By Misha Whittingham and Nathan Ross
The first league official tournament in Western Canada occurred on Oct. 1, with four of the five registered teams in the region participating. The University of Victoria (UVic) Valkyries, Calgary Mavericks, Edmonton Aurors, and University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds all brought formidable squads to the tournament, with the Thunderbirds felling the Aurors in a nail-biting fashion 130^-100* with an overtime snitch catch from Team Canada seeker Austin Wallace. This tournament gives us our first glimpse at what the West will look like for the next seven months.
Record: 0-3, Goal differential: -240
The Valkyries came to Octobear with the roster least indicative of their potential. The team only managed to muster 12 players for the tournament, half of which were mercenaries unlikely to play again for the team this season. The mercenaries were nothing to scoff at, as they included Team Canada beater Ema Shiroma-Chao, UVic alumnus chaser David Warburton, and Simon Fraser University beater Nathan Ross. Despite the talented additions, the team was incapable of putting together an organized system for much of their first game against the Thunderbirds. While the Valkyries at times dominated the beater game, their chasers were too small to contend with UBC, and were blown out 150-80*. They also lost Shiroma-Chao in the same game to injury, though she returned in a more conservative role in their final game against the Edmonton Aurors (which they lost 170*-40).
The Valkyries (in size and numbers) were no match for the full-strength Aurors and Thunderbirds squads.While the Valkyries managed to lead the Mavericks into snitch play, their lack of a trained seeker or significant depth allowed Calgary to pull ahead and out of range quickly upon seeker release, and the Valkyries lost 110*-40. The Valkyries are still somewhat of an unknown quality, but certainly still need improvement. If Octobear is anything to go by, particularly at chaser.
Record: 1-2, Goal differential: +10
The host team played three close games last weekend, with snitch-range losses to Edmonton and UBC, and 17 minutes of close play against the Valkyries before pulling away. The team pulled from the best of the Calgary area’s development teams and are likely to look very similar at the Quidditch Canada Western Regionals in November. The Mavericks’ strength lies primarily in their strong and well-organized chaser play, even against the high-flying Aurors, against whom they tied in quaffle points with 60 points apiece.
Colin Crowe, Michael Wanless, Joel Martens, and Hasan Ahmad led the offensive charge, with the first three scoring hat-tricks during the tournament. While Ahmad managed to get a snitch catch against the depleted Valkyries to win 110*-40, the Mavericks struggled to keep up in seeker play against the top two teams in the tournament – UBC and Edmonton – both of which defeated the Mavericks by snitch catch 110*-50 and 90*-60, respectively. This can be partly attributed to the fact that they were up against two of the best seekers in western Canada, Indiana Nikel (Aurors) and Austin Wallace (Thunderbirds); the Mavericks also lost veteran beater Alex Lamoureux to injury partway through the afternoon. However, Wallace and Nikel are here to stay, so the Mavericks will need to find some way to alleviate their snitch-on-pitch woes.
Overall, the Mavericks had a better tournament than their record suggests, and with some better luck and improved snitch-on-pitch play, they have an outside chance to challenge for top spot in the West.
Record: 2-1 (does not include the overtime loss in the finals), Goal differential: +120 (+90 after finals)
Despite being a new team, Octobear was definitely not the first rodeo for the players of the Edmonton Aurors. The Aurors are the closest resemblance of the now defunct Alberta Clippers (disbanded to accommodate the increasing number of teams in the province of Alberta). With Team Canada Head Coach Chris Radojewski, the Aurors do not play like a first time team, although it is not difficult to imagine that Radojewski wanted more from Octobear.
The Aurors’ first game against the Mavericks seemed a little hesitant, with over seven minutes passing before either team found the back of a hoop. This included a one-minute powerplay early in the game for the Aurors where they did not generate much offence. The teams were tied before the Aurors caught the snitch. Things seemed to be clicking more in place during the Aurors’ second match against the Thunderbirds, in which they were ahead by 20 points before losing by a snitch catch. The Aurors easily rolled over the Valkyries in their last match before heading to the final.
David Merkosky was the standout player for the Aurors during Octobear, as he either led the team in scoring or was tied for the lead in each of the round robin games. Radojewski should also be commended for his coaching, as he seemed to utilize the new timeouts the most effectively and managed to get the best from his players. However, with the Aurors’ tempers flaring during their last match against the Thunderbirds, it will be a challenge for him to find the balance between pushing his players and keeping them focused on the gameplay this year.
This is a team that is expecting to come in first at the upcoming regional championship in Surrey, and Radojewski has the talent and the commitment from this team to make that a reality. The effort the Aurors displayed at Octobear showed that they are not quite there, but there should be no reason a championship win cannot be achieved as long as the team blends a bit more and stays true to their system instead of getting caught watching the play. The Aurors thrive on driving the quaffle toward the hoops before looking for the pass option, and if they stay focused on that they should be a formidable opponent.
Record: 3-0 (won the finals in overtime), Goal differential: +110 (+140 after finals)
The Thunderbirds went through a huge change in the offseason: they became an official team with the university, which means that players must be registered students. As the Thunderbirds lost a number of last year’s players due to this, the team brought over a dozen rookies to Octobear, which was their first tournament upon joining Quidditch Canada.
Despite going undefeated in their matches, this is not the same team that dominated the USQ Northwest in the past two seasons. Of their four games, only one of their wins was out of snitch range. Adding in that this was against the UVic Valkyries – who went winless the entire last season and brought a roster of 12 players (which included a collection of mercenaries) to Octobear – this was not the decisive victory the Thunderbirds have come to expect.
Cameron Cutler had a standout tournament for the Thunderbirds, securing most of their goals. Cutler carried the goal-scoring in their game against the Aurors, and he will be looked to a lot in the year to come. Several rookies had a solid first tournament but showed a bit of a learning curve, as they were frequently carded for rookie mistakes. Thomas Rayment, one of their rookies, also deserves a shout out for catching the snitch in under 10 seconds during their game against the Mavericks when they were still in range.
Under new head coach Lendl Magsipoc – a former UBC player nicknamed “The Bull” – the Thunderbirds were playing right up to the edge, and potentially over it. They were carded 24 times over their matches, including four instances of red cards from second yellows. This was a tournament they were fortunate enough to get away with it, but this will likely not be the case throughout the year if they keep taking so many penalties.
Despite UBC walking away with the trophy (a bear impaled by a quidditch broom), all four teams left with the reward of now meeting the required three games to participate in the Western Regional Championships in November. The Thunderbirds will not be able to celebrate too hard though, as they will be seeing tournament action again as they host the Team Instinct Invitational tomorrow.
While Octobear proved a good place for new teams to mesh, it is not wise for any team to put too much stock in the results here. The Valkyries only had six of their official players, and the other three teams were either technically new to Quidditch Canada or returning after a lengthy absence. It would be unfair to call this a preseason tournament by any means, but the most valuable thing all teams will be walking away from Octobear with is a long, first look at the teams during actual gameplay.