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Winter 2020 Milestones and Moments

A collage of images from Gee-Gees sports.

The 2019-20 Gee-Gees athletic season came to an abrupt halt as the men's hockey team learned that its national championship quarterfinal game would not be played in Halifax. As the sporting world collectively shut down for COVID-19, the Gee-Gees were denied an opportunity to play for U SPORTS glory.

Many competitive sport club competitions were also cancelled, along with the Gee-Gees banquets. The indoor rugby and soccer seasons were not completed, with Ottawa leading the RSEQ women's indoor soccer league when the shutdown began.

The shutdown brings to light all of the moments that did happen in the winter of 2020, making each one more treasured as we realize how fortunate we were to witness or create them. Here is a look back at the 2020 Winter semester.

Team success:

The men's hockey team returned to the Queen's Cup as OUA Eastern Division Champions for the first time since 2003-2004, playing a thrilling triple-overtime game before bringing home the conference silver medals. The Garnet and Grey played a total of nine playoff games with its first two series going to the three-game limit. Ottawa came back from a Game One defeat in Trois-Rivières to win the next two straight over the Patriotes, including Game Three on the road with the Gee-Gees overcoming a 2-0 first period deficit to win 4-2. It was a memorable run for a memorable team as 17 players had played four seasons together.

Both the men's and women's swimming teams recorded program best-ever finishes at the U SPORTS National Championships with the men placing fifth overall and the women finishing sixth. The previous bests were seventh for both teams, achieved last season. The Gee-Gees also won 30 medals including 10 golds at the RSEQ championships – also team records – with the men placing second overall in the conference.

The men's basketball team reached the OUA semifinals before hosting the national championships, where the team finished sixth following a four-point quarterfinal defeat at the hands of the eventual national runners up from Dalhousie. With an 18-4 regular season record which included a victory at the Capital Hoops Classic, the Garnet and Grey had the second best record in OUA this season. 

The women's basketball team was ranked no. 1 in the nation for the second straight season and advanced to the OUA semifinals before bowing out one step shy of qualifying for the Final 8. The team's 18-4 regular season record was second in the OUA and included a 14-game winning streak. The team also captured the Capital Hoops Classic trophy for the second year in a row. 

The women's hockey team also experienced a winning streak this winter, rattling off a team-record six straight victories from Jan. 19 to Feb. 9, including two wins over nationally top-ranked Concordia, two wins over conference champions McGill, and three road wins. Four of the wins were one-goal games as the Gee-Gees showed their resolve. The team also took points in eight straight games, as the winning streak was followed by an overtime loss and another win to finish the season at 11-7-2-0.  

Milestones for coaches:

After taking over the head coaching duties on November 8, Chelsea Grills led the women's hockey team to a 10-5-1-0 record (a .625 winning percentage) in the regular season. Patrick Grandmaître qualified his team for the national championships for the first time as a head coach. Longstanding coaches James Derouin, Andy Sparks, Dave Heinbuch, and Lionel Woods continued to extend their own program records for wins, medals won, nationals appearances, and total games coached. Jen Boyd was named the Ottawa Sports Awards Female Coach of the Year for the sixth time in her career.

Records watch: 

Several big program records were broken this term, starting on the ice where both the men's and women's hockey teams saw new all-time scoring leaders established. Mélodie Bouchard broke the program's record for career points, finishing her five year career with 37 goals and 65 assists for a total of 102 points. Kevin Domingue became the all-time goal scoring leader on the men's team with his 71 goals, and Cody Drover moved into first all-time in assists with 91.

Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus became the women's basketball team's all-time leader in assists, crossing the 400-mark while leading the nation in assists per game this season and finishing her five-year career with 424.

Davide Casarin won five medals at the U SPORTS National Championships, a program record for a single season. Overall, Casarin has 11 national medals to his credit, making him the all-time most decorated Gee-Gee in any sport. He also established his second U SPORTS record time, this season in the 1500 freestyle.

Overall, the swim team had six student-athletes establish new short-course records this season: Delphine Vandal, Mackenzie Finkbeiner, Lauren Shearer who also claimed her first national medal, Dana Sherrard, Casarin, and double-bronze medallist at nationals, Will Barrett.

In track and field, Madison Clarke set a new team record in the 600m, an event which has historically been very successful for the Garnet and Grey. Clarke's record time of 1:29.63 came in the heats at the U SPORTS National Championships and she followed up with a silver medal win in the final. Caroline Poirier raised the bar on the women's pole vault team record throughout the season, and captured an OUA bronze medal. 

Calvin Epistola joined the men's basketball 1000-point club and moved into ninth all-time in Gee-Gees career points by eclipsing 400 points this season – he is just the fourth player in team history to do so.

All-Stars and All-Canadians:

The winter term saw 8 conference all-stars, four conference all-rookies, and two All-Canadians from team sports, along with 31 provincial and 7 national medallists in individual sports. Davide Casarin was named the RSEQ Male Swimmer of the Year, and Brendan Jacome of the men's hockey team won the OUA's Randy Gregg Award for outstanding achievement in ice hockey, academics, and community involvement.

In total for 2019-2020, uOttawa boasts 27 conference all-stars, seven All-Canadians, and five conference All-Rookies from team sports. 

Highlights in the community:

Gordon Forrest won the U SPORTS Student-Athlete Community Service Award for men's swimming while the outstanding community and academic commitments of volleyball team member and medical student Niéve Séguin, women's hockey team member Megan McGaughey, and women's basketball team member Brigitte Lefevbre-Okanwku made them nominees at the conference levels. 

On campus, under the leadership of Milana Grahovac from the Volleyball team, a team of 6 Wellness Student-Athlete ambassadors was formed. Their purpose is to promote all forms of wellness and fight the loneliness on campus by keeping the Wellness Lounge open as much as possible. In January alone, the team of Tristan Petersen, Trinity Esprit, Grahovac, Joshua Britton-Bailey, Rebecca Leblanc, and Angela Ribarich supervised the Wellness Lounge for a total of 46 hours, interacted with 75 students, and facilitated a paint-night activity for students.

The Gee-Gees hosted the inaugural Mélisa Kingsley Memorial Game and continued to participate in Hockey Gives Blood. The men's and women's basketball teams were active with dozens of school visits leading up to the U SPORTS Final 8 at TD Place, which also featured a coaches clinic where Gee-Gees rugby coach Jen Boyd presented, and a youth clinic run by the women's basketball team.