THUNDER BAY, Ont. - The Lakehead Thunderwolves men's hockey team will be hosting the seventh annual TBaytel Varsity Cup tournament running this month from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30 at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

This year's very deep and competitive field consists of the host CIS No. 7 Wolves, the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies of Canada West, the No. 5 Laurier Golden Hawks from the OUA Far West, and the defending tourney champion Manitoba Bisons of Canada West. All three visiting teams will hope that the Varsity Cup will act as a dress rehearsal for a possible return to the Gardens this coming March when Lakehead hosts the CIS National Championships.

This will be Manitoba's third appearance at the Varsity Cup (one title; 2007), Laurier's second (one tourney final appearance; 2006), and Saskatchewan's first.

Lakehead enters the tourney with an 11-3-2 OUA record (13-6-2 overall); good for second place in the OUA Far West Division and third overall in OUA behind UQTR and Laurier. Saskatchewan has a 11-4-1 Canada West mark (13-5-1-1); good for a first place tie with Alberta. Laurier has a 12-2-1 OUA record (15-3-1 overall); good for first in the OUA Far West; and second overall in the OUA behind UQTR. Manitoba has a 7-7-4 Canada West mark (10-13-4 overall); good for third in the conference.

Lakehead head coach Don McKee said the Varsity Cup will be a great event for the teams and for Lakehead hockey fans.

"Tourney coordinator John Payetta has done a huge favour for Lakehead hockey fans and also for Laurier and Saskatchewan by bringing them to Thunder Bay for this competition. Both highly-ranked teams will be telling their teams that this is a dress rehearsal for the Nationals. Manitoba, last year's champions, is extremely well coached and will be focused on becoming back-to-back winners. Lakehead fans will be treated to outstanding hockey and there is no doubt this will be the best Varsity Cup ever."

Saskatchewan head coach Dave Adolph said his team expects a very tough tourney.

"The University of Saskatchewan Huskies are very excited about their invitation to play in the 2008 TBaytel Varsity Cup. This is our first visit to the tournament; however, we have had the opportunity to play the Thunderwolves five times in the past few years! All of the games have been extremely competitive and highly entertaining so we expect the same from this outstanding group of teams participating over Christmas this year. Our team is a young team this year (11 freshmen) and we hope this experience will give our student–athletes a taste of what they need to develop and work on to get back to Thunder Bay in March for the national championships. We know hockey is important in the TBay area and we are looking forward to the experience! Have a great but short Christmas holidays! See ya on the 27th!"

"We are very proud to be invited back to defend the TBayTel Varsity Cup in Thunder Bay," stated Bison men's hockey head coach Don MacGillivray. "Last season was a special experience when we won the tournament title in overtime. We know this year will be another top-notch tournament as we will have to face No. 3-ranked Saskatchewan, No. 5-ranked Wilfrid Laurier plus the No. 7-ranked and host team Lakehead. Manitoba looks forward to hard-fought and competitive hockey games throughout the tournament schedule."

Laurier head coach Kelly Nobes said the Hawks will be ready to play.

"The Golden Hawks are looking forward to competing in the 2008 TBay Tel Varsity Cup. We played in the 2006 version and felt that it really helped prepare us for the second half of the season. This year's tournament has a very impressive field and we expect tough games against all three teams. Many thanks to the organizing committee for the invite and to the knowledgeable fans of Thunder Bay for their support of CIS hockey."

