Blues basketball teams split doubleheader against Brock

Men win home opener while women yet to win in OUA play

Blues basketball teams split doubleheader against Brock

The Toronto Varsity Blues basketball teams went 1–1 against the Brock Badgers in their double-header home opener on Saturday, November 2. The women’s team lost in the first game, and the men’s claimed victory in the second.

Women’s team 

The women’s side took the court first, seeking their first Ontario University Athletics (OUA) victory of the season, following a tough loss on the road the previous night to the York Lions.

Brock drew first blood in the opening quarter after a fast break layup by the Badgers’ Meagan Charbonneau in the second minute. The Blues responded, however, as Nada Radonjić connected from distance on back-to-back possessions. The Blues led by as many as five points in the quarter and held an 18–16 lead after 10 minutes of play.

Toronto continued to dictate the pace into the second quarter, throwing out an ever-changing concoction of aggressive zone, press, and defenses to frustrate Brock’s shooters. The Blues limited the Badgers to just one field goal over the first five minutes of the quarter, and turned defense into offense, where they got great looks off of penetration.

Christine Jurcau, tasked with the unenviable assignment of guarding OUA All-Star selection Melissa Tatti, held the star Badgers guard to just four points on three field goal attempts in the first half — far from Tatti’s typical average of 16.6 points per game. The halftime score was 34–30 in favour of Toronto.

Toronto forward Sarah Bennett — averaging a near double-double of 9.3 points and 8.5 boards per contest thus far in her comeback season from injury — was benched with her third foul just 10 seconds into the third quarter. The two teams traded buckets briefly before Radonjić pushed the Blues’ lead back to six with 7:10 minutes remaining on the clock by hitting back-to-back three-pointers.

However, the injury-plagued Blues, who have seen up to seven of their 16-woman roster sidelined at some point this season, showed signs of fatigue and inexperience later in the game, while Brock’s shooters were hitting shot after shot. The Badgers went four-for-four from a distance in the quarter, and went on an 11–0 run before Jurcau stopped the bleeding with only 4:59 minutes left in the quarter, sinking a pair of free throws. Unfortunately, that was the last of the Blues’ scoring for the period, and the Badgers pieced together a 12–0 run to make it 58–43 for the visiting Badgers after three quarters.

The Blues continued to fight into the final quarter but ultimately could not recover from the deficit. They cut the lead to as little as 11 points, with 7:26 minutes to play on a three-point basket by Jurcau. Unfortunately, Brock’s shooters could not be denied, hitting a blistering 64 per cent of their three-point attempts in the second half and 50 per cent of their field goals overall. The final score was 78–59 in favour of the visiting Badgers.

Radonjić posted a double-double with a team high of 20 points and a game high of 11 boards, while fellow veteran Bennett wound up with 14 points and seven boards. Fiorella Granda led the team in assists with four, and first-year forward Nakeisha Ekwandja was solid with six points and six boards in only 29 minutes of action. Jurcau was a workhorse for the Blues, logging a career-high 40 minutes on the night and contributing 10 points to the scoring spread.

“I thought we opened up the game with a lot more energy. We played pretty well; we shared the ball well,” noted Coach Michèle Bélanger after the game. “Defensively, we were really alert, we rebounded the ball well. We boxed out. So those were all really great positives.”

Jurcau said that she was “extremely proud” of her team’s efforts, commending the work of rookies Ekwandja and Sarah Cumby in particular. Jurcau sees room for improvement but has faith in the team’s promise.

“I think people are starting to step up more… We have moments and spurts where we show [promise]… we’re just not at that consistent spot yet… We’re still a fairly new team and [have] a lot of stuff to deal with already, like injuries, but I definitely think… slowly but surely, we’ll be working together very well,” explained Jurcau.

MATTHEW AZEVEDO/THE VARSITY

Men’s team

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team bounced back from a heartbreaking one-point overtime loss the night before to take down the Brock Badgers in a stunning comeback fashion.

Daniel Johansson opened up the scoring for the home side 1:43 minutes into the first quarter with a three-point bucket, and the teams traded baskets for much of the quarter. The Badgers took a one-point lead heading into the second with the score at 14–13.

