Canada West playoff bracket is set (see below for league-released bracket graphics – pretty slick) and begins with next weekend’s so-called “play-in” round that features the #3 team in the Explorer and the 5th, 6th and 7th place teams from the Pioneer.
While both series should be exciting, the more interesting setting is the Alberta at MacEwan series with the multi-time National champion Golden Bears facing off against fellow Edmonton-based program MacEwan Griffins. Using the term “cross-town rivals” may be a bit premature as Bears and Griffins have not yet met as CIS opponents in the two seasons MacEwan has been officially part of Canada West. However, expect that descriptor to become much more appropriate quickly.
Griffins qualified for the Canada West post-season with a 10-10 record, good for third place in the Pioneer, under Head Coach Eric Magdanz after going 7-13 last season. Ironically, Magdanz is a former assistant coach at Alberta (2010-12) working under Greg Francis. Magdanz played at McMaster for legendary Marauders Head Coach Joe Raso (4 seasons: 2005-09) and is one of at least 4 CIS coaches who either played for or coached on Raso’s staffs.
Although Griffins and Golden Bears have never met as CIS opponents, Griffins have been competitive against Pioneer division teams this season, going a collective 3-3 including an 80-54 victory over Brandon and a tight 3 point loss to Lethbridge, both over the Holidays at the Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg. Earlier the Griffins won at Manitoba – the first game of the year for both teams – and lost at Winnipeg and at Brandon also in early October.
MacEwan was more than worthy of their third place finish, clinching the playoff berth on the next to last night of the season after winning 5 of 6 games (Saturday night’s loss to UNBC was meaningless in the standings). Griffins also boast a 20 point win over second-place Fraser Valley and are the only team to defeat Thompson Rivers in Kamloops, winning by 14 points in November. MacEwan went 1-3 vs. both teams ahead of them in the Explorer standings.
Golden Bears finished 6th under fourth-year Head Coach Barnaby Craddock and have played two Explorer Division teams, hammering UNBC 99-45 at their own Golden Bear Invitational in October after having lost two weekend’s prior to Mount Royal by 3 at the Calgary Cup when Bears roster was depleted.
We will have more on Canada West as the week progresses.