Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marchese, MacNeill on board with Gryphons staff

The much-anticipated hires of two full-time assistant football coaches have been made at the University of Guelph.

Joining rookie head coach Stu Lang's staff will be defensive coordinator Kevin MacNeill, a former linebacker with the WLU Golden Hawks and head coach of the Guelph Bears in the OVFL, and offensive coordinator Perry Marchese, who brings CIS, CFL and OVFL coaching experience to the fold. Further details on both men can be found at the Gryphons website.

The power of nine

The results are in and they’re not pretty.

Mired in a steroid scandal since early April, the University of Waterloo has elected to suspend its football program for one year and place its coaching staff on paid administrative leave. This decision comes in the wake of nine players on the team testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, following a team-wide test of all 62 members by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.

Nine were guilty, and 53 apparently innocent. Yet, they all suffer, unable to play during the upcoming football season while the university conducts an internal review of its program and policies.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hoops coaching shakeup could hinder Gryphons rebuilding process

I’ll admit it. When news broke on Friday that long-time Gryphon women’s basketball head coach Angela Orton was stepping down, the announcement took me by surprise.

Sure, the young Gryphons were coming off of a season that saw them finish in the OUA West basement, with a record of 2-20.

Sure, Orton’s players frequently looked discouraged, disinterested and unprepared for the rigours of OUA competition.

Sure, there were countless rumours suggesting an internal rift between the head coach and her team that compounded the issues faced by a team lacking experience and veteran on-court leadership.

But for a head coach with 22 years of experience and an impressive resume to just take a 12-month leave of absence from coaching, Orton’s timing is somewhat peculiar.
PHOTO CREDIT: gryphons.ca

Full-time assistant football coaches still yet to be named

When Stuart Lang was introduced as the Guelph Gryphons new head football coach in March, the announcement was accompanied by a statement from the Department of Athletics that the team would also be hiring two full-time assistant coaches in the near future to aid Lang with coordinating the Gryphons offence and defence. The Gryphons would become one of the only a few teams to employ three full-time coaches, a shrewd move that will hopefully help accelerate the rebuilding process for a team that may be losing a number of key starters heading into the 2010 season.

Nearly two months later, those full-time assistants have still yet to be named.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gryphon runners prepare to take on the world

With the national competition handled with relative ease, several members of the Guelph Gryphons cross-country team will now ply their trade on the world stage, as members of the Canadian team in Sunday’s Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) world championships that will be held in Kingston, ON.

Gryphons lead the way on the men’s side, led by two-time CIS cross-country champion Matt Brunsting, who will be joined by his Gryphon teammates Allan Brett and Kyle Boorsma, along with Nigel Wray, who will serve as the alternate. The six-member men’s team will also feature Dave Weston and Kyle O’Neill from Western, and Kelly Wiebe from the University of Regina.

On the women’s side, the Gryphons will also have a commanding presence, led by CIS silver medalist Lindsay Carson, along with her teammate Rachel Cliff, who recently won a pair CIS gold medals in track and field. They will be joined on the five-member team by two-time CIS cross-country champion Megan Brown from U of T, Sherbrooke’s Valerie Belanger and Jess Pearo from McMaster.

Chris Moulton, one of the Gryphons coaches, will also be on a staff led by Western’s Bob Vigars.

“This event is so unique because of the range of athletes that participate,” said Moulton, who did note that in order to participate, runners must be full-time university students. “Many of these athletes have international experience and can range in age from 18 to 29.”

In fact, all of the Gryphons participants have international experience, except for Brunsting, who has been injured on two previous occasions, which kept him from running.

Moulton will be working predominantly with the Canadian men’s team in Kingston, helping to prepare them for Sunday’s 10km event, while McMaster coach Rory Sneyd will lend his expertise to the women’s 5km event.

“We’ll cross over wherever we need to,” said Moulton. “But, my role will be very logistical and managerial, which is great for me, because it fits with what I do in Guelph.”

Canada has never medaled at the FISU cross-country championships, and although Moulton did not want to tie himself to a prediction, he is optimistic for both genders.

“This is one of the strongest [Canadian] teams that we’ve ever put forward in recent years,” he said. “The level of CIS cross-country running keeps getting stronger and stronger.

“I’m looking at our potential top three women with Lindsay, Rachel and Megan and those are three unbelievable talents who have competed internationally. We’re blessed.”

Brunsting voluntarily held back throughout the indoor season in preparation for the FISU championships, and will be looking to continue his success on the Fort Henry Hill course, the site of his CIS title in November.

“This will be a great way for Matt to finish his university career,” said Moulton. “He has unbelievable faith in himself and a big part of his year was planning for the FISU race.”

Despite their outstanding history of experience and success running at the international level, Brunsting and Carson have also been dogged by injuries this season. Moulton, however, quieted any speculation that two of Canada’s top runners would be hampered this weekend.

“Lindsay raced 5km in Hamilton last weekend and finished with a time of 17:10, which is pretty good. She’s coming along quite well and she’s such a tough athlete,” he said. “She’s fit, healthy and ready to go.

“Matt just does so well in cross-country. His health is good. His past two weeks of training have been great. He’s ready to go.”

Moulton believes that hosting the event will provide a degree of home field advantage for the Canadian team, which has never run FISU cross-country on Canadian soil.

“This race has never been held in North America, so hopefully it provides a boost,” said Moulton, who also recognized the strengths posed by teams from Japan, France and Great Britain. “I really think that we can be in the mix. We’re a deep team.”

Hesitant to hand out congratulations

On Sunday, the Saint Mary’s Huskies won their first CIS men’s hockey championship, defeating the Alberta Golden Bears 3-2 in an overtime thriller.

The success of the Huskies, though, has often been overshadowed by the story of a particular player on the team: Mike Danton.

Some of you may remember Danton from his brief stint in the NHL, an uneventful 87-game career with New Jersey and St. Louis that abruptly ended in 2004 when he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Danton later pled guilty for his actions in a murder-for-hire plot that saw him hire an undercover police officer to kill his agent, David Frost, a man with whom Danton shared a suspicious relationship.

Details of the conspiracy remain somewhat vague due to Danton’s unwillingness to speak in detail about the case. It was later reported that Danton’s target was not Frost, but rather, his own father. In an unrelated, yet equally puzzling matter, Frost was also charged and later acquitted of 12 counts of sexual exploitation with young males and females between the ages of 14 and 16 during his time working in junior hockey. Frost has always been known as a controlling and mysterious agent, with his relationship with Danton arguably being the most troubling of all.

The details of the Danton-Frost incident have been written about at length – both in newspapers and on the internet – and make for very interesting reading that I would recommend to anyone.

Danton spent 63 months in the American and Canadian prison systems before being paroled in September 2009. In January, the 29-year-old forward became a full-time student at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) and began playing for the university’s varsity hockey team.

Huskies players, head coach Trevor Stienburg, and athletic director Steve Sarty all stood behind the decision to bring Danton into the league.  But I’m hesitant to offer congratulations to a player with Danton’s baggage.

I have written at length about the purity of Canadian university sport and its refreshing absence of gossipy dramas, salary issues and egos. And sadly, Danton’s participation in the league works against everything that I believe is right about CIS athletics.

Danton’s crime was very serious; it was not petty theft or speeding. He was convicted and incarcerated for a lengthy period of time for trying to have someone killed. Regardless of the fact that he has served his time, is this the kind of individual that should be representing Canadian university sport? At 29 years of age with a serious criminal conviction to his name, a league of 18 to 23-year-old university athletes is not his place.

