Facing atypical uncertainty, the Carleton Ravens begin their quest for a sixth straight national championship.
Head coach: Rob Smart
Record in 2014: 17-2 (Second in OUA North)
Playoffs: CIS gold
Points scored per game: 91.1
Points allowed per game: 56.4
Key players: Connor Wood, Gavin Resch, Kaza Kajami-Keane, Ryan Ejim
Key losses: Philip Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb, Victor Raso
The OUA may very well be the toughest conference in Canada, but the Carleton Ravens have one fewer hurdle than their counterparts: they themselves are the chief reason why the OUA is so difficult, and they can’t play against themselves. Maybe that’s why interim head coach Rob Smart says the following: “We’re at a good point competitively. I think the schedule could be improved, but other than that I don’t see any major issues.” Smart didn’t mind the old formula of East and West divisions, with home and away series within division; this season, just like the previous one, the Ravens will battle others in Ontario only once except for the three teams in the North division. “I’m old school, I liked the old format,” Smart says. One issue for Carleton will be that most of the team’s biggest tests will be away from their Ravens’ Nest and over the second half.
Key games: VS Ottawa, Jan. 16; at Ottawa, Feb. 5
at Ryerson Rams, Jan. 22
at McMaster Marauders, Feb. 13
Is this the season? The Carleton Ravens will never say so publicly, but others have entertained the possibility that this 2015-16 season could crown new champions; it’s the Ottawa Gee-Gees, not the Ravens, that have paced the CIS Top 10 rankings so far.
The reason is simple: these are the Ravens, yes, but these are the Ravens without Philip and Thomas Scrubb. To add to the uncertainty, Rob Smart replaces Dave Smart behind the bench during the latter’s sabbatical. “We have young guys who are going to play and they’re going to play meaningful minutes for us,” interim head coach Rob Smart tells NPH. “We have transfers who are new. We have so many new parts.”
To make his point, Smart explains that the one person who’s in the same role this season as last year is trainer Bruce Marshall. This is a different team, but if the Ravens have won five national titles in a row it’s by treating each team and each season as their own individual entities. “I have a lot of pride in this team and I’d like to show what this team can do,” the head coach says. “It’s the same every year.”
On the last weekend before the season, Carleton traveled to the United States for “controlled scrimmages” and to figure out some things, Smart tells NPH. “We’ll be quite different,” he says. “We’re going to find out ways to win.”
Smart and his coaching staff will rely on younger players like Glenn Thelemaque, Marcus Anderson and Mitchell Wood for meaningful minutes; transfers Ryan Ejim and Kaza Kajami-Keane will fill big roles. “They’re both competitive guys so by the end hopefully they’re comfortable with what we’re trying to do,” Smart says, “They’ll be very effective for us.”
And in the end, with or without the Scrubb brothers and with or without Dave Smart, the expectations are the same. “The most important thing for the coaches is that the team reaches its potential,” Smart says. “The goal every year is to come together to win a national championship.”
Yep. Same song and dance.