Monday, 21 March 2016

The Rundown - News and Notes

With the CIS season now officially over, there was some hardware handed out last week to the best players playing CIS women's hockey. The men also played their national tournament, I have a bit of a rant to get out, and there's some rumblings inside the CIS that should bother a number of schools. I want to run through all of this today as we close down The Rundown for this season!

CIS Award Winners

There are always award winners at the end of a season, and the CIS is no different. The women who play in Canadian university hockey are some of the brightest, most talented women I know with the heavy emphasis that the CIS puts on the student portion of "student-athlete", and they should be commended not only for their on-ice contributions but for their effort in the classroom as well. Just because the CIS singles out the best hockey players doesn't mean that the hundreds of women playing in CIS hockey across this great nation shouldn't be recognized. Congratulations on being the next great leaders of country, business, and industry, ladies!

BRODRICK TROPHY: awarded to player of the year in CIS women's hockey.

NOMINEES: Kelty Apperson (St. Thomas, AUS), Mélodie Daoust (McGill, RSEQ), Valerie Lamenta (Guelph, OUA), Iya Gavrilova (Calgary, CWUAA).

It's hard to not award any of these ladies the trophy for the best in the land this year, but one player stood out to the CIS voters: goaltender Valerie Lamenta of the Guelph Gryphons. Lamenta was a walk-on to the Gryphons team in her freshman year, being given the number-three spot on the depth chart. Lamenta's hard work pushed her into the backup role behind Stephanie Nehring before she grabbed the starting job this year from the senior. She finished first in the country with 0.99 GAA, a .957 save percentage, and a .889 winning percentage on her way to a 16-2 record. She helped the Gryphons to a CIS-best 21-2-1 record as they won the OUA championship. Lamenta's play in the nets was outstanding in her 18 appearances, and she truly earned the Player of the Year award.

WINNER: Valerie Lamenta, Guelph Gryphons.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: no explanation needed on this one, right?

NOMINEES: Rebecca Clark (Saint Mary's, AUS), Mélodie Bouchard (Ottawa, RSEQ), Katrina Manoukarakis (Queen's, OUA), Jaycee Magwood (Regina, CWUAA).

While it was disappointing to see Magwood miss out on this award after watching her a lot this season, Ottawa's Mélodie Bouchard was named as the top rookie. Bouchard scored nearly two points per game, finishing the season with 10 goals and 22 assists in 19 games. Her PPG pace of 1.68 was second only to McGill's Mélodie Daoust's 1.70 PPG in the country, and she helped Ottawa's power-play unit rank first in the nation with a 24.4% mark. Her 22 assists for Ottawa also set a new mark for the school as well.

WINNER: Mélodie Bouchard, Ottawa GeeGees.

TIMEX COACH OF THE YEAR: self-explanatory. I hope.

NOMINEES: Chris Larade (Saint Mary’s, AUS), Yanick Evola (Ottawa, RSEQ), Rachel Flanagan (Guelph, OUA), Sarah Hodges (Regina, CWUAA).

As we've seen with most coaching awards, it goes to the most-improved team. Of the four teams above, Saint Mary's made an 11-point jump in the standings. There went from a .500 record at 11-11-2 to first-place with a 17-6-1 record and an AUS championship banner, their first banner since 2010. Head coach Chris Larade did an outstanding job with this crew, especially when you realize he had a freshman goalie carry this team in Rebecca Clark to go along with an improved offence and better defence. Larade certainly had an impact on his younger team this year.

WINNER: Chris Larade, Saint Mary’s Huskies.

MARION HILLIARD AWARD: awarded to the player who shows a high level of hockey while maintaining excellent grades and contributing in her community. As an aside, I feel this award is the most prestigious of the four awards because it really shows which player wears the logo on the front with an immense amount of pride.

NOMINEES: Sarah MacNeill (Dalhousie, AUS), Olivia Sutter (McGill, RSEQ), Courtenay Jacklin (Queen's, OUA), Janelle Froehler (Alberta, CWUAA).

All four women were exceptional nominees for the award, but it was Alberta's Janelle Froehler who was named the winner. Froehler was the captain of the Pandas, and helped her team to top-spot in the CWUAA with her seven goals and 13 points. Off the ice, Froehler's accomplishments were impressive. She volunteered the Steadward Centre for Personal and Physical Achievement, read to local elementary school children and the Edmonton Girls Hockey Association during a local reading week in Edmonton, and also helped organize a fundraising game to benefit student-athletes mental health. She did all of this while maintaining a high average in her chosen discipline of physical education and recreation.