Other writers and supporters of the Huskies have applauded SMU for its benevolence in helping with Danton’s rehabilitation; however, it is also worth noting that prior to when Danton joined the team, the team struggled to attract fans. Following his addition, ticket sales skyrocketed, suggesting that administration looked at the opportunity to add Danton as a chance to draw attention to a struggling program, regardless of his background.

I recognize that life is about second chances, but there is a time and place for these examples of one’s character reinvention, and this is not one of them.

I have spoken to numerous varsity athletes in the past two years and I can confidently say that these are some of the most passionate, committed individuals of high character that you will ever meet. To think that Danton took the roster spot of one of these athletes is deplorable. The decision of the athletic department at SMU to allow a player of Danton’s status to take the place of a student-athlete with a similar level of talent and far higher level of integrity is truly sad.

Gryphons prepare to assume new summer roles

They say that those who can’t do, teach. But, during the summer months on the University of Guelph campus, those who ‘teach,’ can also ‘do.’

During the summer, the department of athletics hosts a number of youth sports camps, aimed at developing the skills of elementary and high school-aged students. The Gryphons varsity coaches direct these camps, but the staff is comprised of Gryphons athletes, who bestow their knowledge, skills and experiences upon budding young athletes.

Jasmine Douglas, the star second-year forward from the Gryphon women’s basketball team, is one of those specially selected varsity athletes helping to staff the women’s camp.

“This will be my third summer working at the camps, so I believe that I will be given more responsibility this time around,” said Douglas, who will be joined by teammates Samantha Russell and Kara Muhlhausen on the basketball staff. “I’ll be looking to be more of a vocal leader to not only the campers, but also to other counsellors, as this is a skill I am looking to improve on in general.”

Douglas looks at this upcoming experience not only as a chance to give back to the Guelph community where she grew up, but also as an opportunity to provide young female athletes with quality training.

“I want to teach them that females can play basketball, or any other sport for that matter, and to not be held back because of their gender,” said Douglas. “We teach the kids that with hard work and determination they can play basketball at the university level too.”

Gryphon men’s and women’s basketball head coaches, Chris O’Rourke and Angela Orton, will be leading the basketball camps, and hockey, football, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and track and field youth camps will also be offered and directed by Shawn Camp, Rachel Flanagan, Bill Brown, Keith Mason, Paul Funk, Sam Kosakowski, Chris Moulton and Dave Scott-Thomas – all of them being Gryphons varsity coaches.

In watching Douglas play university basketball, her enthusiasm and work ethic is virtually unparalleled. No rebound is beyond her reach and very few players attack the basket with her tenacity.

“I think the most valuable thing that I can bring to the camp as an instructor and staff member is my work ethic and overall enthusiasm for basketball,” she said. “Also, [I can] show kids that with hard work and determination, they can improve immensely, as well as having fun along the way.”

Despite never having the opportunity to participate in similar camps when she was younger, Douglas, who instead, honed her skills playing against her male friends on the playground, recognized the importance of teaching fundamentals of the game at a young age.

“It is very important for young women to have such great opportunities to further develop their skills, because with some of the campers being younger, it allows them to be able to start learning the basics earlier on,” she said. “It’s always nice to see a camper that struggles with a skill at the beginning of the week, be able to see them progress with it, and by the end of the week have them excelling at the skill.

“This shows how practice and hard work goes a long way in your development as a player."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gryphtalk weighs in on Stu Lang hiring

On today's show, we rolled up our sleeves to discuss the Stu Lang hiring by the Gryphons football program. Interviews included athletic director Tom Kendall and former Gryphons quarterback Justin Dunk.

Click HERE to go to the host site for today's show. First select "Regular Download" on the right, and then on the next page, the actual mp3 download link is at the bottom.


photo credit: Rashaad Bhamjee

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gryphons tab Stu Lang to be new head football coach: Former receivers coach takes reins, bringing athletic and professional experience

“Stu Lang is the right man, at the right time for Guelph. We are very fortunate to have him lead our program to accomplish the goal of competing for a conference and national championship.” – Tom Kendall, athletic director.
photo credit: Gryphons Athletics

After a dedicated search to find their next head coach, the Guelph Gryphons football team has found their new leader.

Link to Guelph football press conference

As you probably know by now, the Guelph Gryphons are holding a press conference today, (Tues. March 30) at 2pm ET to introduce their new head football coach. At this time, it is expected that Stu Lang will be taking the reins from the recently-departed Kyle Walters. Athletic director Tom Kendall will be hosting the press conference from the Gryphon Lounge in the W.F. Mitchell Athletic Centre on campus.

Click HERE to go directly to the video link for today's presser, hosted by SSN Canada

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guelph Press Conference: Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2-3pm EST

Tomorrow (Tuesday, Mar. 30) from 2-3pm EST, there will be a press conference at the University of Guelph to introduce the new head football coach. The press conference will take place in the Gryphon Lounge in the Athletic Centre on campus and be broadcasted on www.ssncanada.ca. It is expected that Stu Lang will be introduced as the next head coach of Gryphons football, replacing Kyle Walters who has taken the job of special teams coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sources: Stu Lang will be next Gryphons head football coach

Exciting news out of the University of Guelph!

Multiple sources surrounding the team have indicated that current Guelph Gryphons receivers coach and former CFLer Stu Lang will be named the new head coach of the team. Greg Layson reported that Lang was interviewed for the position last week. His write-up can be found HERE. As Layson indicated, money is not a critical factor in Lang's desire to coach this team as he is already financially secure given his family's labeling business, CCL Industries. Lang's Gryphon bio can be found HERE. Players were impressed with his dedication and commitment as a coach this year.

Lang had a successful CIS and CFL career as a receiver with the Queen's Gaels and Edmonton Eskimos, winning one Yates Cup and five Grey Cups in the 70s and 80s. Last year was his first year coaching Gryphons receivers, a group that included Jedd Gardner, Dave Harrison, Jamie Shaw and budding rookie Dillon Dimitroff, the nephew of Atlanta Falcons GM Tom Dimitroff Jr.

Athletic Director Tom Kendall has not yet confirmed that Lang will be named head coach, but did indicate that there should be a press conference announcing a hiring sometime next week--likely Thursday.

Today on Gryphtalk...

We were joined by Andrew Revie, the fourth-year middle from the Gryphon men's volleyball team, as well as Samantha Smith-Moskal, the chair of the Guelph Relay for Life, taking place on Saturday, March 27 at 7pm in the Gryphon Dome. Great interview with Samantha...check it out if you have a chance. Download link is at the bottom, CLICK HERE
photo credit: Gryphons Athletics

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Honouring yet another outstanding group of Gryphons

At the end of the Fall semester, the first edition of the ‘Golden Mikes’ were handed out to some very deserving Gryphons, recognizing their accomplishments in athletics from September through December. With the varsity season now complete and the department’s Intercollegiate Awards Banquet coming up on April 8, Speak into the Mike will take this time to hand out the second series of ‘Golden Mikes,’ along with a few honourable mentions.

Pucks clash with snorkels in 'breathtaking' sport

"From personal experience and based on what others have told me, it takes about a month [of playing] to get your breath hold up to where you can dive to the bottom of a pool, do something useful with the puck and then go back up to breathe.” – Brittany Haughton, president of the Guelph Underwater Hockey club.
photo: Brittany Haughton

Sports synergies are not at all uncommon, whereby two activities are combined to form a completely new sport altogether.

