CUC 2010 Open Preview

A lot of intrigue surrounding the Open division at this year’s CUC; can Phoenix break through and finally told home a championship?  Can Mephisto repeat last year’s performance of getting over the hump, and finally bringing gold to Montreal?  Is this the year General Strike puts it all together?  Just exactly which GOAT players are on Moondoggies, and are they the new Nomads?  Who is this Maverick team that keeps popping up at the top of tournament standings?  All those questions will be answered in the next week, and will produce the best Ultimate Canada will see this year.

Pool A

Mephisto (Montreal) are the reigning CUC champions after taking home the gold in their 14th trip to CUC.  Impressively, they have made quarterfinals every year of their existence, but appeared destined to always be the bridesmaid.  As many have said, it’s harder to keep a championship than it is to win it, and this year should prove no exception.

Mephisto is an older team than some others at CUC, with only Nathan Dandurand appearing on either the U23 or U20 rosters.  Mephisto will need a big contribution from Nathan, especially with veteran receiver Christian Mathieu sidelined for the tournament with a broken collarbone.

Eric St. Amant will continue to carry the heavy load on defence, but it is impossible to overlook his very impressive performance at WUCC, where he led Mephisto in both goals (18) and assists (19) in 10 games.  He and the ageless Mark “Shaggy” Zimmerl will continue to provide steady leadership for Mephisto, as they are one of the few teams who can honestly be happy by just doing what they did last year at CUC.

Red Circus (Halifax) returns to CUC for the 1st time since 2007, although members of Red Circus were at Nationals last year with Who Wants to Party (WWTP).

Circus is aiming for a quarterfinal finish, and is relying on Michael Thorne and Joel Mackenzie to spearhead the offence, and Brad Touesnard and Chris Cowper-Smith to cause mass confusion on defence.

Jeff Himmelmen is an exciting rookie to keep an eye on; and may be just what Red Circus needs to overcome Bloody Gary’s home field advantage, and wind up with a 1-1 record heading into power pool play.

Bloody Gary (Sherbrooke), owners of the sweetest looking jerseys in this tournament (not relevant to anything, other than I’m angling to acquire one), are on their home turf, and are looking to make friends and family proud at Bishop’s University this week.

With mixed team Gecko folding after failing to qualify for WUCC, Bloody Gary (and Exo on the women’s side) emerged, as Sherbrooke has single gender competitive teams for the first time.

Gary has had some strong finishes this year, most notably 3rd at JazzFest.  Other results include 11th at the Boston Invite, 12th at the White Mountain Open and 9th at No Borders.   Their “Plinko” style offence is sure to give teams fits, as they use their youth (average age is 23) and quickness to their advantage.  Expect Bloody Gary to be a player on the National scene very soon, if not this season.

The Newfoundland Liberation Army (St. John’s) is Newfoundland and Labrador’s 1st entrant in the open division at CUC.  The team grew out of a desire to improve the skill level of male players in the Mile Zero Ultimate League (MZU), and once it became apparent that a Nationals bid was a possibility, they went for it full bore.

While this is their 1st tournament, they have been practicing hard in preparation for CUC, and have players from Blackfish, Red Circus, Wreckhouse and Zen (Toronto, Mixed) to provide experience on the team.  Oh, and yes, there is actually a guy with the birth name Frisby on the team.

While it is encouraging to see competitive Ultimate growing in Atlantic Canada, it will be a shock if they can advance to power pools.  Expect Mephisto, Red Circus and Bloody Gary to easily advance on Friday.

Pool B

General Strike (Winnipeg) is in their 10th season, and have a nice blend of youth and veteran leadership, as they hope this is the year they live up to expectations and grab a spot on the podium.  With U23 star Mark Lloyd and U20 team members Ethan Kovacs, Quin Rusnak and Willem Konrad, Strike is certainly not hurting for talent.

With a couple tournament wins in the Prairies (Regina Men’s Invite and Flatlands Ultimate and Cups Tournament) and a 3rd place finish at No Borders, Strike has had a strong season, and hope it carries over to CUC.

Maverick (Waterloo) formed after 2009 Ontario Mixed champion Liquid folded.  Formerly known as Medicare as they stopped in on single gender tournaments a few times a year, Maverick is full throttle in the Open division.

Led by Liquid mainstays Yaacov Illand, Matt Snow, Craig Hyatt, and Andrew Higgins, bolstered by new additions Trevor Henry (formerly of Mayhem), U23 gold medalist Thomas Black (Grand Trunk), and former Team Canada U20 member Carson Turner, as well as emerging local talents such as Dan Berringer and Dan Benvenuti, Maverick has all the tools to make a deep run at CUC.

With a 5th place finish at No Surf, and tournament victories at JazzFest and Motown Throwdown, Maverick has shown they are not a team to take lightly.

While they are proud owners of the best worst cheer since ‘One, Too Bad!’ with ‘Duck, duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!’, we have yet to confirm if their Spirit circle includes awkward shirtless beach volleyball.

Q (Quebec City) returns after a 2 year hiatus, when the team disbanded to help form ONYX and concentrate on the Mixed division.  With strong results at JazzFest (2nd) and No Borders (5th), Q has returned ready to compete at the National level.

SirLoin (Calgary) is the ‘B’ team to Invictus, but since Invictus couldn’t join us this year at CUC, SirLoin is the Calgary ‘A’ team for 2010.  This is a very young team that is introducing many of their players to the Open style of play, with CUC being their 1st tournament of the season.  This experience should prove invaluable in the growth of the players on their roster.

