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Five Can’t Miss AUS Games This Winter in Halifax

The Tigers hosting Cape Breton this weekend is one of the games to not miss this winter.

by Bill McLean
The varsity season starts up again this weekend and the excitement is building as schools get ready to begin the march to the AUS championships. Here are the top five regular season games to go see this winter in Halifax.

5. Saturday, January 22nd- Men’s Volleyball: Laval Rouge et Or vs. Dalhousie

This match should be a special treat for Dalhousie volleyball fans who have been thirsting to see a team go toe to toe with the Tigers. Dan Ota’s dominant cast of AUS all stars have maintained a streak of over twenty consecutive national championships.

Dalhousie will be hosting the season’s final interlock tournament between the AUS and QSSF and the Dalplex will be hopping with outstanding volleyball all weekend.

Laval is undefeated on the season and ranked #1 in the country. In October the Rouge et Or brushed aside the Tigers in straight sets.

Dalhousie did not look like their dominant selves throughout the first term but should have their swagger back by the time Laval comes to Halifax. All-Canadian Max Burt will be back from injury and the 2010 MVP, Sander Ratsep, will be out for revenge.

4. Wednesday, January 26th – Men’s Basketball: Saint FX vs. Saint Mary’s

If the Huskies continue to struggle, this mid-week treat will certainly lose some of it’s lustre, but expect Ross Quackenbush’s troops to get better and play more cohesively as the season goes on. Steve Konchalski’s X-Men have lost to the Capers and Tigers already this season but appear to be back in form after winning the Shoveller Championship over New Year’s weekend.

The big storyline will be the battle of the guards; the nation’s leading scorer, Joey Haywood of the Huskies, vs. the conference’s best backcourt in Halifax natives Will Silver and Christian Upshaw of X.

The rivalry between the Dalhousie Tigers and the Huskies has improved in recent years as the Tigers have become a tier 1 team, but it’s the X-Men’s annual winter visit that really gets the Tower rocking.

This game will have added importance as it will be worth four points in the standings which could be critical for a Saint Mary’s team that may be jockeying for position in the middle of the pack, and an X team that will be competing for a bye at the AUS championships.

3. Sunday, January 23rd- Women’s Basketball: UNB Varsity Reds vs. Saint Mary’s

If asked who would win the scoring title this season in AUS women’s basketball, many pundits and observers would have picked Huskies second year guard Justine Colley in a heartbeat. Considering that Colley has averaged 22 points a game this season, you’d think she was well on her way.

But as we enter the second half of the season Colley (22.1 ppg) finds herself just under 3 points behind UNB’s first year sensation Claire Colborne (24.3 ppg).

Colborne, a 6’0” post from Calgary, has formed the best front court in the conference playing alongside perennial AUS all star Amanda Sharpe. The dynamic duo has propelled the Varsity Reds to a tie for first place in the standings after missing the playoffs last season.

This outstanding match up of two of the best players in the country will make for a lot of Sunday afternoon excitement at the Tower.

2. Saturday, January 8th/Sunday, January 9th- Men’s Basketball: Cape Breton Capers at Dalhousie

There’s not much better than #1 travelling to play #2. Such is the case this weekend when the defending AUS champs and first place Capers come to the Dalplex to play the second place Tigers.

Last season the Tigers couldn’t stay within single digits of Cape Breton in two regular season games and the AUS semi finals in Sydney.

Tiger’s Head Coach John Campbell put an emphasis on recruiting athletes to match up more efficiently with the Capers and X-Men. So far it seems to have worked as the Tigers got a huge road win in Antigonish over a St FX team that was without the services of Christian Upshaw. However the X-Men beat the Tigers by double digits in the Shoveller final this past weekend so there may be some doubt creeping into the fragile confidence of Dalhousie.

The weekend match up with the athletic and physical Capers should give the Tigers a pretty good idea if they are indeed built to compete with the powers to the north. Meanwhile, the Capers will be looking to build on their undefeated season and send a clear message to the AUS that they are still top dog.

1. Saturday, February 5th- Men’s Hockey: UNB Varsity Reds at Saint Mary’s

If this was scheduled this weekend it would be another #1 vs. #2 as the teams are only separated by one point atop the conference. But in the wacky AUS, the most competitive conference in the country, these teams could be middle of the pack come February.

But don’t count on it. The Reds and Huskies have won the last two national championships and have all the pieces to win it again.

Despite a surprising four losses and multiple injuries to key personnel, UNB is still the best team in the country. The 2010 CIS player of the year, Hunter Tremblay, is the leader of a confident group of Reds focused on making amends for last year’s late season collapse.

The Huskies are the defending national champions and are playing much better hockey than they were this time last year. Colby Pridham, Andrew Hotham, and Cam Fergus are all back and newcomers Chris Mackinnon and Kyle Wharton have been stellar.

The teams split their first two games with both winning at home. With Acadia, St FX, UPEI, and Dal all having closed the gap substantially, the game could be pivotal in determining the final standings.

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