Frisbee golf comes to mind, as does the ever-popular phys-ed pastime from grade school: soccer baseball.

And, in Guelph, another sports synergy has captured the interest of many students: underwater hockey.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gryphtalk recognizes CIS track and field champions, ambitious students

Finally getting caught up on the blog after a busy week. The varsity season is officially over now but for the Guelph Gryphons men's track and field team, it finished with a bang, as the guys brought home their second CIS title in the past three years. We recapped the results off the top of the show and were then joined by head coach and men's coach of the year, Dave Scott-Thomas to go over some details.

We then were joined by Ian Whatley and Ben Love, a pair of U of G students who are cycling across Canada to raise money for Alzheimer's this summer--great story and a follow-up to the article that I wrote on these guys a couple of weeks ago. Their website can be found at www.acrossthenation.ca. Check it out. They're doing a great job.

For the link to the audio host site for Friday's show, click HERE. As usual, the download button is at the bottom and it's an mp3 file that will play on just about anything short of a tape deck.
photo credit: Ian Whatley & Ben Love

Running culture equally unique as it is successful

It was last Saturday night, when my BlackBerry went into the all-too-familiar vibrating convulsions. I was waiting for one email in particular: the press release with the final results from the CIS track and field championships. The Gryphon men had gone into the final day of the weekend-long set of events with a slim lead over their longtime rivals, the Windsor Lancers.

As expected, the mobile alert contained the news that I was hoping for, headlined by “Gryphon Men Win National Track Championship.” Chalk up another national title for the Gryphons unbelievable running programs, this one decided by a mere one point in the final race of the weekend.

Gryphon excellence at CFL E-Camp: Guelph sends largest single-school contingent to Toronto for three-day testing

With Canadian Football League (CFL) scouts and coaches hoping to get a glimpse of the league’s incoming homegrown talent, six members of the Guelph Gryphons put their skills on display at the annual Evaluation Camp on the weekend.

The Gryphons football program sent more athletes to the three-day event than any other university, proving that despite their underachieving 3-5 record during the regular season, the individual talent on the team is among the nation’s best.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gryphtalk honours International Women's Day

Monday, March 8 was International Women's Day and we devoted the features portion of our program on Friday to a discussion of women's sports in and around the University of Guelph.

Click HERE to go to the sendspace host site. The download link is at the bottom of the page. Thanks, as always, for listening!

Debriefing the NIC

Due to crappy weather and our radio show being a little delayed yesterday (I’ll post the audio later today), I showed up to the National Invitational Combine (NIC) at the U of T Varsity Centre around 3pm yesterday, about an hour after drills got going.

For those that don’t know, the NIC is a private combine for university students – almost exclusively Canadian – to show their stuff to the same CFL scouts, coaches, GMs who will be patrolling the same field tomorrow for the CFL’s formal Evaluation Camp. The event was run by TSN analyst and former CFL player Duane Forde and Mike Gough, both from Canadian Football Scouting (www.canadianfootballscouting.com).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ineffective officiating casts dark shadow over hockey finals

First, let me make one thing clear: I am not usually a proponent of criticizing officiating. In any sport.

If an umpire has a wide strike zone, expand your batting eye. If a referee has a tendency for calling soft fouls in the paint, ease up on the contact under the basket. If skating judges prefer jumps to footwork, you’d better get some more air.

Because, although there are rules in every sport, officiating remains highly subjective. It is what it is, and human error is inevitable in every case.

Friday, March 5, 2010

This week on Gryphtalk...

Today's show is now uploaded on sendspace so feel free to check it out. The download link is at the bottom of the page and it's an mp3 file that will play in just about all media players.

Gryphtalk from Friday, March 5

Track and field competition tightens as Gryphons struggle (by their standards) at OUA Championships

“The track and field league is very strong right now. It’s way better now, top to bottom, than it was ten, or even five years ago.” – Gryphons head coach Dave Scott-Thomas, following the team’s silver and bronze medal finishes at York.

Gryphons drop Game 1 in OUA Finals

The Guelph Gryphons women's hockey team fell 2-0 to the Laurier Golden Hawks in tonight's opening game of the best-of-three OUA Finals between the two teams. Laurier continues to be undefeated in regulation this season while it was the Gryphons first playoff defeat.

Liz Knox, the league's top goaltender, made 29 saves to nail down the shutout and Caitlin Muirhead and Paula Lagamba tallied for the 'Hawks.

Laurier comes into this series as the odds-on favourite to repeat as OUA champs for the 7th consecutive year. Remember, these two teams went the distance in the OUA Finals last year, with Guelph winning Game 1 before Laurier bounced back with wins in Games 2 and 3 to take the series, and the league title.

The series shifts back to Guelph on Saturday afternoon at the Gryphon Centre on the University of Guelph campus. I, along with Greg Layson will have the call live on the Streaming Sports Network, starting at 2pm as the Gryphons will be fighting to keep their season alive.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nothing but praise for Walters' decision

In football, arguably more so than any other sport, it is the head coach that drives the team.

The players execute, but the coach implements.

Whether it’s recruiting, planning, motivating, adjusting, or simply, providing the foundation for success, more is demanded of head football coaches than any other boss in any other sport.

Which is what makes Kyle Walters’ decision to move from Gryphons head coach to special teams coordinator for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL that much more significant.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gryphons sweep Gaels: Off to OUA finals

Five different Guelph Gryphons found the back of the net as the team swept their best-of-three series against the Queen's Gaels on Saturday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over the visitors. The Gryphons will once again play for the provincial title, with their opponent to be the Laurier Golden Hawks, in what will be a rematch of last year's championships series when the 'Hawks went on to defeat the Gryphs for their 5th consecutive championship.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Speculation on Walters' replacement

Call it a hunch, but I've gotta think that Bill Brown, current assistant coach with the Gryphons, has to be a leading candidate to replace the recently-departed Kyle Walters as head coach of the Gryphons. Walters stepped down today to pursue professional coaching opportunities and I've heard that he's the guy taking over as Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL.

Brown is a guy who has a lot of familiarity with the team, as a current longtime coach and former player (the same mould as Walters prior to his hiring). Additionally, he is also heavily involved with the recruiting element of the team, which would maintain a sense of continuity with incoming players. Brown's team bio can be found HERE. I'll let you infer from this what you will, but it seems like a sensible hire.

I'll echo what many others out there are saying that the Gryphons football program is seemingly on the rise. To maintain that level of improvement, Brown seems like a logical choice. Here, you've got a guy familiar with current and future players, as well as other coaches.

This will be a VERY interesting story going forward that I'm really looking forward to covering in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Gryphtalk, in case you missed it

Had a great show today. Ken Cheesy and I broke down the week that was in Gryphons athletics, including information from the men's and women's hockey playoffs where both teams are in their respective semifinals.

We also heard from Elizabeth McLeod, a U of G student who just got back from Vancouver where she got to check out the Olympic Games. Liz is friends with Jeff Batchelor from the men's halfpipe snowboarding team. She had some great things to say about her experiences out west.

Ken and I were also lucky enough to get to break the news that Gryphons football head coach Kyle Walters has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. While rumours are yet to be confirmed, it's been speculated that Walters will accept the position of Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. We broke this news here on Speak into the Mike earlier today, and it quickly found its way around the Twitterverse as well.

