Explorer Race is Still On

 

Final League Games Crucial for ‘Pack, T’Wolves, and Cougars

Francko Kouagnia and his UNBC Timberwolves will be reaching for 2nd place this weekend vs Okanagan.

Francko Kouagnia and his UNBC Timberwolves will be reaching for 2nd place this weekend vs Okanagan.

While the Pioneer Division has all 7 play-off qualifiers finalized before the weekend’s play, the 6-team Explorer loop still has 3 teams vying for 2nd and 3rd behind the runaway UFV train.  UNBC starts tonight in Kelowna with 2 games against the cellar-dwelling UBC-O Heat, but Coach Peter Guarasci’ youthful Okanagan squad have shown they have made progress.  The T’Wolves’ big men, Devin McMurtry and Francko Kouagnia,  may be the difference in this series.

Thompson Rivers look to be without their star forward, Josh Wolfram, and are hand-cuffed on offense and on the boards as a result.  There’s no doubt that, at their best, UFV should take both games in Abbotsford, and, if that happens, TRU is in jeopardy of missing out on the post-season. Mt. Royal has to have a sweep on their home floor against the MacEwan Griffins if they are to get to 10-10, and possibly tie TRU and get 3rd on a tie beaker.

In the Pioneer, we have the 7th spot decided, and it will be the Manitoba Bisons, who will, after playing at UBC this week, wait and see where they go to play that 1st round series against the Pioneer #5 team. The 1 through 6 spots are up in the air, and with upsets a possibility, it may be smart not to do too much prognostication. But … Saskatchewan and UVic have the best chance of securing the top 2 spots, if they don’t stumble against Calgary or TWU respectively. Alberta, UBC, and Winnipeg will be in as well, with places to be  determined by weekend game results.

 

This Week in Canada West –

Thursday /Friday  the T’Wolves try and finish strong –  

UNBC Timberwolves (10-8)  at UBC-Okanagan Heat (3-15) –  The Wolves are aiming for 2nd in the Explorer Division and a bye to the round of 8 in Canada West playoffs, but beware the home-town Heat, who are coming on of late.  2nd game is Friday in Kelowna again.

Friday /Saturday  in the Pioneer Division –

Can Matt Letkeman and the Calgary Dinos get a win at Saskatchewan?

Can Matt Letkeman and the Calgary Dinos get a win at Saskatchewan?

Calgary Dinos (12-6)  at Saskatchewan Huskies (13-5) – The Huskies are very tough at home, and Calgary has just 1 win in 12 games vs Sask.  An upset is not impossible, but the odds say sweep for the Sled Dogs.

Regina Cougars (7-11)  at Winnipeg Wesmen (11-7) –  The Wesmen have won 5 straight vs the green Cougs, but Winnipeg has to be rattled by their loss at TWU last Saturday. Only if Regina can take advantage, which they haven’t, most recently.

Lethbridge Pronghorns (7-11)  at Alberta Golden Bears (12-6) – Alberta hasn’t lost a home game to Lethbridge since 2006.  The Bears are hot, and the ‘Horns are 2-6 since early January.  Bears sweep.

Manitoba Bisons (9-9)  at UBC Thunderbirds (12-6) – 2001 was the last win by the Herd over the ‘Birds, and U of M goes in on a 5 – game slide.  UBC gets will want to guarantee a playoff series on home court.

Trinity Western Spartans (2-16)  at Victoria Vikes (13-5) – The  win on Saturday was nice for the departing Coach Scott Allen at TWU, but the Vikes are playing the last 2 games ever at MacKinnon Gym.  History demands a pair of UVic wins.

 

And, in the other  Explorer Division games –

Awet Abraha (L) and Deng Awak  will have to be sharp for MRU to beat the MacEwan Griffins.

Awet Abraha (L) and Deng Awak will have to be sharp for MRU to beat the MacEwan Griffins.

MacEwan Griffins (7-11) at  Mt. Royal Cougars (8-10) – These 2 teams are very well matched, and you have to respect the Griffins showing in their 1st Canada West season .  Mt. Royal can make the playoffs with 2 wins, and they look better over the last 2 weeks. Their guards will need to make good decisions at the offensive end.

Thompson R. Wolf Pack (10-8)  at Fraser Valley Cascades (16-2) –  We’re not sure about the status of TRU’s Josh Wolfram, who has missed with injury since Jan. 30, and obviously that is a huge negative factor for their chances .  Fraser Valley, in ‘full battle readiness’ should finish with 2 home wins to get set for the playoffs.

 

 CIS Scores from the East –

Dalhousie 84  St. FX 70 – this puts X on the ‘endangered list for the AUS Tournament’.

St. Mary’s 78  Acadia 73

#3 Ryerson 104  Toronto 68 – no prisoners taken there !

Brock 62  Guelph  55

Up – coming –

#8 UNB at St. FX,  Laval at UQAM, Concordia at Bishop’s,   #1 Carleton at Queen’s ,  #5 Windsor at Algoma, #2 Ottawa at York, Nipissing at Waterloo, Laurentian at Laurier

 

Extra Spot in Nationals Almost a ‘Lock’ for the OUA 

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Carleton jumps to #1, and we await the next meeting of the ‘Ponies’ and the ‘Blackbirds’  in the playoffs.

Saskatchewan loses and drops back to #6, while Alberta and UBC are in at #10, #9 with impressive wins over the past couple of months. Calgary disappears with their loss to Alberta, as does UFV as they drop 2 of 4 games.

The OUA look like getting 4 teams in Nationals, and the real drama will be for all other Leagues to see who wins their way to Toronto (Ryerson) for the CIS Final 8. One team from the Atlantic – It looks like UPEI and UNB, but their tournament format allows for ‘sudden victory’ by a hot under-dog.

Quebec plays it’s Final 4 at Bishop’s, and that may give the Gaiters the upper-hand in a very tightly -bunched field. One team to the Final 8 for them as well.

Canada West will get 2 teams, with a minuscule shot at a 3rd via wildcard, but that seems far-fetched.  The Huskies and Vikes have the best chance to host the Final 4, as the top-seed, but the predictability has been lower this season than in many years past.

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