Past Tournament Champions

2007: University of Manitoba Bisons
2006: University of Toronto Varsity Blues
2005: University of Calgary Dinos
2004: University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds
2003: University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds
2002: Lakehead University Thunderwolves

Tournament Schedule: (All Times Eastern Standard Time)

Dec. 27: Wilfrid Laurier University vs. University of Manitoba 4:00 PM
Dec. 27: University of Saskatchewan vs. Lakehead University 7:30 PM
Dec. 28: University of Manitoba vs. University of Saskatchewan 4:00 PM
Dec. 28: Wilfrid Laurier University vs. Lakehead University 7:30 PM
Dec. 29: University of Saskatchewan vs. Wilfrid Laurier University 4:00 PM
Dec. 29: University of Manitoba vs. Lakehead University 7:30 PM
Dec. 30: Teams TBD 7:30 PM

All games will be video webcast live with ordering information available at http://events.news-cast.com/events/Lakehead. Viewers will need high-speed internet and Windows Media Player to watch the broadcasts. Rock 94 FM Sports Director Bryan Wyatt and Argus Campus Sports Editor Mike St. Jean will be calling all the action for the night games with the Wolves. Lakehead Sports Information Director Mike Aylward and Sports Info Assistant Matt Prokopchuk will call the late afternoon games.

Head to Head:

Lakehead is 18-12 all time vs. Laurier; 12-7 in regular season play, 2-1 in non-conference play, and 4-4 in the playoffs. Lakehead outscored Laurier 114-88 in those 30 games. The teams split their first OUA regular season series in Thunder Bay in the first half of this season.

The Wolves have a record of 1 win, 3 losses, and a tie vs. Saskatchewan. Lakehead's only win against the Huskies came in the CIS national championship in 2006. Saskatchewan has outscored Lakehead 22-19 in those five games.

Lakehead and Manitoba always play each other tough and the Wolves have a record of 5 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie against Manitoba. Goals are dead even at 33 apiece in those 9 games. Their last meeting was in last year's TBayTel Varsity Cup final; a 7-6 OT comeback win for the Bisons.

History will be made at the Varsity Cup as this will be the first ever meeting between Manitoba and Laurier. Saskatchewan is 1-0-0 vs. Laurier having beaten the Golden Hawks 10-1 in the 1982-83 CIS University Cup championships in Moncton, N.B.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have met twice this season with each team earning a win in the other team's barn. The teams have met a total of 194 times in Canada West Hockey conference and playoff games between 1919-20 and 2008-09. Saskatchewan leads the all-time series with a record of 113-70-11 in 194 games for a .611 winning percentage. Saskatchewan is 113-70-11 overall (.611 winning percentage; not including n/c games); 98-66-11 in regular season game play (.591 winning percentage) and 15-4-0 in playoff games (.789 winning percentage).

CIS No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves:

The No. 7 Thunderwolves had a very strong first half of the OUA season and they would like to cap it with a TBayTel Varsity Cup title; something they haven't won since the first tourney in 2002. The Wolves came very close last season; going 3-0 in round robin tourney play; but then they squandered a 6-3 third period lead over Manitoba in the tourney final and lost 7-6 in OT to give the championship to the Bisons. The memory of this still bothers the returning players and staff from last year and they look to reclaim the Varsity Cup.

The Wolves began to gel defensively and offensively in the road series against Brock where they registered two consecutive shutouts and then carried that strong play into the final home sweep of the half against Guelph. Both Lakehead's power play and penalty kill have been improving as the season progressed with the PP at 22.4% and the PK at 88.8%. Lakehead enters tourney play on a four-game winning streak and have won 8 of their last 10 OUA games.

Lakehead will be led offensively by junior forward Brock McPherson who leads the Wolves with 12 goals and 10 assists; fifth in the OUA (9th CIS). McPherson has been a force in the corners, on the power play, and has played some very hard-hitting hockey for the Wolves.

Sophomore Kris Hogg continues to impress with his two-way play and scoring and he has 10 goals and 9 assists; good for 8th in OUA scoring. Defending OUA scoring champ senior Dan Speer's play has really come on in the latter stages of the first half and he now has 5 goals and 10 assists.

The Wolves will also look for offence and strong play from junior Mark Soares (6 goals, 9 assists), senior assistant captain Scott Dobben (5 goals, 9 assists), and fifth-year senior captain Andrew Brown (2 goals, 8 assists) who found his scoring touch in the last series vs. Guelph; a very positive sign for the Wolves.