So, for Guelph's only sports talk radio show, Gryphtalk can be found RIGHT HERE. The download link is at the bottom of the page.

Remember, we can be found every Friday from noon-12:30 on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph and on the web at www.cfru.ca as well as alwaysoua.blogspot.com. Check it out and stay tuned for more information on the Walters story. Stay up to date by following me at www.twitter.com/miketreadgold


Walters steps down in Guelph. Off to Winnipeg?

University of Guelph Gryphons head coach Kyle Walters has stepped down and rumour has it that he will be named Special Teams Coordinator with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL, filling their second-last coaching vacancy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kiriakou wins OUA West rookie honours

Word just came down from the OUA that Gryphons rookie centre Thomas Kiriakou has been named OUA West Rookie of the Year, along with being named to the West's All-Rookie team.

OT heartbreak: Gryphons fall to Thunderwolves in Game 1 of OUA West semis

Things just got a whole lot tougher for the Guelph Gryphons men's hockey team.

Despite a miraculous third period comeback that saw the Gryphs rebound from a 3-1 deficit to send the opening game of their playoff series with Lakehead to overtime, it was the Thunderwolves who came out on top as Andy Hyvarinen scored an unassisted goal just 2:01 into the extra frame.

Racing for a loose puck against Gryphons defenceman Tim Priamo, Hyvarinen came up with it as Priamo fell. The Thunderwolves winger streaked in from the right half-boards and beat Gryphons goaltender Scott Van Bommel high on the glove side to give Lakehead the series-opening victory in the teams' best-of-three OUA West semi-final.

The game itself was fast-paced from start to finish, with the Gryphons striking first when Pat Campbell banged in a rebound off a great rush from Matt Lyall, who was sharp all game for the Gryphons, along with linemates Alex Magera and JT MacDonald who got a rare start, but played well.

Lakehead stormed back in the second period, controlling most of the play and receiving goals from Dan Speer and Ryan MacDonald, sending the game to the third period with the Gryphons in unfamiliar territory: trailing.

As the final period began, it was Lakehead who struck first as Matt Caria beat Van Bommel on a well-placed shot that went between the legs of Campbell before slipping through the Gryphon goaltender's pads.

Desperately needing a spark, the Gryphons received it less than a minute later when Thunderwolves defenceman Ryan Baird took an interference penalty, sending Guelph to the powerplay. And on the man advantage, the Gryphons standout rookie trio of Thomas Kiriakou, Nathan Martine and Tim Priamo struck as Martine kept a loose puck in at the blueline, finding Kiriakou just outside the right face-off circle. Kiriakou faked a shot and then fired a cross-ice pass just outside the crease to Priamo who was streaking in from the blueline. The big Gryphon rearguard tipped home Kiriakou's pass to bring the Gryphons within one.

And exactly four minutes later, Kris Belan ripped home a shot from the slot to tie the game at three, sending both teams to overtime, with the Gryphons holding momentum and 'Wolves rookie goaltender Alex Dupuis looking shaken, and struggling with his rebound control.

Nevertheless, it was Lakehead's time to shine in the extra frame with Hyvarinen's game-winner. Priamo was visibly shaken after the play, feeling that he had been tripped by Hyvarinen, leading to the goal. Dupuis, despite playing just three games in the regular season, has taken the lion's share of playing time in the post-season and did just enough to keep the Gryphons at bay, stopping 27 shots for his third playoff win.

The series now shifts to Thunder Bay where the Gryphons will have to win the final two games at the Lakehead Thunderdome, a notoriously difficult place to play. While the Gryphs took two on the road in their quarter-final series with Laurier, the atmosphere in T-Bay will be far more hostile, clearly favouring the home side.

Saving their best for last: Gryphons repeat as OUA figure skating champions

For the second consecutive year, the Guelph Gryphons figure skating team are the OUA Champions.

The Gryphons team went right down to the wire in their quest to repeat as the province’s best and after Wednesday’s first day of events, the anxious Gryphons sat in third place going into last Thursday’s finals, trailing Waterloo by three and Western by just two.

And still lagging in the overall standings going into the final two events, the Gryphons needed a pair of incredible performances to knock of the first-place Western Mustangs and reclaim the provincial throne.

And in the final two events, the Gryphons displays were just that. Incredible.

Krista Ricciati and Tessa Mailling finished on top of the senior similar pairs and in the final event of the two-day spectacle at RIM Park in Waterloo, the Gryphons won the synchronized team event to secure the overall title.

With 78 points, the Gryphons finished with a mere seven-point advantage over the silver medalists from Western. Waterloo finished third overall with 61.

Ricciati and Mailling were by no means the only Gryphons to medal at the provincial championships. From the first day forward, a number of Gryphon women found themselves on the podium, led by gold medal performances by Laura Barbison and Ariel Porty in the senior silver similar dance, and Rebecca Wilkes and Christine Kucava in bronze rhythm dance fours. These six gold medal winning women were also rewarded with nominations to the OUA all-star team. It was the second consecutive all-star nomination for Barbison and Porty who were both gold medalists in 2008-09 as well.

Charlotte Drewett took silver in the senior silver free skate, while Wilkes and Kucava returned to the podium with a silver medal in the STARSkate gold creative dance. Sandra McCubbin was the fourth Gryphon silver medalist in the senior silver solo dance.

Mailling also picked up her second medal of the championships when she, Laura Stratton, Lauren Black and Charlotte Hoyle won bronze in the pairs fours.

The overall title was the third time in their history that the Gryphons have landed atop the overall podium as well as the third consecutive year that they have been in the top two.
For her efforts, Gryphons head coach Janet Gibson received her second OUA Coach of the Year award in the past three seasons as she has remarkably turned the program around in her five years of leading the team.

The Gryphons have been among the OUA’s best teams all season, taking overall silver medals at both the Ryerson and Queen’s Invitationals. Last week’s performance in Waterloo, however, proved that this remarkably talented team was saving its best results for the finale.

Payne captures elusive CIS gold: Three Gryphons land on podium at national championships

After winning CIS bronze in her first year as a Gryphon and silver at the end of last season, the top perch of the national podium was within reach for Chantique Payne as she participated in her third set of championships races on the weekend.

One of the country’s most explosive and talented butterfly swimmers, Payne was scheduled to take part in both the 50 and 100-metre events in Toronto as well as the freestyle races at the same distances.

And after placing third and capturing bronze in the 100-metre butterfly event on Thursday, head coach Don Burton knew that his most talented female swimmer was setting herself up for something special for the 50-metre event on Friday, her trademark race.

“In the past, Chantique has had trouble finishing the four lengths in the 100-metre butterfly but that wasn’t the case this time,” said Burton. “Taking bronze in the 100 made gold in the 50-metre event that much more of a reality.”

“I’d never medaled in the 100-metre butterfly and I was going against the Canadian record-holder in that event,” said Payne. “I was really happy to get a medal in that race and then move on to the 50.”

In dramatic fashion, after a brilliant turn, the Gryphon captain cruised to victory in the 50-metre race, completing two laps in 27.34 seconds to take the national title.

“I was a little bit nervous at the beginning. I felt some pressure,” said Payne of her feelings before the race. “But once I dove into the pool, I was focusing on not breathing. I was focusing on the wall and on my turn. I try to use my turns to pass people, and that’s what I did. In the final 25 metres, I was just trying to hang on and finish first.”

