Former hockey players sign in ECHL

Two former members of the Ravens men’s hockey team are flying westward as they embark on professional careers after Carleton.

Ravens faithful will have to have a new favourite ECHL team, as forward Damian Cross and defenceman Tim Billingsley joined the league’s Idaho Steelheads.

The Steelheads are a minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

Cross spent two years with the Ravens after transferring from the NCAA’s Providence College in 2013. The 26-year-old Nepean native wore the captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey last season and finished third in team scoring in both years.

Billingsley, a 6’2” rearguard, spent parts of four years with the Ravens, putting up 54 points. He was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes 189th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

“I can thank my teammates. Together we created an environment where we pushed each other everyday while still having fun,” Cross said, adding that Idaho management has put the two Carleton products in housing together.

“The coaching staff too—they pushed and supported me all the way. Without them this never would have happened.”

Carleton’s summer recruiting has reached double digits in player acquisitions due to the large number of departures from last year’s team. Three of last year’s top scorers and the team’s top defensive pairing are among those who have left campus as well.

The 2014 edition of the Ravens ended up being knocked out in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East semi-finals.

Ravens’ head coach Marty Johnston said losing two of his team’s key players wouldn’t be easy.

“I think it’s really hard. You develop a relationship with them that extends beyond the ice. We were very fortunate to have Damian as captain—he did a great job,” Johnston said.

“Tim joined us in the second half of his first year. He was already playing pro hockey and was real sturdy on our back end. We’re really happy for Tim and Damian and think they’re going to succeed in Idaho.”

The Boise-based Steelheads have been members of the ECHL since 2003. Their roster consists of former university players, like Cross and Billingsley, and some NHL draft picks.

The Steelheads finished second in the league’s Western Conference in 2014 but fell to the claws of the Utah Grizzlies in round one of the playoffs. This year, the team’s hiring of 30-year-old coach Neil Graham gave them the ECHL’s youngest leader behind the bench.

Ravens’ junior defenceman Jason Seed said the route that Cross and Billingsley took is ideal for most Canadian Interuniversity Sport players.

“For myself and the other guys on the team, we use (university) as a way to get better. I think all the guys hope to move on professionally, whether it be in North America or Europe or wherever it leads to after,” Seed said.

Last season, former Carleton players Brandon MacLean and Shane Bakker both played in the American Hockey League. The two signed with separate ECHL teams after their years as a Raven.

“I think that’s what we want to be at Carleton—a program that graduates players but also makes successful hockey players. If they do it that way they can probably play a few extra years and travel the world and still have a degree to fall back on when they get around to hanging up their skates,” Johnston said.

Johnston said he uses the successes of Cross, Billingsley, MacLean, and Bakker as a standard by which to judge his players. Among skill, physicality and toughness, and leadership, Johnston said he also gauges his interest in new players by their career ambitions in hockey.

“In our program we’re looking for players that want to play pro. If they don’t … we don’t really want them.”

Former hockey captain takes his talents to Germany

The Ravensburg TowerStars of Germany announced the signing of former Carleton hockey player and captain Brandon MacLean last month.

“Brandon is highly dangerous and uncompromising,” TowerStars head coach Daniel Naud told EIS Hockey News. The team also cited MacLean’s passion for the game and his professional attitude as advantages to signing the former Raven.

MacLean said the jump to playing in Germany was a premeditated one.

“My player agent threw my name out there to coaches and scouts in Europe and expressed my intent to move over there,” MacLean said in an email. “I had an offer the next day.”

Now preparing to make the move overseas, MacLean said he is looking forward to the challenge.

“I think ultimately I look forward to playing hockey on a bigger ice surface. I want to see how my game will fair with more open ice skating, which I believe is more of my forte,” MacLean said.

MacLean was an integral member of the Ravens for his four-year tenure on the team, from 2008 to 2012. In his final year, MacLean played with the “C” on his jersey and tied for fifth in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) scoring ranks.

Under head coach Marty Johnston, MacLean played a significant role in the transformation of the men’s hockey program. The Ravens made the playoffs every year MacLean was on the team. MacLean led the team in scoring every year he played, notching 143 points in 108 games.

“The Carleton Ravens men’s hockey program wishes its former captain the best in his new hockey journey, and thanks him for his contributions in helping to build the program into what it is today,” the organization said in a press release.

MacLean has competed in more than 160 games at the professional level, with three different minor pro teams. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds drafted him in 2003, and he played for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team for three years.

After graduating from Carleton, MacLean played for the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). During his three-year tenure with the team, MacLean was an ECHL Kelly Cup champion and assistant captain for two years.

After leaving the Everblades, MacLean played for the Rochester Americans and St. John’s IceCaps on loan. His status with the St. John’s IceCaps was confirmed for the 2014-2015 season and MacLean played all 40 games of the season.

The move overseas will be MacLean’s first time playing in a European league.

