Tuesday Morning Skate: Week 7, November 21st 2017
1. You know who doesn’t suck? The Saint Mary’s Huskies. At the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s a team the Huskies can’t beat. But that’s probably been the case for awhile considering how they’ve fared against UNB in recent history. On their six game win-streak, the Huskies power play is an immaculate 35.3%, and they’re averaging exactly 5.00 goals-per-game. With a combination of timely goaltending, a few fortunate bounces, and consistent offensive production from players that aren’t Hunter Garlent and Anthony Repaci, and you’ve managed to summarize the league’s hottest team in a sentence. Among the most encouraging producers is Aaron Berisha, who has nine points over a five game streak. He still hasn’t shot the puck very much for a guy who once scored 45 goals in an OHL season, but this is the best offensive production he’s given the Huskies since he joined the program.
2. In a rematch of titans, this time it was the StFX X-Men who got the better of the UNB Varsity Reds with a 3-2 thrilling overtime victory from the Keating Centre. Once again, the X-Men were wildly outshot 48-15, but made the most of their opportunities and received tremendous goaltending from Chase Marchand. After a somewhat average start to the year, Marchand has been terrific in his last three starts. With seven points in his last three games, Holden Cook is back among the league’s leading point-getters, but the performance of the week goes to Michael Clarke who had the OT winner and a hat-trick against UPEI the next night. UNB hates to lose, especially to StFX, but everyone has their bumps in the road. Expect Gardiner MacDougall to spin this weekend into a learning experience for the V-Reds.
3. The month of November has not been kind to Dalhousie‘s Corbin Boes. Burdened by a 4.27 GAA, a .879 SV% and most importantly, an 0-5 record, these numbers are very un-Boes like. In fact, if his numbers don’t improve, it will be his worst month since January of his rookie season. The team in front of him hasn’t been much better. I haven’t talked much about Dalhousie this year, because there hasn’t been much to talk about. They’ve lost seven straight, their leading scorer has nine points and their only two wins have come against Moncton. A good showing against UNB in a game they nearly brought to overtime Saturday is arguably Dalhousie’s most notable accomplishment so far.
4. Initially reported by french media outlets, the Moncton Aigles Bleus do indeed have a letter of intent from Etienne Montpetit. A starting goalie for Val-d’Or in the QMJHL since he joined the team in 2014-15, he’s the best QMJHL overage goalie available, and a top five goalie recruit from the entire CHL. After Moncton allowed another 16 goals in two games this week, I don’t need to tell you why they need him. The numbers speak for themselves. This is a very serious step in the right direction for Moncton. There’s still a lot of time for decisions to change, but assuming the paperwork gets sorted out and Montpetit winds up at camp in 2018-19, he gives Moncton a cornerstone in the crease. Every successful program in this country has one. From there, it’s a matter of filling out the rest of the roster in front of him. The fact Moncton pulled a big fish out of the QMJHL goalie market indicates they can do the same with other positional players.
5. For the first time in awhile, the Acadia Axemen had a normal week. No controversies, no empty benches, no wild comebacks, no shootouts, just two hockey games. They lose a tight contest to Saint Mary’s, but turn around and blowout Moncton 9-1, which isn’t a surprise given how great Acadia’s offence is. The usual suspects were at it again for the Axemen, and they received good performances in the net from Robert Steeves. They won’t be happy with the 3-2 loss, but if Acadia can keep the drama to a minimum like they did this week, it’ll probably save a few more hairs for Darren Burns.
- UPEI‘s Matt Mancina finally put together a very respectable start on Friday in a 4-2 win vs Dalhousie. Not the most lethal of teams offensively, but it doesn’t matter. This is a good sign for a goalie who’s infinitely better at his position than his AUS stats suggest.
- Remember that time Stephen Harper was injured early in 2016-17 and wasn’t really a factor in Acadia’s offence? Yeah, me neither. I thought he was the undisputed runner-up to Garlent in the ROY race, but now both players are making a case for MVP honours. There’s a serious buzz among pro scouts about both players at the moment.
- For December recruit rumours, keep your ears open for T.J. Melancon. Ex-BLB Armada D-man who led all QMJHL defenders in goals last year. He’s with Norfolk (ECHL) right now, but rumour has it the UNB Varsity Reds are hot on his tail.
