Rotman dean steps down

Surprise announcement will see Martin exit post one year early

Rotman dean steps down

Roger Martin, Dean of U of T’s Rotman School of Manage- ment, announced last week he would be ending his third and final term on June 30, 2013, one year earlier than scheduled.

Martin, who intends to stay on as a professor, first joined Rotman as dean in May 1998. He oversaw a period of rapid growth, and led the development of a new curriculum cen- tered around “Integrative Thinking.” Under his leadership, enrolment numbers have soared, as have the number of pro- grams offered by the faculty.

BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

Martin said he was motivated to leave early by the recent completion of several long-term goals, including the opening of Rotman’s new building on St. George Street and the devel- opment of a world-class faculty.

“There are two reasons I am taking this step,” Martin said. “First, the school is in fabulous shape. Second, I be- lieve the school is well-positioned to make a meaningful global contribution to democratic capitalism, whose future is being questioned.”

In a later interview with The Globe and Mail, he expanded on his reasons for leaving.

“A new dean could come in and start dreaming 10-year dreams. I just felt increasingly that I wasn’t about to start long-term things and then stick the next dean with them. I didn’t get stuck with a lot of long-term plans that previous deans had put in place — I had relatively free rein.”

Once he steps down, Martin will head the Institute for Com- petitiveness and Prosperity and the Martin Prosperity Insti- tutes, both research institutes affiliated with Rotman.

Little in Martin’s early years could have predicted his future tenure at the Rotman School. Following an under- graduate degree at Harvard, Martin enrolled in Harvard Business School’s famed MBA program largely to appease his parents, who thought his preferred option — coaching men’s volleyball — unsuitable.

Martin’s negative experiences in business school shaped many of his later policy decisions. He found HBS a surprising- ly anti-intellectual institution, with students more concerned about finding the ‘right’ answers than academic development.

After graduating, Martin joined the Monitor Group, a consulting firm, where he rose to become head of Monitor University, the firm’s training program. Given the chance to evaluate business school graduates from the other side of the table, he concluded there was something fundamentally wrong with MBA education.

“By 1991 we had determined that the people we hired from high-end business schools were no better at integrative thinking than the undergraduates we hired from top-notch liberal-arts colleges,” he said in a 1999 Fast Company profile. “By the time people were done with business school, they were generally less open to using their minds the way we needed them to,” Martin added at the time.

“Integrative Thinking” has been a recurring theme in Mar- tin’s career. After years of studying the thought processes of great leaders, Martin narrowed in on one common ability shared by all: every leader could hold two opposing models of the world in their mind, and come up with a third model that combined the best attributes of both.

One of his first goals as dean was to overhaul Rotman’s curriculum, focusing on “Integrative Thinking,” and more recently, on the intersection of business and design. His efforts have paid off handsomely: Rotman’s flagship MBA program was ranked the best in Canada by the Financial Times this year, while its PhD program was named one of the top fifteen worldwide.

Though Martin’s last day is June 30, 2013 , the search for a new dean is expected to last until 2014. An interim dean is likely to be appointed in the meantime.

“There’s a lot of work that I would like to do and it is time for my next phase,” Martin said. Future projects include shaping the future of democratic capitalism.

“That particular agenda needs a lot more work, and I look forward to getting on with it.”

Munk School hits its stride

Two years on, The Varsity checks in to see how the university’s $35 million investment in a new school for international affairs has fared

Munk School hits its stride

With an initial $35 million investment from Barrick Gold chairman Peter Munk in 2010, a new building on Bloor for the flagship Masters of Global Affairs program, and the promise of giving students a unique window on the world, the legacy of the Munk School of Global Affairs has so far engendered both prestige and controversy.

Launched in 2010, the Munk School of Global Affairs has re- cently seen its first cohort convocate and make their way into the workforce. The school’s academic initatives and ground- breaking research regularly make international headlines.