The Wolves will look for strong-two way play from forwards such as fifth-year senior Richard Molenaar (1 goal, 3 assists), fifth-year senior Matt Maisonneuve (3 assists), senior Shandor Alphonso (2 goals, 1 assist), and freshman Arron Alphonso (1 goal, 6 assists).

Defensively, junior Jordan C. Smith (4 assists) will return to the line-up at the Varsity Cup and his presence will be a welcome addition on the blue line. Assistant captain fifth-year senior Drew Kivell (1 goal, 2 assists) has been a rock defensively along with sophomore Mitch Maunu (1 goal, 2 assists) while freshman Kalvin Sagert (3 goals, 4 assist) has been excellent on offence and defence. Lakehead will also look for offence from sophomore Pierre-Marc Guilbault (1 goal, 6 assists).

Lakehead's two excellent netminders have been very solid in the first half and the Wolves can count on them at the Varsity Cup. Fifth-year senior Chris Whitley has a 5-1 OUA record, a GAA of 3.16, and a SV% of .897. Sophomore Kyle Moir has a 7-2-1 OUA mark, a GAA of 1.84, and a SV% of .930. Moir's play was very strong in November and his GAA leads the OUA and is second in the CIS while his SV% is third in the OUA and fourth in the CIS.

Lakehead 08-09 Results:

Sat. Oct. 29 Lakehead 6 Guelph 3
Fri. Nov. 28 Lakehead 6 Guelph 4
Sat. Nov. 22 Lakehead 3 Brock 0
Fri. Nov. 21 Lakehead 3 Brock 0
Sat. Nov. 15 York 7 Lakehead 6 OL
Fri. Nov. 14 Lakehead 3 York 1
Sat. Nov. 8 Lakehead 6 UOIT 3
Fri. Nov. 7 Lakehead 5 UOIT 1
Sat. Nov. 1 Lakehead 5 Western 2
Fri. Nov. 31 Western 3 Lakehead 0
Sat. Oct. 25 Lakehead 6 Laurier 1
Fri. Oct. 24 Laurier 3 Lakehead 2 OL SO
Sat. Oct. 18 Lakehead 2 Waterloo 1
Fri. Oct. 17 Waterloo 7 Lakehead 5
Sat. Oct. 11 Lakehead 6 Windsor 1
Fri. Oct. 10 Windsor 3 Lakehead 1
Sun. Oct. 5 MN-Duluth 6 Lakehead 0 EX
Sat. Oct. 4 Saint Mary's 2 Lakehead 0 NC
Fri. Oct. 3 Lakehead 3 Saint Mary's 1 NC
Sat. Sept. 27 Carleton 3 Lakehead 2 NC
Fri. Sept. 26 Lakehead 3 Carleton 2 NC PPD Sat SO

CIS No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies:

The No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies again have a potent line-up with a lot of scoring power. Coach Adolph and his troops come to Thunder Bay riding a five-game winning streak in Canada West play and have the intention of winning the Varsity Cup at their first ever appearance.

Saskatchewan linemates Steven DaSilva and Steven Gillen are one-two in the Canada West Hockey scoring race at the holiday break. DaSilva tops all scorers in Canada West (tied 3rd CIS) with 11 goals and 18 assists and leads the conference in assists and is tied for the conference goal scoring lead. Gillen is second in Canada West points with 9 goals and13 assists, tied for 10th in the CIS.

Both DaSilva and Gillen have been selected to play for Team Canada at the Winter Universiade Games this coming February in Harbin, China. Players on Team Canada are represented and chosen from the Canada West conference this universiade.

Casey Lee (6 goals, 12 assists; tied 4th Canada West) is also a dangerous player for the Huskies.

Other Huskies to watch are Colin Patterson (3 goals, 9 assists), Chris Durand (5 goals, 5 assists), Trent Adamus (2 goals, 7 assists), and Chad Greenan (2 goals, 6 assists).