Michael Zipp, D | Acadia Axemen
One of the hallowed few Acadia defenders to have played every game this year, Michael Zipp is quietly piecing together a fantastic rookie season. Zipp was thrust into a high leverage role quickly, and responded well. Tied for the lead on Acadia with a +14, Zipp leads all AUS defencemen in that category, and was somehow a +4 in Acadia’s 6-5 OT win vs StFX with the equivalent of an NBA roster dressed for the game. With some of the bigger guns back in the lineup, Zipp’s ice time will be reduced, but at this rate it won’t be long before Zipp is one of the big guns himself.
Key Games This Week:
StFX vs SMU | Wednesday, November 22, 7:00 pm AST
A matchup of the hottest team in the AUS against one of the best teams in the country, here’s another great barometer of just how good Saint Mary’s is. They’ve proven already over their winning streak that when everybody clicks in the lineup they can beat anyone in regulation. This is an X-Men team SMU is 1-1-1 against so far this year.
1. The improbable run the RMC Paladins are on has persisted into multiple weeks with another massive win over UQTR, then nearly grabbing another against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Beating UQTR three consecutive times after having never beaten them since 2005 is remarkable in itself. Doing so with the third game on the road after needing to taxi from Kingston to Trois-Rivières due to a mechanical failure on the bus makes this story all the more incredible. Years from now, people are going to look at this streak as one of the most prominent in the history of the Paladins program. Practically, this is season saver too. It’s nearly midway through, and had RMC come away 0-3 rather than 3-0 against UQTR, playoff prospects would’ve been much further away. With Laurentian in their rearview mirror, they’ll need to knock out a team like Nipissing or UOIT to make the postseason. That’s a big task in itself, but the Paladins have proved with the utmost certainty, there is no such thing as a task too tall for the Royal Military College.
2. Alright, so the UQTR Patriotes go ahead and lose three straight to the RMC Paladins, once on home ice. That’s not good. But then they turn around and beat nationally ranked Carleton the next night with 15 skaters. The OUA is truly the most inexplicable conference in the country. But what isn’t inexplicable is the play of Christophe Boivin. Marked as one of the most valuable recruits in the offseason, he’s been thrust into a high leverage offensive role right away, and has answered the call with 14 points in 11 games. But past him, Pierre-Maxime Poudrier and Mathieu Lemay there’s little to brag about. That’s part of the reason UQTR was relegated to only one goal each game over their four game losing skid. Somebody needs to provide secondary scoring for this Patriotes squad.
3. To the surprise of nobody, the McGill Redmen and Concordia Stingers linked up for a couple fantastic showdowns in Montreal on the weekend. Even though Concordia came out on the wrong side of both contests, they showed well against the OUA’s highest ranked program nationally. But what sticks out to me about this series is the fact McGill kept Anthony Beauregard off the scoresheet in both games. In four career meetings against McGill, Beauregard has registered exactly one assist. That’s a surprising stat from the OUA’s most prolific point-getter in 2017. It’s also a testament to McGill’s defence which has been impeccable in the month of November led by Nathan Chiarlitti, Francis Lambert-Lemay and Dominic Talbot-Tassi. Scary to think what this defence will look like with Nikolas Brouillard.
4. The UOIT Ridgebacks are still giving us reasons to talk about their program with four straight wins to their credit. This week they swept Nipissing and Laurentian on the road. The story remains similar from last week, with better goaltending, a great offensive showing from Mike Robinson, and nice support on the blueline from Brennan Roy. But back in the fold this week was Danny Elser who was suspended four games after a checking to the head major against Carleton on Oct. 31st. His impact was noticeable off the bat, with three points on the road. A breakout leader for this team last season, the Ridgebacks offence is marginally better with Elser producing.
5. Every week there seems to be somebody new in the country with goalie problems, and this week it’s the Laurentian Voyageurs. ICYMI: Joel Vienneau left the program last week in favour of a job with CN Rail as a conductor. It’s a great opportunity for Vienneau, but it leaves the Voyageurs with another gaping whole on a team looking like swiss cheese already. The Voyageurs have turned to backup Gunner Rivers, but he’s been pulled in three of his five starts. Backing him up this week was ex-Kirkland Lake Gold Miner Victor Olivier Courchesne. In his OUA debut against Queen’s, he allowed three goals on five shots in relief of Rivers. Now basement-dwellers in the OUA East, life isn’t getting easier for Laurentian.
