Bittersweet final regular season home game for Blues women

Blues women’s hockey team falls to Gaels 3–1

Bittersweet final regular season home game for Blues women

The Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team surrendered a close 3–1 match against the Queen’s Gaels on Friday night.

The last home game of the regular season marked grad night, a special occasion for graduating players Rebecca Bourgeois and Katey Teekasingh. Both players were honoured in a pre-game ceremony.

The Blues drew first blood as Breanna Berndsen found an open space in the slot and capitalized, scoring in the first period and giving Toronto a 1–0 lead. The Gaels still managed to create more opportunities on offense, leading 10–7 shots on goal after the first period. Blues goalie Madeline Albert finished the night with a save percentage of 0.905, stopping 19 of 21 shots.

Despite scoring on Gaels goalie Stephanie Pascal in the first period, the Blues failed to get the puck past her for the rest of the game. Pascal was sensational, saving an impressive 22 of 23 shots.

The second period turned sloppy for the Blues as they committed unfortunate penalties, providing the Gaels with the chance to take the lead. Blues player Stephanie Ayres was called for holding, which Queen’s capitalized on. The Gaels’ Katrina Manoukarakis, who is the Ontario University Athletics’ second leading scorer, immediately scored just six seconds into the power play, tying the game. Late in the second period, Manoukarakis found the back of the net again to give the Gaels their first lead.

Toronto failed to score in the final period despite having five more shots. Queen’s forward Jessica Wakefield scored an empty netter that went off of Blues defender Julia Szulewska, extending the lead to 3–1 and ending any hopes of a comeback.

“I loved every minute of it,” said Blues captain Rebecca Bourgeois when asked of her time as a Varsity Blue. “I’ve sat through a lot of these grad ceremonies and I’m so thankful that I had all my friends here for this one. I really enjoyed my five years here and everyone who has come through during that time.”

“We’re really just focusing on playing the full 60 minutes. Queen’s is a good team and I think we‘ve had a good run, but… we just need to focus on the little things and I think we’re well set-up for the future,” said Bourgeois.

With the loss, the Blues drop to a 13-8-2 record and fall to the fifth seed in a tight playoff race.

“I think definitely we want to make a run at it as far as we can. We’re aiming for that OUA banner… We’re going to go into it with pride and hopefully we’re going to play that way and come out successful,” said Bourgeois.

Toronto will finish their regular season on the road against the York Lions on February 16.

Blues defeat Voyageurs for fourth straight win

Chao, Straatman, and Roache all score to beat Laurentian

Blues defeat Voyageurs for fourth straight win

The Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team skated out with a win on Friday night at Varsity Arena after defeating the Laurentian Voyageurs. Many Toronto players displayed strength and skill in the 3–0 victory, with goaltender Madeline Albert gaining a shutout. But their teamwork was also key: the Blues’ ability to rely on each other made all the difference.

Toronto took the early lead, finding the back of the net seven minutes into the game. Defenseman Cristine Chao scored the power play goal, and Gabrielle De Serres earned the assist.

After Toronto took the one-goal lead, both teams had some great scoring chances, but no further goals were scored by the end of the first frame. Toronto’s defense kept the puck under control and after the first period allowed only four shots on net. Laurentian came out strong in the second period and changed the pace in search for the victory. The Blues quickly matched their level with outstanding plays and saves.

Toward the end of the second period and with 21 seconds left, Toronto’s leading scorer, Kassie Roache, committed a penalty putting the Voyageurs on power play that would carry into the third period. Toronto’s work ethic as a team prevailed even while one player down. Although under pressure, they were able to keep the 1–0 lead as they ended the second period, with thanks going especially to rookie goalie Albert, who made key saves.

Despite being a player down at the start of the third period, the Blues fought hard to keep their lead, and once the fifth player was out of the penalty box and back on the ice, most of the game action was spent in Voyageur territory. The nerves behind having only a one-goal lead showed in the energy of the crowd and in the Blues’ work ethic and strategies. It was evident that they wanted the win as they fought down to every last second.