Talented defenceman Derek Endicott (5 goals, 3 assists) anchors the Huskies blue line and he too has been chosen to play for Team Canada at the upcoming Winter Universiade in China.

Jeff Harvey is between the pipes for the Huskies and he has a 9-2-1 Canada West record, a GAA of 2.84, and a SV% of .879.

Saskatchewan 08-09 Results:

Sat. Nov. 22 Saskatchewan 5 Regina 1
Fri. Nov. 21 Saskatchewan 2 Regina 1
Sat. Nov. 8 Saskatchewan 4 UBC 2
Fri. Nov. 7 Saskatchewan 2 UBC 0
Sat. Nov. 1 Saskatchewan 5 Calgary 3
Fri. Nov. 31 Calgary 4 Saskatchewan 2
Sat. Oct. 25 Saskatchewan 5 Alberta 2
Fri. Oct. 24 Alberta 7 Saskatchewan 6
Sat. Oct. 18 Lethbridge 7 Saskatchewan 2
Fri. Oct. 17 Saskatchewan 4 Lethbridge 3
Sat. Oct. 11 Saskatchewan 5 Manitoba 2
Fri. Oct. 10 Manitoba 7 Saskatchewan 6 OT SO
Sat. Oct. 4 Regina 8 Saskatchewan 1
Fri. Oct. 3 Saskatchewan 6 Regina 2
Sat. Sept. 27 Saskatchewan 7 Manitoba 0
Fri. Sept. 26 Saskatchewan 2 Manitoba 1 OT SO
Fri. Sept. 19 Alberta 4 Saskatchewan 3 NC
Sat. Sept. 20 Saskatchewan 4 Regina 3 NC
Sat. Sept. 13 Regina 3 Saskatchewan 3 NC OT TIE
Sun. Sept. 14 Saskatchewan 8 Manitoba 1 NC

CIS No. 5 Laurier Golden Hawks:

The fast and dangerous Hawks have a wide variety of skilled players that will pose a threat to the Wolves this weekend. The Hawks enter the tourney on a three-game conference winning streak; and have won 8 of their last 10 games.

Offensively; Laurier has some of the best players in the OUA; led by the smooth-skating Jean-Michel Rizk (12 goals, 16 assists) and Mark Voakes (6 goals, 22 assists). Both are tied for third in the OUA scoring race and fourth in the CIS at mid-season.

Big Luke Girard (13 goals, 8 assists) is tied for 6th in conference scoring (10th CIS) while Nick Vergeer (6 goals, 14 assists) is tied for 7th in OUA points.

Craig Voakes (3 goals, 5 assists in 5 games) has returned to the Laurier line-up and his talent makes the Hawks that much better a team than the team that visited the Gardens earlier in the year.

Other Hawks to watch are Philip Magistrale who has 3 goals and 12 assists in OUA play, Colin Williams (5 goals, 4 assists), and Tyler Townsend (1 goal, 7 assists).

Defensively, Chad Kennedy (1 goal, 5 assists) anchors the Hawks blueliners along with Adam Maccarone (2 goals, 4 assists) while star netminder Jeff MacDougald (11-1-1; GAA 2.77, SV% .910) is one of the best in the OUA and can win games for the Hawks on any given night. Mike Thomson is his able backup (1-1, GAA 3.95, SV% .830)

Laurier 08-09 Results:

Sat. Oct. 29 Laurier 6 UOIT 3
Thu. Nov. 27 Laurier 7 York 3
Sat. Nov. 22 Laurier 6 UOIT 4
Sat. Nov. 15 Brock 6 Laurier 3
Thu. Nov. 13 Laurier 3 Guelph 2 OT SO
Fri. Nov. 7 Laurier 5 Brock 1
Thu. Nov. 6 Laurier 5 Guelph 0
Sat. Nov. 1 Laurier 6 Waterloo 2
Thu. Oct. 30 Laurier 4 Windsor 3
Sat. Oct. 25 Lakehead 6 Laurier 1
Fri. Oct. 24 Laurier 3 Lakehead 2 OTS
Sat. Oct. 18 Western 4 Laurier 3 OL
Fri. Oct. 17 Laurier 6 Windsor 5 OL SO
Sat. Oct. 11 Laurier 5 Waterloo 3
Thu. Oct. 9 Laurier 5 Western 2
Sat. Oct. 4 Bowling Green 5 Laurier 1 EX
Sat. Sept. 27 Laurier 6 Ottawa 1 NC
Fri. Sept. 26 Laurier 5 McGill 4 NC
Thu. Sept. 18 Laurier 6 Guelph 0 NC