- After a year and nearly a half with the Nipissing Lakers, Taylor Davis left the program on the weekend in favour of retirement. The book may not be closed just yet on Davis’ career, but he’s done with hockey for the immediate future. He departs an already shorthanded Nipissing blueline.
- Big five point week and an OT winner from Darcy Greenaway of the Queen’s Gaels. Nearly a point-per-game player now, his offensive contributions are some of the most valuable as the key to the Gaels’ secondary scoring.
- Daniel Vautour is the OUA’s hottest goalie right now with a .943 SV% and 2.14 GAA in the month of November.
- Carleton’s Brett Welychka, Fabian Walsh, Dalen Hedges, and Jared Steege were limited to just two points combined this week. As a result, Carleton lost both games to Ottawa and UQTR.
- November has been a terrific month for McGill’s Jerome Verrier who leads the OUA East with 14 points in the month of November.
Rhett Willcox, F | RMC Paladins
On a team which has primarily relied on offence from Riley Brandt and superb goaltending from Daniel Vautour, if you haven’t watched many RMC games you probably haven’t heard much of Rhett Willcox. But in the eight games he’s played this year, he’s been on the front lines of RMC’s offence producing at a point-per-game rate. His seven assists lead RMC, and he’s managed to set up five different goal scorers this year. His brother Reece was a standout with Cornell in the NCAA. Now Rhett is beginning to make his own mark in the university ranks.
Key Games This Week:
York vs Ottawa | Saturday, November 25, 7:00 pm EST
It’s another crossover week on the OUA schedule, and it presents us with a great matchup between the York Lions and Ottawa Gee-Gees. A season ago, it took double overtime to settle the score in one of Ottawa’s more memorable games recently. Taking place in the nation’s capital, these are two good teams again this season with little separation in the talent department.
1. The Windsor Lancers popped off for 12 goals against Ryerson and York after being one of the league’s worst statistical teams offensively heading into the week. On a team stockpiled with tier II recruits with some impressive offensive track records, you had to figure somebody was going to emerge at some point, but to do it in such sudden fashion is surprising. Even though this team broke out offensively, you can’t point to anyone in particular as the cause. Ryan Shaw, Kyle Hope, and Konnor Haas all had four points weeks, while Chris Scott, Brennan Feasey, and Alex Friesen all played key factors offensively in addition to Kody Gagnon‘s two assist effort in his return to the lineup vs York. Kevin Hamlin will be the first to tell you this team wins games by committee, so it’s only natural they score in that manner too.
2. At this point, the goaltenders ballad of the Western Mustangs is getting comical. This week it was ex-Oakville Blade Brendan McGlynn who jumped into the crease in a losing effort Friday before Zach Springer took the loss to Laurier on Saturday. Make it five goalies used already this year with Liam Herbst yet to return from injury. Imagine how different this season could have been if Greg Dodds returned for a fifth year. At this point, I’ll mercifully call the Western Mustangs the unluckiest team in U SPORTS men’s hockey this season. With proper goaltending, they’re not a dead last program in the OUA West, but how much better would they really be? So far, some of their high profile recruits have suffered through an unproductive transition period, and the defence haven’t done the goalies many favours either.
3. In other goalie news, the Ryerson Rams lost one of their newest acquisitions in the form of Mario Culina, who was signed by the Sudbury Wolves and joined the team on Monday. The Rams scrambled to recruit a goalie after losing Charlie Graham late in the offseason, and Culina answered the call, driving up from Windsor. His career as a Ram didn’t last long, and after being pulled after 40:00 mins against Windsor, his OUA career wasn’t a very impressive one. But one goalie’s loss is another goalie’s gain, and that’s the case for Taylor Dupuis who has done most of the heavy lifting this year, and is now the undisputed number one goalie. This might cause Brodie Barrick to see some crease time too.
