By Martin Cleary
Canada + Hockey = Gold Medal.
It’s a simple equation that has played itself out for many decades on all sorts of men’s, women’s and junior levels and was clearly visible on the final weekend of the FISU World Winter University Games in Lake Placid, New York.
For the first time in a decade, the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams stormed to victory with little resistance in the largest sports festival for student-athletes (ages 18 to 25 years old).
And the rich Ottawa hockey community was part of those two major achievements.
The men’s lineup included four players and one coach with national capital connections – St. Francis Xavier University forward Liam Hawel of Kanata, former Ottawa 67’s forward Austen Keating of the University of New Brunswick, Queen’s University defenceman Jacob Paquette of Ottawa and Toronto Metropolitan University goalkeeper Kai Edmonds of Ottawa plus assistant coach Patrick Grandmaître, the men’s head coach at the University of Ottawa.
Greg Bowles, the University of Ottawa women’s hockey assistant coach and head scout, was the head coach for the Canadian women’s team and his Gee-Gees’ goalkeeper Aurélie Dubuc was one of three team netminders.
The Canadian men’s team averaged almost seven goals a game entering the championship game and hit that number in the final, defeating the host United States 7-2 for its fifth gold medal in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 at the site of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
“When we came out for the first period, the barn was rocking,” Keating told U Sports after the Sunday night win. “There is a lot of history, and we knew they were coming. Our start was huge.”
In the women’s final, Japan held the Canadians scoreless in the first period, but Canada broke loose in the final two periods for a 5-0 decision for the program’s fourth title in seven Games.
While Canada was quietly winnings its hockey games day after day during the 11-day Games, the low-profile sport of biathlon was the talk of the Canadian camp.
University of Ottawa’s Shilo Rousseau charged out of nowhere to put the spotlight on her sport, her country and herself, winning two gold medals, one silver and being named the country’s closing-ceremony flag bearer. In contention for a fourth medal early in Saturday’s final race, she finished sixth.
Keating, who spent five years with the 67’s, was one of seven different goal scorers for Canada against the U.S. He finished the Games with four goals, four assists and 12 shots on goal.
“When this group came together two weeks ago, this is what we wanted. We had guys coming from all over the country and they were all top three or top six guys on their teams. Everyone sacrificed what they did on their school team and we finished with a gold medal. It’s an amazing feeling,” Keating said. “We have grown so close within these last two weeks. It has been an amazing experience. This is something we will all remember forever.”
Hawel picked up his 10th assist in the final to go with his two goals and 21 shots overall. Paquette was one of Canada’s most used defencemen and contributed one goal, four assists and nine shots.
Grandmaître, who has been the Gee-Gees men’s head coach since the return of the hockey program in 2016-17, was behind the Canadian bench for all seven games. He was the U Sports coach of the year in 2018-19.
Dubuc was the backup goalie to starter Kendra Woodland of the University of New Brunswick in the women’s gold-medal game.
She played in two preliminary-round games and dressed for another two, but watched the 6-1 semi-final over Slovakia from the stands. During her 80 minutes of ice time, Dubuc allowed only one goal and made 41 saves off 42 shots.
After serving as Canadian women’s assistant coach in 2019 and being named to the coaching staff for the cancelled 2021 Games, Bowles was promoted to head coach and guided Canada to its sixth medal. Canada earlier won gold in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and silver in 2015, 2017 and 2019, which all resulted from losses to Russia.
Chelsea Nordiq biathlete Rousseau, a fourth-year biology student at the University of Ottawa, entered her first Winter World University Games with only six cross-country races and two low-key biathlon races this season. But her training was top notch.
On the opening Saturday, she not only won Canada’s first gold medal at the FISU Games, the women’s 12.5-kilometre short individual race, but also gave the country its first-ever biathlon medal at the Games.
Four days later, Rousseau placed second in the 10-kilometre sprint, missing a second gold by 24.1 seconds. Last Friday, she scored a 40.1-second victory in the 12.5-kilometre pursuit to become Canada’s most-decorated athlete at the Games.
In the 12.5-kilometre mass start race two days ago, Rousseau held first place at various times in the first half of the race, but tired and finished sixth in 42:06.3 while missing five of 16 targets on the shooting range. University of Ottawa teammate Zoe Pekos of Richmond Hill, ON., was 13th in 43:30.6.
U Sports, which governs and oversees university sport in Canada, honoured Rousseau, 22, by naming her Team Canada’s honourary flag bearer for the closing ceremony. As happened in the opening ceremony, the athletes did not parade with their flags in the closing event.
“Being named flag bearer is such an honour and surprise to me. Coming into the Games, I didn’t imagine winning any medals, let alone, two gold and a silver,” Rousseau said. “I have put in so much hard work into being a student and an athlete and competing at a high level.”
Rousseau also felt honoured the flag bearer role went to an athlete in the skiing-shooting sport of biathlon.
“For a sport like biathlon, which typically not a lot of people in Canada know about, it is such a niche sport, it does not get much recognition,” she added. “So, to have the flag bearer be a biathlete is amazing and making history.”
University of Ottawa’s Aidan Kirkham of Kanata, who missed the 2021-22 season because of a broken hand, had one of Canada’s best-ever Games results for the long-distance men’s cross-country ski race, when he was 16th in the 30-kilometre free mass start in 1:14:12.6. University of Calgary’s Robin Mason of Ottawa was 24th in 1:16:43.0.