The Voyageurs subbed out goaltender Dolighan for Karen Collins, while captain Ellery Veerman continued her team’s strong defensive play to prevent the Blues from scoring in the opening minutes of the third period. However, the Blues eventually found their way around the Voyageurs’ defense as Lauren Straatman added a second goal eight minutes into the third.

Following the second goal, the Blues found their confidence and dominated possession of the puck. Collins carried Laurentian’s defense, making some key stops in the period, but Toronto’s forwards continued to string together scoring opportunities and quickly found the back of the net, less than two minutes after Straatman’s goal. This time it was Roache who scored, finding Collins’ weak spot to increase Toronto’s lead to 3–0.

Toward the end of period, possession evened out and the two teams were neck and neck with their shots on goal. With two minutes left in the game, Laurentian continued their attack, although they were still unable to score on Albert. They fought hard, but it was evident that they had run out of time, despite the valiant comeback effort they attempted. Now, almost in the last minute of play, Voyageurs forward Annie Sheridan committed a crucial slashing penalty, providing the Blues with a power play and effectively ending any hope the Voyageurs had of making an improbable comeback.

With seconds left, Toronto was able to maintain complete possession of the puck, and when the final buzzer went off, the team had succeeded. After launching 20 shots on goal, the Blues won with a final score of 3–0, sending the Voyageurs packing with nothing.

Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

“Programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body”

Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

Confusion about sports facilities and services on campus is nothing new. For a long time, students have been puzzled over whether they can go skating in the Varsity Arena, how much Varsity Blues game tickets cost, what swimming lessons are available and — wait — are non-Kinesiology students allowed to use the pool at the Athletic Centre, or can we only use the one at Hart House?

The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) is mindful of these sorts of questions. Based on feedback from surveys and focus groups, Beth Ali, Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity, said that “first-year students… wouldn’t go in the buildings because they thought that the swim lessons, the open rec basketball, varsity programs or intramural programs were only for KPE students.”

To counter this confusion, the faculty has adopted the moniker of “U of T Sport and Rec” as a way to differentiate the division of the faculty that runs co-curricular activities from its academic division.

The name was first used last year as part of the faculty’s Come See What You Can Do campaign to “engage all U of T students in sport and physical activity and raise awareness [of] the facilities, programs and services offered.”

“What we were introducing was the concept, that we live in KPE, we work with KPE, but U of T Sport and Rec is for the entire university student body and all of our programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body,” wrote Ali.

KPE is unique among other faculties in that it has an additional mandate to provide resources for sports and physical activity on all three campuses. This mandate is a result of a merger between the Department of Athletics and Recreation, the Graduate Program of Exercise Science, and the then-named School of Physical and Health Education in 1998.

But with such a broad mandate, it can be unclear what exactly falls under it given the breadth of programs and services related to sports and physical activity on the three campuses.

The most important point to note is that every student pays an ancillary fee to KPE and that the revenue collected is part of a co-curricular budget run by U of T Sport and Rec. This fee accounts for about 70 per cent of U of T Sport and Rec’s operating revenue, and it is kept separate from the budget run by the academic side of the faculty.

This means that the facilities, programs, and services operated by U of T Sport and Rec are open to all students. These facilities include the Athletic Centre, the Varsity Stadium and Arena, the Back Campus Fields, and even the intimidatingly named Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

A portion of the ancillary fee is remitted to UTM and UTSC to run programming for their own campuses. The operation of their facilities, which include UTM’s Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre and UTSC’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, is funded by a separate fee from UTM and UTSC students.

U of T Sport and Rec also runs tri-campus programs like intramurals and Varsity Blues. The Tri-Campus Development League is a particular program where two teams from UTSG and one team from UTM and UTSC each compete in a semester-long tournament with weekly practices.

U of T Sport and Rec is the largest employer of students on campus with over $5 million of operating expenses paid to 1,114 student employees. Ali believes that as a university employer, KPE is more mindful of the challenges student employees face in balancing work and studies.

“There’s an understanding that, yes you’re an employee, but you’re also a student and because you’re a student, you being successful as a student is our first priority. You working for us is the second priority,” said Ali.