4. After a very quiet start to the season, the Guelph Gryphons have arrived with authority in the OUA West top three on the heels of a six game win-streak. Todd Winder keeps his improbable point-streak going, which now sits at 11 games. Jason Da Silva continues to be terrific for Guelph, now with a .925 SV% on the season and a 6-1 record. Those two have been surprise performers this season, but it’s not really all that shocking when you consider who’s starred at the University of Guelph in the past. The Gryphons always have a few well-known major junior players in the mix, but they’ve often been accompanied by tier II products like Robert Lepine, Nick Huard, Teal Burns, and Edward Gale. This year’s squad isn’t much different.
5. The York Lions went through a very uncharacteristically poor defensive week, allowing a combined 11 goals to Waterloo and Windsor. For the first time in his OUA career, Mack Shields has numbers that actually look normal. Instead of an obscene 1.62 GAA, he’s now at 2.40 after sacrificing four goals in a 5-3 loss to Windsor. Collectively, the last three weeks in November have been very average for York. They’ve stayed healthy for the most part, but have seen all of their main statistical categories drop this month. The power play continues to be stricken at just 11.5% in November, and is one of the few elements about this York team that looks different from last year. A year ago, York’s power play was hovering around an immaculate 30%.
- The December recruit rumours are starting to pick up, and among one of the better players available is Darby Llewellyn. A career Kitchener Ranger in the OHL, he’s played nine games with the Atlanta Gladiators in the ECHL. There were reportedly conversations between he and McGill in the offseason, but at this point, the Ryerson Rams appear to be the number one contender for him in 2018.
- Another name worth watching is defenceman C.J. Garcia. He was released from the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles last week. Originally committed to Western, he wound up skating with Ryerson in September.
- The consistent production from the Laurier Golden Hawks continues again this week. Nobody on the team has stuck out individually offensively, yet they’re still averaging over three goals a game, and their power play has converted in five of the last six games.
- Still experiencing offensive difficulties, U of T‘s power play is now 1-for-22 in November after losing twice on the road to Lakehead.
- Billy Jenkins returned to Lakehead‘s lineup and registered a goal and an assist in game one against U of T.
- With Mathieu Henderson and Patrick Kudla taking most of the headlines from Guelph’s blueline, it can be easy to forget how much better this program is with Josh McFadden. Now 6-0-1 with McFadden in the lineup, he’s as good as anybody on the ice when he brings his effort and A game.
- After two points in a seven game stretch, Daniel Perigo rejoins the league’s leading point-getters with four points this week against Ryerson and York.
- Nearly halfway through the season, Clint Windsor has been piecing together a monster year. He’s made a country-leading 413 saves in 12 games. Last year’s saves leader was Brandon Thibeau, who made 701 stops in 24 games. Windsor is on pace to make 826 saves by the end of the year.
Kyle Hope, F | Windsor Lancers
On a Windsor team that blew the doors open offensively, Kyle Hope was among the team leaders with four points on the weekend, a goal and three assists. On an extremely young Lancers team, Hope is one of few OUA veterans, and this week he looked the part. An impressive junior hockey resume with AHL experience and a passion for auto-racing in the offseason make Hope one of the more unique characters in the league. On top of that, he’s showed his versatility, playing a portion of his career on defence, while stepping up to be a top six forward this year while still anchoring the power play from the blueline. When it comes to OUA hockey, Hope has seen it all.
Key Games This Week:
McGill vs Laurier | Saturday, November 25, 7:07 pm EST
The McGill Redmen present the biggest challenge for a Laurier team that’s had an exceptional start to the season. The Golden Hawks see the Concordia Stingers on Friday night, which is a huge challenge in itself, but a win against McGill would do wonders for their credibility and case for a national ranking.
1. At this point in the season, it’s become fairly obvious the top two teams are Saskatchewan and Alberta, the bottom two are Lethbridge and Regina, while the rest are bunched right up in the middle. In the thick of it are the MRU Cougars and UBC Thunderbirds. With two wins, MRU leapfrog UBC in the standings, but stay right in the middle of the pack. Cam Lanigan came alive this week in the net, and Jamal Watson continues to be great in addition to a good weekend from Connor Rankin. For UBC, they’ve negated a four game winning-streak to close out October with a four game losing skid to begin November. Despite the swings in results, the T-Birds have had more consistent efforts this year, although they can still sometimes have a hard time scoring. Their penalty kill continues to hurt them too, allowing four power play markers to Mount Royal.