In the women’s 15-kilometre free mass start race, Carleton University racers Bronwyn Williams of Chelsea, PQ., and Katherine Mason of Ottawa were 23rd and 46th in respective times of 42:20.0 and 47:08.4.
St. Lawrence University’s Aidan Marler of Carp, ON., didn’t finish the first run of the men’s slalom in alpine skiing.
GEE-GEES & RAVENS CREATE OT CLASSICS IN COLONEL BY CLASHES
It took overtime to decide both the men’s and women’s games at the Colonel By Classic university hockey games between the uOttawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens Sunday at TD Place arena.
Kylie Lalonde played the hero’s role for the Gee-Gees with her top-shelf snipe from a sharp angle to keep the women’s contest from going to a shootout with 14 seconds left on the clock.
“There were a lot of chances to score throughout the game, but when we got a power play late in the period it was time to win it then and there,” said the Ottawa Lady Senators product from Arnprior.
Beatrice Bilodeau, Sophie Gareau and Abygail Moloughney also scored for uOttawa, while Sydney Berta, Aoife Mahaffy and Hayden Serniuck had Carleton’s goals.
“The team was pumped before coming into the game and the fans brought a great atmosphere which made it all the more fun,” noted Gareau.
The third-place Gee-Gees (11-5-1) sit five points back of RSEQ-leading Concordia, while the 6-8-3 Ravens are fifth.
Defenceman Majid Kaddoura delivered the final blow as the Ravens men prevailed in a wild 8-7 contest over the Gee-Gees. Carleton held two-goal leads on three occasions, but couldn’t keep Ottawa down.
The Gee-Gees were led by Bradley Chenier’s hat trick, while Carleton had seven different goal scorers. Parker Aucoin was the only Raven to light the lamp twice, while Brogan O’Brien, Alex Johnston and Kieran Craig all enjoyed three-point evenings.
The Carleton and uOttawa men are neck-and-neck in the OUA East division standings, with respective 11-10-3 and 11-11-2 records to sit in fifth and sixth place.
GUILLAUME PEPIN LEADING SCORER FOR GEE-GEES MEN’S BASKETBALL
The two best university basketball programs in Canada had a rare up-and-down weekend of games in the OUA.
While the No. 3 University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s team won a pair of games by healthy margins, the newly No. 1-ranked women’s squad split its two games in Toronto.
The Carleton University Ravens women’s team, which was ranked No. 8, swept its two games, but the No. 2-ranked men’s team was swept for the first time in several years.
Guillaume Pepin was the offensive leader as the Gee-Gees improved to 13-2 with decisive wins over Toronto Metropolitan University Bold 86-72 and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 87-68. Pepin scored 22 points and 26 points respectively. Kevin Otoo added 21 points against the Varsity Blues.
The Gee-Gees women’s team fell 67-56 to the Bold, but rebounded strong to crush the Varsity Blues 89-35. Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu paced the Gee-Gees with 15 points against the Bold and 18 points against the Varsity Blues.
Kali Pocrnic sparked the Carleton women’s team past the Varsity Blues 69-64 and the Bold 63-53, scoring 15 points and 27 points respectively. Jacqueline Urban provided ample support with a combined 30 points and 31 rebounds.
Fourth-quarter letdowns resulted in the Carleton men’s basketball team losing to the Varsity Blues 56-54 and the Bold 86-80. The Ravens could only manage 10 points and 13 points in the final quarter against the Blues and Bold respectively.
Carleton entered the fourth quarter trailing the Blues by two, but led the Bold by six. Connor Vreeken notched 15 points for the Ravens against the Blues. Grant Shephard had 21 points and Wazir Latiff added 19 against the Bold.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
· Competing in her first series of wheelchair para fencing World Cup meets in Washington, D.C., Ottawa’s Trinity Lowthian placed eighth in wheelchair B women’s epee. She lost her quarter-final match to the 2020 Paralympian bronze medallist, after leading for two periods. If Lowthian had won her quarterfinal, she would have been guaranteed a medal. But her result strengthens her bid to make the Canadian team to the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games.
· Israel-Premier Tech’s Derek Gee of Osgoode, ON., made a strong showing in his WorldTour debut at the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia. He was 19th in the short, opening prologue and concluded the six-day race with a 29th. He finished 34th overall.
· Jared Schmidt had season-best showings of fifth and sixth place in back-to-back World Cup ski cross races in Sweden to move up to 22nd in the overall rankings. His sister and fellow Tokyo Olympian Hannah placed eighth and 12th to rank sixth overall.
· Fortune Freestyle brothers Tao and Oaklee Durepos won silver medals in their respective boys’ U14 and U12 slopestyle events in the Timber Tour event near Barrie. At the Canada Cup in Kamloops, B.C., Ontario team member Quin McManus was fifth in big air, while Jacob Durepos, the older brother of Tao and Oaklee, was sixth. Jacob also was ninth in slopestyle. Fortune Freestyle and Camp Fortune will stage the Ontario championships Feb. 24-26.
· Local players occupied three of 12 Canadian roster spots for the national women’s rugby sevens team’s World Series competition in New Zealand. Olivia De Couvreur, Pam Buisa and Maddy Grant registered one win, three losses and a tie as Canada placed 11th.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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