers, but for this team to finally disrupt the top four in the AUS, they need to have better defence and steady goaltending. Matt Mahalak returned against UNB on Saturday, but promptly allowed five goals. Even for the most potent offence in the league, it’s impossible to expect to win consistently when you rely on out-gunning your opponents every night.
2. Business as usual for the UNB Varsity Reds who take down Moncton and UPEI en route to another perfect week. Alex Dubeau grabbed his fourth career AUS shutout, but his first since a 4-0 win vs St. Thomas on February 10, 2015 with a 2-0 blanking of Moncton. Fellow netminder Rylan Parenteau picked up his first career AUS win in his first start, with the victory over UPEI. Although all seems well in Fredericton, you have to wonder how Gardiner MacDougall feels about his roster space. It’s no secret, the V-Reds are looking to add bodies for second semester, but they’re in a jam right now with no scratches to spare. Defenders Trey Lewis, Tristan Pomerleau, and Matt Murphy have all missed a game so far. That’s fine for now, but if UNB ever runs into injury trouble this semester, it could create for some stressful times. But as one AUS coach told me last week, there’s an advantage to UNB’s situation too. “I think all the ice-time is great for those guys. Their conditioning is great, they never get tired. So they’re probably happy to be able to get everyone in the lineup”. We’ll see how long that remains true.
3. Another crazy week is in the books for Acadia who went back and forth in a 5-4 loss to StFX, and barely scraped by the Dalhousie Tigers in a shootout. Dawson Carty lasted just 3:29 into his start against StFX before being pulled in favour of Robert Steeves after allowing three goals on four shots. Acadia stormed back to tie it at 4-4, but with 1:12 to go in the third, Matt Needham scored the winner for the X-Men. Acadia’s goaltending has been suspect early on, and their defence has suffered a couple big losses in Geoff Schemitsch and Matt Pufahl, who are both out until Christmas at the earliest. The injury bug bites especially hard in the AUS where the Axemen defenders will need to step up their play in the coming weeks. Look for Marc McNulty and Alex Lepkowski to have increased responsibility in the next few weeks.
4. The struggles of SMU‘s power play from a year ago were well documented when they finished the season with a lowly 10.5% clip on the man advantage — fourth worst in the entire country. This year’s power play isn’t exactly off to a great start either, having gone 2-for-20 in their first four games. But there’s still plenty of time to sort out of the kinks. Furthermore, there is lots of reason to believe the SMU power play will hit its stride sooner or later. Players like Hunter Garlent and Anthony Repaci are two of the very best offensive weapons in the conference, and after an impressive showing from Jake Coughler this week, he looks to add his name to that same conversation sometime soon. It has been an average start to the season for Saint Mary’s, but it has also been around what the expectation was for this team so far. This coming weekend they’ll take on UNB in a rematch of one of the 2016-17 AUS semifinals.
- J.F. Plante is on a four game goallless drought, which isn’t very long, but it is the longest of his AUS career since he went without a goal for eight games between November 14/15 and January 15/16.
- The StFX X-Men stay perfect after another 2-0 week. Game-winners from Matt Needham and Mark Tremaine do the trick in two, one-goal games.
- Although they limit UNB to just two goals, defence was still an issue for Moncton this week, who drop both contests to the V-Reds and UPEI.
- Former Dalhousie Tiger standout Phil Gadoury was released from his pro deal with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL. He’s currently a free agent with university eligibility remaining, but don’t expect a return to Dalhousie soon for Gadoury.
Sam Studnicka, F | StFX X-Men
Nice week all around for Sam Studnicka who adds a goal and two assists between wins over Acadia and Saint Mary’s. Now in his second season, Studnicka’s leadership qualities and work ethic made him an attractive recruit out of the OHL for StFX, but towards the end of last season he showed some offensive flare that bloomed late in his OHL career. Studnicka does a multitude of little things the right way, which helps StFX on a nightly basis. But in games where Studnicka scores, the X-Men are 11-1.