In the second quarter, the Badgers continued to gain easy buckets in the paint off of some clean back cuts and crisp ball movement, quietly increasing their lead to as much as nine points with only 5:22 minutes remaining on the clock before the home side caught fire. The Blues swung the momentum on the backs of a 9–0 run over the span of just 70 seconds into the quarter, as Elie Mouyal breathed life into teammates and fans alike with back-to-back three-pointers and rookie Alec McGregor added another three-ball on the next Blues possession. The Blues and Badgers once again kept the contest neck-and-neck, and the Badgers maintained a 36–35 lead at halftime.

Just 15 seconds into the third quarter, Toronto’s Eric Rwahaire accomplished a rare four-point play as he caught a cross-court pass from Evan Shadkami and connected from beyond the arc on the right wing, while being bumped and sent to the ground by his defender.

After Rwawhire hit the ensuing free-throw to put the Blues ahead with a score of 39–38, the Badgers went on a mini 6–0 run. Shadkami responded, hitting a triple with 7:17 minutes left in the period. However, the Blues’ shooting suddenly went cold, and Shadkami’s three pointer would be Toronto’s last field goal of the quarter. The Badgers held their largest lead of the game, 53–42, after three quarters of action.

The Blues found a second gear in the fourth, a testament to their veteran experience and leadership. Iñaki Alvarez and Shadkami respectively sunk a layup and a three-point shot on the Blues’ first two possessions to open the frame, and then Johansson made good on a crafty Eurostep through two Brock players in the low block to cut the lead to 53–49 with 8:29 minutes left to play.

The Blues threw out a stifling 1-2-2 match-up zone that proved to be highly effective, forcing the Badgers to turn the ball over and take contested, low-percentage outside shots. Some timely scoring from Anthony Daudu, Shadkami, and Johansson tied the game at 63 apiece, with only two minutes left in the game.

The Badgers clung to their 66–65 lead with under a minute left. Though, when they failed to convert, the Blues regained possession with 24 seconds left on the clock. The home squad would end up getting statistical contributions from every player that saw floor time, but in the end it was the Blues’ dynamic fifth-year duo that secured the victory for their team.

Johansson would sink the go-ahead basket with about 12 seconds remaining, a clutch face-up long range jumper near the top of the arc that sent the crowd into a frenzy and gave the Blues a 68–66 lead.

After Godsman Kwakwah threw up a prayer on the ensuing Badgers possession, it was none other than fellow fifth-year, floor general Chris Barrett — the smallest player on the court in stature, but clearly not in heart — secured the crucial rebound on the miss. Barrett was sent to the line to stop the clock and calmly drained both foul shots, icing the game and capping off 28 points for Toronto in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the final score was 70–66 for the Blues.

The win marked Toronto’s first OUA victory, moving them to 1-2, and was also their first win of the year over a nationally ranked team. Shadkami had a team-high 19 points, including five three-pointers, on 7–13 shooting from the field, and added five assists. Daniel Johansson added 18 points and eight boards, and the Blues got 18 of their 70 points from the bench.

Assistant Coach Mike De Giorgio was pleased with the team’s perseverance, noting that “last year, we kinda quit when we got down. And this year, when we [get] down, we [fight] back.” He noted, however, that the team will continue to work on being “more consistent with our effort… at the ‘smart things,’” including “trying to follow the game plan, trying hard to take the right shot, [and] not just the easy shot… really working hard at boxing out and going to get the ball.”

In addition to fifth-years Johansson and Barrett, the Blues are also enjoying the services of Division 1 transfer Eric Rwahwire, who De Giorgio has credited for vocal leadership on the court.

Reaching new highs

Study from U of T professor finds strong doping culture in sport climbing

Reaching new highs

Chances are that you have a friend who is dying to take you rock climbing or bouldering. You might even be that friend. Either way, it is clear that rock climbing is the new ‘thing’ to do.

The sport is ascending to new heights, both professionally and recreationally. At the elite level, sport climbing will be included at the Olympics for the first time next year. For the everyday climber, according to Climbing Business Journal, the number of climbing gyms open in the US increased from 388 to 457 between 2015 and 2017. Closer to home, a new climbing gym opened in Koreatown on Bloor in 2015, and is often occupied by students.

Yet, this positive direction is hindered by the sport’s doping culture, which, as researchers have noted, may impact its optics on the international stage.

Dr. Yasser El-Sheikh, who lectures at U of T’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, has co-authored an article about the sport’s doping culture. El-Sheikh is also the medical officer for The Canadian Sport Climbing Team, the director of the Canadian Climbing Medicine Symposium, and the founder of Climbing Medicine Canada.