1. The Saskatchewan Huskies and Alberta Golden Bears gave us two polar opposite games this week, with the Golden Bears taking Friday’s meeting 6-1, before dropping a 3-0 decision to the Huskies on Saturday. Jordon Cooke had an extremely rare lapse, allowing six goals. That’s something he hadn’t ever done before in his Canada West career, although he was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots to Mount Royal last season. On the Alberta side, Luke Philp, Cole Sanford, Trevor Cox, and Stephane Legeault were all denied points this week. That’s a lot of talent with no production to show. Matter of fact, that combo only mustered two shots collectively in Friday’s 6-1 win. Lucky for them, Jamie Crooks and Brandon Magee each dented the scoreboard with Crooks grabbing the hat-trick and Magee three assists of his own. Both of Crooks’ hat-tricks have come against Saskatchewan, and in 24 career games (playoffs incl.) head-to-head, Crooks has 13 goals, making him the active leading scorer against Saskatchewan.
2. The Lethbridge Pronghorns and Manitoba Bisons had the most entertaining series in Canada West this week with the Pronghorns squeezing out two wins, both in overtime. Down late on Friday night, Mitch Maxwell tied the game before Ryon Moser‘s recorded his first point of the year in the form of an OT winner. Maxwell was a hero again on Saturday providing his own OT winner on top of a two goal performance from Justin Valentino. For the first time this season, all the players that need to be good for Lethbridge were great. Maxwell popped off for six points, Valentino was big in game two, the defence was good enough together, and Garrett Hughson made saves when they mattered. Lethbridge isn’t going to blow anybody out consistently this year, so this week should be considered a reference point to how they win moving forward. Manitoba continue to be good at a bunch of things, but not great at anything in particular. The narrative hasn’t changed much for a team that’s heavily reliant on its top six forward unit.
4. The Regina Cougars come away with a big win against the Calgary Dinos, which may be a surprise to some. But when you ask any opposing coach what they think of Regina, they’ll all tell you it was only a matter of time until Regina took a fatal shot at one of the top teams in Canada West. In a game where Michael Herringer did not return for the third period, Dawson MacAuley had to be perfect off the bench, and he was, making 14 saves in the third. In his three appearances, MacAuley has looked impressive and very deserving of a meaningful start in the Regina net, especially with Herringer shouldering a massive workload in the first semester. This was an underwhelming week for Calgary, but you’re going to have a few of those over the course of the season. Yes, they lost in regulation to the last place team in Canada West, but there’s no reason to be concerned. Nothing about Calgary’s performance this week was drastically out of character.
- Shaun Donsanjh made his much anticipated Calgary Din…. errrr, UBC Thunderbirds debut this week and tacked on a goal in his first game against Mount Royal.
- After returning last week, Remi Laurencelle was back out of the Manitoba lineup for both games against Lethbridge.
- Although going just 1-for-7 on the man advantage this week, Regina have the fifth best PP% in the country at 23.5%. A big part of that is Brody Luhning‘s Canada West leading seven power play points and Tyler King‘s four PPG.
- As noted on Twitter, Jordon Cooke‘s ninth career regular season shutout places him one behind Jeff Harvey for the program record, and situates him behind a trio of Alberta Golden Bear goalies for top spot all-time (13, Clayton Pool). Unrelated, but still interesting; Cooke has a career save percentage of .930% vs Alberta with a GAA of 2.32 over an 8-8-1 record.
Luke Simpson, F | Mount Royal Cougars
On a Mount Royal team who’s offensive burden has been mainly carried by Jamal Watson and Bradley Kennedy, Luke Simpson is piecing together a nice month. On a four game point-streak, Simpson has six points, including a three assist performance on Friday in a win over UBC. An ex-Minnesota-Duluth commit, Simpson is a solid player when his game comes around, and is one of the more well-rounded players on the Cougars. In a year where the offence hasn’t been as plentiful as year’s past, Simpson’s contributions were key in Mount Royal’s two wins this week.
Key Game This Week:
Lethbridge vs Regina | Friday, November 25, 7:00 pm CST
Two wins for Lethbridge was a big step in the right direction, but with Mount Royal winning both games, they’re still a ways out of a playoff position. Although their match-up against Regina is a battle of basement dwellers, there’s serious playoff implications on the line. For both teams, they absolutely need to beat the other if they want to be in playoff contention this year.