Ottawa – The regular season may be coming down to the home stretch, but for the Carleton Ravens and Laurentian Voyageurs, their final contest may actually serve as a preview to the opening round of the postseason as well. Both teams enter the final weekend in playoff positions, with the Ravens having already clinched their spot in the quest for the Critelli Cup, but nothing is set in stone in the tough East Division. So as Carleton looks to end their title defence season on a high and Laurentian plays to stake their claim to the division’s final playoff spot, it will be a colossal clash on the hardwood in this week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters Canada.
The Ravens entered the 2018-19 season as reigning champions, coming off an undefeated season en route to both the provincial and national titles, but after a great deal of turnover to the roster, they have seen some ups and down throughout the campaign heading into their final contests. Despite compiling five losses on the year, they are still one of the best teams across the county and enter the home stretch sitting third in the ultra-competitive East Division.
One of the aforementioned losses for the Ravens this year came to their marquee matchup combatants, as Laurentian played their way to a 69-66 victory over the black birds back on January 11. The Voyageurs jumped out to an early nine-point cushion after the first quarter, before the Ravens stormed back to open the second half. Laurentian withstood the comeback attempt; however, and can certainly thank the 23 points and nine rebounds from Bailey Tabin (Saskatoon, Ont.) for playing a key role in that tilt. Mackenzie Robinson (Collingwood, Ont.) also put forth a productive performance, finishing with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards. Nicole Gilmore (Hamilton, Ont.) led the way for the Ravens, putting home 24 points in the loss.
For Laurentian, the team as a whole has taken strides once again this season, already adding two wins to their total from a year ago – when they finished on the outside of the playoff picture looking in – but they aren’t looking to stop there. And if the script plays out in such a way that they are able to continue their quest for the cup, their impressive upset of Carleton may prove to be a difference-maker.
Another key to their prospective postseason berth is their ability to shoot the long ball, checking in as one of the most noteworthy clubs from long distance. With 8.3 makes per game and on over 26 attempts – both league highs – the Voyageurs certainly know where they can do the most damage.
Despite their proficiency from the beyond the arc – led by Emily Tinnes (Newmarket, Ont.) and Andrea Zulich (Sudbury, Ont.) - Laurentian ranks in the middle of the pack on offence, as well as defence; marks that they will certainly be looking to overcome as they wrap up their regular season and, potentially, head to the playoffs. Among those who will be looking to uphold these lofty aspirations is the backcourt duo of Tinnes and Kayla Deschatelets (Timmins, Ont.), who combine to score over 28 points per game. Another pair of guards, including Zulich, sit just below the double-digit point plateau, making it clear that their bountiful backcourt is certainly the driver of the Voyageurs bus.
Like Laurentian, the guard play largely stirs the drink for the Ravens as well, and at the forefront is Gilmore. One of the key returnees for Carleton this season, the fifth-year has certainly stepped into the spotlight for the Critelli Cup champions as they venture for a repeat result. Her 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game are both team highs, but it doesn’t stop there. Gilmore also paces the club in assists per game (2.5) and steals per game (1.7), which makes her one of the most lethal two-way players in the conference.
Joining Gilmore as the team’s top three offensive contributors are Alyssa Cerino (Stoney Creek, Ont.) and Madison Reid (Carleton Place, Ont.), who average 12.3 and 11.9 points, respectively. Cerino is also among the team’s key pieces on defence, with 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game to her name and is yet another example of the well-rounded nature of the team.
As a unit, the Ravens pour in 66.5 points per game (8th in the OUA), but no one is better on the defensive end than Carleton and their 55.2 points allowed. Helping them achieve their lockdown defence is a strong pressure on the ball that has greatly limited their opponents’ shooting percentage. Teams are making just 34.3% of their field goals against Carleton, while also connecting on just 25.2% from beyond the arc, which are both good enough for top-four marks in the conference.
Whether this rematch also proves to be a prelude to the first round of the playoffs or not, the contest will certainly feature plenty of intrigue for both sides. Some of the most talented guards in the country will headline two rosters that have the postseason on their minds, with the Voyageurs hoping to punch their ticket and the Ravens looking to add another provincial title to the trophy case.
Before any postseason action gets underway, however, Carleton and Laurentian will close out their seasons in the Raven’s Nest on Saturday, February 16 at 6:00pm in marquee matchup fanfare. For those who can’t make it to the nation’s capital, all the action can also be seen LIVE on oua.tv or via the corresponding app available for download on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.