The article, titled “Doping in Sport Climbing: Status Quo in a New Olympic Discipline,” comments primarily on how the sport’s uptick in popularity and upcoming inauguration into the Olympics will present a challenge in the implementation of anti-doping policies.

It also outlines how the origins of the sport influenced its lax attitude toward performance-enhancing drugs, which, alongside its exponential growth in recent years, will make the communication of what substances are illegal more difficult.

The article explains that modern rock climbing loosely developed from alpine mountaineering, a sport in which athletes relied heavily on drugs that reduce the effects of altitude sickness and hypoxemia to allow climbers to reach astronomical heights. As such, doping in competitive climbing was more or less accepted until the overall culture of drugs in sports changed drastically in recent years. Climbers also benefit from being lighter, so there is a risk of use disorder of laxative and diuretic drugs in an effort to pull less weight up a wall.

Despite implemented regulations, records within the sport continue to be broken in a manner “unaffected by any antidoping control.” This lack of actual organized, observed competition in, particularly, outdoor forms of competitive climbing means that it is rare that any athlete will actually be tested for performance enhancers. Rather, we are forced to trust the ethics of the climber.

What’s more, because the sport is booming so drastically, the scientific and administrative sides of climbing are lagging. Until now there have been no published scientific studies on doping in sport climbing, and dissemination of updated doping rules becomes difficult when many countries are still developing national teams.

New or non-competing athletes, without the assistance from national federations that only the most elite climbers get, may not know the updated doping rules and regulations. As a result, athletes, trainers, and officials alike may not even know that a substance they are using is illegal, because their sport’s framework can’t keep up with its burgeoning growth.

And because of how new climbing is to the elite international scene, national anti-doping organizations are unfamiliar with its culture and circumstances, leading to what the authors call “widely underdeveloped sports medical supervision.”

The Olympics are right around the corner, and the sport is poised to gain more popularity. To change the doping culture in climbing, the authors recommend that education should be a high priority in the early years of climbing as an Olympic sport, as the world is watching and its reputation is on the line.

They also recommend more resources within climbing across the board so that the administrative side can keep up with the growth: for example, more sports medical supervision and more educational resources for recreational and elite athletes.

Opinion: Supposed health drinks do not contain the health benefits they often advertise

Are ‘health beverages’ instigators of poor health?

Opinion: Supposed health drinks do not contain the health benefits they often advertise

Health beverages have become an increasingly popular choice among consumers, with many claiming to clear your skin, energize your mind, flush out bacteria, and promote weight loss. There are countless options to choose from, with kombucha, coconut water, celery juice, and various other fruit juices among the most popular.

However, these products, which are often marketed as a “quick fix” or “miracle cure,” may in fact be contributing to poor health, and lending to a dangerous pattern of ineffective health fads, misguided expectations, and poor consumer knowledge.

Kombucha

Kombucha has gained an impressive following among health enthusiasts, celebrities, and casual consumers. Advertised as a “probiotic,” kombucha boasts a long list of supposed benefits, which include improved digestion, reduced blood pressure, and a strengthened immune system, while also claiming to assist with the detoxification of harmful toxins from the body.

However, the bacteria found within kombucha have yet to be confirmed as probiotics, and furthermore, none of the aforementioned claims have been substantiated. As told by Dr. David Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at Harvard University to The New York Times, “If you’re drinking this for the health benefits… I’d say rethink your drink.”

Coconut water

Touting a loyal following among athletes of all levels, coconut water is often praised for its ability to improve athletic performance and endurance when consumed post-workout. These claims arise from coconut water’s high concentration of electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium, as electrolytes are believed to contribute to athletic ability.

However, one study suggests that these electrolytes do not have any significant impact on exercise performance. Granted, coconut water is actually healthy in its ability to rehydrate the body following intense exercise.

Celery juice

Celery juice has garnered a cult-like following thanks to Anthony William, a “medical medium” who has touted the use of celery juice as a remedy for a number of diverse health issues from weight loss and digestive issues to psoriasis and acne. While celery juice certainly contributes to hydration, thus far there has been no scientific evidence to validate any of these claims. Nutritionists instead suggest that an increased sense of well-being following the consumption of celery juice is instead likely to be a combination of better hydration and the placebo effect.