Since its inception, the Munk School has been dogged by allegations of undue corporate influence among a handful of outspoken groups on campus, many of whom object to the fact that a mining mogul like namesake donor Munk is so heavily invested at U of T.

“Perhaps the main problem with the Munk contract, which President Naylor signed to establish the Munk School, is that it effectively cedes decision-making power to the corporate sector,” says Jacob Nerenberg, a graduate anthropology student at U of T, in a previous exchange over email.

Sakura Saunders, co-editor of anti-Munk website ProtestBarrick.net, claims that Peter Munk’s mining company Barrick Gold is “leveraging the reputation of the university to avoid government regulation on mining abuses.”

Students at the Munk School tell a different story.

“Never once in my time here have I seen, in light of Peter Munk’s donation, even the slightest indication of impeded academic freedom in any way,” says Graham Smith, currently half-way through the school’s flagship Masters of Global Af- fairs (MGA) program.

Janice Stein, director at the Munk School, says that academic freedom is “in our DNA,” and that students are “free to express their opinions and develop arguments that are supported by the best evidence that they can find.”

In spite of the initial furor over Munk’s influence, it’s hard to ignore how far the Munk School has come in just two short years. The new building on Bloor Street provides a home for the MGA program, doubling the amount of space for students, faculty, and staff. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted in late September was attended by senior administrators from Simcoe Hall as well as provincial cabinet ministers.

Some younger programs like the Global Journalism Fellow- ships, which were launched in September, seem to be getting a strong reception already, turning heads in places like Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab or the headlines of The Globe and Mail.

“Now all of our Fellows are reporting stories for major me- dia; all have pitched stories successfully; some have already been published. Others are in the queue. That’s a lot of prog- ress for a month!” says Robert Steiner, director of the journal- ism fellowship program.

The secret to this rapid and high-profile success, according to students and administrators, is the Munk School’s primary goal of combining real-world experience and lecture material.

“The MGA program is very focused on linking theoretical knowledge and practice of international affairs,” said Smith. “It’s endowing in us professional skills and networks to tap into so that when we get out of here, we can hit the ground running in global affairs careers.”

Fariya Mohiuddin, part of the first cohort of students to graduate from the MGA program, says that it’s the perfect way to pursue higher learning without giving up network- ing and practical skills. She explains that instead of going the traditional route of doing a masters degree and an entry-level position afterwards, MGA graduates can go straight into the professional world.

One of the ways the Munk School provides practical expe- rience, said Mohiuddin, is through the first-year internship program. Although other students suggested that the initial round of internship assignments was bumpy as the school was still brand new and coming into its own, Mohiuddin’s experience — helping the government prep for the annual budget in Bangladesh — was an “incredibly positive experi- ence.” Other students within the program say much the same about their placements.

“I interned at the World Bank in Washington this past sum- mer and it was an amazing opportunity,” says Smith. “Being at a major multi-lateral institution like that, I had so many con- tacts and experiences unparalleled to anything I may have got- ten at another graduate program.”

Another reason for the Munk School’s success, say students, is the receptivity of the faculty. The new “2.0 MGA program,” as Mohiuddin calls it, has been adjusted and tinkered with over the past two years.

“We have received a lot of valuable feedback from the first graduating class of MGA students and have extensively re- vamped our Capstone course to enhance the professional edu- cation that students get,” says Ron Levi, program director for the MGA program.

The Capstone course, Levi says, now offers students re- search opportunities in experimental labs and research proj- ects across campus. For example, professor Joseph Wong’s new interdisciplinary “Global Challenges” course is taught in col- laboration with colleagues from the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, the Rotman School of Management, and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Those kinds of innovative, cross-faculty courses, says Mohiuddin, weren’t offered in her first year at Munk.

“We knew what we were getting ourselves into, but at the end we all knew we were doing something monumental,” says Mohiuddin.

Stein says this is just the beginning. Her hope is that the MGA program “will be among the best programs internation- ally, a program that students around the world look to as an ex- ample of professional education that is infused with Canadian knowledge and expertise.”