An inside look into the Varsity Blues’ Think Pink #BleedBlue campaign

Blues raise money for Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

An inside look into the Varsity Blues’ Think Pink #BleedBlue campaign

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues program recently wrapped up its annual Think Pink #BleedBlue campaign. The campaign, which serves to raise awareness for breast cancer through special events, is in its 11th year. Events this year included pink pancake Wednesdays, pink t-shirt sales, and giveaways during Blues sporting events.

According to Mary Beth Challoner, the Varsity Blues’ Events and Marketing Manager, Think Pink is not the name of a Varsity Blues-affiliated foundation, but it is a slogan that matches nicely with the Blues’ #BleedBlue mantra. Rather, U of T is “connected to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation [CBCF], Ontario chapter, the same group that runs CIBC run for the cure,” wrote Challoner.

During the Think Pink week, Blues fans wore pink ribbons, events staff flaunted bright “Varsity Blues vs. Breast Cancer” t-shirts, and players sported pink laces. “The only thing we get from [the CBCF] are the pink ribbons and the pamphlets… Everything that we pinkify we do it, and we get it done.”

Challoner said that “100 per cent” of proceeds from merchandise and events during the Think Pink week go to the CBCF.

The campaign is part of a national movement organized and facilitated by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

“Every school submits their number, and there is a check presented at the women’s basketball national championship to the Breast Cancer Foundation,” said Challoner. Although the event lasts only one week, it becomes an added source of pride for the winning women’s basketball team.

The CBCF is one of Canada’s 100 major charities, as it raised $35.7 million in 2016, $26 million of which came from the CIBC Run for the Cure. Charity intelligence reports that the CBCF uses just 30 per cent of donations for its own fundraising events.

In 2014 and 2015, for every dollar donated, over $0.50 went directly toward the cause. Over 20 years, the CBCF has raised over $360 million in donations for breast cancer research, which has played a significant role in decreasing mortality rates and increasing survival rates for cancer patients.

Through the Blues’ fundraising and fun activities throughout the Think Pink #BleedBlue campaign, Challoner stated that the ultimate “focus is really about breast cancer awareness.”

Reilly Reid explains his basketball philosophy

The Blues guard leads the team in points and rebounds

Reilly Reid explains his basketball philosophy

Reilly Reid has played sports his entire life. Starting with his dad being drafted into the NHL by the St. Louis Blues to watching the Toronto Maple Leafs growing up to being named the most valuable player on his high school basketball team, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues shooting guard has been immersed in sport for as long as he can remember.

“I was definitely around the sports culture a lot from an early age,” wrote Reid to The Varsity. “Whether it was watching sports or playing sports, my dad was always introducing me to new skills and habits. He has the best sports mind I’ve ever met and he’s taught me so much more than just the basics.”

This season, Reid is averaging 13.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, and he is on 40/33/77 shooting splits. He’s first on the team in points and rebounds, and he still maintains an efficient field goal percentage. He takes inspiration from the play style of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade.

“We both prefer attacking the rim and using our body over shooting outside jumpers, but will still shoot the open ones.” He is also the team’s most relied-upon player when it comes to playing time, logging in 31.4 minutes per game. Reid said he doesn’t let himself get affected by the pressure.

“I don’t necessarily feel pressured to put up points because we have a lot of guys who can score the ball in a variety of ways,” he said. “So if I’m struggling during a game, we have a lot of guys that can pick me up, which is great. However, sometimes when the offense is struggling I think it is part of my role to be aggressive whether it is scoring myself, or finding others for open looks. I think when I am aggressive it opens up other people and allows us to be in a nice rhythm offensively.”

Reid, a St. Michael’s College student, is currently enrolled in Urban Studies and Human Geography. When it comes to balancing school with basketball, Reid said that the biggest challenge “is not being able to seek out extra help as much as a regular student might be able to.” He sees visiting professors at office hours as a challenge, due to most of them being at the same time as the team’s practices. He stresses that time management is one of the most important skills involved in being a student athlete.