Manitoba Bisons:

Coach Don MacGillivray and his Bisons look to repeat as TBaytel Varsity Cup champions but know they are up against a tough field this year. But, as last year's tourney showed; the Bisons play a very strong and balanced team game which could again lead them to success in this year's tourney.

The Bisons have been getting balanced scoring from throughout their roster this season and they will be led by talented forward Rick Wood who has 8 goals and 6 assists; tied for 7th in Canada West scoring.

Other Bisons who can score are Kyle Howarth (5 goals, 8 assists; tied 8th Canada West) and Jared Walker (6 goals, 6 assists; tied 9th Canada West). Cole Hunter is also dangerous and has 6 goals and 3 assists.

Lakehead and the other tourney opponents will also have to watch out for are the dangerous Mike Hellyer (2 goals, 9 assists), Riley Dudar (2 goals, 8 assists), and Travis Kornelsen (3 goals, 6 assists).

Rick Wood and Mike Hellyer have been selected to play for Team Canada at the Winter Universiade Games this coming February in Harbin, China. Players on Team Canada are represented and chosen from the Canada West conference this universiade.

Steve Christie is the talented man behind the mask for the Bisons and he has a Canada West record of 7-7-1, a GAA of 2.58, and a SV% of .913. He is backed by Gavin McHale.

Manitoba 08-09 Results:

Sat. Oct. 29 Regina 3 Manitoba 2 OL
Fri. Nov. 28 Manitoba 4 Regina 1
Sat. Nov. 22 Lethbridge 3 Manitoba 1
Fri. Nov. 21 Lethbridge 3 Manitoba 2 OL SO
Sat. Nov. 15 Alberta 9 Manitoba 1
Fri. Nov. 14 Manitoba 2 Alberta 1 OL SO
Sat. Nov. 8 Manitoba 4 Calgary 3
Fri. Nov. 7 Manitoba 3 Calgary 0
Sat. Nov. 1 Bemidji 4 Manitoba 2 EX
Fri. Nov. 31 Bemidji St 7 Manitoba 0 EX
Sat. Oct. 25 UBC 3 Manitoba 2
Fri. Oct. 24 UBC 4 Manitoba 2
Sat. Oct. 18 Manitoba 7 Regina 1
Fri. Oct. 17 Regina 3 Manitoba 2 OL SO
Mon. Oct. 13 Neb-Omaha 5 Manitoba 0 EX
Sat. Oct. 11 Saskatchewan 5 Manitoba 2
Fri. Oct. 10 Manitoba 7 Saskatchewan 6 OT SO
Sun. Oct. 5 North Dakota 6 Manitoba 2 EX
Sat. Oct. 4 Manitoba 8 Lethbridge 0
Fri. Oct. 3 Lethbridge 5 Manitoba 2
Tue. Sept. 30 Manitoba 6 Moose Prospects 2 EX
Sat. Sept. 27 Saskatchewan 7 Manitoba 0
Fri. Sept. 26 Saskatchewan 2 Manitoba 1 OL SO
Fri. Sept. 19 Regina 5 Manitoba 2 NC
Sat. Sept. 20 Manitoba 4 Alberta 2 NC
Fri. Sept. 12 Manitoba 4 Regina 1 NC
Sun. Sept. 14 Saskatchewan 8 Manitoba 1 NC

Source: Thunderwolves Athletics