Hey! Get off campus!

In the depths of midterm season it’s easy to get stuck in the student bubble. But seeing a new part of the city makes a great escape. VIPASHA SHAIK and SIMON FRANK share some of their favourite neighborhoods.

Hey! Get off campus!

(more…)

SGRT makes a power play

Meeting with Minister first foray into lobbying

SGRT makes a power play

Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities Glen Murray met Wednesday with student leaders from U of T to hear their input on the Ministry’s June discussion paper on post-secondary educational reform.

The St. George Round Table (SGRT), a group made up of presidents from college councils and professional faculties, attended the meeting at Queen’s Park, as did representatives from the undergraduate, graduate, part-time, Mississauga, and Scarborough student unions, who were invited as guests.

The meeting, which has been in the works for several weeks, was convened because of “the lack of the Minister’s presence at the town hall,” according to Scott Dallen, chair of the SGRT.

 

BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

“There is nothing political about this move,” insisted Dallen in opening the meeting. But the meeting was unmistakably the first foray of the Round Table into provincial advocacy and lobbying, traditionally the realm of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Wednesday’s meeting was the first-ever between a sitting Minister and the Round Table, which was formed in 2009 (see left).

“The SGRT is by far the most democratically representative group at U of T,” suggested Jonathan Scott, president of the University of Toronto Liberals, who was closely involved in coordinating the meeting. Scott added that SGRT members “are chosen in elections with the highest voter turnout on campus.”

“I hope you find this group useful and can consult with it in future, Minister, because no group at U of T better speaks for U of T students,” Scott said.

At the close of the meeting, the Minister agreed to meet monthly with the SGRT.

“Maybe it’s the case that the UTSU has a formal mandate to lobby on behalf of students, but what they’re actually doing is lobbying on behalf of special interests,” said Sam Greene, head of college at Trinity and a member of the SGRT.

“The UTSU’s rigid allegiance to the ideological line taken by the CFS [Canadian Federation of Students] makes them inflexible and near-incapable of compromise,” Greene added.

BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

Students in attendance had mixed feelings about the outcome of the meeting.

“This was my first chance to speak with the Minister one-on-one, which I really appreciated,” said Chris Thompson, president of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union. Thompson said he was generally happy with the meeting, having taken the opportunity to discuss rising tuition costs with the Minister.

Others saw the meeting as a political ploy. “I am going to go ahead and call this an SGRT-Minister get-together to bash the CFS,” remarked Katherine Ball, president of the Arts & Science Student Union.

UTSU president Shaun Shepherd was more pointed, commenting: “This wasn’t a meeting. It was a waste of time.”

“There are only a few organizations who, throughout the year, have done work on this issue,” said Shepherd, implying that the SGRT was not among them. The UTSU, along with student unions from Mississauga, Scarborough and the Graduate Students’ Union, submitted formal written responses about the paper to the Ministry by the September 30 deadline.

No group on the SGRT appears to have submitted a formal response, although some did attend the town hall held in late September.

The report submitted by the UTSU to the Ministry was the result of “a number of all-nighters” after the town hall on September 25 to meet the deadline, and the union tried to “compile all of the feedback we heard from students at the town hall … which was the largest student consultation held in the province.”

Student leaders have been jostling for the opportunity to weigh in on the broad reforms proposed within the discussion paper since a dispute over speaking time three weeks ago prevented the Minister from attending the UTSU-organized town hall.

The union and the Minister had a falling out over his absence at the town hall that escalated into a near-flame war on Twitter. Tense exchanges online continued during the event itself, with the UTSU tweeting mid-meeting, “Minister wants to protect the ‘elite’ positions of is [sic] U of T students. what about #UofT students who don’t fall under that? #UofT @Glen4TC”.

BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

The tweet, which allegedly misrepresented a comment about preserving elite research institutions like U of T, drew the ire of the representatives from St. Michael’s College, University College, and the Faculty of Engineering.

