By Martin Cleary
To the visitors go the victories.
No matter whether it was on local or regional basketball courts or on an international oval in the mecca of long-track speed skating, the visiting teams or skaters made their points in dramatic fashion.
The Carleton University women’s basketball team travelled to Kingston and took down Queen’s University Gaels, the No. 1-ranked team in Canada, 70-57, to win the OUA championship and its third Critelli Cup. It wasn’t too much of a surprise as the Ravens were No. 2 in the nation.
Meanwhile at the Ravens’ Nest on the campus of Carleton University, the visiting University of Ottawa Gee-Gees were deadly from three-point shooting range and not only super stymied the 16-time national champion Ravens 79-57, but also silenced the home-court fans for the better part of the final.
More than 5,600 kilometres away, Ottawa speed skaters Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann returned to the homeland of their sport, Heerenveen, The Netherlands, and showed the 12,500 orange-clad and screaming Dutch fans that Canadian women are equal to or better than their best.
Blondin managed a best-ever, world championship performance of two gold and one silver medals as well as one fourth-place showing. Weidemann shared in the team pursuit gold medal with Blondin.
RAVENS, GEE-GEES CAPTURE PROVINCIAL TITLES AWAY FROM HOME
When the U Sports national basketball championships start Thursday for the women in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Friday for the men in Halifax, the two Carleton University Ravens teams and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s squad are capable of posting the required three wins for a championship.
The Ravens women’s team has worked its way up the national ranking list all season and enters the first national championship staged by Cape Breton University as the No. 1 seed.
An impressive 70-57 victory over Queen’s on Saturday allowed the Ravens to be promoted to the No. 1 ranking and saw the Gaels drop to No. 3 with the University of Alberta Pandas in between at No. 2.
As the top seed, the Ravens will meet No. 8 Cape Breton University Capers on Thursday in the last quarter-final game, scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The Capers are in the Final 8 as the host team and not because of their Atlantic University Sport regular-season record of 9-11.
Queen’s, which has Ottawa-based players Julia Chadwick, Isabella Gaudet and Michelle Istead on its roster, will play the opening game against the No. 6 Université du Québec à Montréal Citadins at 11:30 a.m. Carleton and Queen’s are on opposite sides of the eight-team draw and could face each other again in the championship final.
On Saturday, Carleton, 19-3 in the regular season, held a 28-27 halftime lead over Queen’s, 21-2, but the Ravens pulled away in the second half.
Kali Pocrnic sparked the Ravens with 23 points, three rebounds and four assists. But when she got in foul trouble in the third quarter, Teresa Donato came off the bench and scored the bulk of her nine points to maintain the Ravens’ momentum.
Pocrnic, a first-team OUA all-star, was selected the OUA female athlete of the week for her leadership in the conference championship game.
The Ravens also benefited from the intense play of Dorcas Buisa, who scored 17 points and also registered six rebounds and three steals.
For Queen’s, Chadwick filled a lot of the statistical columns with 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots. Gaudet counted seven points in her 21 minutes on the floor.
“I’m very proud of this group, how they’ve come together, especially in the second half of the season,” Carleton head coach Dani Sinclair said in a post-game story on the Ravens’ website.
“They showed a lot of toughness tonight going into a great atmosphere that was loud with a full crowd against you and they stayed together.”
The Gee-Gees men’s side ran into the Ravens’ Nest and treated it like a home game as they weren’t intimidated by the loud Carleton contingent.
The Gee-Gees were pinpoint accurate from beyond the three-point arc, hitting on 15 of 30 attempts for an above-average 50-per-cent grade.
Guillaume Pepin struck for two of his five three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Gee-Gees dismiss the Ravens. The Gee-Gees led 18-15, 35-29 and 55-40 at the quarter breaks.
“The Gee-Gees fans are the best fans,” Pepin told the Gee-Gees’ website. “Even though they were maybe a quarter of the people in the gym, they were louder. Hearing them scream every single basket made a difference for us in the game.”
OUA male athlete of the week Kevin Otoo did a little bit of everything, hitting four of seven three-pointers and five of seven free throws for 17 points. He also added three steals, two rebounds and two assists.
“We have to enjoy tonight, these are young guys and this is a huge accomplishment,” Gee-Gees’ head coach James Derouin said about his team’s third Wilson Cup championship.