Fruit juices

Despite popular belief, fruit juices are not actually a healthy alternative to pop or other sugary beverages. While whole fruits offer a multitude of health benefits, their juices do not. Fruit juices are high in sugar and calories, a combination which leads to weight gain rather than discouraging it.

Fruit juices actually contribute the same number of calories as their whole fruit counterparts. Unlike whole fruits, however, the consumption of fruit juice does not lead to a similar feeling of satiety, which in turn promotes increased weight gain. In short, those looking to ditch the pounds should ditch the juice.

Water

While not marketed as a “health beverage,” water may be the ultimate ‘health’ drink available. Besides needing water for survival, a 2016 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine found a correlation between inadequate water consumption and a higher body fat percentage or body mass index. Lisa Drayer, a registered US dietician, told CNN that “Drinking a glass of water before a meal can fill you up a bit and help you eat fewer calories at a meal,” therefore causing you to consume less calories.

How physical exercise acts as an antidepressant

In conversation with Garcia Ashdown-Franks on the effects of exercise on depression

How physical exercise acts as an antidepressant

Exercising regularly could function effectively as an antidepressant, according to a recent review paper co-authored by U of T researchers.

One of the researchers, Garcia Ashdown-Franks, a PhD student in exercise science, spoke with The Varsity on how the psychosocial mechanisms of exercise could cause antidepressant effects.

The impact of exercise on self-esteem

Self-esteem is the extent to which one’s conception of themself is positive. According to multiple studies over the past decade, sustained low self-esteem is a predictor of depression.

Symptoms of depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association, include a loss of interest in activities one once enjoyed, mood shifts to sadness, increased fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness. These are indicators of depression when experienced for two weeks or longer.

Low self-esteem may result in depressive symptoms, which could further erode self-esteem. According to the co-authors, this creates a cyclical relationship between the two.

Poor self-perception of one’s physical body is one factor that can impact self-esteem, and thus create depressive symptoms. According to the review, exercise can break the cycle by boosting physical self-perception, and thus self-esteem.

Increase in muscle mass and fat loss are two possible mechanisms that could drive the effect, according to the review. However, according to The New York Times, fat acceptance advocates and academics promote feeling self-confident at any weight. Learning to feel comfortable with one’s body weight may be another pathway to increasing self-esteem, aside from exercise.

Interestingly, two studies in the review also suggest that even if body composition remains the same, exercise may still increase self-esteem.

Ashdown-Franks noted, “Just the act of performing exercise or activity or sport can make us feel better about our body, even if there are no actual changes in our body composition.”

How exercise can change your social life

“There’s evidence that people with depression report feeling less social support in their lives, or [fewer] people [who] they can go to for support, which also can [worsen] their symptoms,” Ashdown-Franks said to The Varsity.

The co-authors noted that physical engagement is associated with emotional support from friends and family, and further suggested that the social benefits of exercise could be pronounced in team sports.

Ashdown-Franks said that the evidence is limited regarding whether solitary sports — such as running and weightlifting — could also result in social support. However, she noted that interaction with others, such as fellow runners or coaches, could provide a sense of community.

Team sport activities are prevalent at U of T. For example, there are drop-in basketball sessions at UTSG, UTSC, and UTM. Drop-in tennis, volleyball, and yoga are alternative options on campus.

Social impacts underpinned by biological mechanisms

Long-term exercise also induces biological changes, which could play a role in the antidepressant effects of exercise as well.

According to the co-authors, these biological mechanisms include changes to structures in the brain. The findings of animal studies report that the growth of neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain relevant to depression, can be stunted by the condition.

Exercise may be a long-term way to improve the growth of neurons, with studies finding that exercise can specifically increase the volume of the hippocampus. Further factors that boost neural growth include increased blood flow to the brain.

Inflammation in the body is another possible cause of depression. Evidence shows that exercise can lower the levels of pro-inflammatory markers associated with depression, as exercise may be responsible for the release of anti-inflammatory biochemicals.

Future steps of research

“I think there’s a lot more research that needs to be done,” said Ashdown-Franks, regarding research on the relationship between exercise and depression.

Understudied research areas, according to Ashdown-Franks, include determining the optimal exercise routine for combating depression. Other limitations of studies on overcoming depression include their reliance on self-reports, which have limited power, and on animal studies, which may not be applicable to humans.