Nonetheless, Reid values this time with the team and the camaraderie that accompanies his involvement.

“Everyone is around each other for the whole time we’re away, it makes for a lot of good stories and laughs… You get to learn a lot about the personal side of teammates you might not have known before and it brings everybody closer together.”

Blues athletes place second, third at Fred Foot classic

Lindsay Brandys places second; Steven Wilkens-Reeves, Avery Garrett-Patterson, Christiana Agustin place third

Blues athletes place second, third at Fred Foot classic

Legs tensed. Shoulder blades locked. Fingertips dug into the hard track. The starting gun cracked — and they were off. Runners tore around the track, arms pumping furiously, eyes fixed on the lane ahead. Their race finished, they moved aside. A fleet of new runners settled into the starting blocks. And the cycle began again.

On Saturday, runners from universities across Canada arrived at the University of Toronto Athletic Centre to compete in the Fred Foot Track and Field Classic. Varsity Blue Michelle Corallo finished seventh in women’s 60 metre hurdles in a time of 9.39 seconds. Steven Wilkens-Reeves placed third in the men’s 60 metre hurdles with a time of 8.94 seconds. In the women’s 60 metre dash, Lindsay Brandys came second for Toronto, finishing in 7.73 seconds.

As the longer distances began, more Blues took to the track. In the women’s 1,500 metre, Avery Garrett-Patterson and Christiana Agustin finished third and fourth respectively, while Somerset Jarvis trailed them in sixth. Chris Gowan came sixth in the men’s 1,500 metre with a time of 4.06.78 minutes. Daniel Wilson came in 12th in the men’s 600 metre with a time of 1.25.61 minutes.

Inside the track, the activity was feverish. Athletes warmed up for their races, jumpers roared feet-first into the sand pit, and pole vaulters rainbowed over the bar. Brittany Salmon finished fifth in women’s pole vault, finishing at 3.7 metres. Kayla Greenburg took sixth in women’s long jump with a final jump of 5.03 metres. The Blues men failed to place in their field events.

Linus Shaw attempts to clear the bar. PHOTOS BY SEYRAN MAMMADOV, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

The late Fred Foot coached for over 40 years in Toronto, helping athletes such as UTSC Principal Bruce Kidd and Bill Crothers. According to journalist James Christie, Foot taught his athletes “to get over the Canadian inferiority complex and become champions on the world stage.” This dogged spirit rang through last Saturday, as athletes jumped, pole vaulted, and looped endlessly around the indoor track.

As the meet wound down, spectators began gathering their lawn chairs and empty coffee cups. Athletes zipped themselves back into their tracksuits and stepped out of their spikes. They trickled out of the Athletic Centre and into the bright sunlight, leaving the past hours behind them.

The Blues track team will race again next week at the McGill Team Challenge, Armory Track Invitational, and the Kane Invitational.

The middle of the pack in a long distance race.
PHOTOS BY SEYRAN MAMMADOV, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Varsity swimmer Jess Yu flies to first place

Blues swimmers make waves at Winter Invitational

Over the weekend, the Varsity Blues swim team competed against multiple schools, including Western University, Brock University, and the University of Ottawa in the Winter Invitational at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Pool.

The first day of the tournament kicked off without delay at 6:00 pm, following a 5:45 pm warm up.

Hundreds of swimmers and spectators lined the decks and stands as family and friends of swimmers from all over Ontario supported the teams. The pool was so full that it was hard to find seats, which, for a Varsity Blues game, is an impressive turnout.

The night started off with 16 heats of women’s 50 metre freestyle. The competition was fierce and prepared for the night ahead; swimmers such as Charis Huddle from the Western Mustangs displayed their athleticism with swift turns and fluid, speedy movements. The Varsity Blues fared well, taking second and third place in this event.

Chris Ruus of the Blues also impressed, placing first in his heat of the men’s 200 metre backstroke. Going up against very strong swimmers from Brock and Guelph, the Blues swimmer accentuated his fluid arm strokes and strong leg kicks to take first place in his heat and seventh overall. The U of T men continued to show that their training has paid off, claiming top spots in the men’s 200 metre freestyle and 50 metre breaststroke.