The tweet was “obviously misquoting” the Minister, said Mike Cowan, president of Saint Michael’s College Student Union. Reached by phone after the exchange, Cowan remarked that the presence of invited guests including the UTSU was “pretty counterproductive.”

“The UTSU is an incredibly unrepresentative institution of the student body,” Cowan added, “to the point that their elections should not be even considered legitimate.”

Murray himself reflected in a later tweet that “clearly we did not move towards a working relationship with your org [UTSU] yesterday. However I am forever an optimist.”

Angelo Veloso, president of New College, had a different view. “I think we’ve had a friendly relationship with the UTSU, and not been as confrontational with them as other colleges.”

Subsequent meetings between the SGRT and the Ministry will focus on specific topics. Murray suggested reducing tuition and looking at ways to maximize spending on student experiences as potential subjects.

Scott suggested that the “invited guests” of Wednesday’s meeting would not be asked to attend future gatherings.

Although Murray made clear that he would continue to meet separately with the union, and whomever else wished to speak with him, the agreement on a standing meeting with the SGRT was billed by Greene as “laying the groundwork for working with Minister Murray.”

(more…)

The “education premier” leaves the job half-finished

Dalton McGuinty’s abrupt announcement that he will step down as Liberal leader once a successor is selected brought a close his nine-year premiership. He is now a lame-duck leader, with a recently-initiated process of higher education reform only halfway finished, and its future uncertain.

Post-secondary education has undergone a rapid expansion since the 1960s, from educating an elite five per cent of the population, to nearly half today. A study by the Martin Prosperity Institute reports the higher education “participation rate [in Ontario] will likely need to reach 60 per cent to meet the educational requirements for future jobs.” Within the next decade or so, Ontario will need about 25 per cent more university and college spaces than it has today. An increase of about 100,000 more spaces for baccalaureate students.

Dalton McGuinty's soon-to-be-vacated office. BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

When he became premier in 2003, undergraduate enrolment in the province was just over 300,000. As McGuinty exits office, that number has climbed to 400,000. Most experts suggest that to meet future demand, the province will need to increase capacity by at least another 100,000.

McGuinty’s government has a good record — he rebuilt public services eroded by former Conservative premier Mike Harris. He has also assiduously cultivated his reputation as the “education premier,” and could have survived as the bearer of bad news, weathering political storm with a bedrock of support among a generation of parents and students who believed he salvaged a K-12 system eroded under Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution.”

But while he righted the ship, he leaves office without realizing the fundamental reforms he seems to have believed to be necessary.

Developments in other provinces, many of which unfolded during McGuinty’s term, suggest a future Ontario premier is now left with the difficult job of telling the province’s 24 colleges and 20 universities that they are not all equal. With every university in the province still scrambling to distinguish itself as a research institution, the government is left with the unsavoury task of telling some schools that their focus must shift to teaching and away from research.

Other premiers have already told their constituents such hard truths. In 2007, Alberta’s  Conservative premier Ed Stelmach formed distinct categories of post-secondary institutions in the province. Reform in British Columbia also followed a familiar pattern. First  came the report by former Attorney-General Geoff Platt. Premier Gordon Campbell then passed legislation to create “special purpose teaching universities” as a distinct class of institutions. In Nova Scotia, NDP premier Darrell Dexter similarly reformed the province’s system, based on the austerity recommendations of economist Tim O’Neill.

In Ontario, McGuinty commissioned former NDP premier Bob Rae to conduct a similar review in 2005. But Rae, now the interim federal Liberal leader, stopped short of calling for the creation of a tiered system of research versus teaching universities. Instead, he suggested changes to funding formulae and new quality-control measures.

Five years later, in 2010, deputy minister of  Training, Colleges and Universities Deborah Newman — the Ministry’s most senior bureaucrat — raised the issue once again, and began to explore whether “a more strongly differentiated set of universities would help improve the overall performance and sustainability of the system.”

