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U Sports returns across Canada

For the first time in more than two months, all four U Sports conferences have games this weekend.

RSEQ’s Concordia Stingers
Al Saniuk

It has been more than ten weeks since all four U Sports conferences were in action at the same time. Public health measures implemented in December are beginning to ease, allowing for the return of hockey.

Less strict measures in Western Canada meant Canada West’s season went on as scheduled, with games postponed as needed. Their regular season will wrap up on February 19th before their three-round playoffs.

The OUA’s season resumed February 10th and will be a mad dash to the finish. The conference will play as many games as possible before a March 5th end. The final standing will be determined by points percentage because teams will end the year with an uneven number of games played. The OUA will condense their playoffs to single-elimination games, and the McCaw Cup will be awarded on March 19th.

AUS restarted February 11th and, as the OUA, will continue into March with a hectic schedule to play as many games as possible. The season will conclude on March 6th, and the playoffs will progress for the next two weeks following a to-be-determined format.

RSEQ will be the last conference to resume the 2021-22 season, with Quebec public health measures some of the latest to lift. Teams each have eight games outstanding but have only three scheduled before the start of playoffs. RSEQ playoffs consist of two best of three series, the semi-finals and finals. The conference has yet to announce dates for the games.

With six weeks of hectic action kicking off, here are four matchups you’ll want to check out.

Nipissing @ Toronto, Feb 16 – Watch

The top OUA teams will face off when the Nipissing take the long drive south to Toronto. Both teams were on a heater heading into the season pause, and both have come out swinging in the restart. Toronto is the best defensive team in the country, allowing more than one goal in a game just once. Nipissing has similar defensive numbers with even more goals in fewer games. The matchup will be an exciting battle for the top spot in the OUA standings.

StFX @ Saint Mary’s, Feb 18 - Watch

Friday’s matchup between the X-Women and Saint Mary’s Huskies will be the first game for both teams since November. The two teams are the highest-scoring teams in the AUS, and StFX leads all of U Sports with 4.19 goals per game – 67 scored in 16 played. Without the chance to knock the rust off, the defensive wheels may be squeaky. I expect this to be a high-scoring affair. Watch for StFX’s Maggy Burbidge and Saint Mary’s Shae Demale, who sit third and first in U Sports scoring, to add to their totals.

Alberta @ Calgary, Feb 18 & 19 – Watch

This battle between the Alberta Pandas and Calgary Dinos is one of the fiercest Canadian university sports. Their two-game series will be the season’s final games for both teams. As it stands, Calgary is one spot back of the playoffs, which they can reach with a win. Alberta is guaranteed a playoff spot, but their seeding is not certain. They could climb as high as second with two wins, but with two losses, they could fall to the second to last spot. An important series for Alberta, do or die for Calgary. This clash of rivals will be exciting to watch.

Montreal @ Concordia, Feb 19 – Watch

Sitting third and second, Concordia and Montreal are both looking to improve their standing in the RSEQ. Concordia stands one point back of McGill with the same number of games. They can pass into first if McGill missteps in one of their upcoming games, but Concordia needs to extend their six-game win streak to stay within reach. Montreal could pull themselves closer to Concordia with a win, but more importantly, a win would boost Montreal further ahead of Ottawa. Ottawa is within striking distance if Montreal loses, which would cause them to fall into the fourth seed. This battle of neighbouring schools will be a thriller.