Despite a lack of clarity of the research, Ashdown-Franks emphasized that it’s clear that some exercise is better than none at all. She said, “For someone who’s struggling with depression or symptoms of depression, they might think going to the gym [can be] a monumental task. But… [taking] a few minutes every day just to go for a walk [can make you] feel better.”

Opinion: U of T’s gyms aren’t accessible to all

An analysis of the accessibility services at the St. George campus facilities

Opinion: U of T’s gyms aren’t accessible to all

U of T’s St. George campus offers lots of athletics facilities to help you work up a sweat. The Hart House gym, Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, and Athletic Centre (AC) collectively offer anything a gym rat could dream of for getting active. However, one question must be asked: are these gyms accessible for all?

First, let’s look into Hart House, U of T’s multidisciplinary space. On its website, Hart House states that it “is proud of [its] continued effort to facilitate the inclusion of campus and community members of all abilities into [its] facilities and services.” Implemented measures in the building include elevator access to all floors, some accessible washrooms, lower counters, accessible doorways, and some barrier-free building entrances.

However, Hart House seems to be lacking some gym-specific accessibility amenities. The change rooms are not easy to get to, as they require a trip down some stairs. The facility layout on the whole is also difficult to maneuver, featuring many staircases, narrow hallways, and confusing layouts. Furthermore, the top floor, which boasts a track that encircles some cardio and weight machines, is crowded with equipment. Luckily, there is usually a lot of staff around who are ready to help, but nevertheless the disjointed layout leaves much to be desired.

The Goldring Centre is next on our list. This gym notably  features an elevator, automatic doors, and accessible entrance gates when you scan your T-Card, in addition to the regular turnstiles. Accessible change rooms are on the second floor, and there are also alternate change rooms available to cater directly to those with specific needs: there are accessible, all-gender, and family change rooms, all with shower and washroom amenities. Goldring is also well-staffed, meaning there will always be someone nearby to help if something is out of reach, or if you need help with a machine. The facilities are also very well-kept and state-of-the-art, however, the main gym consists of three stories, which means it may be difficult for some to use the entire space.

The final option is the AC. Although the AC may be accessible in its program inclusivity, offering a staggering number of facilities for a wide range of athletics, its actual infrastructure is incompatible for someone who is not completely mobile. The AC boasts of its “seven gymnasia, three pools… strength and conditioning centre, indoor track, dance studio, cardio machines, tennis and squash courts, and steam rooms,” but its counterintuitive layout and multiple barriers for entry restrict some who may want to use these spaces.

The change rooms and restrooms, for example, although accessible, are hard to get to, being located in  the basement and requiring visitors to go down a flight of stairs.

There are also tricky turnstiles that members need to walk through, and even once you’re in the main facility, getting around can be quite confusing for even the best of us. One Google reviewer aptly called it “a big maze,” referring to the design and size of the building, which makes navigation especially difficult, and can lead to a lot of wasted time walking in circles.

It seems like every gym is lacking in some way or another when it comes to accessibility, so while it’s important to choose the facility that best suits your needs, it’s clearly time for U of T to raise its  bar for accessibility standards at all of its gyms.

Blues drop final game of the season to Guelph

Senior players get warm send-off, Sequeira breaks long-standing Blues record

Blues drop final game of the season to Guelph

The Toronto Varsity Blues closed out their 2019 campaign with a 40–26 loss against the playoff-bound Guelph Gryphons. The game began by celebrating the senior players who were playing their last game of the season. This included Mathew Duffy, Jeffrey Lam, Christian Krcilek, Matt Loenhart, Ethan Shafer, Malcom Campbell, Julian Romano, Eddie Nam, Jordan Gillespie, Matthew Renaud, and Damoy Robinson.

“I just wanted them to go out and enjoy the experience,” Head Coach Greg Marshall said of his senior players. “I wanted the rest of the guys to go out and battle hard for them and finish this off the right way… But if we’re not going to get a win, at least play hard and show some guts, and I thought we did that.”

Guelph and Toronto both went two and out on their first drives, before quarterback Clay Sequeira threw a bomb to receiver Will Corby for a 99-yard touchdown on the first play of Toronto’s next drive. With this pass, Sequeira broke a Varsity Blues record for most touchdown passes in a single season, a record which was previously held by former NFL player Dan Feraday, who had 22 touchdowns in the 1981 season.