Vincent Deslauriers, F | Moncton Aigles Bleus
The play of Vincent Deslauriers is well regarded within the UdeM program, but to the rest of the country, they have yet to be introduced to Moncton’s next lethal weapon. Deslauriers had some decent numbers in the QMJHL over his last two years, but nothing overly impressive. So far, he’s been Moncton’s best offensive player through their first two weeks. It’s well known that Moncton is in rebuild mode and if Deslauriers continues to play well, he’ll quickly become a big part of it.
Key Games This Week:
Acadia vs UNB | Friday, October 20, 7:00 pm ADT
Anytime two nationally ranked teams clash it is worth keeping an eye on. This is an Acadia program not far removed from finding ways to beat UNB just one season ago, largely on the shoulders of a breakthrough performance from Robert Steeves. With an injury-riddled lineup, this could be the opportunity for some other Axemen players to break out against UNB, just as Steeves did a year ago.
UPEI vs SMU | Friday, October 20, 7:00 pm ADT
If the SMU Huskies have been tested at times already this year, they’re in for a big one this weekend with UPEI and UNB on the docket. Friday’s contest against the Panthers should be an excellent matchup of two different teams who can score. If it is anything like last year’s AUS quarter-final matchup, this one will come down to the wire.
1. With Philippe Cadorette a late subtraction this offseason and Julio Billia out with injury, Marc-Andre Element’s Plan C worked to perfection in a 3-2 victory over McGill. Marc-Antoine Turcotte made an OUA career-high 39 saves as the Concordia Stingers snuck away with the win. Despite losing 5-4 to Ottawa the following night, Turcotte went on to best his career-high again, making 47 stops. Concordia still has goalie Antoine Dagenais on standby if need be, but Turcotte will be the starter until Billia gets back in the fold. It’s amazing that just a few years ago Concordia goaltending was among the worst in the country, yet here they are having had four different ex-QMJHLers on the roster recently. Concordia’s defence seems to be the final piece of the puzzle. Carl Neill looked good in his Stingers debut, as did forward Alexis Pepin who tallied three goals over the weekend. Goaltending shouldn’t ever be a worry for the Stingers this season, who can focus on playing better in front of their netminders.
2. The Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens battled in another fantastic showdown of capital hill clubs on Thursday as their rivalry continues to grow. After Carleton took a 5-2 lead, the Gee-Gees battled back to tie it and send the game to overtime. But Brett Welychka crushed any hopes of a comeback with his OT winner. Carleton’s late offseason additions of Fabian Walsh and Dalen Hedges are off to good starts and lead you to believe that maybe Carleton haven’t regressed as much offensively as initially thought. For Ottawa, Kevin Domingue and Eric Locke are producing out of the gate, while the Gee-Gees wait to see who else emerges from the pack.
3. In their quest to return to the national stage, the Queen’s Gaels get their season started right with wins over Laurentian and UOIT. The 4-0 win over UOIT marks Jacob Brennan‘s fourth career OUA shutout, but still pales in comparison to Kevin Bailie‘s 11. Queen’s received offensive contributions from Slater Doggett and Darcy Greenaway as expected, but also saw Luke Edwards and defenceman Brandon Prophet chip in with three points each. This Queen’s team already looks deeper than last year, and if they manage to stay just as consistent, their first week of action is an indication of things to come.
4. The Jeremy Brodeur sweepstakes are back on across the country. After being cut from both ECHL and AHL training camps, Brodeur will likely latch on with a team in the SPHL for the next month or so. Although Brodeur still has intentions to play pro hockey, he is seriously looking at his university options for the new year, where he’d be eligible to play right away. Early reports are he’s interested in playing for a big-city university. Ryerson and McGill certainly fit the bill and are candidates for Brodeur. Out east, as expected, the UNB Varsity Reds are showing interest too but Brodeur is by no means a lock to end up there. Should Brodeur land in the OUA before season’s end he becomes one of the best goaltenders in the conference and can bolster a crease for a deep playoff run for the school he attends.