Payne was not the only Gryphon swimmer to stand atop the podium during the three-day series of events. Andrew Ford, a second-year swimmer and, according to Burton, a world-class athlete, took home a pair of gold medals in the 100-metre backstroke and 200-metre individual medley events, along with a silver in the 200-metre back. Ford’s three-medal haul occurred on the final two days of events after an underwhelming first day that saw him place a surprising ninth in the 400-metre IM.

“The first day was not a good one for Andrew at all,” said Burton. “We had a lot of talking to do after that day and he needed to be in a better racing mode, mentally. He definitely did that on Saturday.

“The mental aspect is very important and he and I talked about that after the first day of races. He really came into his own on the final two days.”
Bethany Flemington, in just her first year as a Gryphon, also found the podium with a bronze medal finish in the women’s 50-metre back.

Both the Gryphon men’s and women’s teams finished ninth overall and Burton was extremely pleased with his athletes. Only two Gryphon women were participating in the national championships but Guelph still finished third among OUA schools, an improvement over their seventh place finish at the provincial championships.

“We only had two women competing at the national championships, but Chantique and Bethany are so fast that we were beating teams that had up to ten women,” said Burton. “From a performance side, we do very well, and now I’m really trying to get more men and women into this school because we’re all about high performance.”

Road Warriors: Gryphons take two in Waterloo, steal quarter-final series from Golden Hawks

Just two months ago, the Gryphon men’s hockey team was among the bottom-feeders in the OUA West division, heading into the holiday break dejected and wondering just what had gone wrong in the first half of their season.

2010, however, has been an entirely different story as the Gryphons have emerged in the second half as one of the most dominant teams in the league. That dominance carried through in their quarter-final playoff series against the Laurier Golden Hawks, as the Gryphons won the third and final game of the series, 3-2 in Waterloo, on Sunday night.

The Golden Hawks entered the playoff round as the favourite, having finished fourth in the West division during the regular season, while the Gryphons were fifth. Behind 31 saves from Scott Van Bommel and two points from Kris Belan, the Gryphons erased the Golden Hawks home-ice advantage on Thursday night with a 3-0 victory.

In Saturday’s second game of the series, however, the Gryphons were stonewalled by Hawks goaltender Jeff MacDougald who made 34 saves to give Laurier a 3-2 win, sending the series back to Waterloo for the third and decisive game on Sunday evening.

“The first game was a huge win for us,” said centre Thomas Kiriakou. “But in the second game, we weren’t as hungry for the puck and Laurier just wanted to battle more. We sat back in the first half of the game and they capitalized on everything.”

And in the final game, the Gryphon offence picked up the slack, beating MacDougald four times and adding an empty-netter as the Gryphons won 5-3. Captain Derek Knowles had three assists, Ed Gale scored twice, and the Gryphons didn’t take any team penalties to secure the series win, sending them to the next round. The semi-final will be another best-of-three series against Lakehead, which began last night in Guelph after the Ontarion went to press.

Arguably the two most critical factors that plagued the Gryphons in the first half of the season was a lack of goal-scoring up front and stability in net. Both of these deficiencies were solved after the winter break, however, as Van Bommel emerged as the number one goaltender, and the top line of Gale, Kiriakou and Belan established themselves as one of the most explosive and cohesive units in the league.

“A lot of us are new players and it doesn’t just take a couple of games to gel. For us, it took half a season,” said Kiriakou. “And with Scott (Van Bommel), you’re always going to get 200 per cent. He’s a small guy, maybe the smallest in the league, but he’s got the biggest heart and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. We know that and we have so much confidence in him.”

Kiriakou’s 32 points led the team and left him just outside of the top 20 in league scoring in just his rookie season. Belan’s team-leading 16 goals was good for tenth in the province and Gale was a constant playmaking threat who was more than willing to do the dirty work in the corners and create chances with his speed.

“(Head coach) Shawn Camp did a lot of line juggling and he found great chemistry between Kris, Ed and myself,” said Kiriakou. “We’ve also found great chemistry in our second, third and fourth lines. We have four very strong lines now.”

With the semi-finals underway, the Gryphons continue to be one of the more revered teams in the league and are now just steps away from a berth in the division finals.

“You only need seven [playoff] wins to win an OUA championship,” said Kiriakou. “We’ve got two right now. It’s going to be a great series.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gryphtalk is here!

Not sure why I didn't do this sooner, but after 7 weeks of sports talk radio, I'm going to start posting a link to the audio for my radio show here on the website. This is my weekly sports talk radio show that I co-host with Ken Cheesy about Guelph athletics. It airs every Friday at noon on CFRU 93.3FM in Guelph and on the web at www.cfru.ca.

You can also find the same audio file at www.alwaysoua.blogspot.com as Matt and Chris have generously offered to publish the link to my show. Check them out, it's great university sports content.

Matt was this week's guest on our show. Check out the following LINK for Gryphtalk from Friday, February 19, 2010. The download is at the bottom of the page. Thanks for reading/listening.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down, but not out: Van Doormaal leads by example

In previous editions of this column, I have attempted to draw attention to courageous performances, as I believe that these are the events worth writing about, regardless of the outcome.

You may remember that I previously compared the Yates Cup performance of hobbled Western Mustangs quarterback, Michael Faulds, to the display of strength by former Toronto Maple Leaf, Bobby Baun in the 1964 Stanley Cup playoffs.

I suppose that Gryphon swimmer Scott Van Doormaal’s performance at the OUA Championships last Thursday should be mentioned in a similar light. Here was an athlete, so determined, and so competitive that he would risk further injury at the pinnacle of his sport.

Back in December, Van Doormaal, the senior-most member of the Gryphons team and one of the elected captains, broke his foot. I can only imagine how a swimmer could contend with such an injury, but I suppose, as a former baseball player, I could liken it to breaking a pitching arm, just weeks before the playoffs began.

Nevertheless, Van Doormaal remained committed to competing, committed to providing his team with the kind of leadership that captains are expected to demonstrate to their teammates.

It’s worth noting that Van Doormaal is much more than merely your average swimmer with this Gryphons team. Aside from being a team captain, the fifth-year student-athlete was, and still is, a nationally-renowned competitor, who would have been a major threat to stand on the podium in the upcoming CIS championship races.

In each of his previous four seasons with the Gryphons, Van Doormaal had won multiple medals at the OUA championship level, excelling in both the medium and long distance races. 2010 would have likely been no different and along with Andrew Ford and a host of other supremely talented Gryphon men, this team was poised to be a profound national threat.

Nevertheless, at least from an individual perspective, Van Doormaal’s season was derailed by the now-infamous broken foot.

But despite the obvious physical limitations, there was no breaking of his competitive spirit. Broken foot notwithstanding, Van Doormaal was there to compete.

Now keep in mind that I did not personally observe this event. This column is, instead, a recollection of stories that have been communicated to me by others who did happen to bear witness to the men’s 1500m freestyle race at Brock University this past weekend. Gryphons team head coach, Don Burton, had his fair share of superlatives when describing what happened in St. Catharines

“Swimming with one foot is virtually impossible,” said Burton. “Scott did a phenomenal job of leading by example, above and beyond the call of anything that anyone would’ve ever expected of him.”

