Ultimate Canada Invitational 2021: Tournament Recap

Furious George and 6ixers defend their 2019 CUC titles, while Mephisto, Red Flag, and Traffic claim bids to WUCC 2022.

Vancouver Red Flag in the huddle at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography
Vancouver Red Flag in the huddle at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography

OTTAWA, ONT. — A rainy weekend didn’t stop top-notch competition in Canada’s capital city as Ultimate Canada held its first-ever Ultimate Canada Invitational, a national club tournament in place of the usual Canadian Ultimate Championships. While CUCs are typically a summer event with regional qualifying tournaments, multiple factors including a smaller staff, pandemic-related restrictions, and a quick turnaround time to resume planning events led the organization to plan a two-day invitational tournament in early October. Nevertheless, teams from as far as Newfoundland and British Columbia — many playing their first major tournament in two years — made the trek to Ottawa to compete for top placements at the tournament and bids to the 2022 World Ultimate Club Championships.

Open Division

Montreal Mephisto vs. Vancouver Furious George at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography
Montreal Mephisto vs. Vancouver Furious George at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography

Furious George is Still King

Questions of motivation hovered over Vancouver Furious George heading into UCI, as they had already locked up a bid to WUCC by defeating Toronto GOAT in the 2019 national final. At the season’s outset, Furious George had intended to compete in the USA Ultimate Series south of the border, but with many restrictions still in place by the fall, ultimately chose to focus on UCI instead. While the defending champions didn’t go unchallenged through the bracket, it was clear that the Vancouver group came to win — and that’s exactly what they did, securing a gold medal victory and back-to-back national titles.

Having squeaked out a universe point win over Ottawa Phoenix in semis, Furious had to relocate to the showcase field to take on Mephisto for the gold. The atmosphere at the final was something to marvel at. Teams gathered at the field, sitting within their bubbles and enjoying the championship action despite the mist and cold, creating an electric, genuinely nationals-like feeling after a long hiatus from competitive play. Vancouver had some struggles on offense to begin the contest, but managed to ride defensive pressure to win the game, recovering from an 8-6 deficit through grit and athleticism to convert despite numerous turnovers. With hard cap in force, their signature late-game moxie won the day as they defeated Montreal 11-10.

Red Circus Impresses

Halifax Red Circus was a source of some intrigue coming into the tournament. The Nova Scotian crew has done well in the USAU Series, coming in fifth at Northeast Regionals in 2019, but hasn’t competed in the Canadian circuit for quite some time. As anticipated, they won their pool play game with Toronto Grand Trunk to earn the second seed in their pool, and their quarterfinal matchup with Toronto GOAT showed just how far they have come since their last CUC appearance.

In a 13-10 loss to 2019’s runners-up, Halifax pushed Toronto to work for the win the entire game. While the backdoor bracket was closed due to field conditions, Red Circus continued to play competitively into Sunday, securing a sixth-place finish with a 12-10 win over Winnipeg General Strike. This team seems poised to carry the momentum from a successful reappearance in Canadian club to grind through the off-season and push even deeper at the championship in 2022.

Heartbreak for Phoenix

If you want to find the team with the most heartbreaking losses at UCI, look no further than Ottawa Phoenix. In pool play, they lost by two to eventual silver medalists Mephisto before experiencing more pain in the bracket. After a relatively easy quarterfinal victory over Alberta Flatball Club, the Ottawa contingent found themselves in a tight back-and-forth contest with Furious George in the semifinals. Phoenix took half on Furious with a break, but ultimately couldn’t hold on as Furious took the victory on universe, pushing Ottawa to a familiar matchup with Toronto GOAT for bronze.

The third-place contest had major implications for Phoenix: a win in this game and a loss for Mephisto in the final would create a second-place play-in game for a bid to WUCC. Phoenix went up 4-0 before taking half at 7-6, holding onto their early advantage. Towards the end of the game, their 10-8 lead gave way to another high-stakes universe point. To start, GOAT’s pull pinned Phoenix’s offense in their end zone. One turnover per side gave Ottawa another chance to try to work it up the full field, but a flying Jacky Hau layout block on the end zone line gave GOAT the disc on the doorstep. GOAT punched it in shortly after to earn themselves the win.

Holding half against both Furious and GOAT but ultimately losing on universe — twice — has to hurt. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that Phoenix has clearly proven their ability to hang with these elite programs. The team has made a concerted effort to build in young players from their junior program, and this investment will pay dividends in due time. Having been so close in both the AUDL and club this year, this Ottawa group has no shortage of locker room material to get motivated for next season.

Mephisto Has Arrived

The time is now for the Montreal open scene, who made a convincing argument for themselves as the second-best team in Canada. It has long been a Vancouver-Toronto battle at the top, and Montreal has often been pushed aside in both competition and the public consciousness. But with the Royal’s Canada Cup victory in the AUDL and Mephisto’s success in UCI, Montreal is no longer on the outside looking in. A close pool play match was their only blemish on their way to semis, where Montreal’s best open players took their sixth win over Toronto this year across club and semi-pro play.1

Riding the energy of some early breaks in their semifinal, Mephisto ultimately defeated GOAT 12-9 — a competitive matchup, but a clear win for the team based out of Montreal. Then it was time to face Furious George. The gold medal game saw Montreal come out firing on defense, providing tough looks for Vancouver and breaking for half 7-5 over Furious. Montreal really impressed in the first half with their ability to execute the deep game. The second half was a different story as Furious’s defense clamped down hard to capitalize on turnovers. A late-game break for Furious made the match 11-10, ultimately sealing the victory for the west coast team.

