Ottawa, ON – The most complicated work is still to come; the battle for the third Critelli Cup in school history has yet to begin, but in a 90-42 win over the Nipissing Lakers, for one night at least, the Carleton Ravens got about as close to a breather as possible in the grind of the February OUA schedule.
After a 62-44 win over the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday night, the Ravens saw the struggling Lakers enter the Raven’s Nest for the first time since November 2021.
With a 17-2 record, an 11-game winning streak entering Saturday, and a Capital Hoops Classic win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees a week ago, there isn’t much more that can be said about the dominance of the Carleton Ravens this season. Carleton is a team chasing the Critelli Cup, the Bronze Baby and nothing less. The same can not be said for the Nipissing Lakers though
After a 1-15 record a year ago, 2022-2023 has seen a mild improvement from the side from North Bay but still sees a group struggling to find their identity. The Lakers dropped six straight games to start the campaign before following it with a run of four wins in six games, punctuated by a dramatic 72-71 win over the York Lions on Jan 13. The following night saw the Lakers drop an 82-49 decision to McMaster, though and since then, they have gone 1-4 to enter their Saturday night matchup vs Carleton at 5-14.
When the ball tipped off just after 6:00 pm at the Raven’s Nest, it was clear that the Lakers were outmatched from the get-go. Carleton opened the night on a 21-0 run thanks partly to six points and a pair of assists from Kali Pocrnic and ended the opening quarter up 37-4. It was a solid night for Pocrnic, who finished with 12 points and seven assists for Carleton.
“It helps when you can’t miss a shot,” Ravens head coach Dani Sinclair said. “We need to find a way to start games better, we’re kind of turning it on in the second half and I thought we did that from the get-go tonight”
The Lakers slowly started to show a little more fight in the second quarter as Natalie Martinez hit a pair of threes for eight points in the quarter, but thanks to nine ponies and a three of her own from Jacqueline Urban, the Ravens entered the halftime break up 57-18.
If there was any fear the Ravens might play down to the Lakers it had been quickly abated but the the basis for it was genuine.
“You have to respect everybody first of all no matter what,” Sinclair said. “We’ve said all year there’s a lot of parity in the league we’ve shown proof of that.”
Carleton only needs to look back to the preseason where the Dalhousie Tigers stunned them with a 65-61 win at the Raven’s Nest and since then have gone 1-18 in AUS play.
“We’ve proven to ourselves we can lose to anybody if we don’t show up,” Sinclair said.
Into the second half, the Ravens put themselves into cruise control. Zerina Duvjnak and Kyanna Jade-Pouline picked up a few baskets of their own, and Ravens stretched their lead out to 74-27 after three quarters.
The final ten minutes saw Carleton ride out the evening with their young bench players on the way to an easy 78-33 victory.
Perhaps only a little can be taken from a game like Saturday. The Ravens won a game they expected to win and did so confidently and without difficulty, but that is still valuable. As the season and the pressure ramps up, if you take the foot off the gas to play down to an opponent, it can sometimes be challenging to put it back on. With the twelve game winning streak creating the potential for the Ravens to start looking past the games themselves that mentality is especially important.
“We don’t talk about win streaks or try to look too far ahead.” Sinclair said “I think we still have too many holes in our game to really hang our hat on anything because I think we’re still developing.”
For this weekend at least, the Carleton Ravens showed they were still ready to drive forward toward the Critelli Cup.