“I mentioned in the locker room that a provincial championship is huge, but we leave on Tuesday (for nationals). Remain humble, there’s three big games to go.”
The Gee-Gees also received solid contributions from Dragan Stajic (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds, four steals), Cole Newton (12 points, four rebounds, two assists), Josh Inkumsah (six points, 14 rebounds, two assists) and Jacques-Melanie Guemeta (10 points, two rebounds).
Aiden Warnholtz paced the Ravens with 15 points, six assists and two rebounds, while Grant Shephard threw only nine field-goal attempts and finished with eight points and six rebounds.
Elliott Bailey was impressive with 11 points, 13 rebounds and five steals.
The opening two quarter-final games of the U Sports men’s Final 8 will feature No. 3 Carleton playing No. 6 UQAM at 11 a.m. ET on Friday followed by No. 2 Ottawa meeting No. 7 University of Winnipeg Wesmen at 1 p.m. ET.
If Carleton and Ottawa start with a win, they’ll meet for the fourth time this season in the national semifinals.
SPEED SKATER BLONDIN EXCELS WITH 3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALS
Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa recorded a career-best list of results at the world long-track speed skating championships in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, with three medals and two other top-nine showings.
As part of a team concept, Blondin was a double gold medallist. She joined Brooklyn McDougall of Calgary and Carolina Hiller of Prince George, B.C., to win the team sprint (a non-Olympic event) and then linked with Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa and Valérie Maltais of La Baie, PQ., to continue their dominance in the team pursuit, although they needed some help.
The Netherlands posted the fastest time in the team pursuit, beating Canada by 1.9 seconds. But the Dutch squad was disqualified for showing skin in the ankle region, which is against one of the International Skating Union’s skater safety rules.
One of the favourites in the mass start, Blondin settled for the silver medal, after The Netherlands’ Marijke Groenewoud escaped the pack early and scored a comfortable 15-second victory.
Blondin missed a fourth world championship medal, when she placed fourth in the 1,500 metres and was only 0.32 seconds from third place. She also was ninth in the opening 3,000 metres.
Besides her team pursuit gold medal, Weidemann wrapped up her season with a fourth in the 5,000 metres in 6:49.94 and a sixth in the 3,000 metres in 4:01.32.
Ottawa’s Vincent De Haître was 23rd in the men’s 1,000 metres in 1:10.29.
NEPEAN-KANATA BARRACUDAS FOURTH AT WINTER ONTARIO SWIM CHAMPIONSHIPS
Julie Brousseau and Jordan Schaepper earned six medals each at the Winter Ontario swimming championships in Whitby and helped the Nepean-Kanata Barracudas Swim Club finish fourth overall.
Brousseau, the Ottawa Sports Awards swimmer of the year for 2022, produced wins in the women’s 16-and-over division’s 100-, 200- and 400-metre freestyles, the 200- and 400-metre individual medleys and a third in the 100-metre breaststroke.
Schaepper scored his men’s 15-year-old class victories in the 800-metre freestyle, the 400-metre individual medley and the 200-metre butterfly. He also was second in the 200-metre individual medley and the 400-metre freestyle as well as third in the 100-metre butterfly.
The list of double medallists included ROC Swimming’s Olivier Risk, men’s 17-and-over class (second, 800-metre freestyle, third, 400-metre freestyle); Greater Ottawa Kingfish’s Annika Hollo, girls’ 14-year-old class (second, 50-metre freestyle, third, 100-metre freestyle); Barracudas’ Alex Pilieci, men’s 16-year-old class (second, 400-metre individual medley, third, 100-metre butterfly); and Barracudas’ Yuto Lee, men’s 15-year-old class (third in both 100-metre breaststroke and 200-metre individual medley).
The region’s other provincial champions were: Ottawa Y Olympians’ Grace Lu, women’s 16-and-over class, 100-metre breaststroke; Swim Ottawa’s Declan Sweetnam, boys’ 14-and-under class, 100-metre breaststroke; and Swim Ottawa’s Yazan Al Bawwab, men’s 17-and-over class, 200-metre backstroke.
BIATHLETE SHILO ROUSSEAU PERFECT ON RANGE, 11TH AT FINISH
In the wake of Shilo Rousseau of Ottawa winning two gold and one silver medals at the FISU Winter World University Games at Lake Placid, New York, she hoped Biathlon Canada would assign her some international meets.
