A new season signifies a fresh start, a clean slate for those who struggled and a platform to build on for those who exceled during last year’s 2016-17 varsity season. The Journal‘s sports editors found it fitting to make their picks for which varsity team will impress most by season’s end.
Sebastian Bron, Sports Editor: Women’s Basketball
An 18-1 OUA record is no fluke. A 16 game win streak to open a season is no accident. And a U Sports final four appearance is no lucky roll of the dice.
What women’s basketball experienced during their 2016-17 campaign was nothing short of remarkable and it would be imprudent to suggest they could experience a regression in this coming 2017-18 season.
There’s only one direction their team is headed — and that’s forward.
With a combined 32-6 record in the last two seasons, it’s clear the team is good. But do the stats say the same thing?
Last year, Queen’s flourished in nearly every statistical category recorded by the OUA. The team had a game plan — they made calculated effort plays on both sides of the court.
Offensively, they were second in the conference with points per game with 73.7.
Getting to the free throw line, for example, was something Queen’s made a concerted effort to do. The Gaels attempted 20.6 and converted on an average of 13.8 free throws per game, again setting the standard with a conference-high.
Moreover, Queen’s out rebounded teams by conference-best 10.8 boards per game and on defense, the team averaged 12.4 steals per game — showing the Gaels were just as strong on both sides of the ball.
Women’s head coach Dave Wilson, who won OUA and U Sports Coach of the Year last season, told The Journal in August that the team has found prolonged success because of “their wisdom [and] their savvy.”
Don’t expect that to change when the team ushers in the new season in October.
Matt Scace, Assistant Sports Editor: Men’s Hockey
It goes without saying that this team is a powerhouse. That’s old news.
Last season was a banner season for the men’s hockey team, as their regular season win record was the best the school has ever seen with 18. Combined with a second place finish in the OUA, the Gaels had their hand at the national championships and finished fifth in the country. A similar fate could be in store for this talented of a team, which has many key players returning.
The team also boasts a crop of players that have recently gotten a shot at taking their talents to the NHL, adding an extra level of experience.
Fresh off a trip to Ottawa for the Senator’s rookie tournament, the Gaels will be led by fifth-year Kevin Bailie. Going into his fifth and final year of athletic eligibility at Queen’s, he’s one of the best goalies that’s stepped on the ice of Kingston Memorial as a Gael. In last year’s OUA playoffs, he posted a save percentage of .969.
Moreover, Queen’s will be welcoming back fourth year defenceman Spencer Abraham, who recently played in the Florida Panthers’ development camp. Additionally, rookie defenceman Nathan Billitier partook in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ main training camp last week.
Most of all, one thing this team isn’t short of is leadership. This all starts behind the bench, as head coach Brett Gibson will be returning to Queen’s for a 12th season. The coach has been spending some of his time developing juniors for Hockey Canada, a significant advantage for a team that will need to navigate its way through a highly competitive league.
There’s no doubt this team has what it takes. When the puck drops in October, it will come down to execution, something the team appears to have the tools for.