Winter squads weighted

Hockey teams bookend rankings; basketball demonstrates playoff potential

Men’s basketball finished 10-10 this season, up from 2-20 last year.
Men’s basketball finished 10-10 this season, up from 2-20 last year.
Men’s hockey mustered only 76 goals, good for 17th out of 19 OUA teams.
Men’s hockey mustered only 76 goals, good for 17th out of 19 OUA teams.

1. Women’s Hockey
OUA Champions. 6th at CIS championship.

This team was truly complete.

Under cool and composed head coach Matt Holmberg, the roster featured a handful of on-ice leaders. Fourth-years Brittany and Morgan McHaffie led the scoring charge with linemate Taryn Pilon, but Holmberg had no issue rolling four lines most of the season.

On defence, there were simply no weak links. Fourth-year Katie Duncan was the team’s defence point-leader with 22 and Alisha Sealey led OUA rookie defender scoring with 16. Collectively, Queen’s gave up the fewest goals against in the OUA, with 43 in 26 games.

The two goaltenders, Mel Dodd-Moher and Karissa Savage, rotated each game for the entire season, including playoffs. They were the toughest tandem in the league — no other two goalies played an equal amount of games and combined for 10 wins each.

The Gaels out-gunned the Western Mustangs 5-4 on Mar. 1 for the championship series sweep. It came down to the dying seconds before Queen’s claimed their second OUA title in three years.

At the CIS championships in Toronto last weekend, they finished a disappointing sixth out of six teams. It took three one-goal losses to put them out of medal contention — two losses coming in overtime.

There’s no reason to doubt this team will be strong for years to come under coach Holmberg. Depending on who graduates, another championship is within reach.

2. Men’s Basketball
Men’s basketball was the biggest surprise of 2013.

Head coach Stephan Barrie compiled an altogether new cast, swiped the slate clean and finally won some games.

Somehow, he turned last year’s 2-20 disaster into 10-10 this season.

It began with the addition of former Carleton player, 6’4” forward Greg Faulkner. In his third year of eligibility, Faulkner led Queen’s by example: averaging 19.9 points per game, he was third-best in the OUA.

The first-year add-ons were equally impressive, following Faulkner’s suit with stand-out offensive play. Guard Sukhpreet Singh averaged 12.2 points in the season, scoring 22 in his first-ever OUA playoff game. Roshane Roberts averaged 10.7 points per game, and both logged substantial playing minutes.

The team went 9-3 to start the season, including a 96-87 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves — the eventual CIS national silver medalists.

The losses soon followed when the Gaels faced the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the unstoppable Carleton Ravens. After Faulkner suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of a 106-64 loss to Carleton on Jan. 19, the team’s offense was severely lacking.

If Faulkner can remain healthy next season, the men’s basketball team could make a much deeper playoff run.

3. Women’s Basketball
5th in OUA East. 1-1 playoffs.

A first-round win bodes well for next season.

The Gaels upset the Ryerson Rams 86-64 in the OUA East quarterfinal, followed by a 70-40 loss to the first-place Ottawa Gee-Gees.

It was an important win for the Gaels, who’ve been a perennial middle-of-the-pack team for years. In 2012 they were fourth in the standings; they placed fifth this year.

The season was also a relative success for a team with no fifth-year players and six first-years. Abound by injuries, several players that would’ve otherwise been limited saw the floor.

Fourth-year co-captain Sydney Kernahan is the only player unlikely to return. Third-year guard Liz Boag was named an OUA East second-team All-Star, and there are several younger players on the rise.

Among them is second-year forward Jenny Wright — she earned praise from Wilson and teammates for a few stand-out performances this season. She averaged 11.7 points per game, including a 17-point performance in her only playoff game against Ryerson.

With a healthy, more experienced roster, Dave Wilson’s group could shine in the next few years.

4. Men’s Volleyball
4th in OUA. 11-7 regular season.

Coming off an OUA title win in 2012 and a fourth place finish at CIS nationals, only one starter returned this winter. For Brenda Willis’ 26th year as head coach, it was expected to be a challenge.

But the Gaels’ system under Willis is such that bench players step up following the departure of star players. The performances of outside hitters, second-year Mike Tomlinson and third-year Philippe Goyer, were among the best in the OUA. Both finished in the top 10 in points per game.

Their play-makers made even bigger impacts. Fifth-year setter Jackson Dakin, the Gaels’ captain, was named Dale Iwanoczko award winner for 2013, recognizing excellence in volleyball, academics and community involvement. He was also named an OUA first-team All-Star.

First-year libero Ivo Dramov started slowly, but solidified a starting job with the Gaels. The Plovdiv, Bulgaria native was eventually named to the OUA all-rookie team.

Before the season began, Willis said the goal was simply to make playoffs. At Christmas, with a 6-3 team record, that goal became a loftier “top-four finish or higher.”

This was the first year in a new era for men’s volleyball. The same core has at least two more seasons together, and they’ll be looking for more than a top-four finish.

5. Women’s Volleyball
4th in OUA. 12-6 regular season record.

Back in November, a first-round playoff exit wasn’t part of the plan for head coach Joely Christian-Macfarlane.

For a while, it seemed like a championship repeat was within grasp. The Gaels were riding a nine-game win streak with an overall record of 11-2 by late January.

Those near-perfect results went awry come February.

As soon as the Gaels faced top sides — namely, the Ottawa Gee-Gees and York Lions — losses piled up. The remaining five games resulted in four losses, preceding a forgettable playoff campaign. The fourth-place Gaels were upset 3-1 in their own building by the fifth-place Toronto Varsity Blues.

On a team with proven championship-calibre talent, the end-of-season struggles were hard to explain. Following a 3-0 thumping by the Gee-Gees on Jan. 28, co-captain Katie Neville suggested it was on-court errors that hurt most — not the Gee-Gees’ play.

Across the 17-player roster, there’s a healthy balance of older and younger players. Co-captain libero Shannon Walsh and OUA first-team All-Star outside hitter Colleen Ogilvie won’t return next season, but they were the sole fifth-years.

Outside hitter Brett Hagarty was named to the OUA all-rookie team, headlining a confident group of up-and-comers.

After the home opener in October, coach Christian-Macfarlane said this team was no longer an underdog. It seems unlikely to change at least for the next few years.

6. Men’s Hockey
7th in OUA East. 10-11-7 regular season.

It’s been seven years without a single playoff series win for head coach Brett Gibson. Ranked seventh, they fell 2-0 in their first-round series with the second-place Carleton Ravens.

Unlike last year, injuries didn’t derail their chances.

The Gaels hovered around .500, regularly splitting their weekend double-headers. Until February, Queen’s was only four points outside of fourth place.

But they couldn’t muster a win against any top-four team — UQTR, Carleton, McGill or Ottawa. Nor could they beat the sixth-place Nipissing Lakers, who’ve been a perennial nuisance for Queen’s.

Their top forward trio of Kelly Jackson, Tyler Moore and captain Corey Bureau showed flashes of brilliance, but ultimately underperformed. Gibson relied instead on “depth” — four balanced forward lines, all expected to chip in when possible.

In the end, Queen’s 76 goals in 26 games ranked 17 out of 19 OUA teams. Defensively, Queen’s 87 goals-against total put them eighth overall, thanks in part to fifth-year goaltender and former OUA All-Star Riley Whitlock.

Whitlock played over 1,400 minutes and placed second in the CIS in saves. Without him next season, better offensive production is a must.

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