By Mack Abbott
Below is a breakdown of what to expect from the CUFLA East Division in 2015.
The East Division schedule kicks off on Friday night as the Concordia Stingers travel across town to take on the McGill Redmen, followed by 3 games each on Saturday and Sunday. The ultimate goal is a trip to Lennoxville, home of the Bishop’s Gaiters, for the Baggataway Cup on November 6-8, 2015.
With the 2015 Baggataway Cup playoffs heading to Lennoxville, the Bishop’s Gaiters look to return to glory for the first time since their 2011 championship. In recent years, they have found themselves a bridesmaid but never a bride in the East Division. They have consistently found themselves in McGill’s shadow in the east division, but the Gaiters want to step out into the limelight.
Midfielder Alex Millin and face-off specialist Joe LaPrarie have departed.?Goaltender David Bigley returns between the pipes and will serve as the leader on the backend in conjunction with long pole captain Brad Haddon. In addition, the Gaiters have added Barrie Lakeshore defender and former Team Ontario longpole Joel Wright.
On the offensive end of the field, attackman James Malloy and midfielder Mason Austen will lead the charges. 2015 will see the host Gaiters seeking to take field of home advantage, leapfrog the Redmen from McGill and reclaim glory in the CUFLA world.
2014 was a building year for the Carleton Ravens. Following a dismal 2013 which saw the Ravens only win twice, the team bounced back in 2014 finishing with a 6-6 record which was good enough for fourth place in the East Division. However, Carleton essentially defined average last year. All 6 victories came against teams below them in the standings while all six?losses were against teams that finished above them in the standings.
Entering the playoffs as an underdog, the Ravens dropped a tight 7-6 contest to Queen’s in the first round of the CUFLA playoffs, but a successful foundation has been laid heading into 2015.
Carleton gave up 119 goals last year, 91 of which came in their six?games against the East’s top three?teams in McGill, Bishop’s, and Queen’s. If the birds want to soar to the top of the standings, that number will surely need to improve against top competition. Similarly, on the offensive side Carleton scored only 105 goals, of which only 27 came against the top three?in the East Division.
Although easier said than done, the key to success in 2015 will be finding a way to succeed against the league’s best. Carleton showed last year they were able to handle the teams below them in the standings but struggled mightily against teams above them. Look for the Ravens to take some valuable learning experience from 2014, including a tight playoff loss, and apply that knowledge in 2015. Despite the strength at the top of the East, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Carleton take the next step and find themselves in the league’s upper echelon.
The Concordia Stingers are heading into a new era. They enter their third season as a full member of CUFLA and have yet to win a game in their two?seasons of play. Midfielder Mike McCullough and long pole James Gillis have moved on. However, they will look to buck that trend and get their first win under the tutelage of incoming head coach Jonathan Corkery.
The former Brock Badger will look to bring his leadership and past experiences as the squad from Montreal looks to turn the corner towards brighter skies. It might be another year without a playoff experience for Concordia, but they should take some steps in the right direction in 2015.
The McGill Redmen are the perennial beasts of the east. They have not lost a regular season game since an 11-10 loss to Bishop’s during the 2012 season. However, only once have they been able to translate regular season success into ultimate post season success, capturing the Baggataway Cup during the aforementioned 2012 season. Since then they have lost to Guelph in two straight championship games. Heading into this season, the Redmen want no less than another shot at returning the championship trophy?to Montreal.
Despite the loss of CUFLA most outstanding graduating player Alex Rohrbach, All-Canadian long pole Danny McDermott and All-Canadian midfielder Jack Stewart the Redmen will be just fine heading into 2015. Returning to the fold are All-Canadians Connor Goodwin, William Waesche, Paul Rakoczy and Quinton Bradley.
McGill have added some size to the roster. Three?incoming freshmen stand over 6’2 including St. Michael’s grad Brendan Mullen, IMG Academy grad Maxime Murdoch, and face off specialist Alex Beckes. Additionally, incoming goaltender Conor Manahan, who stands at 5’11. With big bodies come big expectations in Montreal, and you can expect to see them playing on the weekend in Lennoxville come November.
The University of Ottawa enters their sophomore season as a member of CUFLA, and they are looking to improve on last year’s result. Although they saw some success in their first season, winning 3 times in the regular season, they saw their season end with a 13-4 loss to the perennial powerhouse McGill Redmen in the first round of the Baggataway Cup playoffs.
Head Coach Mike Dube, a former Baggataway Cup Champion and CUFLA MVP, looks to take his team to the next step. 2014 Honourable Mention All-Canadian Brandon Perras and captain Shayne Snider will once again lead the offence. However, the key to success will lie on the backend where Brandon Labelle and Connor Primeau return to anchor the defence. If they can reduce their goals against, the club from our nation’s capital should find more regular season success.
Outside of Bishop’s and McGill no team in the East has been able to break through and experience any postseason success, outside?a semifinal appearance in 2013. The Queen’s Gaels are seeking to be the first. Having made the final 6 in the playoffs each of the last two?seasons, the Gaels are hungry for a championship.
The team from Kingston had CUFLA’s fourth best offence last year?and will look to lean on the offence to pace them in 2015. The Gaels lost the 2014 CUFLA leading scorer Josh Smith. However, All-Canadian Brendan Zoehner, who finished second in league scoring last season behind Smithwill be the leader of the Queen’s offence. In addition he will be supported by Captain Alex Wright, who spent much of 2014 on the sidelines with an injury. Combined, the two have put up 214 points over the past three?CUFLA seasons.
On defence Queen’s will have a big, mobile core who will be anchored by Honourable Mention All-Canadian Jordan Nanos and a solid group of experienced thirrd and fourth year starters. Queen’s also has a strong recruiting class featuring athletes from Jr A, B and C as well as some US prep school graduates. If there is any one team in CUFLA who will upset the traditional top two?in the East, there is absolutely no reason why it won’t be the Gaels.
For the second straight year the Trent Excalibur finished the regular season with a?4-6 record, good enough for fifth in the East Division in 2014. Some key pieces from last year’s team have departed in midfield captain Riley Thompson and the team’s third leading scorer, Thomas Hoggarth. However, a strong core of returning players, including the teams top two point getters Josh Gilray and Travis Szabolcs, will look to continue building upon the Peterborough lacrosse momentum.
The summer of 2015 saw the Peterborough Lakers win the MSL and Jr. C championships in Ontario, while the Jr. A side?fell to the eventual?Minto Cup Champion Six Nations Arrows in the Ontario final. Defensively Trent returns a veteran core of longpoles, led by Brandon Armstrong, whom the coaching staff believes will be one of CUFLA’s top long poles in 2015. Despite a couple of losses Trent has added some dynamic replacements that will look to seamlessly transition the team back into a contending role. Peterborough Lakers Jr A captain Dan Michel, a transfer from St. Mary’s University, and former RIT Tiger Garrett Eddy will bring even more experience to a veteran Excalibur lineup.
With such a veteran group looking to carry the Peterborough lacrosse tradition into the fall, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Trent shoot up the rankings in 2015 and be a threat in Lennoxville in November.