A discussion paper released this June by Minister  Training, Colleges, and Universities Glen Murray hints at possible sweeping reforms to come. Murray and others have repeatedly the discussion paper is for discussion, not claimed determining policy. Yet as the opening salvo in a process of reform that could take years to unfold in full, the discussion paper seems to suggest the provincial government is prepared to overhaul the delivery of higher education in Ontario. With Murray rumoured to be contemplating a run to succeed McGuinty as Liberal leader, the future of the consultative process is in question.

But, if two classes of universities are ever created in Ontario, there is every indication the University of Toronto would remain a research university. It has long been the crown jewel of Ontario’s higher education system, the only university in the province to break into the top 20 of reputable global rankings.

In a recent meeting with student leaders from this university, Murray claimed the Liberals have increased U of T’s funding by 100 per cent. Murray praised U of T as an “elite” research institution and indicated that he was prepared to defend and maintain that distinction. But he also harkened back to Rae’s suggestion about the need for “quality control” around funding, to make sure it is actually improving the student experience, suggesting that may not be the case at U of T.

The theme throughout the meeting between student leaders and the Ministry was that good work has been done, but more progress is required. The conversation may now shift away from one between bureaucrats and stakeholders and into the political arena of a Liberal leadership race. Interestingly, three of the likely top-tier candidates are uniquely positioned to ensure a substantive discussion of the issue, from three differing perspectives: Murray, the Universities minister; Kathleen Wynne, the much-celebrated former education minister; and Dwight Duncan, the finance minister whose recent programme has shifted the government away from a paradigm of Liberal investment and into an austerity agenda. As all three contemplate and perhaps campaign to succeed Dalton McGuinty, they’ll bring three distinct perspectives to his unfinished agenda on post-secondary education.

Portrait of a modern Renaissance woman

ETHAN CHIEL talks to Olympian and U of T PhD student Donna Vakalis

Portrait of a modern Renaissance woman

Straddling boundaries is what Donna Vakalis does. Vakalis’ undergraduate degree in Arts & Science at McMaster University let her “dabble rigorously.” She then came to U of T to complete a Professional Masters in Architecture with the aim of keeping “one foot in the sciences and one foot in the arts.”

As the 2008 Olympic Games approached and Vakalis realized that she would not make the Canadian Olympic Team, she traveled to Greece to train for her event, the Modern Pentathlon — the very definition of interdisciplinary.

Modern Pentathlon is a combination of epée fencing, swimming, horse riding, running, and pistol shooting (the last two became a single event after the 2008 Olympics).

“What’s distinctive about it is that the profile is much, much higher in Europe,” says Vakalis. “I’ve been in a taxi cab going from somewhere in Greece, say in Athens, and it’s surprising to me that the taxi cab driver knows exactly what pentathlon is. That differs from here where someone who is somewhat familiar with sport will not even know that this is an Olympic event.”

That has everything to do with funding. In Canada, according to Vakalis, “there’s no money to create an infrastructure to promote it and recruit, but without promoting it and recruiting more talent they’re not going to produce the results that will give them funding to further promote and recruit.

“There’s a lot of good will in the pentathlon community, and people who would talk your ear off about how great the sport is, but those people are not paid anything and they also have full day jobs.”

Vakalis came to pentathlon both early and late. She swam from a young age, and began riding while spending time on a friend’s farm in Carlisle, Ontario. She eventually attended a national tetrathlon (pentathlon without fencing) and won competition.

However, she then quit: “At the time I didn’t get the bigger picture of life balance and I just thought ‘I need to do other things, so I quit sports.”

Vakalis didn’t get involved again until graduate school in 2005, when she joined the fencing and triathlon clubs, “not with an aim of going into pentathlon, but because I missed just doing things and I also wanted to escape from the architecture desk.”

She found she was training increasingly hard. Vakalis started running cross-country the next year, and finished an OUA all-star.

Vakalis placed third at a pentathlon national competition in 2008 and hoped to compete internationally with the aim of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. But, it was 2007 and the question remained, “How to do it?”

