The hockey teams representing U SPORTS collected medals at the 2017 Winter Universiade Games which wrapped up Feb. 8 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but both failed to collect the much sought-after gold medallions.
The Canadian contingents, competing in men's and women's hockey, suffered their lone setbacks in the event by identical 4-1 counts to the Russian representatives.
The U SPORTS women's team, made up of university players from across the country, settled for silver after their loss to Russia in the final while the men, made up of players from the OUA, claimed bronze with a 4-3 victory over the Czech Republic after losing to Team Russia in the semifinals.
Both Canadian teams finished the 11-day, multi-sporting event for university athletes (held every two years) with just the single loss each. The women went 4-1 while the men played seven times and were 5-1.
Canada won three straight gold medals after women's hockey was introduced to the Games in 2009, but have now dropped the past two to Russia, including a 3-0 loss in the final two years ago in Spain.
In three previous appearances, the OUA reps in men's hockey had captured a pair of bronze medals (1999 and 2011) while placing fifth in 2005.
Overall, the Canadian men have medalled 14 times in 15 appearances at the event including four championship titles. At the last Games in Spain, the Canada West all-stars also claimed the bronze medals behind champion Russia and runner-up Kazakhstan.
After rolling over four teams (China, Great Britain and host Kazakhstan in preliminary play and the U.S. in the semifinals), outshooting them 204-21 and outscoring them 34-1, the Canadian women met a very physical Russian squad in the gold medal game.
In the chippy finale which resulted in 22 penalties being called, including 16 to the Russian student-athletes, Canada couldn't muster anything on the powerplay, including a pair of five-on-three advantages. They fell behind 2-0 after the first and trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes of play.
Kelty Apperson (St. Thomas University) from New Hamburg, Ont. had the lone tally for Team Canada with a single assist going to Jaycee Magwood (University of Regina) from Killarney, Man.
Guelph Gryphons goaltender Valerie Lamenta from Montreal, Que. took the loss (her first in three starts) as Canada was outshot 36-26 in the contest.
Alexandra Labelle (University of Montreal) from Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que. led all scorers in the event with 13 points and also tallied the most goals with nine in five starts.
A single gold medal will make its way back to Canada, however, as University of Calgary Dinos forward Alexandra (Sasha) Vafina who hails from Chelyabinsk, Russia was a member of the winning squad. Before heading to Calgary she also played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth in NCAA Division 1.
In the bronze medal match, the U.S. blanked China 3-0.
The Canadian men found their road to the medal round a lot tougher after its opening two games, both wins, by scores of 6-0 over the U.S. and 14-0 over Great Britain.
They had a hard-fought final preliminary game, shading Slovakia 5-3 and needed some late tallies to get by Latvia 5-2 in the quarterfinals, sending them to the semis against a Russian team with a similar 4-0 record.
Despite a solid 30-save effort from Queen's Gaels netminder Kevin Bailie from Belleville, Ont. in the semifinal, the Canadians trailed from start to finish and notched their lone marker from UQTR Patriotes sniper Guillaume Asselin, who hails from Quebec City, with just 15 seconds remaining in the contest.
In the bronze medal game against the Czech Republic, the all-Patriotes forward unit of Pierre-Olivier Morin (2G) from Trois-Rivières, Que., Tommy Giroux (1G, 2A), also from Quebec City, and Asselin (1A) combined for three of the four Canadian goals while the all-Carleton University trio of Brett Welychka (1G) from London, Ont., Michael McNamee (1A) from Perth, Ont. and Ryan Van Stralen (1A) from Prescott, Ont. had the other.
Bailie started the game and picked up the win, but was replaced by Sebastien Auger from St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que., who also plays for the Patriotes, midway through the second period after the Czech Republic closed the gap to 4-3. Auger stopped all 16 shots he faced to preserve the win.
Russia made it a clean gold medal sweep in hockey by shading the host squad 1-0 in the final.
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