WOLFVILLE, NS – An OUA member, the UQTR Patriotes were at the whim of the Ontario Government from January through to early February. Not considered “elite” by Premier Doug Ford’s Government, the OUA couldn’t play.
“It feels like a slap in the face,” an OUA hockey player told 49 sports at the time.
Two months after returning to game action, the Patriotes take the ice against the Alberta Golden Bears in a one-game showdown for the 2022 University Cup, the first U SPORTS hockey title awarded since 2019.
The Patriotes perseverance: #OnVeutJouer
When the OUA was allowed to resume play, UQTR sat on the sidelines. Posing for a photo outside La Colisee de Trois-Rivieres, they couldn’t go in — university sport wasn’t good enough for Quebec.
The UQTR Patriotes pushed back while sitting on the sidelines watching as Canada West rolled on and the AUS and Ontario teams resumed action.
“#OnVeutJouer” began trending in Quebec, eventually pushing Quebec to allow university sports and hockey to resume.
No U SPORTS hockey team has had a more difficult road than the UQTR Patriotes, but head coach Marc Ettiene-Hubert’s group has persevered and qualified for the national final.
Since resuming, the UQTR Patriotes took on a challenging OUA Far East division, facing an unknown Carleton side, a young uOttawa program, and a McGill team that was learning by the minute.
It re-started with a blistering 10-2 win against uOttawa. After that, it was winning the division, all the way to dialling their play in to eventually capturing the Queen’s Cup against the Brock Badgers in a dominant victory.
Two months and a day from standing outside the arena with masks, the Patriotes prepare to take U CUP final ice in front of a raucous, maskless crowd in Wolfville, NS.
Outright best in the OUA
When the Patriotes won the Queen’s Cup, there were doubts about how strong they would fare at nationals. Beating the OUA East McGill Redbirds in the OUA semifinal and the Brock Badgers in the final didn’t convince many. Still, they were brimming with confidence from every aspect of their game.
A dynamic, skilled team, the Patriotes ran rampant over the Badgers in the Queen’s Cup Final and did the same in the U SPORTS semifinal against the OUA bronze medalist Ryerson Rams.
Relying on a diverse scoring group and 10 former QMJHL captains, the Patriotes are hot heading into the final. Felix Lauzon, Zachary Lavigne and Simon Lafrance may lead the way through the playoffs and U CUP, but there are dangerous players throughout the Patriotes’ lineup.
Lauzon, in particular, plays an integral role in UQTR’s attack at the U CUP. When there is no clear-cut opportunity, UQTR players whip pucks diagonally across the slot and look for a player to redirect the puck on goal — Lauzon is fantastic at it.
Between the pipes, the Patriotes will again turn to star goaltender Alexis Gravel, who posted a .953 save percentage in the Queen’s Cup playoffs and has allowed just three goals on 95 shots at the U CUP.
However, against an Alberta team that has scored seven goals in each of their last three games, UQTR will have to ensure defensive solidity and hope that star goaltender Alexis Gravel can perform up to his usual standard. No matter how good a team plays, Alberta will get their chances, which comes down to just how good Gravel can be.
The Patriotes are the best team in the OUA, but they’ve played a lot of tough hockey over the last two days. All that said, taking on the third game in three days won’t be an issue. It’s the season’s final showdown, and the Queen’s Cup champions will head to Wolfville fired up.
Alberta is the team to beat
The Alberta Golden Bears are the outright favourite. Despite not having a standout offensive player, head coach Ian Herbers has his team scoring seven goals a game and beating some stronger teams across the country.
For the Canada West champions, the U CUP is theirs to lose.
Goaltender Taz Burman has been vital in the net when called upon, but the Golden Bears have not needed his play in spades, with Luc Smith, Noah Philp, and Matt Fonteyne, among others contributing offensively.
11 different players have scored for Alberta at the U CUP through two games.
A young team, the Golden Bears turn to the veteran presence of Clayton Kirichenko, who won the U CUP in 2018 as a rookie. As one of the few remaining players, he captains the team into the first final of this generation of Golden Bears hockey.
Alberta has given no reasons to doubt them through their first two U CUP games. While the team is unlikely the strongest Golden Bears squad to skate under Herbers, they are eons stronger than any other team in U SPORTS.
Beating Acadia 7-0 and then StFX 7-3, the Golden Bears have shown they are comfortable on the biggest stage, and that will continue in the final with UQTR.
Unlike the Patriotes, the Golden Bears did not endure a midseason Covid-pause, rolling on through January and overtaking the UBC Thunderbirds for the top seed with a pair of wins to start the calendar year. No players left, and the season wasn’t fragmented.
There’s depth in every aspect of their roster, they had the rest day on Day 2 of the tournament, and they have a tight-knit group. The Alberta Golden Bears are the favourites to win, now they just have to live up to expectations.
WHEN AND WHERE
The UQTR Patriotes take on the Alberta Golden Bears in Wolfville, Nova Scotia on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET, streaming live on CBC Sports.