“We all know what it’s like to have injuries,” said fellow captain Chantique Payne. “Just to see how Scott tried to step up and [compete] for our team, it was really inspirational.”
The stories all have the same message: Van Doormaal’s performance was nothing short of phenomenal.

Requiring the aid of crutches to approach the blocks at the start of the race, Van Doormaal hit the water for 30 laps of one-footed competition against the province’s most accomplished (two-footed) distance swimmers. Competing against the province’s best, Van Doormaal finished 14th overall in the 1500m race, taking three points for his team.

The result, though incredible, is not the story here. It’s the effort that makes this story so compelling, so newsworthy.

Time and time again, university athletes have proven themselves to be the ultimate competitors. And so long as these stories exist, I will continue to publish them. Too often, stories in the media highlight the negatives associated with athletics; these stories are stale and often, unworthy. If you have a story about a local athlete that defies expectations for the purpose of competing, I want to hear these narratives. This is the space for those refreshing tales.

Ford, Payne shine at OUA Championships

Going up against perennial powerhouse squads from U of T and Western, the Gryphons swimming teams proved that they belonged to be mentioned among the province’s best schools at the OUA Championships last weekend in St. Catharines.

Led by a several dominant individual performances by Andrew Ford and Chantique Payne, who were both named OUA all-stars following the meet, Gryphon swimmers combined to win six gold, one silver and seven bronze medals over the four-day event, hosted by Brock University.

Ford’s gold medal haul began on Friday with a winning performance in the men’s 200m individual medley, and followed that up with another gold medal win in the 100m backstroke race on Saturday. Ford finished the tournament magnificently with two more individual gold medals in the 400m IM and 200m backstroke on Sunday and his four-day winnings of four gold and two bronze medals gave him the male Dr. Jeno Tihanyi IM award, along with his all-star nomination.

“Andrew is a world-class athlete and his goal is to make the Olympic team,” said head coach Don Burton. “To win all of his events at the OUA level fits right in with that plan.”

Will Wright, Matthew Stephenson and Ben Roberts, who also received an OUA all-star nod, were the other Gryphon individual medal winners as the men’s team finished with 468 points, good for fourth place overall and an improvement over last year’s fifth-place finish.

On the women’s side, Payne continued to assert herself as one of the country’s most prolific athletes, particularly in the butterfly events, as she won a pair of gold medals in the women’s 50m and 100m butterfly races, along with a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle competition, earning her OUA all-star status.

“Chantique’s 50m butterfly time was hundredths of a second away from being her personal best,” said Burton. “Considering she didn’t have her best turn or finish, it was a very fast time for her final result and it shows that she has potential to go even faster.”

“I’ve been working really hard on my turns and usually they’re pretty good,” said Payne. “For some reason, my split times were way off [at OUAs] but it pulled together ok.”

Payne’s spectacular performances, along with a bronze medal finish by Bethany Flemington in the women’s 50m backstroke were enough to earn the Gryphon women a seventh-place finish with 262 points.

Payne’s 2009-10 season has been nothing short of outstanding. The third-year swimmer appears poised to make numerous appearances on the podium at the CIS national championships in Toronto later this month, where she qualified for no fewer than ten different events, yet in accordance with league rules, is only allowed to compete in four. Payne will be among the favourites in the butterfly and freestyle strokes, both at the 50m and 100m distances.

“I’m really excited for these CI [championship races],” said Payne. “This year, I swam a lot faster at the beginning of the season and I’m really looking forward to the next step.

“Two years ago, I won bronze in the 50m butterfly and last year, it was silver. The girl who beat me both times has now graduated so we’ll see how things go. I really want to move up to the gold.”

Payne will be joined at the CIS championships by Ford, Stephenson, Wright, Roberts, Flemington, Scott Van Doormaal, if he is capable of competing, and any other Gryphon qualifiers between now and Feb. 19, when the events begin.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A successful recovery: Zerafa puts injury behind her, leads Gryphons towards playoffs

The month was March and the Gryphon Centre was the scene of the 2009 OUA women’s hockey playoffs between the Brock Badgers and the Guelph Gryphons. The game had just begun and the ice was still fresh as the Gryphons looked to capitalize on the powerplay.

The Gryphons came into the series ranked second in the OUA, sporting one of the most prolific offences in the country, led by Jessica Zerafa, the league’s leading goal-scorer.

After narrowly missing a scoring chance in front, Zerafa, on just her second shift, chased a loose puck into the corner, when she took a light push from behind, sending her feet-first into the boards.

What happened next remains somewhat of a blur for Zerafa, but she does remember being unable to feel her leg as she was helped off the ice, assuming that it was shattered.
“It was really emotional for me,” said Zerafa. “I instantly thought that my leg was broken and I figured that I would be out for the rest of the playoffs.”

Zerafa already had shoulder surgery (her third) planned after the season, so the expectation of being bedridden already existed prior to injury. Nevertheless, her season was over, forced to watch her team from the stands as they defeated Brock in the OUA semi-finals, only to bow out to rival Laurier in the championship series.

“It was so difficult to have to watch,” Zerafa said of observing the remainder of the playoffs from the sidelines. “I even tried to skate before the first Laurier game but there was no way I could get out there and I had to accept that I couldn’t be out there and I had to be a cheerleader from the sidelines. It was great to watch but it would’ve been better to be out there.”

Upon diagnosis, the leg was not broken, but rather, Zerafa had suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain, an injury that sounds simple, but as any athlete rightfully knows, the type of injury that has a long recovery period and uncertainty about how the ankle will respond following rehab.

High ankle sprains are usually not dealt with via surgery, but rather, a slow rehabilitation process.

“I knew that one way or another, I’d be back on the ice one day,” said Zerafa of her optimism following the injury. “I’ve been through a lot of injuries in the past. This one was just frustrating.”

A high ankle sprain, besides being more complicated than a break, meant two months in a walking cast and six months off the ice, an excruciatingly long time away from the ice for a player as dedicated to her sport as Zerafa. When she was able to resume skating in August, there were definite reservations about how quickly she could return to the form that led to her being named an OUA Second Team All-star in 2009.

“When I first put my skates back on, I was experiencing some pain,” Zerafa said. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back out there in time for the season.”

Watching Zerafa’s triumphant return to the ice this year, however, her ankle – as well as her shoulder – seems to be responding admirably.

Zerafa has played in all 24 games thus far, and has scored ten goals and 24 points, good for third on the team and a tie for 11th in league scoring.

With the injury still relatively fresh in her mind, visions of March still go through Zerafa’s mind every time she chases a puck into the corner.

“In the first few games, I felt a little traumatized to go into that same corner where I got hurt,” admitted Zerafa. “I wondered, ‘Am I going to lose my footing? Am I going to get hit?’ It became the evil corner, but I’ve looked past it now.”

With only three games left in the regular season before the playoffs begin and the Gryphons starting to peak, Zerafa relishes the idea of a rematch with Laurier, the league’s only undefeated team and the OUA champions for the past six years.

“Every time we play them we’re just so close [to winning],” said Zerafa. “Our coach (Rachel Flanagan) said the other day that once we beat them one time, we’ll be able to keep it up. I feel good about the playoffs. If we play Laurier again, we’ll get it done this time.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, but we have a really good team on paper,” said Zerafa. “I definitely think we’re peaking at the right time and things are going our way right now.”

Bucking the trend

Canadian football players in the Canadian Football League. Novel concept, no?