Ravens recruit local OHL player

With many of the team’s strongest players graduating this spring, an Orleans-raised Ontario Hockey League (OHL) player will don a Carleton Ravens jersey this fall after being recruited to help the men’s hockey team make up for losing many veterans.

Joey West, formerly the captain of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, was a notable recruit because of his leadership and work ethic, Ravens head coach Marty Johnston said.

“He’s sort of a model student athlete that we’re looking for,” Johnston said.

“His schooling background is very good and he’s obviously a very highly skilled player. That factor really adds to our lineup on the ice.”

West spent five seasons with the Petes and finished his major junior career with 44 goals and 98 assists for a total of 142 points, while also setting a Petes franchise record playing in 326 games.

In his final year with Peterborough, West ended the season with 18 goals and 37 assists for 55 points in 68 games, a career-best for the now 21-year-old player.

West told GoRavens he chose to come to Carleton as the team is in “good hands and moving forward.”

“I’ve heard great things about the program and I have a couple of friends on the team who spoke very highly of the school and the hockey,” West said in a GoRavens article. “I’ve heard only good things about Marty and I could tell when I met him that he was extremely passionate.”

Johnston said that with many of the Ravens’ stronger players, including the team’s top scorer and captain Brandon MacLean, graduating this spring, new players such as West will bring important skills to the team.

“On the ice I think his skating will be something that will be really difficult for the other teams’ defenses to handle,” Johnston said.

Petes head coach Mike Pelino said recruiting West was a wise decision for the Ravens.

“He sees the ice very well and he’s a very intelligent player with good hockey sense,” Pelino said.  “He’s extremely hard working and dedicated, and he’s definitely a team-first guy.  He’s basically what every coach wants in a hockey player.”

Former Ravens hockey captain experiences professional success

Former Carleton Ravens captain Brandon MacLean scored the overtime winner that catapulted the Florida Everblades to their first ever Kelly Cup championship in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) finals with a 3-2 overtime win against the Las Vegas Wranglers.

“It’s a goal that you dream about scoring as a kid and you never think you’re going to get the opportunity . . It’s something I will never forget,” MacLean said of his overtime goal.

The winning goal was MacLean’s fourth of the post-season, which contributed to his playoff-high total of 13 points in 18 games among rookies.

“He’s someone who has a big heart and puts a stamp on everything he does,” said Ravens’ head coach Marty Johnston. “He’s got to be considered one of the best players we’ve ever had.”

As a three-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star and tallying 143 points in 108 career games played with the Ravens, it is clear that MacLean is a special hockey player who has left his legacy at Carleton.

“Carleton helped me to develop a lot of great skills,” MacLean said. “They have great coaches that helped me become a professional and develop both my body and mind.”

MacLean said he has many warm memories of Carleton, but said the one that stands out for him is spending time and growing with his teammates.

“Becoming men with guys that I had been living with for four years . . . and the relationships that I will have for a lifetime is my fondest memory,” he said.

Carleton not only provided MacLean with a place to develop his skills on the ice, he said it also gave him the skills needed in the classroom to obtain an undergraduate degree in law. But MacLean said his focus right now is to continue with hockey.

“In the immediate future it’s about trying to find a job at the next level in the American Hockey League, and if that doesn’t happen I have been offered a contract to go back in Florida,” he said. “The best thing about having a degree is having that to fall back on if hockey ends suddenly,” he said.

Johnston said he feels MacLean has a successful hockey career ahead of him.

“I think he will do well . . . it’s important for any player to get in there and get a few games under their belt, and in a very short period of time he has already put his stamp on what he can do by winning a Kelly Cup and being the overtime hero to seal that championship,” Johnston said.

As for the Ravens team now, Johnston said their focus is not to replace MacLean with one player, but to work as a team to make up for his absence.

“It’s about trying to fill that void offensively and as a group knowing there is a big voice lost in the room,” Johnston said.

“As a group we have to try to fill that space as best we can but we’re not going to ever replace him.”


Carleton’s top 10: numbers five to one

Gianluca Nesci counts down Carleton’s top 10 athletes. This time it’s #5 to #1.

Last week, we gave you numbers 10-6 on our list of Carleton’s top 10 varsity athletes of the year. Here are our picks for the top five. 

5. Alyson Bush (Basketball)

Carleton’s female athlete of the year kicks off the second half of our list.

When players go down due to injury, it’s the responsibility of everyone else on the team to step up and help fill the void. In addition, the best player on the team needs to bring his/her game to another level.

That’s exactly what Bush did this year. In the wake of key injuries to Darcy Hawkins and Jennifer Stoqua in the fall, and Kendall MacLeod at the end of the season, the standout player’s role on the team grew even more.

The Ottawa native led the Ravens to a 17-5 record this season, capturing a spot on the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East division first all-star team.

One of the most explosive offensive players in the country, Bush has an incredible ability to break down the defence on the dribble, causing havoc for opponents all season long.

Once she beats her defender, she can finish the play at the rim herself, or dish off to a teammate for an open look. Both of those skills were on display throughout the season. Despite being the focal point for opposing defences, she led the Ravens in points (13.7 per game) and assists (3.0 per game).