- For the second-straight week RMC‘s Riley Brandt gets a mention in TMS. Having scored a goal in each of RMC’s three games, he finds himself tied for the conference lead in goals. If he stays tied, or takes over the OUA lead in goals after week three, he becomes the first Paladin in over a decade to lead the OUA in scoring after three weeks of play.
- In both games, the Nipissing Lakers have turned to freshman Brent Moran for the start. Interesting considering Domenic Graham is a third-year veteran who has played well for the Lakers in the past.
- This week Ottawa’s Anthony Brodeur became a multi-sport student-athlete when he competed at the OUA Golf Championships for the Gee-Gees, who placed second in the OUA. Brodeur finished T-19th overall with a first round 77, and a second round 75.
Elie Berube, D | Patriotes de l’UQTR
Elie Berube finishes up with a nice week after scoring in both victories against Nipissing. On Friday, Berube notched the OT winner, then followed that up with a second period marker on Saturday to improve on his single goal output from a season ago. Offence wasn’t the primary reason UQTR wanted Berube, but they’ll take whatever they can get from their d-corps this year. Berube is one of only a handful of returning defenders, and his contributions and ‘lead by example’ play on the ice are important elements to his game with UQTR this year.
Games to Watch:
Guelph vs McGill | Friday, October 20, 7:00 pm EST
After blowing a 4-0 lead, the Gryphons will be looking for retribution against McGill. The Gryphons have a nice roster on paper, and when firing at all cylinders, they can hang with anybody in the league. They’ll have to be doing just that if McGill show up to play, which they typically do. Guelph’s speed and flare coupled with McGill’s ability to capitalize on turnovers creates for an intriguing matchup.
1. Clarke Singer experienced every coach’s worst nightmare this week when both of his ex-OHL goaltenders went down with injury, leaving the starting job to former Barrie area high school netminder Nicholas Legallais on opening night for the Western Mustangs. Having never played at a level remotely close to U SPORTS hockey, Legallais was thrust into a difficult situation where he allowed nine goals to Waterloo in a 9-3 loss. Jr. C product Dan Davies eventually relieved Legallais in the third, but the game was already well out of hand. It highlights a conundrum that every school is vulnerable to. Unlike pro or junior teams, university clubs have no resource to turn to for emergency relief goaltending. In some cases schools will even look to their intramural leagues (like Laurier in 2015 with Harrison Pharoah). As a result, many coaches opt to recruit three goaltenders (such as Ryerson, McGill, and UPEI). But finding the proverbial third-stringer to sit in the stands on a nightly basis is easier said than done. Word is that Liam Herbst made the trip to Waterloo and is closer to a return than Lucas Peressini. Singer was rumoured to be on the phone with every Jr. B team within earshot looking for a goalie who was enrolled at Western, but with no luck, he’ll have to hope his top goalies are ready to go on Friday.
2. Ryan Medel’s coaching debut for the U of T Varsity Blues will go down as a success, as his record in the OUA as a head coach stands at 1-0 after a 3-1 win over Waterloo. A surprise to some, Frederic Foulem drew the opening night start over fifth-year goalies Andrew Hunt and Michael Nishi. Meanwhile, it was fellow first-years Hunter Atchison and Luca Leone who led U of T offensively to the win. The Varsity Blues have some good veteran pieces in Charlie Connell, Aidan Wallace, and Matt Campagna, but for a rebuilding program, production from the faces of tomorrow is a very welcome sign. As anticipated, the Varsity Blues look tougher to beat then they were a year ago. After shocking York in the first round of the 2016 OUA playoffs, and shutting out UQTR in a 2017 ‘upset of the year’ candidate, who knows what surprises the Varsity Blues have in store for us this season.
3. The Ryerson Rams offered us no shortage of entertainment this week in a couple thrilling OT victories over Guelph and Windsor. The Rams capped off their biggest comeback since December of 2011 against UOIT, when they stormed back from a 4-0 deficit to topple the Gryphons 5-4 in overtime on Thursday. Sunday’s game was nearly the opposite for Ryerson who led 3-0 halfway through the third against Windsor, but blew the lead before a Matt Mistele overtime winner. Aaron Armstrong becomes the all-time Ryerson leader in shorthanded markers with six after another one against Guelph. No question, the Rams’ offence can score on anybody, but this team has yet to put together a full 60 minute effort.
