Plenty of representation from this province in U Sports national championships this week
Eight Newfoundlanders — seven players and a coach — begin their quest for Canadian university titles today as U Sports national hockey championships get underway in Lethbridge, Alta., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
In Lethbridge, Tyler Boland of St. John’s will look to follow up on his performance in the Atlantic University Sport men’s final earlier this month as he and his teammates on second-seeded University of New Brunswick look to secure the David Johnston Cup and the Varsity Reds’ third national crown in the last four years.
Boland had four goals in two games — including a hat trick in the clinching contest — as UNB swept the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in a best-of-three AUS final last week.
It was very much a continuation of the sophomore forward’s regular-season performance; Boland was runner-up in scoring on the 2018-19 Varsity Reds with 38 points in 30 games (good for fourth overall in the conference) and was second in the AUS with 19 goals.
While Boland may statistically be the most prominent player among Newfoundlanders competing in Lethbridge, it is St. FX which will have the largest representation from this province.
The X-Men, who fill the AUS’s second berth in the nationals, have three players — rookie defenceman Adam Holwell and third-year forward Marco Cuomo, both from St. John’s, and fourth-year blueliner Aaron Hoyles of Gander.
And the team is guided by Brad Peddle of Goulds, in his 14th season as head coach for St. Francis.
While UNB rolled to a 30-2-3 overall record (including 5-0 in the AUS playoffs) this season, the X-Men didn’t have it nearly as easy, enduring an injury-plagued regular schedule, finishing in third place with a 15-12-3 record, and getting outscored 100-90 in the process. Then, for much of the playoffs, they were without a number of key personnel — including Peddle and Hoyles — as the result of lengthy suspensions arising from a brawl in a late-season game against the Acadia Axemen.
But while it may have taken a couple of to-the-limit series wins over the Axemen and Saint Mary’s Huskies, the latter in come-from-behind fashion, St. FX is back at the big U Sports dance not only as the sixth seed but also as returning national runners-ups from last year, when they lost to the Alberta Golden Bears in the final.
There’s also one player from this province with a non-AUS team. That’s Michael Constantine of Conception Bay South, a defenceman with the seventh-seeded Carleton Ravens.
The 22-year-old Constantine, a former standout in the Maritime Hockey League, is in his second season with Carleton, which finished third in the Ontario Universities Association (OUA).
Alberta returns as the No. 1 seed, with Queen’s, Guelph, Saskatchewan and the host Lethbridge Pronghorns rounding out the eight-team field.
While the quarter-final round begins today, both St. FX and UNB play their first games Friday, when the Varsity Reds take on Carleton and the X-Men face Ontario champion Queen’s.
There are two players from Newfoundland competing in the U Sports women’s hockey championship in Charlottetown.
Abby Clarke of Springdale will finish out her collegiate career in the tournament. The fifth-year goaltender for the St. Thomas Tommies was named the most valuable player of the recently completed AUS women’s championship, which saw Fredericton, N.B.-based STU win its first-ever conference title.
The Tommies got by St. FX 2-1 in the best-of three conference final. Overall, Clarke was 4-1 in the playoffs, posting a 1.61 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. with one shutout.
That performance led to Clarke being named the latest AUS female athlete of the week.
St. Thomas is the fourth seed for the Charlottetown tourney.
Like the men’s tourney, the Alberta women are ranked first. Montreal, Guelph, McGill, Manitoba, Toronto and the host UPEI Panthers complete the eight-school lineup.
The Panthers’ lineup includes first-year forward Jolena Gillard of Deer Lake, who was named to the AUS 2018-19 all-rookie team after scoring eight goals and adding seven assists in 21 regular-season games.
UPEI was knocked off by St. Thomas in the AUS semifinal round.
The Panthers play their quarter-final against Montreal tonight. St. Thomas takes McGill in a Friday-evening contest.
Boland's 38 points in 30 games was impressive, but he was not the leading scorer among Newfoundland players in U Sports men’s college hockey during the 2018-19 regular season.
That honour goes to Cody Drover of Grand Falls-Windsor, who had 40 points (15G, 25A) for the University of Ottawa GeeGees.
Drover, in his third year at Ottawa, was named a second-team Ontario association all-star.
The GeeGees were knocked out in the second round of the conference playoffs by eventual champion Queen’s.
An injury meant first-year sensation Maggie Connors of St. John’s wasn’t in the lineup for the Princeton Tigers in their ECAC conference semifinal against the Cornell Big Red last weekend, but there is a chance Connors will play again this season.
Cornell, whose lineup includes Amy Curlew of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, defeated Princeton 3-2 in double overtime in the playoff game.
However, seventh-ranked Princeton did earn a berth in the NCAA championship tournament, which begins Saturday. As of Wednesday, it hadn’t been announced whether Connors, who earned a bevy of Ivy League, conference and national honours last week, will be able to play when the Tigers take on second-ranked Minnesota.
Curlew and the Big Red are also in the final eight. Cornell, which lost to Clarkson in the ECAC final, will face Northeastern on Saturday.
The NCAA quarter-final winners advance to the Frozen Four national championship next week in Hamden, Conn.