In a season of firsts, can the Brandon University Bobcats cap the year with the biggest of the bunch this weekend?
In their first season under head coach Grant Wilson, the Bobcats men’s volleyball team played their first games in BU’s new Healthy Living Centre, won their first Canada West conference title and are now ranked No.1 in the country for the first time ever. Just one question remains: Can the Bobcats win their first CIS national volleyball title?
The Bobcats begin the quest for that first championship today in Quebec City when they open the CIS quarter-finals against Montreal at 5 p.m. (broadcast live on WCG-TV and cis-sic.tv, or catch it on the big screen at BU’s HLC).
Whatever happens this weekend, Wilson has certainly proven that he should be the man for the permanent coaching job to replace now full-time BU athletic director Russ Paddock.
Wilson has led the Bobcats to a banner year. The only task left is bringing a championship banner back to Brandon.
WHEAT KING WOES:
While the Bobcats soared into the national spotlight, the Brandon Wheat Kings have faded right out of the WHL playoff picture in what has been a frustrating season for fans and the organization. It’s the first time in 13 seasons that the Wheat Kings have not made the playoffs, raising the question of how many changes owner/general manager Kelly McCrimmon will make to his roster — and coaching staff — in the off-season.
In the meantime, the Wheat Kings will play out the string over the final eight games, beginning tonight when they face the hottest team in the WHL in the Saskatoon Blades. Brandon begins a three-game road trip tonight (6:35 CKLQ pre-game show) in Saskatoon where the Blades will try to stretch their remarkable winning streak to 18 games while head coach Lorne Molleken looks for his 600th career coaching victory.
Interestingly, since having his seven-game point streak (6 goals, 12 points) snapped, Wheat Kings centre Jayce Hawryluk has gone five games without a point. However, the fact that a 16-year-old rookie’s scoring slump is newsworthy in a season when so many veterans have disappointed, tells you all you need to know about why this team is missing the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Up in Dauphin tonight at Credit Union Place, the Kings will try to do one better than the Blades when they look to win their 19th straight game. However, tonight will be the toughest test of those 19 games as the Sher-Wood Division leading Kings (45-11-2) face the Addison Division leading Winnipeg Blues (44-13-1), who sit just three points back of the Kings in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s overall standings and are riding a seven-game winning streak of their own.
The Kings have been led by a talented trio that includes former Wheat Kings Jesse Sinatynski (41 goals, 50 assists, 91 points) and Jon Gaudet (37-52-89) as well as 2013 league MVP Guillaume Naud (30-53-83), who are 1-2-3 in MJHL scoring with two games left in the regular season. Interestingly, Sinatynski, who had eight goals in 34 games with the Wheat Kings from 2009-2010, has now scored 100 goals in two seasons with the Kings.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Former BU Bobcats men’s basketball coach Mike Raimbault guided the Winnipeg Wesmen to a 14-8 record this season, a quarter-final playoff series victory over Trinity Western and a spot in this weekend’s Canada West Final Four. The Brandon native was passed over for the Bobcats job five years ago in favour of former coach Keith Vassell, despite having led the Bobcats to a 20-2 record as interim coach in 2007-08. Winnipeg will advance to the CIS national championship tournament if it beats Victoria tonight …
Speaking of the Bobcats, current coach Gil Cheung has talked with 6-foot-2 Neelin Spartans standout Theo Farough, a talented and hard-working senior who exploded for 50 points in a recent high school game. While the jump from high school to the CIS level is enormous, it would be interesting to see how much a player like Farough could develop by being pushed in practice every day by CIS players. The Bobcats men’s basketball team is currently the only BU squad without a single local player on the roster.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 1, 2013