4. The Waterloo Warriors saw their offence explode in the season opener against Western, only to have it peter out against U of T in a 3-1 loss the very next game. The Warriors had their struggles offensively last year, especially on the power play which was notoriously ineffective in the regular season. Keigan Goetz has looked great in his first few games as a Warrior, but it is the returning forwards from last season that could take Waterloo’s offence up a notch. Players likes Zac Coulter and Michael Siddall were offensive leaders in their rookie seasons, while a bounce-back year for Joey Champigny would be huge for Waterloo.
5. The Lakehead Thunderwolves are showing an awful lot of faith in Nic Renyard already this season. After being yanked early in the second period of Friday’s first game against Laurier, he was right back in the T-Wolves’ net the following night where he made a brilliant 46-save effort in a 2-1 shootout loss. We figured Renyard would be an experimental player coming out of the NCAA, but it’s hard to get a read on him after a weekend of polar opposite starts. For the rest of the team, there definitely seems to be less punch in their offence compared to a year ago. Billy Jenkins and Sam Schutt are still high-end OUA forward pieces, but the lack of scoring depth compared to previous seasons seemed apparent against Laurier.
- New coach, but same style of play. Pretty obvious Russ Herrington doesn’t want to change much structurally with the York Lions who start their year 2-0. Who can blame him? I wouldn’t mess with a Queen’s Cup winning system either.
- After a hit to the numbers of Ryerson’s Jared Walsh, Windsor Lancers captain Blake Blondeel will receive a three-game suspension, and potentially even more pending a conference review.
- Impressive start for the Laurier Golden Hawks who storm out of the gate 2-0 with a pair of wins over Lakehead. In two opposite games, Laurier managed to show both offensive and defensive ability. Both games showed us something Laurier hasn’t had for years: a well-rounded program.
Kyle Jenkins, D | Laurier Golden Hawks
The addition of Kyle Jenkins to Laurier’s roster in the offseason was expected to be a big acquisition for the Golden Hawks, and it certainly looked that way this weekend. His two assists on Friday helped Laurier offensively, and he drew the top assignments defensively in both games. But he particularly stood out in game two on Saturday where he needed to be on his toes against Lakehead. So far, Jenkins is coming as advertised.
Games to Watch:
Queen’s vs Ryerson | Saturday, October 21, 7:00 pm EST
Potentially the best team Ryerson will see in the regular season, the Queen’s Gaels are ready to march into Mattamy Athletic Centre with all their guns on display after dropping a 4-0 contest to the Rams last year with their stars out of the lineup, participating in the FISU Games. Ryerson’s potent offence hasn’t seen a goalie quite like Kevin Bailie, which could create for a very entertaining affair should Bailie be on his A-game.
1. The Mount Royal Cougars and Regina Cougars had two of the more incredible weekends in recent Canada West hockey history, as two struggling programs threw absolute bombs. Regina took game one on Friday in a 7-6 shootout decision, while MRU narrowly avoided the sweep after a 5-4 shootout win of their own. With five minutes of 4-on-4 followed by another five minutes of 3-on-3, shootouts are rare in Canada West, let alone two in a row. With the win on Friday, Regina snap an 18-game losing streak (previously the longest active in U SPORTS) with their first win since November 18, 2016. Mount Royal turn around their poor fortune as well, snapping a nine-game regular season losing streak. But there is still clearly room for improvement on both sides. Defence is clearly an issue for both teams, but the starts for Regina’s Brody Luhning and MRU’s Brad Kennedy are encouraging.