Not so fast if you play quarterback, a position made up exclusively of Americans. Players born, raised and trained south of the border make the journey north of the 49th when the dream of making it in the National Football League begins to falter, taking the place of their Canadian counterparts.

This is not a recent paradox of the game’s most important position being comprised entirely of Americans. Doug Flutie? Raised in Maryland and a Boston College Alum. Damon Allen? Raised on the (American ) West coast and an outstanding two-sport athlete at Cal State Fullerton. Warren Moon? Another left coast native, who played his college ball with the Washington Huskies.

See the trend?

Year after year, Canadian born, raised and trained quarterbacks have ended their university careers and have been left with no real option to continue their careers, despite the fact that this country has a professional football league of its own that should be supporting their further development.

Granted, the CFL has a Canadian quota system in place: half of each team’s roster is reserved for Canadian athletes; however, their college location does not matter (so Canadian-born athletes who play NCAA are part of the Canadian quota) nor does the position that they play. Generally, Canadians on CFL teams are offensive linemen, defensive backs and receivers. Former Gryphons Mike Palmer, Dave McKoy and now Brad Crawford fit the bill.

But as far as quarterbacks go, Canadian signal-callers are extremely rare, with the only successful historical example being Russ Jackson, a McMaster Alum who played professionally with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1960s. Recent CIS-grads Tommy Denison and Teale Orban have tried to get a foot in the door, but to no avail, losing jobs to American competition.

But doom and gloom aside, as a great songwriter once said, the times, they are a-changin’.


In this past CIS football seasons, we have witnessed arguably the greatest quarterback play in the history of the league. Erik Glavic (Calgary), Michael Faulds (Western), Danny Brannagan (Queen’s) and Guelph’s own Justin Dunk have combined to shatter all-time passing records for Canadian quarterbacks, raising the bar for quality at the position and reintroducing the age-old argument in favour of Canadian quarterbacks playing at the next level.

And it seems that coaches and general managers in the CFL are starting to listen.

Home-grown talents have brought an entirely new level of legitimacy to the position and the players are being rewarded accordingly.

Glavic, Faulds and Brannagan have all received invites to try out as quarterbacks at the CFL’s upcoming Evaluation Camp in Toronto, to be held in March. Dunk will try out as a receiver and hope that his virtually unparalleled athleticism will be enough to afford him an opportunity to showcase his skills in the professional ranks. No Canadian quarterbacks attended the 2009 E-Camp.

While an invite to the CFL’s E-Camp is by no means a guaranteed professional job – these Canadians have not even been drafted by a CFL team – it is still a giant step in the right direction for these accomplished and remarkably talented athletes.

Glavic and Faulds arguably have the best chance at moving forward. Glavic, a Pickering native and two-time Hec Crighton trophy winner is six-foot-six with a big arm and the ability to move around and outside the pocket. Faulds is a rifle-armed on-field general with incredible heart and the all-time leading passer in CIS history.

Dunk may be the wildcard.

Blessed with good size, exceptional speed, agility and elusiveness, it’s not out of the question to foresee a future for him at wideout in the CFL, especially given the recent success of Canadian receivers in the league. Mike Morreale, Jason Clermont, Andy Fantuz and Rob Bagg come to mind – yeah, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m kind of a fan.

Regardless of how successful Glavic, Faulds, Brannagan and Dunk are in their respective tryouts, these four student-athletes have done a remarkable job of bringing national relevance to the quarterback position once again.

Now someone just needs to give them a chance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Too little, too late

Despite strong play in the second and third periods, a slow start and a propensity for taking ill-timed penalties proved to be their undoing as the Guelph Gryphons men’s hockey team fell 3-1 to the Waterloo Warriors in Saturday’s Frosty Mug event in downtown Guelph.
The annual event, which took place at the Sleeman Centre, welcomed nearly 1200 Gryphon fans as the Department of Athletics looked to showcase university sport in the greater Guelph community.

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated match up between the red-hot Gryphons and the speedy, tenth-ranked Warriors, finished in favour of the visitors as Waterloo scored twice in the first period and managed to hold off the hard-charging Gryphons in the final 40 minutes.

“When you take as many penalties as we did tonight, you give away momentum,” said Gryphons head coach Shawn Camp. “We were wasting a lot of energy having to kill penalties.”
Late in the game, Waterloo began to replicate the undisciplined play of the Gryphons, leading to nine Guelph powerplays that the home side failed to capitalize on.

“I think [killing penalties] hurt us when we were on the powerplay too,” said Camp. “We didn’t have the same energy, we didn’t execute as well on the powerplay as we have of late.”

Rookie centre Thomas Kiriakou, the Gryphons’ leading scorer this season, echoed his coach’s sentiments concerning the Gryphons’ lackadaisical start and lack of disciplined play.

“When you have a lot of penalties in a game, it’s a little distracting and, as a team, your confidence goes down,” said Kiriakou. “In the first period, we came out slow, and in the second we improved.

“We normally like to play on our toes, forecheck hard, make a play and take the body. We didn’t do that in the first period and [Waterloo] capitalized on that with a couple of goals. That really cost us the game.”

Waterloo came out aggressively in the first period, drawing four Gryphon infractions and tiring the Guelph penalty killers. Chris Ray and Shane Hart beat Gryphon goaltender Scott Van Bommel twice in the first period to put Waterloo in front. After Jake Lalonde answered for the Gryphons halfway through the second, Kyle Schwende scored an insurance marker with less than three minutes left in the period to give the Warriors some breathing room.

Keaton Hartigan made 11 saves in the third period to stave off the Guelph attack as the Gryphons outshot Waterloo 26-19.

For Kiriakou, his first season as a Gryphon has been nothing short of remarkable. He leads the team with 11 goals and 23 points in 21 games.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came here but I’ve been able to gel pretty nicely and coach Camp has been tremendous [with] me and the guys,” said Kiriakou. “We get along so well and I’m really happy to be a Gryphon.”

The Department of Athletics had been actively promoting Saturday’s event, particularly by making inroads in the campus residences, similar to Homecoming in September. Given that Gryphon hockey games rarely attract more than 200 onlookers, the Frosty Mug was certainly a success in terms of attracting attention.

While many of the surrounding seats remained empty, a large contingent of onlookers observed the game from the Draught Picks Tap House & Grill overlooking the ice. As the Gryphons’ level of intensity increased in the latter two periods, the crowd excitement grew accordingly.

“It’s always nice to play [at the Sleeman Centre],” said Camp. “The facility is so professional, there’s a great atmosphere here and it’s a chance to show our brand of hockey to people in the community.”

As the playoffs approach, the Gryphons will look to take advantage of their favourable schedule, playing four of their final five games at home.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Frosty Mug provides an opportunity to celebrate the purity of sports

Week after week, the sports sections in the national media look strikingly similar to tabloid pseudo-journalism.

Baseball players are packing needles, NBA ballers are packing heat and Tiger is packing as many women as possible into his schedule of infidelity.

Celeb gossip has had enough of Hollywood and Miami Beach and taken up residence in sports bars and boxscore space. TSN, TMZ – same diff.

Except in the OUA.

For what it’s worth, Ontario University Athletics has maintained that level of purity in sport that has otherwise been frustratingly lacking at other levels.

Athletes here know that every game and every meet matters. They show up to play, play hard and do so without the glitz, glam, bodyguards and after-party mug shots.

It’s incredibly refreshing.