“He’s had a great year,” Marshall said of his quarterback. “We ask a lot of him. He really responded well and the exciting part is we get him back for another year hopefully — and he had an outstanding year.”

At the next kickoff, the Guelph receiver slipped in the endzone, which gave Toronto an extra point. Guelph marched down the field and made a field goal to bring the score to 8–3 for Toronto. This would be the last time Toronto had the lead in the game, as Guelph would drive down the field after a Toronto two and out and tack on another touchdown to take a 10–8 lead.

Guelph was also able to score on their next drive, bringing the score to 17–8. On Toronto’s next drive, the bad field position led to Sequeria being pressured by the Guelph defense in the endzone, and forced him to throw the ball away. The referee called intentional grounding on this play, and Toronto gave up two points and the ball.

Toronto was able to force two turnovers, with a fumble recovery, and an interception by defensive back Jamal Johnson, but were unable to capitalize on either opportunity. However, Toronto was able to get a touchdown and a two point conversion just before half-time, with Sequeria finding receiver Nolan Lovegrove on both plays.   

On the first play of the second half, Guelph was able to march down the field and score another touchdown, making it 26–16. After Toronto was forced to punt on their next drive, Guelph made it all the way to Toronto’s one-yard line on first and made a field goal. The Blues defense stopped Guelph from running the ball into the endzone on first down, and forced a fumble on second down to prevent Guelph from getting any points from the play.

After a beautiful pass to around the midfield from Sequeira, Guelph was able to secure an interception. While Toronto’s next drive saw them get a field goal, Guelph was able to answer with a touchdown, bringing the score to 33–19.

Guelph missed a field goal on their next drive, but managed to secure a fumble and was able to tack on another touchdown, to give their offense 40 points. On Guelph’s last drive of the game, Toronto recovered a fumble inside the Gryphons’ five-yard line, and Sequeria threw the short touchdown pass with no time left on the clock to make the final score 40–26.

“[Guelph’s] a good football team. Our kids battled hard, they just made a few more plays than we did. We were running out of bodies there at the end a little bit on the [defense] line, and the linebackers. We had three [defensive linemen],” Marshall continued.

“I give our kids credit — they battled hard, they never gave up. And I’m proud of them for that,” he remarked.

“Obviously we moved the dial. We are… a better team at this point in the season than we were last year, so we’ve gained a little momentum in that regard,” he said on the growth that the Blues have seen this season. “A lot of our young guys have gotten experience. We need some more work in the weight room and on the field, and hopefully we’ll be better next year for it.”

Blues win high scoring affair against downtown rivals

Nathan Hodgin scores overtime goal as Toronto outlasts Ryerson

Blues win high scoring affair against downtown rivals

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeated their most fierce rival this Saturday in a thrilling fast-paced matchup. This win gave the Blues a 3–2 record, and vaulted them a point above Ryerson University in the Ontario University Athletics standings early in the season. 

Early in the first period, forward Oliver Benwell made a cross-ice pass to Toronto’s leading scorer David Thompson and one-timed the puck past Ryerson goalie Troy Timpano for an early 1–0 lead. The play got physical fast, and after a scrum in front of the net, Toronto forward Scott Kirton, and Ryerson’s Holden Cook were assessed offsetting roughing penalties, while Blues defenseman Riley Bruce was given an extra slashing penalty.

Though Toronto was able to kill off the Ryerson powerplay, Ryerson got a quick goal shortly after, as a shot from Cavin Leth was tipped in by forward Marcus Hinds. After Ryerson’s Matt Mistele was given a minor penalty, Toronto struck right back when a point shot from Toronto defenceman Evan MacEachern soared over the glove of Timpano to give Toronto a 2–1 lead. However, Toronto was unable to stay disciplined, as penalties from Riley Bruce and Scott Kirton gave Ryerson a 28-second five-on-three, which was all the time they needed to score the equalizer before the end of the first period.

In the second period, Kirton almost had a chance at redemption, stealing the puck from Ryerson defender Jered Walsh on the blue line to give himself a breakaway, but was ultimately unable to capitalize on it. Toronto was able to break the tie when Nathan Hudgin made a cross-ice pass right in front of the Ryerson net and gave Thompson an easy tap-in for his second goal of the game.