2. Same old, same old from the Alberta Golden Bears this week as they sweep the Manitoba Bisons. Luke Philp continues to pile on the assists adding another three, while Cole Sanford and Stephane Legault are rolling offensively. Adversely for Manitoba, a 1-3 start is not what they had in mind. Nick Zajac looks like he could really come alive this year, but the rest of the offence was stymied this week. Not having Remi Laurencelle in the lineup hurts, but with the talent Manitoba have on their top six, their scoring should still be able to hold up with the rest of the conference. Manitoba had a very pedestrian start to last season after high expectations heading into the regular season, but pieced together a fantastic second semester. One has to wonder if this year is following a similar script, after a fairly underwhelming first two weeks.
3. The Saskatchewan Huskies won both of their games against Lethbridge this week, but it wasn’t by much. The Huskies needed double overtime to close out Lethbridge on Friday after a controversial non-call leading to the OT winner (seen here at 1:25), that left Mitch Maxwell and the Pronghorns furious with the officials. The Huskies went on to win by a 5-2 margin on Saturday to stay undefeated on the year. Last season, the Pronghorns played Saskatchewan hard in all four matchups, despite only winning one. At times, the Huskies had some issues with Lethbridge’s speed, which also proved to be a problem against UNB in last year’s national final. While it may be a small weakness for the Huskies, they are still a fantastic team that is off to a perfect start.
4. With another season of Matt Greenfield in the crease, most figured the Calgary Dinos would be tough to score on again this season. But after allowing no more than one goal in regulation throughout their first four games of the season, Calgary is looking nothing short of incredible. The Dinos have limited opponents’ shot totals to an average of around 27 per game, which is great by U SPORTS standards. Ryan Gagnon has slotted right into a shutdown role on the Dinos defence, in addition to the already established Drydn Dow and Dylan Busenius. If Aaron Irving and/or Colton Bobyk ever wind up in a Dinos uniform this year, Calgary makes a serious case for best defensive group in the nation.
- A disappointing week for the UBC Thunderbirds who get outscored 13-1 in their first home stand of the season. Like last year, their penalty kill is off to a rough start at just 64.3%.
- The Saskatchewan Huskies were still without Jaimen Yakubowski and Michael Sofillas last week. Two pretty big subtractions from a Huskies offence which has still been great in their absences.
- Five of Regina’s last nine wins have seen the Cougars score five or more goals. Surprising considering the struggles this team has gone through.
Tristan Frei, F | Regina Cougars
The Regina Cougars victimized the Mount Royal Cougars for a whopping six power play goals this week, two of which came from Tristan Frei. Frei was a bright spot for the Cougars in 2016-17, posting 16 points as a rookie on an offensively-limited team. After chipping in on one of Regina’s biggest offensive weekends in a long time, his numbers are lost in the fray (or Frei depending on how you pronounce it). So far, good start for Frei who has three points in his first four games.
Jared Hauf, D | Calgary Dinos
Jared Hauf is one of those players who can have the best weekend of his university hockey career, and barely anyone will notice. He’s not very offensive, but his big 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame make him one of the biggest, burliest, and brawniest defenders in the country. Hauf is a defence-first player who is strong enough to deal with any forward in Canada West. Hauf’s +6 rating ties him with Chris Collins for best +/- on the Calgary roster, and is the stat that best reflects his ability to shut down the opposition. Calgary has allowed only four goals in their first four games, part of which Hauf is to credit for.
Key Games This Week:
Alberta vs Calgary: Friday, October 20, 7:00 pm MDT
The early season promise from the Dinos is very encouraging for the program, which appears to have the most potential to upset the current power balance in Canada West hockey. In order to do that, they will have to beat the Alberta Golden Bears. A win doesn’t turn the conference on its head just yet, but it would be a big statement victory for Calgary. This will also serve as the biggest test of the season so far for Calgary’s immaculate defence.
Lethbridge vs Mount Royal | Saturday, October 21, 6:00 pm MDT
Apart from Alberta and Saskatchewan, the rest of the conference is wide open with MRU and Lethbridge right in the thick of things. Mount Royal is still trying to get back on track after a disappointing start to the season, while Lethbridge needs to have a good first semester, especially with a bid at nationals in 2019 on the line. Saturday’s game should be a motivational one for both teams, regardless of the outcome on Friday.