The 5’7” guard will be returning for her final year as a Raven next September, and she will be hoping to lead the team to one more appearance at the national championship tournament.

4. Brandon MacLean (Hockey)

When last season’s captain Brad Good graduated from the program and turned his attention to the professional ranks, there were some big skates to fill for the men’s hockey team.

Before this season started, MacLean was given the extra responsibility of filling those skates and taking over the captaincy.

Head coach Marty Johnston and his staff couldn’t have made a better selection.

The 6’0” forward – playing in his fifth and final year with the team – capped off an impressive collegiate career this season, leading the Ravens in every offensive category.

MacLean finished the campaign with 40 points, putting him fifth on the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) scoring chart. His 12 goals and 28 assists on the year were each team-leading totals.

From his first game with the program, MacLean has been a standout performer, leading the Ravens in scoring each and every season. A three-time OUA all-star, he finished his Carleton career with 143 points (47 goals and 96 assists), in 108 games.

But the Burlington, Ont., native was more than just an offensive juggernaut. When his team was going through a difficult slump, losing 10 of 13 games nearing the end of the regular season, it was MacLean who stepped up and ensured that the Ravens clinched a playoff berth.

The captain recorded five points in Carleton’s final two games of the regular season, which helped the team hold down the seventh-seed in a very competitive OUA East division.

For his efforts, MacLean was recognized by the CIS with a spot on the second all-Canadian team after the season.

 3. Tyson Hinz (Basketball)

Skilled big men are the most sought-after commodities in basketball. In Hinz, men’s basketball coach Dave Smart has arguably the best one in the country right now.

Hinz was the focal point of the Ravens offence once again, despite seeing his numbers drop slightly from last season, when he was named CIS player of the year.

The Ravens were praised all season long for their incredible three-point shooting, but that success starts inside the paint, with the 6’6” forward.

His ability to command attention under the basket and draw help from a second defender opens up room for the Ravens’ shooters beyond the arc.

If the double-team doesn’t come, his incredible combination of strength and quickness in the post makes him almost impossible to guard.

Those skills were on full display during the Ravens CIS championship final in Halifax, as Hinz earned game-MVP honours thanks to his 20 points (on 8-13 shooting), four rebounds, one assist and one steal against the University of Alberta.

During the regular season, Hinz was second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game, and led the Ravens on the glass, pulling down five rebounds per game.

He also added another element to his game this season, one that makes him even more difficult to defend. The Ottawa native showed that he can step beyond the arc and hit shots from three-point range, making him the ultimate matchup nightmare for opposing big-men.

Good luck stopping him next year, Canada.

 2. Tamber Tisdale (Hockey)

Ask any hockey expert around, and they will tell you that long-term success begins with a solid foundation in goal.

And that’s exactly what Tisdale offers the women’s hockey team.

Coming into training camp, Tisdale was expected to be part of a trio of netminders who would share the load in goal for head coach Shelley Coolidge. Instead, she took the job and ran with it.

The Red Deer, Alta. native posted a very impressive .917 save percentage in her 17 games this season. While her goals against average of 3.18 was not amongst the nation’s best, that number has to be put into perspective.

Tisdale faced more rubber than most goalies in the country, being peppered with on average 36 shots per game this season. With numbers like those, it’s obvious she gave the Ravens a chance to win every time they hit the ice.

The highlight of her season came in late January, when Tisdale led the Ravens to a historic 4-3 shootout victory over the powerhouse from McGill. That marked the first ever win for Carleton in 65 meetings with the Martlets, who came into the game having won 116 of their past 117 regular season contests.

Tisdale outdueled her counterpart Charline Labonte, a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner with Team Canada, by making 36 saves in the victory.

Fans should expect much of the same next year, when Tisdale will return as the undisputed number-one goaltender.

 1. Philip Scrubb (Basketball)

Was there ever really any doubt about this one?

What more can be said about the best collegiate basketball player in the country?

The list of accolades in only his second season as a Raven is remarkable.

Scrubb was named the CIS men’s basketball player of the year, took home MVP honours from the national championship tournament in Halifax, and was a first-team all-star at that tournament as well.

The Richmond, B.C. native was the offensive leader for the Ravens all season long, putting up one monster performance after another. Scrubb led his team in most offensive categories, including points (16.8 per game), assists (3.3 per game) and three-point shooting percentage (57 per cent).

He also saw more action than any other player on the roster, putting in 23.5 minutes per game.

All of those numbers came to a head in the national championship game against the University of Alberta, where Scrubb put up one of the more impressive stat lines you’ll see in a national final.

The second-year guard led all players with 26 points and eight rebounds, while also chipping in with five assists to lead the Ravens to their eighth W.P. McGee Trophy.

Closer to home, he was also named the Carleton University male athlete of the year at last week’s athletic banquet, capping off one of the greatest years from a Ravens in recent memory.