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‘A Tale of Two Seasons’

TMU Bold teams end their season early following losses at playoffs, but motivation for next year is already building

by Samira Balsara
A TMU Bold Hockey player and a U of T Hockey player look at boards, with their sticks deadlocked
The TMU Bold men’s hockey game lost their chance at the spot in the playoffs while playing U of T’s Varsity Blues on Feb.19. (Jacob Stoller/On The Record)

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Six Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) sports teams are out of contention for a championship. 

It’s been a tough run for the TMU Bold’s men’s and women’s hockey, basketball and volleyball teams, all of whom ended their seasons early. 

For many of the athletes, this was an unexpected end to the year, especially after the success of the 2021-2022 season. 

After a strong start in the first semester, the teams faced challenges going into the winter: “I would say maybe the second semester was a little bit more of a low, we weren’t winning as many games,” said first-year men’s hockey player Connor Bowie, who scored 11 goals during the season.

The Bold men’s hockey team travelled to their first-ever national championship last year, finishing fourth in Canada out of 56 member universities of U Sports. They were also the second-best team in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA).

This year was a little different. The University of Toronto’s (U of T) Varsity Blues ousted the Bold in mid February with a 5-3 loss during a must-win Game 3, ending the team’s season before the playoffs even began. 

Men’s hockey head coach Johnny Duco describes this year as “a tale of two seasons.”

The Bold was one of the top teams in the country in the first semester. They were nationally ranked in the top 10 for each week, Duco says, and ended the first semester tied at first place, winning 11 of 16 games in the fall semester.

However, the second semester brought challenges. 

Goaltender Kai Edmonds and forward Kyle Bollers, one of the country’s top scorers, both missed four games in the winter to play at the Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU) World University Winter Games.

“Once they left, we faced some injuries and we underperformed,” Duco added. “We lost a few consecutive one-goal hockey games where you’d like to think the leading scorer in the country might have played a factor.” Bollers suffered a shoulder injury at FISU that ended his season.

Fifteen players graduated last year, and the current team is rather green, Duco noted. The team slipped out of the national rankings as they headed into the last two weeks of the season. 

For Bowie, the final game of his first TMU hockey season was filled with anticipation and adrenaline: “The first two periods, we were feeling really good. We were just trying to calm the nerves and play hockey.”

Bowie says nerves may have gotten the best of the team.

“Keeping our composure and staying calm at such a high stress moment would have helped us. I think we got really caught up on the fact that we were so close to having our season taken away from us.” 

Bowie said it has been an emotional end to the season as the team loses some of its senior players, like captain Jesse Barwell, forward Patrick Fellows and defenceman Zachary Shankar. But he said he is ready for the next chapter and already looking ahead to see what the 2023-2024 season holds for the team. 

“You’re just riding a wave of emotions after that game. Just trying to deal with the loss but the excitement starts to creep in a little bit after the disappointment goes away.” 

Men’s hockey isn’t the only Bold team dealing with disappointment. The women’s basketball team also came into this year with a successful season behind them. In April 2022 they won the national championship after defeating the Winnipeg Wesmen.

This year, the Carleton University Ravens took the win over the defending TMU team in a close battle at the OUA quarter-finals.

The game ended with a score of 67-64, and head coach Carly Clarke says it was not the result they had hoped for.

“We knew it was going to be a tough battle. It’s always tough to go into their place and play,” she said. 

Much like men’s hockey, Clarke had to rebuild the team after six players graduated. She says she had to organize remaining players into new positions in an attempt to “speed up the experience process.”

Clarke pointed to Rachel Farwell’s “outstanding” performance throughout the quarter-finals. Farwell scored 29 points in the last game and added five rebounds as well as five assists. Unfortunately, the Bold fell in the second half of the game.

Kaillie Hall, who scored seven points during the game, described it as a hard fought battle.

“It’s still hard to talk about…it stings, but we left it all out there and I’m proud of our effort. I’m proud of our resiliency and our willingness to compete until the final buzzer,” Hall said. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Bold.

Even if it’s not the outcome the basketball team expected, Clarke said she’s proud of the season they had. 

“Over the course of the season, we demonstrated so much growth. We beat a lot of the best teams along the way. I’m proud of the development we showed,” she said.

The basketball team is ready to regroup with new recruits while continuing to build on the experience that they gained this year, Clarke added. “We’re returning a good core and trying to add the right pieces to that to keep getting better again.”

Hall said it’s important to her to reflect on the women’s basketball season and the team’s future.

“I’m really reflecting on the whole year and the process. The hope is that moving forward we take things we learned this year to ultimately be better for next year,” she said. 

In Duco’s case, there’s lots to look forward to as the hockey team prepares to host the national championship next year. “It gives us a really nice boost in recruiting and should leave lots of motivation with the tough loss.” 

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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