It was too late to qualify for the Canadian national team, so she contacted the Greek team who offered to pay for her training and give her somewhere to live. So Vakalis moved to Athens.

In Greece she found herself living first in an office space, then what had previously been a building where teens would go to party. But she made the best of it and “had some adventures cleaning it up and making it into a livable space.”

Much of her time was spent elsewhere though, training and competing in European competitions. In 2008 she was in Beijing as an alternate for the Greek team, but didn’t get to compete.

Vakalis returned to Toronto, where she spent the next year writing her thesis. She thought she would stay on the Greek team, but it soon became apparent funding would not be forthcoming and, although she faced a similar situation with the Canadian team, she found herself in increasing contact with them. Her approach was simple: “I don’t know how it will work, but I’ll make it happen somehow.”

Luck was on her side. This past summer Vakalis received help from an unusual source. She’s an avid consumer of podcasts, one of which is Jordan, Jesse, Go! a comedy podcast hosted by Jesse Thorn and comedian Jordan Morris. Upon learning that she had clinched a spot as one of thirty-six women who would compete in the pentathlon in London 2012 and would be returning to U of T in the fall to start her PhD in civil engineering, Vakalis called in to inform Thorn and Morris as part of a regular segment called “Momentous Occasions.”

When they heard her news, they sprang into action. “Jordan and I both thought that the fact that one of our listeners was going to the Olympics was the most amazing thing ever,” says Thorn. “It occurred to me as soon as we got Donna’s email and voicemail that if she was a modern pentathlete there was probably something we could do to help her out.”

The duo had her on their show and soon after launched a campaign with a purpose as simple as its title: “Buy Donna a Laser Gun!” Vakalis’s laser gun — used in the shooting portion of pentathlon — had broken in competition and she needed a new one, but the cost was prohibitive.

A total of $5070 came in, surpassing the hoped-for $2900 and providing enough not only to buy the gun but also to fix Vakalis’s fencing gear. Vakalis remembers waking up to emails saying money was pouring in, and thinking “No way, it’s working!”

Thorn wasn’t surprised, but was grateful that listeners pitched in. He and Morris even travelled to London to see Vakalis compete and ultimately placed 29th. Thorn was thrilled. “I don’t think we’ll ever get another chance to be friends with someone in the Olympics and to have someone run off the track and come over to the stands and give us a hug. That was an absolutely amazing moment in my life that I will remember until the day I die.”

Vakalis remembers a similar moment, where she ran past Thorn, Morris, and her best friend waving to her from the stands. She calls it “a moment of wonder” for which “there was no protocol.”

Two months later, Vakalis is one of a handful of graduate students who make their academic home in an office in the Galbraith building. Since returning from London, she’s joined the Nordic skiing and mountain biking teams, two sports she happily crows she has no prior experience in. She’s also thrilled to be back in school, working on making buildings and cities greener. “It’s just so much fun. There’s probably not many points where society condones you spending all your time doing something that you’ve dreamed up and that applies to high level sport as well.”

I asked Vakalis if there was anything else she thought people ought to know about her. Canada’s pentathlete paused, made a joke about telling people to read books, and then started talking about Toronto.

“By and large, the people here, the people I train with here at U of T, on the cross-country team, on the mountain biking team, on the Nordic team, on the swim team, and the people I get to interact with now in my courses — there’s this feeling of … things do matter and we can make a difference, and it’s so palpable.”

Blues’ baseball team defeat Brock, repeat as OUA champions

Cap off wild regular season with championship ring

Blues’ baseball team defeat Brock, repeat as OUA champions

The Varsity Blues men’s baseball team wrapped up a wild season last Sunday with a 4–0 victory over the Brock Badgers to win the Ontario University Athletics championship for the second year in a row. U of T has now won the OUA championship four times.

Blues pitcher Andy Orfanakos pitched eight complete innings, allowing no runs on seven hits while striking out two. Orfanakos was named OUA championship MVP as well as OUA male athlete of the week for his exceptional pitching throughout the playoffs.