After a scramble in front of the Toronto net, Ryerson was able to put up another equalizer when Blues goalie Alex Bishop seemed to think it was kicked in, but after discussion between the referees it was ruled a goal. Toward the end of the period, Blues forward Kyle Potts used his size and speed to beat the Rams’ defenseman and tuck it in the net, regaining the lead.

In the third period, Ryerson was once again able to tie up the game, with a deflection in front of the net by forward David Miller. The Blues answered back with another goal of their own, with forward Hunter Atchison making a crisp cross-ice pass to Nathan Hudgin, who sniped it past Timpano for the go-ahead goal. Ryerson was able to get one more goal — a rebound shot in by forward Mathew Santos — to force overtime.

As is typically the case in three-on-three overtime, the play was very fast paced, with odd-man rushes going back and forth, and chances happening at each end. The Blues broke the deadlock when Hudgin made a backhand pass to defenseman Brendan Bornstein. Bornstein made a beautiful spinning backhand give-and-go pass back to Hudgin, who then corralled the puck with his skate and shot it past Timpano for the winning goal.

Thompson and Hudgin each had two goals, while forward Joey Manchurek quietly tallied three assists, and goalie Alex Bishop made 31 saves for the win. Toronto’s next home game will be on November 2, when they take on Laurentian University.

Opinion: In conversation with U of T Raptors fans

The defending champions look to remain competitive after the loss of two key starters

Opinion: In conversation with  U of T Raptors fans

After winning the NBA Championship this past June, the Raptors are in a unique position to start the 2019–2020 NBA season. Despite being the defending champions, they are still considered underdogs.

ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated all do not list the Raptors as a top-eight team in their preseason power rankings. Analytics website FiveThirtyEight gave them just a two per cent chance of repeating as NBA champions.

These tempered expectations are understandable: very few teams lose two starters — one of them being arguably the best player in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard — in the offseason and still remain competitive, much less title contenders.

What is left is a mixture of wily playoff veterans, like Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, alongside young talent like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. The latter will be asked to step into even greater roles with the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Despite these losses, the Raptors can still compete for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference. Team President Masai Ujiri will have to decide whether he wants to run it back with the roster he has or liquidate his assets by trading away veterans and betting on the youth.

The precariousness of this position has not been lost on the numerous U of T Raptor fans. However, it is undercut with a sense of optimism that comes from having witnessed history as a Canadian team won the NBA Championship for the first time — a feat that awed even the most casual of Raptors fans.

“I’m a bandwagoner, “ admitted third-year life sciences student Deepak — but that didn’t stop him and other fairweather fans from being drawn into the fervour that swept Toronto. “The energy I felt when the Raptors won was incredible. It felt like the whole city went absolutely nuts… and I think the after-effects of that are still here.”

These good feelings even extend to the departures of Leonard and Green. “It’s heartbreaking,” acknowledged Dillon, a second-year engineering student, “[but] I would have been more resentful if they hadn’t won. I think the mindset now is ‘thank you, you won us a championship. If you want to leave now and do other things, more power to you. You don’t owe us anything.’”

Though interviewed students conceded that the Raptors’ ceiling had been lowered, they also expressed their strong faith in the Raptors front office, with Masai Ujiri being mentioned glowingly.

Thomas, a third-year medical science student, said “Masai is a special kind of genius… The Kawhi trade showed that he was willing to take big risks, [DeMar DeRozan] was loved by everyone and [Ujiri] knew that… but the trade gave us a championship… I have faith he knows what he’s doing.”

This faith is not without the expectation that the Raptors remain competitive. A general consensus among interviewees was that the rebuild should be held off for at least this year, and that the Raptors still have the talent to be a mid-tier playoff team. “We just re-signed [Lowry], and if the young guys take another leap, I don’t see why we can’t win a playoff round,” reasoned Dillon. He and others said that calls to ‘blow it up’ can wait for the offseason, or, as Thomas suggested, “at least until the trade deadline if they’re very bad.”

This season may not come with the expectations of a typical defending champion, but fans still expect the Raptors to be successful, and the afterglow of that magical time in June allows for them to believe in both the present and the future of this organization. 

The Raptors will start their 2019–2020 campaign with a banner raising ceremony at Scotiabank Arena, followed by a matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans on the NBA’s opening day. The game will be followed by a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers — for the fans who are still not over the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, who signed with the Clippers and Lakers, respectively.