The hope of making the final five weeks of the OUA East schedule semi-halfway intriguing rests on the shoulders a group of men who wear yellow and call themselves Gaels.
A Nathan turns his lonely eyes toward the OUA West. That division has a three-way tie for first place and seven teams in the hunt to host a playoff game. It's a bit like the OUA East last January, when it had five of the country's top 12 teams and Carleton was a looking a little shaky and inspiring inane ramblings about their hitting a mental wall or something.
This time around, it's almost in a holding pattern until the playoffs. Who hosts the likely Ottawa-U of T semi-final is about all that hasn't been settled. Carleton's unbeaten, while Quene's looks to be locked into fourth. That's why fingers are tightly crossed that the young Gaels can at least beat either of those teams. It's a footnote now, but Queen's one-point win on the Gee-Gees' floor ultimately put them on the road for the final, which Carleton won after losing both regular-season meetings vs. Ottawa.
It's a lot to ask for a team that plays almost all freshmen and sophomores, but coach Rob Smart wouldn't be playing all those young guys if he didn't think they were capable. At the very least, the Gaels look like they might be able to hang in with Ottawa. Mitch Leger and the Gee-Gees' Dax Dessureault are an even match in the post. The Gee-Gees have had problems shooting three-pointers in their two conference losses, with both the takes (only 21) and the makes (just five). Queen's would rather hit the court in those throwback nuthugger shorts the L.A. Lakers wore a couple weeks ago than give an opponent an open look at a three, so do the match.
The Gaels are a year or two away, but beating Toronto next weekend or getting a win against Ottawa would be a great indicator for next season.
As for all three:
- Gee-Gees: There have been enough hints dropped that the U of O was cruisin' for the bruisin' they got on Saturday, losing 71-65 to the U of T Varsity Blues. It is a young team and Josh Gibson-Bascombe, who has held to seven points, can be stymied.
- Ravens: Stu Turnbull was top scorer in Friday's win over the U of T, then Aaron Doornekamp was in Saturday's win over Ryerson. There's a real danger people are taking the Ravens for granted. They're flesh and blood. Only 13 days till the game at Scotiabank Place.
- Gaels: Accolades are in order for rookie guard Daniel Banister, who hooped 14 on 5-of-6 shooting in Saturday's blowout win over rebuilding Laurentian.
- Hometowners: Kingston's own Pawel Herra, a Regi-Notre Dame grad, scored 12 points, all on three-pointers, during McGill's 55-52 win over Bishop's on Sunday. In certain circles, 12 points from four triples is called a McKegney, after a sweet-shooting sixth man of days gone bay.
- Ravens: The dream scenario is it that Carleton's first season will come down to their final game, Feb. 9 vs. Ottawa (it's actually the Gee-Gees' second-last game, but let's run with it).
Fred Parker's club has five in a row on the road, including two apiece at Concordia and Trois-Rivières, both tough places to play. Andrew Gibbons is working his way back into form and Doug Jewer's been solid in goal; suffice to say no one would want to see Carleton in the post-season.
Trois-Rivières and McGill have the first and third seeds locked up in the eastern half of the OUA, here's the games left/points situation for the other playoff contenders:
Queen's: 7, 22 (division leader)
Ottawa: 7, 22
Carleton, 7, 22
Toronto: 7, 20
Concordia: 9, 19
Ryerson: 7, 17
RMC: 7, 16
- Gee-Gees: One of the U of O's strong points is a knack for always coming up with a win before a slide really comes (a good talent to have in a league where a five-game tailspin can mean no playoffs). The Gee-Gees gutted out a 2-1 shootout win over Brock on Sunday while on a short turnaround after losing in a shootout the night before in Guelph). Yanick Charron and Dan McDonald converted in the shootout. Charron, who also had the regulation-time goal, is 6-for-6 in shootouts this season. (Hat tip to Dan Carle.)
The Gee-Gees also tend to play up to their competition. Thy will have to do it this weekend in a home series vs. Trois-Rivières.
- Gaels: A split in Windsor (Brady Olsen had a hat trick in the 8-3 win on Friday) is a giveback after the upset vs. Laurier. The good news is Toronto lost 9-2 to Laurier and has more tough games left. Does everyone realize there's a distinct possiblity of a Queen's-McGill playoff series?
This weekend was the season in a nutshell for the women's hockey Gaels: They played two home games vs. Brock in two different arenas and ended up with a pair of 2-2 ties after twice giving up the tying goal in the final four minutes. Katie Boyd stopped 68-of-72 shots over the two games.
Since Queen's has called Napanee a temporary home this season, this is as good a time as any to note that next fall's national under-18 women's hockey championship is being held in Avril-ville. It's probably the most high-profile sports event ever to come to town, although the fastball and walleye fishing crowd might beg to differ.
There's more basketball coverage over at The CIS Blog.