U of T swimmers finished off day one with nine first-place finishes out of 16 events. Multiple top-five finishes followed.

The second day of the meet started strong with a win from Varsity Blue Jess Yu in the women’s 200 metre butterfly. Her strong arms and graceful kicks brought her out on top, with Laurentian Voyageurs’ Riley Konrad and Ottawa Gees-Gees’ Claudie Richard falling short of victory and claiming second and third place respectively.

In the middle of event 22, the pools were cleared due to an emergency. A male swimmer was taken away on a stretcher and the decks were cleared for the emergency medical technician. All spectators were moved to the lobby as the swimmer who looked to be in distress was taken out. About half an hour later, spectators were allowed back in, as the competition started again, picking up at the sixth heat of event 22. Mitch Ferraro of the Varsity Blues took second place in the event followed by fellow teammate Cameron Kidd, who claimed third.

The women’s 100 metre breaststroke event was a strong one for the Blues, with Rachael Parsons winning the first heat. Her ability to maintain long strokes while still keeping her immense speed pushed her to first. Nicole Demirov came second in the following heat of the same event, showing the strength in the training of the U of T women.

The day started to wind down with a win from Varsity Blues swimmer Rachel Rode in the first heat of the 50 metre butterfly. The intensity of her arm strokes pushed her to her winning position.

What’s next for the Varsity Blues? The team has continued to improve over the length of the season and will give their best efforts at the OUA Championships in London, Ontario as well as at the U Sports Championships held at Varsity Pool from February 22–24. Come out to support the Blues and experience some world-class swimming competition.

Blues men’s hockey triumph in third straight home ice win

Ryan Kirkup nets game-winning goal

Blues men’s hockey triumph in third straight home ice win

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey’s 4–3 win against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday marks the team’s third straight home ice victory. Toronto lost an early lead but came back to beat the Rams for the first time this season.

The Blues took the lead two minutes into the game, when defenseman Corey Jackson registered a quick slap shot from high slot. Halfway through the first period, the Blues looked to improve on their power-play — ranked 19th in the OUA — after the Rams were called for too many men.

Failing to score on their first power play due to Ryerson’s speed and ability to close down space, Toronto went back on the power play with four minutes remaining in the first period. A shot from Blues forward Matt Campagna was robbed by the stick of a diving Rams goaltender Taylor Dupuis with only a few seconds left in a one-man advantage.

Campagna opened the second period scoring off a scramble in front of the Ryerson goal in the second minute of play, marking his third goal of the weekend. Following the goal, the physical game opened up, with hits from Charlie Connell, Justin Brand, and Corey Jackson exciting the players on both benches.

Eight minutes into the second period, Ryerson forward Erik DeLaurentis fired a shot over the shoulder of first-year Blues goalie Frederic Foulem to open the scoring for the Rams. Ryerson then added two quick goals later in the period: in the 13th minute, Steven Harlan dogged a sprawling Blues defender and rifled the puck into the top of the net and, two minutes later, Aaron Armstrong capitalized on a scrambling Toronto penalty kill to put the Rams up 3–2.

Nearing the end of the period, Blues forward Connor Bebb rushed the Rams net, narrowly missing but drawing a penalty. On the power play, Hunter Atchison beat a sliding Dupuis to tie the game at three with two minutes remaining in the second period — a key goal for the Blues, disrupting the Rams’ momentum heading into the second intermission.

The third period began with quick end-to-end passing and strong defense by both teams. Seven minutes into the period, the Blues stole the puck and in a four-on-two rush, Hunter Atchison dropped the puck to Ryan Kirkup, who found the net with a shot under the arm of Dupuis.

As the clock wound down, Ryerson rallied to find a goal; Blues defender Willy Paul made a clutch shot block with three minutes to go. Rams head coach Jonny Duco pulled Dupuis with 50 seconds to go, but the Blues held on to win the game 4–3.

The Blues return to home ice this weekend hosting the Guelph Gryphons on January 26, and they will also host a rematch against the Rams on January 27.