“Andy pitched an absolutely amazing game; he was calm and cool every time they had base runners on, and he really set the tone for the defense,” said Blues outfielder Jonathan Isaac.

“He did the job for us,” added head coach Jim Sheppard. “He did whatever we asked him to do and more.”

Blues outfielder Andrew Mannone led the way offensively, going 2–3 with an RBI. Catcher Stuart Fraser and right fielder Steven Hersch each added a hit. Despite out hitting the Blues 7–4, the Badgers were unable to capitalize, leaving 11 runners on base.

Brock starting-pitcher Ryan Beckett went 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits. The Blues’ Hersch and Jamie Lekas scored in the top of the first, on an error by Brock first-baseman Bill Sloat. Two more runs came in the top of the fifth when Fraser scored on an error by Brock third-baseman Craig Vannus and Hersch scored on a passed ball.

Beckett was relieved by pitcher Justin Ayles midway through the fifth inning. Ayles dominated the Blues in a late September game earlier this season. He was just as dominant in the final 4 1/3 innings of the game, not allowing any hits and striking out six. However, Toronto’s 4–0 lead proved to be too much for the Badgers offense to overcome.

The game culminated in a dramatic ninth inning, which proved to be a perfect ending to such a wild season for the Blues. Up 4–0 in the bottom of the ninth, the final at-bats for Brock quickly became the most exciting of the game, and to add to the drama,  it started to rain.

“It’s pouring rain. I’m looking through the mist and the rain. The umpire wasn’t going to call it because it was too close to the end of the game,” recalled Sheppard.

With runners on first and second and two outs, the game was set up for a thrilling finish when closing pitcher Drew Taylor loaded the bases after walking a Brock hitter.

“The next guy hits a fly-ball to centre field. We’ve got all our bench guys lined up on the side there, almost on the diamond,” continued Sheppard. “We catch the ball and we’re champions. And you know what happens? The rain stops. I’m thinking this has to be a movie.”

The victory came against a Brock team that handed the Blues two crushing home losses in late September, pushing the Blues to a mediocre 3–8 record at the time. Despite their poor regular season, the Blues knew they had the pieces to succeed and refused to continue to fall in the standings.

“After the losses against Brock, we knew we were down but not out,” said Isaac. “The coaching staff and the veterans on the team did a great job of keeping the team focused on continuing to play one game at a time, one inning at a time, instead of focusing on the past or the future.

“Our team had all the people and skills we needed to win it all at the start of the season. Over the course of the season, we just needed to find how those pieces fit together and needed a little bit of urgency to push us over the top.”

The Blues would go on a tear for the rest of the season, finishing the last nine games with seven wins and two losses, capped with a blowout 15–0 win over Queens at home in the final game of the season. Toronto finished the regular season with a 10–11 overall record, and soared into the playoffs red hot off a three-game win streak.

“It was definitely a season of ups and downs as we searched to find our groove as a team,” said Isaac. “We did a great job of coming together when we needed to and pulling out the games that we needed to win.”

“What I saw the last half of the season was a bunch of guys who had a challenge, and got over it. To me that means a lot,” added Sheppard. “Whether we won or lost on Sunday, the fact that we got there is a tribute to how hard these guys worked the last half of the season.”

In the first two days of the OUA playoffs, Toronto defeated Brock 6–5 and Guelph by the same score in their first and second games, before falling to Brock 2–4 in the first game of the final. Because Toronto had already beaten Brock once in the playoffs, the Badgers came into the final having to win both games, while Toronto only had to win one.

“We went into Sunday only needing to win one game, while Brock had to beat us twice,” said Isaac. “After they beat us in the first game, we found ourselves with our backs against the wall and with no room for error. Unfortunately for Brock, that’s when we play our best baseball and that’s just what we did.”

With the threat of being eliminated from playoff contention looming after falling behind in the standings, the Blues rattled off win after win to squeeze into the playoffs, where they would continue their clutch play enroute to the OUA championship.