WINNER: Janelle Froehler, Alberta Pandas.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners on amazing hockey seasons!

It's Rant Time!

While I fault no one but the CIS on this, can I ask a question about a rule that seems to go completely against the idea of finding a national championship team? Why on earth does the CIS use the shootout in the women's game to decide games in the national championship tournament, but they let the men play all day and all night? If it was just about which team has the best breakaway players, why bother having a tournament at all?

Look, I get that there are time limits for regular season games. Most teams have to travel at some point, so playing regular season games in a finite time makes sense. But when teams go through the playoffs playing deep into the night only to have that option taken from them at the national tournament? That's wrong on so many levels. Shootouts remove every piece of "team game" from hockey, and this tournament is about finding the best team in the nation.

UBC played well enough to keep the Guelph Gryphons at bay. The Gryphons continued to find ways to generate shots on Danielle Dube, and it seemed like it was a matter of time before one of those shots found the back of the net. Instead, the Gryphons and Thunderbirds were forced into the skills competition with a berth in the gold medal game going to the winner of the breakaway challenge.

The men, who I'll highlight below, saw the Saskatchewan Huskies play 13 periods of hockey in two games! They went to four overtime periods in the quarterfinal against Carleton, and then needed three overtime periods to find a winner against St. Francis Xavier! And yet the women play one measly ten-minute overtime period before going to a shootout. Is that right? Is that fair? Is that equal when it comes to men's and women's sports getting a fair and equal shake?

Nope. Not even close. This needs to change immediately, CIS. Do the right thing, and make it about the teams. Individual breakaways are a crap way to miss out on a gold medal, and anyone who thinks differently needs a serious reality check.

So How About The Men?

The men play a much simpler "win-and-you're-in" style of game. There is no consolation side in the men's tournament, so teams either win or go home. Basically, a three-game win streak gets you a gold medal on the men's side. There is a bronze medal game, though, so the losers in the semifinal games will play one more for a chance at some hardware. How did these eight teams do? Let's recap!

Thursday saw OUA East's Carleton Ravens battle the Saskatchewan Huskies in a game that should be on a number of "Greatest CIS Games Ever" DVDs. If they had those. Tied 2-2 with 4:40 to play in the second period, the next goal would come at 6:11 in the fourth overtime period! Parker Thomas scored unassisted on Carleton's Patrick Killeen after 66:11 of extra time to put the Huskies into the CIS semifinals. Jordon Cooke made 58 saves in the win while Killeen took the loss after stopping 66 of 69 shots he faced in seven periods of hockey.

The other quarterfinal on Thursday saw the StFX X-Men stomp a hole in the CWUAA finalist Alberta Golden Bears. Alberta led 2-0 after one period, but StFX stormed back in scoring six unanswered goals over the final 40 minutes to take this game by a 6-2 score. Michael Clark scored a hat trick for the X-Men while Eric Locke picked up three helpers. Drew Owsley stopped 43 of 45 shots he faced, including 18 in the third period, in what was a goaltending clinic in the X-Men end while Luke Siemens allowed five goals on 26 shots in the loss.

Friday's first quarterfinal saw the AUS' University of New Brunswick meet up with OUA West's Western. UNB scored three goals in the opening period and added two more in the third period before Western's Cody Brown broke the shutout with a shorthanded marker with 5:34 to play. The ice, however, was definitely slanted towards to the Western net. Etienne Marcoux stopped 14 of 15 shots in the 5-1 win while Western's Greg Dodds stopped 40 shots in the loss.

The second quarterfinal saw the AUS' Saint Mary's Huskies square off with OUA East's UQTR. Tied 1-1 going into the third period, the Huskies broke it open with a pair of goals from Anthony Repaci on the power-play and Ben Duffy. Guillaume Asselin would pull Trois-Rivieres within one goal with 46 seconds to play, but UQTR would not find the equalizer before time ran out as the Huskies advance with a 3-2 victory. Cole Cheveldave picked up the win with a 27-save performance while Sebastien Auger made 30 saves in a losing effort.

