Just a quick reminder that it’s still not too late to pop in for the last day at the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament! Today we ave our medal matches – you can find the schedule here and can follow along with Court 1 and Court 2 online. Cheers!
As you have probably guessed, we’ll have some Canadian teams too. With only a few days left before we start seeing some awesome wheelchair rugby, I’ve been handed a number of Canadian roster changes and even a trade! Below is the list of substitutions.
-Removed Zak “Canada’s Posterboy for Wheelchair Rugby” Madell.
– Removed Rob Macissac
– Removed Ken Hicks
– Removed Allan Chartrand
– Added Travis Murao
Ontario (Split into two teams last week)
Burlington Fighting Squirrels
– Removed Jason Crone
– Removed Joe Boudreau
– Picked up Ian Crowe from Burlington for conditional future considerations
(If London goes the distance, Dave Willsie needs to give Cody Caldwell his charizard.)
The Alberta Roughnecks will likely be playing a longer bench without Zak Madell. He’s not only a scoring threat for the Roughnecks, but he chews up a lot of minutes, often playing entire games. Keep an eye on relative newcomer Branden Troutman. He’s a 3.5 who, like Zak Madell, has a background in wheelchair basketball and often cites him as an influence.
Team BC has a long, long roster, and it’ll be interesting to see how they manage their lineup in front of the hometown crowd. The newest player to crack the squad is young Joel Ewert. He (also) has a wheelchair basketball background and has been playing wheelchair sports since he was 5 years old, often training in his hometown Prince George with Canada Winter Games teammate Avril Harris. Team BC also boasts 3 national team members in Travis Murao, Trevor Hirschfield, and “Mean Mean” Byron Green. Trevor Hirschfield missed last year’s Vancouver Invitational due to injury; and his absence sorely felt. He’s one of the strongest defensive players in the game, and outperforms his class when throwing and receiving. Who knows. We may even get another Trev and Trav Wheelchair Rugby Talk out of the tournament. It’s been too long.
The recently named Burlington Fighting Squirrels need a logo, because who doesn’t want a shirt with a fighting squirrel?
The Squirrels also have 3 national team veterans, including Mike Whitehead. Don’t sell him short on speed, but he can use his large frame to trouble would-be passers. He also hits notoriously hard, and is a common cause of trouble for opposing teams. The only weak point on this lineup; with only five players, they’ll be stacking up a lot of minutes over the course of the 3-day tournament.
The Annihalators may not score as highly on my list of wanted t-shirts, but that’s a terrible metric for this team anyhow. Veterans like Dave Willsie and Garrett Hickling have been playing well before the Murderball days, and they’ve got Olympic-hopeful Kristen Cameron along with them. She’s one of a handful of female players in the game, and she’s been working her tail off to find a way onto the deep Canadian roster for the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Look for a strong showing here – she’s turning as many heads as she can with only a few months to spare.
Last, but definitely not least, we have the Québec team. When you have Fabien Lavoie, Patrice Simard, and Yanick Racicot on your team, you’re in good hands. With Fabien being the only high-pointer (3.0) on the team, expect him to play entire games.
Looking forward to seeing you all there! Two days! Eek!
Since missing the 2014 Canada Cup (also held at the Richmond Olympic Oval and presented by BC Wheelchair Sports and the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association), the USA national team has fallen off the podium. Fans were stunned, when at the 2012 Canada Cup, USQRA (United States Quad Rugby Association) were handed their first sanctioned defeat in nearly a decade. (You can watch that game here, btw. It’s one of my favourites.) Japan became the second nation, ever, to beat a then-impenetrable USA squad. Times have changed. The USA briefly slipped all the way to 3rd place internationally after a disappointing 2014 Worlds, and has been held to 2nd place since April 2015. With Rio right around the corner, we’ve got 3 American clubs topped to the brim with experienced Paralympians. Let’s meet some clubs.
The Seattle Slam have been staples at the Vancouver Invitational, and they have a cheering squad willing to cross the border to fire the club up. New additions to the squad Michael Lykins (2.0) and Brian Moore (2.0) will be ones to watch out for. Daisuke Ikezaki, of the Japanese national team, will be playing for Team Seattle for the duration of the tournament. He’s one of the fastest and most complete players in the game, and was instrumental in helping Team Japan defeat Great Britain at the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge last fall for a 4th place tournament finish. Ike trains with the Slam, and you can expect him to get a good ribbing when Japan and Seattle compete. The Slam will also be looking forward to an early match against the Portland Pounders; they’ll be playing them in the USQRA Pacific Sectionals from March 18th – 20th on home soil.
And then there’s the Portland Pounders. Led by longterm national team member (and two-time Paralympic medalist) Seth McBride, these guys are also regulars at the Vancouver Invitational. They narrowly lost to the Slam during the inaugural Cascadia Cup over the weekend, a tournament in which Will Groulx slid back into action with the Pounders for the first time in (at least) a year. Max Woodbury will be another familiar face; he’s been playing with the Pounders for 19 years.
The Stripes round out the American clubs coming to the tournament, and ho-boy. I think every other club in the tournament is going to have their hands full playing against this stacked lineup. All seven members are part of the USA national wheelchair rugby team, and they’re reasonably well rounded too, with enough low & midpoint players to get substitutions throughout the game. This hodgepodge of veterans has everything to lose here.
Edit – The story has been updated on two points;
(1) The USA Eagles has renamed themselves USA Stripes to avoid a conflict with the able-bodied club with the same name, and
(2) to properly reflect USQRA’s IWRF ranking, because I goofed.