She got her wish with two individual and one relay races at the International Biathlon Union Cup competition in Canmore. The IBU Cup is one level below the World Cup format.
Rousseau, who skis for Nakkertok Nordic and the University of Ottawa, excelled in the women’s 10-kilometre pursuit and placed 11th overall, hitting all 20 targets throughout the course.
Teammate Zoe Pekos also had her best result in the 10-kilometre pursuit with a 35th-place finish. She struggled on the range, hitting only 13 of 20 targets.
KAIYA RUITER PLACES 10TH AT WORLD JUNIOR FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Figure skater Kaiya Ruiter, who started her career with the Gloucester Skating Club before moving to Calgary, gave a commendable performance all-around and placed 10th in women’s singles during the world junior figure skating championships in her Alberta residence.
After placing 11th in the short program, Ruiter landed all her elements in her free-skating routine, although several had some imperfections, and again was 11th. But her overall point score of 169.65 bumped her into 10th, which will allow Canada to send two women to the 2024 world juniors.
Ruiter won the national women’s novice singles title in 2019 and the national junior championship in 2020. She missed the 2021-22 season because of a leg laceration.
CAPITAL COURTS ACADEMY BOWS OUT IN TIGHT PROVINCIAL SEMI-FINAL
The No. 3-ranked Capital Courts Academy came within a late basket of reaching their second consecutive Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association championship game, but the 2022 champs wound up falling 67-63 to Crestwood in their semi-final on Saturday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
The Cairine Wilson Secondary School-based program enjoyed a 10-4 regular season before knocking off Lincoln Prep in the opening round of the final 8 tournament.
Crestwood went on to trounce Niagara Prep 79-48 in the championship final.
CAPITAL COURTS’ GRADS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD IN NCAA CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Capital Courts Academy basketball officials were all smiles on Saturday as two of their high-profile grads played against each other in the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament semifinals.
Third-year Merissah Russell of the University of Louisville Cardinals and first-year Cassandra Prosper of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish went head to head for many minutes as the Cardinals upset the No. 1 Fighting Irish 64-38.
Russell played 12 minutes and 53 seconds, scored four points and added four rebounds and one assist. Prosper, who only joined Notre Dame in late December, came off the bench for 30:47 of floor time and contributed five points, four rebounds and one steal.
It was the second time Russell and Prosper had played against each other at the NCAA level. On Feb. 16, Notre Dame scored a 78-76 overtime win and Prosper was especially sharp in the extra time and had six points and two rebounds overall. Russell recorded an impressive 26 minutes on the court with four points and three rebounds.
ANTOINE CYR SCORES A 4TH, 5TH AT WORLD NORDIC SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gatineau’s Antoine Cyr had five challenging races at the world nordic ski championships in Planica, Slovenia, but the one the Skinouk athlete will remember the most is the team sprint with Graham Ritchie.
After placing fifth in the team sprint at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Cyr and Ritchie were fourth at the worlds. They finished the free-technique race only 6.47 seconds behind bronze-medallists Jay Renaud and Richard Jouva of France.
The men’s 4×10-kilometre relay also gave Cyr chills as the young Canadian team finished a highly respectable fifth. Xavier McKeever, Cyr, Ritchie and Olivier Leveille were 1:22.5 behind the winners.
Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea, PQ., was consistently in the high 20s in her three individual races and helped Canada place eighth in the women’s 4×5-kilometre relay.
Stewart-Jones’ individual results were 25th in the skiathlon, 27th in the 10-kilometre free-technique race, and 28th in the 30-kilometre classic mass start.
Competing in her first world senior championships, Nakkertok’s Jasmine Lyons of the University of New Hampshire was 34th in the skiathlon, 36th in the 10-kilometre race and also was part of the relay.
CANADA DEMOTED TO WORLD WOMEN’S JUNIOR B CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2024
Skip Emily Deschênes of Ottawa, third Lauren Ferguson, second Alison Umlah and lead Catherine Fitzgerald finished the world women’s junior curling championship in Fuessen, Germany, with a disappointing 2-7 record for an eighth-place result.
As a result, Canada will be demoted to the world junior B championship in 2024.
The Deschênes rink lost its first three games before defeating Scotland 7-6 with a steal of one in the 10th end. Its only other win was 7-6 over Germany.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.