The first semifinal saw the St. Francis Xavier X-Men meet the Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday, and this was another one that could be added to the "Greatest CIS Games Ever" DVD set. Saskatchewan and StFX would be tied at 1-1 at 7:37 in the second period, and we wouldn't see another goal until 17:35 of the third overtime period! Michael Clarke scored on a power-play at 17:35 in the third overtime period when he stepped into the left face-off circle and sent a wrist shot past Jordon Cooke that ended the game. Drew Owsley was big again in helping the X-Men to a win with his 55 saves while Cooke took the loss despite making 61 saves. StFX advances to the gold medal game while Saskatchewan moves to the bronze medal game.

The second semifinal featured Saint Mary's and UNB in an all-AUS matchup. Unfortunately, it was a pretty one-sided affair. UNB led 1-0 after the first period off a goal by Christopher Clappert. They led 2-0 after 40 minutes as Philippe Halley doubled the lead. Halley then decided to casually complete the hat trick in the third period with a pair of goals, including one on the power-play, to sink the Huskies. UNB will move to the CIS men's final with the 4-0 win. Etienne Marcoux had another quiet night in making just 13 saves for the shutout win while Cole Cheveldave stopped 28 of 32 shots in the loss. UNB will tangle with StFX in the final while Saint Mary's gets Saskatchewan in the bronze medal game.

BRONZE MEDAL GAME: Maybe it was fatigue. Maybe the opposition just played better. Whatever the case, the Saskatchewan Huskies looked a lot slower than the Saint Mary's Huskies on Sunday, and they paid for it. Saskatchewan held a 2-1 lead just 31 seconds into the second period, but you could sense that 13 periods of hockey previous to this game was catching up to them. While players will tell you that it's no excuse, you could see Saint Mary's just running them out of gas, especially in their own zone where the cycle game was draining on the prairie Huskies. Saint Mary's would score the final four goals of the game as they took the bronze medal in a 5-2 defeat of Saskatchewan. Cole Cheveldave stopped 17 shots in the win while Jordon Cooke made 26 stops in the loss.

GOLD MEDAL GAME: UNB and StFX met in a rematch of the AUS Final, but this one had the stakes of being the best team in the country added to it. Christopher Clappert put UNB up seven minutes in with his goal, but the teams would go to the dressing rooms tied at 1-1 after Zack Macqueen scored with 11 seconds left in the frame. Francis Beauvillier put the Varsity Reds up 2-1 while on the power-play at 9:02 of the second period, and UNB would take a two-goal lead just 17 seconds later when Tyler Carroll found the back of the net. The X-Men would push for an equalizer, but all they would find would be the pads of Etienne Marcoux who stoned StFX the rest of the way. At the final horn, the UNB Varsity Reds became the gold medal winners in CIS men's hockey with a 3-1 defeat of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men! Marcoux stopped 22 shots in the win while Drew Owsley made 27 saves in the loss.

Congratulations to all the men's teams on an amazing season, and to the UNB Varsity Reds for claiming the gold medal!

A Strange Thought

I hesitated on adding this, but I think it needs to be put out there so that it can be discussed. There was a rumor swirling around Calgary that the heads of the CIS were going to sit down to revisit the women's draw in the CIS. The rumor was one of eliminating a team from one conference to allow a third Ontario team into the tournament. This may seem like a good idea to draw fans with the next two national women's tournaments held in southern Ontario, but it's very short-sighted on the CIS's behalf.

The RSEQ, which traditionally has very strong teams, only has a five-team conference. Canada West, which has been sending powerful teams in the last few years, has an eight-team conference. The AUS is a seven-team conference, but there is strong support and a good amount of competition there. Cutting a team from any of these conferences to add another OUA team, which is a 13-team conference, seems illogical. Adding a third OUA team makes little sense when the host - Queen's next year and Western the year after - may not be in the OUA final. The CIS should really reward the four champions and four finalists for their efforts. Those eight teams should make up the tournament.

Alternatively, if they are looking to cut teams, make it a round-robin tournament with five teams - the four champions plus the host - and let the teams have at it. Granted, that style of tournament will take much longer than the four days currently assigned to the tournament, but this tournament is about finding the best team IN CANADA, not in just Ontario.

C'mon, CIS. Use your heads on this one, and keep representation equal among the conferences.

Of course, if you want to discuss any of this stuff, the comment section below is great for chatter! Hit me with your comments and I'll respond!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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