I think this is obviously a 2 team pool, and if you have a bye and a video camera at 5:15 on Thursday, I’d be forever in your debt if you were to film the General Strike-Maverick matchup, as that will certainly be the showcase game of day one.

Pool C

Phoenix (Ottawa) may only be the 3rd overall seed at CUC this year, but many are considering them to be the favourite at the tournament, with their mix of talented youth (Kielan Way, Mike Adams and Rey Arteaga on U23; Robert Schmidt on U20) and experience (Derek Alexander, Jamie Craig, Andy Corey).

A strong start to the season with a 2nd place TUF finish, as well as 2nd at Cazenovia Ultimate Tournament (CUT; Cazenovia, NY), had Phoenix heading into WUCC feeling good about themselves, but a disappointing 19th place finish has them re-focused on their efforts to take home gold at CUC this season.

Some familiar faces return to Phoenix to make an already strong roster even stronger in long time GOAT handler/local Ottawa player Dave Janssen (after a 1 year dabble in Masters play), Simon Teather (who played with Chaos at WUCC), Jan Gorski (after a year with Liquid) and Colin Green.

Tommy Douglas Dream Machine (Saskatoon) was the talk of CUC 2009; not just for their fantastic name, but also their surprising fantastic play.  They return in 2010 for a 2nd go at it, and a quarterfinal berth is a possibility.

Grand Trunk is part of the Toronto tiered system via the Ultimate Experience (with GOAT and Roy), and is a very talented team, that appears to underachieve at tournaments, with a 9th place finish at TUF, 18th at the Boston Invite, 11th at No Borders.  They rebounded at Ontario Regionals to take 4th place, and with U23 team member Kid Watts now finished with International commitments, this team is looking for a strong quarterfinal finish.

Magma (Montreal) is in its 8th season, but is not affiliated with Mephisto or Demon.  They have a much deeper roster than in recent seasons, and hope that with the increased numbers come fresher legs on Friday and Saturday.

With an 11th place finish at TUF, 14th at White Mountain Open, 29th at Boston Invite, 9th at JazzFest and 19th at No Borders, I think their goal of a top 12 finish at CUC is well within their reach.  Also, moustache rides are available upon request.

I think due to the East-West seeding protocol, that Phoenix may have an even easier Thursday than Mephisto.  Grand Trunk should, on paper, be the favourite for the 1-1 power pool record, and I wouldn’t count out Magma to sneak into the power pools.  There is literally no information on Tommy Douglas Dream Machine available for 2010, so who knows if they are as strong as they were last year?

Pool D

Blackfish (Vancouver) was started in 2006 by Aaron Koenig and Colin Somers as an outlet for competitive Open players who weren’t quite talented enough to play on Furious George (ironically, Aaron now plays for Furious).

Their roster was scattered in international play this year, with U23 team members Bobo Eyrich and Gord Harrison, and WUCC team members (with Glum in the Masters division) Brian Baker, Patrick Gatien, Cam McConell and Keiran McConell.  Due to those commitments, Blackfish has had limited tournament play as a team this year, with appearances only at Flowerbowl (Vancouver) and Solstice (Eugene, OR); results are not available.

With a major influx of youth in Bobo Eyrich (from Atlantic Canada), Jordan Tessarolo (University of Victoria) and Gord Harrison (GOAT), Blackfish could be on the verge of becoming a perennial contender.  Or just grooming players for when Andrew Lugsdin and Kirk Savage (theoretically) retire.

Moondoggies (Toronto) are a team many are keen to watch this week.  GOAT’s side project certainly projects to a high finish at CUC, with U23 team members Adrian Yearwood, Cam Harris, Mike Jones and Thomson McKnight, as well as U20 team member Tim Tsang.

Other members who participated at WUCC include Alex Ramadan (Invictus), Inian Moorthy (Skogs) and Tushar Singh (Cotarica Grandes).  Add in GOAT players such as John Hassell, Shawn Chua and Phil Watanabe, and Furious George player Andy Siy, and Moondoggies certainly have the talent and individual experience to take home the gold.

Roy (Toronto) shocked everyone, including themselves, with a 5th place finish at Ontario Regionals, upsetting Firebird to avoid the game to go.  Aidyn Koplimae-Smithe and Ricky Szeto are playing at a very high level right now, and Too Bad (parts unknown) addition Jack MacDonald helps give Roy enough speed and athleticism to compete with all but the very elite at this tournament.  Roy feels they are peaking at the right time, with the best roster they’ve ever had, and are confident that a top 10 finish is within their collective grasps.

Firebird (Ottawa) is easily the top bottom seed at this tournament, with Phoenix WUCC members Brent Gerhart, Colin Froats, Mat Berg and Mat Goodkey, as well as former Phoenix player, and current Firebird captain, Wing-Leung Chan.  Their matchup against Roy in the final time slot on Thursday, which will likely determine the final power pool participant, will be an incredibly intense matchup, as Firebird seeks revenge for being upset by Roy in bracket play on Sunday at Ontario Regionals.

I believe Moondoggies are the actual top seed in this pool, and the results will bear that out.  Blackfish and Firebird should be the other 2 teams into the power pools, but if you sleep on Roy, they can, and will, surprise you.

I feel the semi finals are going to be some outstanding Ultimate, and as competitive as we’ve ever had at CUC.  Phoenix, Moondoggies, Mephisto and Maverick should be the teams involved, with Phoenix over Moondoggies in the finals.  General Strike, Bloody Gary, Grand Trunk and Blackfish round out the quarterfinalists.

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