Only in university sport can you find a student-athlete who is balancing J.S. Mill with jump shots, trigonometry with tackling and lab time with lap times – get the picture?

So why not show a little support?

On a few occasions every year, the department of athletics takes the opportunity to showcase Guelph Gryphons athletics on a bigger-than-usual stage. Saturday is one of those chances.
The upcoming Frosty Mug event at the downtown Sleeman Centre is the highlight of the Gryphon men’s hockey season, an opportunity to escape their campus confines and prove to fans that university hockey is an exciting and very affordable means of entertainment, not to mention a great way to support your fellow students.

With a big venue, big prizes and big hype, Saturday night’s affair promises to be a hockey homecoming of sorts.

The only piece missing is the crowd.

Drawing attention and attendance to Gryphons athletics has been a sensitive and difficult issue that the department of athletics has wrestled with for a number of years.
Why does the interest in university sports in Guelph pale in comparison to other Ontario universities?

A lack of advertising dollars? Misguided marketing campaigns? An abundance of alternative forms of local entertainment? A general lack of interest in sports among U of G students? Take your pick.

I’ll go with ‘E’ – the multiple choice bailout answer of ‘all of the above’ seems most appropriate here.

But for once, let’s buck the trend. Eff the norm! These athletes deserve it.

Attendance at Gryphon events this season has been solid, but not spectacular. Winning draws a crowd and little by little, people are starting to take an interest in the success of our varsity athletes.

For three hours of your time and a few bucks to get in the door, Saturday is a chance to see university sport at its finest. Dedicated, competitive and remarkably talented athletes will take to the ice against the visiting Waterloo Warriors at 7:30 p.m. in what promises to be entertaining match up.

The Gryphons have come out of the holiday break playing their best hockey of the season, having recently upset the likes of Western and Brock and taking Waterloo and UOIT to the brink in a pair of edge-of-your-seat shootouts.

Show a little Gryphon pride this weekend and check out the Frosty Mug.

For what it’s worth, it sure beats the Leafs!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Picking out the positives

To say that the 2009-10 season has been a trying campaign for the Gryphon women’s basketball team would be a blatant understatement.

Mired in a tie for last place in the OUA West, the 2-8 Gryphons have struggled with turnovers, a lack of outside shooting and most importantly, the lack of a hardened game-tested veteran player. All three co-captains from last season, guards Morgan Jean and Kris Yallin, along with forward Rachel Hancock, have moved on in various capacities, leaving the team desperately seeking leadership.

The team’s most experienced players, forwards Alex Russell and Kara Muhlhausen, were both solid contributors in previous seasons, but did so coming off the bench with limited roles. Both women, particularly Russell, who has really taken advantage of her new starting role, have had solid seasons, yet still lack that late-in-the-fourth-quarter mojo that only comes via game experience.

The most talented players on the current roster, forwards Jasmine Douglas and Samantha Russell, are in only their second seasons and still learning the ropes of OUA play. To this point, their play has been very solid, but expecting them to play the role of the seasoned on-court general is asking a little much.

Nevertheless, despite their shortcomings and lack of a home victory to this point, the 09-10 season has still contained its fair share of positive performances worth noting.

Douglas, in just her second year has shown the ability to flat-out take over games. Sitting barely outside the top ten in league scoring while averaging just shy of 14 points-per-game, the fiery redhead has shown a tenacity to dominate the paint and crash the glass.
Along with her scoring prowess, Douglas sits fifth in the OUA in rebounding and third in blocked shots. The Gryphons’ lack of a consistent outside shooting presence has led to opposing defenders double-teaming Douglas inside the low blocks, however, her quickness and strength make her virtually undefendable one-on-one. She has a commanding presence on the floor and is an obvious choice for future team captain.

Douglas is joined in the front-court by fellow second-year forward Samantha Russell, who is coming off being named OUA West Rookie of the Year for 2008-09. While her sophomore season has been somewhat more difficult than her first, Russell’s emerging versatility gives head coach Angela Orton the opportunity to play her in a variety of positions. With her outside game still improving, Russell has the opportunity to become a dangerous dual threat for the Gryphons’ offensive attack.

Lastly, rookie forward Samantha de Jong has surprised many in her first season. A tall forward with the strength to push players around underneath, there have been several occasions where de Jong’s play looks strikingly similar to that of Douglas, giving the Gryphons a talented and powerful front-court rotation, along with the Russell sisters. For the second consecutive season, it appears that Orton’s recruiting class has turned out some front-court gems.

With the Gryphons on the outside looking in at the OUA playoff picture, it is important to note that this is a team still in the developing stages. With Alex Russell being the lone fourth-year player, the lady Gryphons are short on experience, but long on potential. By taking care of the ball and feeding it inside to the talented group of forwards, the wins will eventually come.

It just might take a little patience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Regardless of the outcome, torch fiasco a black eye for Guelph

Political issues and criticisms surrounding the Olympics are vast and often justified. Whether it’s discrimination against our Native peoples and their lands, the excessive corporatization of the Games itself or the proliferation of false and arguably unnecessary nationalism, the Olympic Games has its fair share of detractors.

Furthermore, these lobbyists are currently coming to the forefront of local and national media coverage, as well as water cooler banter, given the fact that for the first time since the Winter Games were held in Calgary in 1988, Canada will be hosting this spectacular event next month. For better or for worse, the Olympic Games undoubtedly generates discussion.

And in light of events that took place on Dec. 28, the city of Guelph is attracting considerable attention across the country, with much of it negative.

During the Guelph leg of the cross-country torch relay, torch-bearer Cortney Hansen was allegedly knocked down by a protester, when anti-Olympic activists – many of which who belonged to a group called the Olympic Resistance Network – clashed with police.

Bearing slogans such as, “No Olympics on stolen native land!” and “Homes, not games!” the protesters seemed initially peaceful, distributing pamphlets outlining their arguments to the crowd of approximately 1000 observers, as the famed Olympic symbol made its way through the downtown core.

What followed this largely progressive demonstration is still under investigation, but has nevertheless cast a dark shadow over the Royal City.

Authorities are still trying to determine what exactly caused Hansen to fall – an officer’s foot or a protester’s malice – however, regardless of the outcome, this issue reflects poorly on the city of Guelph.

Similar protests have occurred across Canada during the torch trek, yet the Wyndham St. fiasco was the first such physical confrontation. Whether it was a group of overzealous and disobedient protesters, or the excessive overreactions of some overwhelmed officers, Guelph has attracted national attention for all the wrong reasons.

Two women associated with the resistance group have been charged with assault, while the protesters allege that the only violence that occurred was when an RCMP officer punched a protester. Witness accounts remain convoluted and contradictory, however, it is difficult to look at this as anything other than a black eye for Guelph’s renowned activist culture at a time when the community was in the national spotlight.

With the investigation ongoing and conclusions still lacking, it would be too subjective to pass judgment at this point on which story is true and what actually happened on the cold December morning. Regardless of the outcome, however, the entire event is a shame. Confusion notwithstanding, other communities read this story and are left with a sour taste in their mouth about what Guelph stands for.

Peaceful resistance and activism have been shining features on which the city has been able to hang its hat for several decades. Gwen Jacob’s 1991 topless stroll through downtown Guelph comes to mind when one recalls a progressive and non-violent example of the city’s activist culture. Sadly, the Olympic resistance will not achieve such reverence and admiration.