by Eric Balnar
Both the Carleton University Ravens men’s and women’s hockey teams have their fans wondering just what kind of group they are.
At times, both squads look like one of the most talented teams in Canada. Both dismantled the top ranked team, both convincingly downed the second place team and both sit in a playoff position heading into the stretch run.
But a consistent series of puzzling losses against teams well below them in the standings, and probably less talented, have the 2011/2012 editions of the Carleton University Ravens hockey teams looking like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Perhaps after this weekend’s contests, Carleton students and fans alike will have a better idea of where their hockey teams stand.
The men have one game on the weekend – a road date with the No. 1 ranked McGill Redmen on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. The Ravens are in fifth place in the OUA East with 29 points, but only four points clear of the ninth place Ryerson University Rams.
Ravens centre Jeff Hayes says for playoff positioning, this game is a must win.
“The standings are so tight right now. We have to approach every game like it’s a playoff game. If we don’t play well the next two weekends we may not even make it,” he says. “Every shift matters.”
Carleton will have to contend with two former CIS players of the year on McGill. Francis Verreault-Paul is a speedy, gritty forward, who has popped pucks by opposing goalies at a torrid pace the last few years. They also boast Alex Picard-Hooper, arguably one of the best playmakers in the country.
But the Ravens have faired well against the dominant first-place Redmen. They lost 1-0 in a shootout two weeks ago on the road and then beat them 4-2 at home last Saturday.
But great games against McGill have been coupled with tough losses against teams that are lower in the standings. The Ravens lost 3-2 to the then ninth-placed Queen’s Gaels on Tuesday, and then fell 4-1 at the hands of the sixth-placed Gee-Gees on Sunday.
Defenceman Christian Bourdeau-Mifflen is just as confused as everyone else.
“If I knew why this was happening I’d give you an answer. The effort is there but for some reason we can’t beat the teams we should,” he says.
The women have their own searching to do. On January 22, the lady Ravens shut down the McGill Martlets 4-3 in a shootout to grab their first ever win against that school.
They followed that with two of their biggest losses of the season last weekend: 10-0 to the Martlets and 6-2 to the UdeM Carabins.
The losses left the Ravens with a record of 5-6-3 for third place in the RSEQ.
Now, they will host the Concordia Stingers on Saturday at 7 p.m. before heading to Montreal for a rematch with the No. 9 ranked Carabins on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.
Carleton is a perfect 3-0 against the Stingers this year, and that trend needs to continue. If they can take two points from Concordia, the Ravens will book their ticket to the playoffs.
On Sunday, Carleton tilts with Montreal – a potential playoff opponent.
“In my opinion they have the best power play in the game,” says second year goalie Tamber Tisdale. “They have a good system.”
Carleton needs to shut down the Montreal power play and talented forwards like Kim Deschenes. Tisdale also says they need to get pucks to the net.
“I know this team can score…they do it all the time to me in practice,” she says.
Both teams think they’re national championship contenders, but need to prove it.