U SPORTS MSOC: A look at the OUA’s Carleton and Guelph

OTTAWA, ON – It all comes down to this.

The U SPORTS Men’s National Soccer Championship kicks off on Thursday Nov. 18 at 11:00 am when the St Mary’s Huskies take on the Guelph Gryphons at The Raven’s Perch at Carleton University. In the lead up to the tournament 49 Sports breaks down each of the eight teams, what to watch for and who we predict will leave Ottawa with a national title. 

First up, the hosts the Carleton Ravens.

Carleton Ravens

Regular Season: 7-1-2 – 2nd in OUA East

Playoffs: OUA Semifinalist

Valerie Wutti/Carleton Athletics

How They Got Here

The Carleton Ravens were guaranteed a spot in the 2021 National Championship, but they certainly did their best to earn that spot. The defending OUA Champions, who lost a heartbreaker national bronze-medal match to Cape Breton in 2019, entered the 2021 season looking for blood.

Starting with a five-game winning streak, the Ravens outscored their opponents 27-4, including a 7-1 blowout of Ontario Tech. The rest of the season saw mixed results. A shocking tie against Ontario Tech followed by their first loss of the season and another tie against the York Lions left the Ravens with a mixed bag of results. A pair of blowouts vs Trent to close the season was nice, but it only mattered in the playoffs for Carleton.

In the OUA playoffs, Carleton started strong with a dominating 3-1 win over the McMaster Marauders in a game that was never close. Their semifinal match saw them travel to face a Guelph Gryphons that barely escaped beating Ontario Tech in the quarterfinals in penalty kicks. Despite outshooting Guelph 11 to 3, a 40th-minute goal from Owen McKee provided all the offence the Gryphons needed to beat Carleton.

Player to Watch

There is an absolute bevy of potential x-factors for the Ravens to choose from. Five Carleton Ravens were awarded OUA All-Star nods:

Goalie: Kyle Potter

Defender: Raphael Garcia

Defender: Tareq Hamad

Midfielder: Scott Mazzotta

Striker: Gabriel Bitar

The player to watch for the Ravens has to be OUA East Rookie of the Year Matteo De Brienne. With seven goals in nine games, De Brienne was an absolute offensive monster for the Ravens, but it was a highlight-reel goal against the York Lions that made his star known Canada-wide.

Overall the Ravens will be looking to avenge a tough loss in the OUA semifinal. Still, with a quarterfinal matchup against a UBC Thunderbird team riding an absolute heater heading into the weekend, Carleton will be in tough in their Thursday night matchup. If they can find a way past UBC though, the door could be open for the first national title for a host team in over five years.

Guelph Gryphons

Regular Season: 8-0-2 – 1st OUA West

Playoffs: OUA Champions

Colten Wiens/CTV Kitchener

How they got here

The Gryphons had a long wait before the 2021 season. A team that finished second in the OUA West in 2019 and fought their way to an OUA final-four matchup vs Carleton only to fall in extra-time the Gryphons clearly had something to prove in 2021. In the regular season they did just that.

While they were never an offence “force” the Gryphons did not have to be in 2021 as they only conceded goals in two of their ten matchups. With such a strong defence and a fortress in net the Gryphons cruised to the OUA West division title six points clear of second place.

In the playoffs things got murkier for Guelph. A quarterfinal matchup against Ontario Tech went to extra-time, saw the Gryphons fall behind and need to take the game to penalty kicks before winning 1-1 on penalty kicks. In their semifinal against the Ravens, Guelph fell into a shell offensively getting outshot 11 to 3 and relying on eight saves from Artemenko but a 40th minute goal from Owen McKee got the Gryphons the win.

The OUA Championship against the 2019 OUA Silver Medalist York Lions saw Guelph actually go up big. Goals from Owen McKee, Lucus Doros and Damian Truong gave Guelph a 3-0 lead by the 77th minute but a pair of Dieu Merci Yuma goals got the Lions to 3-2. Guelph managed to hang on for the win though to take the third OUA Gold medal in program history.

Player to Watch

Gar Fitzgerald

There is only one name that can go here for Guelph, and it is the man that steps in between the posts for them each night: Svyatoslav Artemenko. Artemenko was a force for Guelph all season, only allowing three goals. In his first year with Guelph, the netminder was a wall behind the Gryphon defence, and if he can ride his hot hand from the OUA playoffs into the weekend, it will go a long way in changing the projections for the Gryphons.

For an OUA Champion, the Gryphons do not inspire a ton of confidence. In their opening matchup against underdog St Mary’s, a strong performance could put some people back on Guelph’s side. In a bracket that includes a semifinal matchup against 2019 silver-medallists Montreal or a strong Victoria Vikes team to reach the finals, though, the Gryphons will be in tough, no matter the hardware already own.

COVER PHOTO: Gar FitzGerland/Guelph Gryphons

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