Around U Sports: Alberta Golden Bears advance to first Hardy Cup since 2010

Courtesy: Don Voaklander/Alberta Athletics

All four U Sports conference finals are set following an action-packed weekend of playoff football across the country. The Laval Rouge et Or and UBC Thunderbirds narrowly escaped potential upsets, the St. FX X-Men won a ninth straight game, the Western Mustangs continued to roll despite the return of Queen’s starting quarterback, and the Montreal Carabins crushed their rivals to the east.

Around U Sports is a weekly feature on 3DownNation that takes readers across the country to summarize collegiate football action, highlighting standout performances and tracking possible playoff matchups. It will run through next week, at which time we will switch to individual articles for each game.

No. 8 Saskatchewan Huskies, 17 — No. 10 Alberta Golden Bears, 40

The Golden Bears won their first home playoff game since 2005, eliminating the two-time defending Hardy Cup champions in blowout fashion. Though the club relied heavily on its ground game during the regular season, Eli Hetlinger had a brilliant game for Alberta through the air as he passed for 280 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Anton Amundrud had 320 passing yards for the Huskies, though his turnover woes followed him into the postseason as he threw three interceptions in the loss. Alberta will now face the UBC Thunderbirds in their first Hardy Cup berth since 2010.

Concordia Stingers, 27 — No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or, 34

The Rouge et Or have advanced to the Dunsmore Cup for the twentieth consecutive season after fending off a comeback that pushed this game to overtime. Arnaud Desjardins threw two touchdowns to Édouard Arsenault in the win, while Maxym Lavallee returned a fumble 49 yards for a touchdown. Oliver Roy threw two touchdown passes to Ezechiel Tieide for the Stingers, including a game-tying score late in the fourth quarter. Laval’s defence allowed 467 yards in the game but stood tall when it mattered most, sacking Roy on the final play of double overtime.

Saint Mary’s Huskies, 20 — No. 5 St. FX X-Men, 36

The Huskies took an early 10-point lead following a touchdown from Liam Stewart before St. FX came roaring back as Silas Fagnan, who won the Chris Flynn Trophy this past week, threw for 362 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception and ran the ball eight times for 72 yards. Jeremiah Marriott made 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble for Saint Mary’s, while Hunter Mousseau recorded two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss for the X-Men. As a result of the win, St. FX will host the Loney Bowl for the third straight year.

No. 6 Queen’s Golden Gaels, 20 — No. 1 Western Mustangs, 47

Alex Vreeken made his much-anticipated return from injury for the Golden Gaels, though he was picked off twice by Jackson Findlay in a losing effort. Evan Hillock threw for 308 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception for the Mustangs, while Ethan Dolby, Marcell Phillips, and Troy Thompson combined for 143 yards and two touchdowns along the ground in place of an injured Keon Edwards. This marks the eighth consecutive season in which the Mustangs have advanced to the Yates Cup.

No. 9 Windsor Lancers, 14 — No. 3 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 21

Windsor led 14-7 midway through the fourth quarter before Hec Crighton Trophy favourite Taylor Elgersma threw touchdown passes to Quentin Scott and Raidan Thorne to help clinch the win. Lancers’ quarterback Nick Dimovski threw a last-minute touchdown pass to Weabge Mombo, though it was negated by a holding penalty and the drive petered out after that. Wilfrid Laurier will now make their first Yates Cup appearance since 2016, while Windsor can celebrate their best season in decades despite the loss.

Mount Allison Mounties, 15 — Bishop’s Gaiters, 34

The Mounties held a 15-7 lead at halftime before Yani Gouadfel and Mathieu Dery scored majors on interception returns and Mason McGriskin hit Nykolas Pierre-Masse for a five-yard touchdown pass, blowing the game open for Bishop’s. The Gaiters held Mount Allison to only 197 yards of offence but took 16 penalties for 167 yards, which is something they’ll have to clean up next week when they try to upset St. FX. This marks Bishop’s first Loney Bowl appearance since 2021 and second since moving to the AUS Conference in 2017.

Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 3 — No. 2 Montreal Carabins, 54

The Carabins shook off last week’s surprising loss to Concordia as they jumped on the Vert et Or early and never let up. Jonathan Sénécal threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns and ran the ball for 84 yards and one score in the win, while Montreal’s defence sacked Sherbrooke’s quarterbacks six times. The Carabins have qualified for the Dunsmore Cup for a tenth straight where they’ll meet the arch-rival Laval Rouge et Or.

Manitoba Bisons, 21 — No. 7 UBC Thunderbirds, 29

The Bisons held a 20-11 lead late in the third quarter but weren’t able to close this one out as UBC proved to be too much. Garrett Rooker threw a touchdown pass to Lucas Robertson and ran one in himself to help secure the win, which will allow the Thunderbirds to host the Hardy Cup for the first time since 1997. Maya Turner capped her historic season with Manitoba with two field goals and two converts, becoming the first woman in U Sports history to score points in a playoff football game.

U Sports standings
Asterisk (*) indicates team has been eliminated

Canada West (CW)

No. 7 UBC Thunderbirds 7-2
No. 10 Alberta Golden Bears 7-2
No. 8 Saskatchewan Huskies 5-4*

Manitoba Bisons 3-6*
Calgary Dinos 3-5*

Regina Rams 1-7*

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

No. 1 Western Mustangs 9-0
No. 3 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 8-1
No. 9 Windsor Lancers 6-3*
No. 6 Queen’s Golden Gaels 5-4*
Ottawa Gee-Gees 4-4*
Carleton Ravens 4-4*
Waterloo Warriors 3-5*
Guelph Gryphons 3-5*
Toronto Varsity Blues 2-6*
McMaster Marauders 2-6*
York Lions 0-8*

Réseau du Sport Etudiant (RSEQ)

No. 2 Montreal Carabins 8-1
No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or 7-2
Concordia Stingers 5-4*
Sherbrooke Vert et Or 1-8*
McGill Redbirds 1-7*

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

No. 5 St. FX X-Men 9-0
Bishop’s Gaiters 8-2
Mount Allison Mounties 3-6*
Saint Mary’s Huskies 2-7*
Acadia Axemen 1-7*

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.