“I can’t get in their heads, but I think that they had the feeling that we could win this and get that ring,” said Sheppard. “Every guy. Score keeper, bullpen guy, whatever. We started to sieze the fact that we could get that ring.”

The Blues are hoping the excitement from this year’s thrilling OUA title will carry over to next season when they try to become the first team to win three consecutive championships since Western from 2005–2007.

Blues men’s hockey team destroys Queen’s 8–1

Forward Kyle Ventura soars past Gaels’ defense with four goals

Blues men’s hockey team destroys Queen’s 8–1

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team pummelled the Queen’s Gaels  8–1 on Saturday night.

The game was never really close as Toronto dominated throughout and saw their record improve to  3–0–1 for the season.

“I thought we played quite well,” said head coach Darren Lowe. “We wanted to play quick and physical. We got that early lead which seemed to break their spirit.”

The star of the show for the Blues was Kyle Ventura, who scored  four goals on the night and caused innumerable problems for the Gaels defense.

“I can’t take full credit,” said a modest Ventura. “My line-mates are giving me the puck and sometimes you get lucky. I’d say tonight I got lucky.”

“[Ventura] was struggling to score,” said Lowe. “He hadn’t scored yet so [the coaches] decided to have a talk with him the other day. We tried to encourage him to stay positive and keep working. The puck just seemed to keep going in tonight.”

The Blues had an excellent start to the game. Forward Jeff Brown  began the scoring two minutes in and followed up his first goal six minutes later with a top corner shot that left Queen’s goalie Riley Whitlock helpless.

Ventura began his superb outing 12 minutes into the match when he deflected a shot and spun to backhand the puck into an open net for his first goal.

The Blues continued their dominance into the second period when Lane Werbowski received a pass from Tyler Liukkonen and fired it into the top corner of the net.

Ventura scored his second goal when a lucky bounce off the boards sent the puck onto the tip of his stick. Rob Kay followed with another goal with less than a minute in the period. The initial effort was saved, but the rebound came back to Kay who took his time and slotted it over the Queen’s goalie.

Unfortunately, Toronto goalie Brett Willows could not maintain the shutout and shortly into the third, Taylor Clements of Queen’s scored off a rebound.

The Blues’ Ventura quickly made the fans forget the Gaels goal and finished his hat-trick two minutes later by controlling the puck behind the net and wrapping it in. His fourth goal on the day had an element of luck to it. Six minutes into the final period, Ventura’s shot took a strange deflection yet somehow managed to still find its way into the back of the net.

The game was effectively over at this point. Toronto was happy to run down the clock and Queen’s looked like they wanted to return home to Kingston more than anything. It was an ugly game for Queen’s, previously undefeated.

“Queen’s is a good hockey team,” Lowe remarked. “They have great goal tending usually, but their goalie had an off night. They did play last night against Ryerson. I’m sure the next time, it won’t be like that. These are one-off games. We got lucky.”

“Every team we’re going to play this year is a tough outing. If we work hard and persevere, we’ll get results like this,” Ventura noted.

One of the key deciding factors in the game was penalties. Between the two teams, 73 penalty minutes were called. It was a very physical game that became nasty at times; one Toronto player was even ejected after a major cross checking penalty.

Despite the penalties, Toronto was satisfied with the result. But, the Blues claim they don’t want to relax with crucial matches coming up.

“We don’t want to get into any bad habits,” said Ventura. “When we blowout teams like that, we want to stick to our game plan. We don’t want to get into any bad habits for our next game.”

“There are some little things we have to take care of,” agreed Lowe. “We got a bit sloppy in the neutral zone at times and we had odd man rushes against us. In tight games, we can’t afford to do these things.

“We were lucky tonight to have a bit of a lead. We made some mistakes but overall we had good goal tending and we put the puck in the net.”

The Blues next task is to defeat Ryerson who are 2–2 on the season.