Mephisto can hold their heads high, as they were inches away from claiming gold. Because GOAT beat Phoenix in the third-place game and Mephisto had already defeated GOAT earlier in the semifinal, the second-place game was not played, and Montreal was awarded the bid to WUCC. Mephisto will now be heading to Worlds with silver medals on their necks, ready to show the global ultimate community that they have arrived.

Other News and Notes

  • CUC 2019 semifinalists Winnipeg General Strike, had a weekend to forget, dropping deep from their finish at the last national tournament to place eighth at UCI.
  • On the other hand, Newfoundland Regiment had their best finish ever, coming in tenth place.
  • Alberta Flatball Club rebounded from their 2-1 pool play Saturday to get fifth place.
  • Open brackets and consolation games were cut due to inclement weather, removing a path to the backdoor final for quarterfinal losers.

Mixed Division

Vancouver Red Flag vs. Toronto Union at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography
Vancouver Red Flag vs. Toronto Union at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography

Youth is Served

The youth movement was in full force during the mixed final, forecasting a bright future for the division in Canada. Finalists Vancouver Red Flag and Winnipeg PBHG each brought teams with an average age around 23, and the young players were unfazed on the big stage. Both teams went undefeated on their way to the first-place match; Red Flag destroyed all comers on their path through the tournament — their closest game being 10-7 against Toronto Union in the semifinal — while PBHG had a tight matchup with Toronto GAZPACHO in pool play, but cruised once they reached the bracket.

Once these teams reached the final, the key difference that set Red Flag apart was the playmaking by their women-matching players. Using a smart poaching system with two women-matching players in the under space and one deep, they were able to force tighter looks from the PBHG handlers, earning poach blocks in the deep space. Meanwhile, Winnipeg struggled against the new Vancouver team early on, though they were able to settle their nerves later in the game.

In the end, both clever strategy and an abundance of Team Canada experience on Red Flag showed through as Vancouver was able to bounce back from a late break to take the game 10-8 over Winnipeg. The Mot twins and Katie Wong were particularly steady presences for Red Flag, who were playing in their first major tournament together as a team. PBHG took a respectable loss, however, putting in a valiant effort and demonstrating that the Prairies can compete with a large city center like Vancouver.

Quebec Makes its Mark

As mentioned in the preview, there was less geographic representation from the mixed division, with half of the teams coming from Ontario and only three from Quebec. But despite low turnout, the latter province was able to send all three teams to the quarterfinals. Two played each other in quarters — Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Battleship battled Quebec City Quest, with Quest getting the victory 10-8.

The real surprise of the tournament was Sherbrooke Red Fox, who were seeded last in their pool. Red Fox got big victories over Barrie Force and Battleship, but ran out of gas against Kitchener-Waterloo Crash to finish sixth. Placing all three teams in the top eight is a clear sign of a strong mixed scene in the province. Along with outdoor ultimate, indoor 4-on-4 is very big in the province, fostering a presence in this division that is not to be slept on.

Favorites Go Down Early

The first day of mixed competition provided some fireworks, eliminating two major favorites on day one. For Barrie Force, fourth-place finishers at the 2019 CUC, their results are nothing short of a disappointment. Boasting multiple former Team Canada junior players, the group from up north were expected to contend for a top for spot at UCI, especially as a top pool seed. Instead, Force went winless in pool play, punctuated by an emphatic defeat at the hands of Red Flag on the livestream. When all was said and done on Saturday, Force had landed in the consolation bracket.

The other favorite was Toronto GAZPACHO, which boasted many top open and women’s players who weren’t playing with the powerhouse Toronto teams. With the talent in place, they were expected to go far, but faced some shocking defeats in pool play, including two single-point losses to PBHG and Vancouver T.T. Facing cross-provincial rivals Crash, GAZPACHO was not able to make it to quarterfinals, flaming out in prequarters 13-6.

To emphasize the expectations people had for these two teams, in the Huckin’ Eh picks contest, 67% of participants chose Force to make quarters, while 70% picked GAZPACHO to do the same. Things went from bad to worse in consolation play. GAZPACHO finished tied for fifteenth while Force finished tied for thirteenth, a far cry from their semifinal expectations. Instead, both teams left medal-less, with lots of what-ifs and likely a strong desire to put this tournament out of their memories.

Union Rallies to Win Bronze

Toronto Union had an ace in their pocket heading into UCI with the addition of Andrew Carroll. Wanting to put away the ghosts of the last CUC, where they got ousted in quarterfinals to eventual silver medalists SOUP, the Toronto squad retooled to do what they couldn’t do in 2017: get a WUCC bid.

After taking out Vancouver Fable handily, the Union dropped their second pool play contest to Kingston Local 613. Despite the pool play loss, they were able to rally to beat Quest and give themselves a first-place finish in the pool despite their 2-1 record. As the bracket shook out, Union met the unstoppable Red Flag in semifinals, ultimately losing 10-7. Despite that disappointment, Toronto was able to rally in the bronze medal game with a convincing 13-7 win over Quest. It’s not a bid to Worlds, but Union showed they can be a force to reckon with in the mixed division, and the program seems to be trending in a good direction.

Other News and Notes

  • Ottawa Crank and Kingston Local 613 finished their weekends tied for ninth.
  • Fredericton Spawn was New Brunswick’s only team at UCI. They made it to prequarters before ultimately finishing tied for eleventh.
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Crash got fifth place after crushing Sherbrooke Red Fox 13-3
  • Consolation placement games were cancelled due to field conditions, with only consolation quarters and semis taking place.

Women’s Division

Toronto 6ixers receiving gold medals at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography
Toronto 6ixers receiving gold medals at UCI 2021. Photo: Daniel Ngai — Eye to Ngai Photography

Traffic is Heading to Cincinnati

It’s been an amazing last two weeks for Vancouver Traffic. After securing a spot at the USA Ultimate Club Championships, the group from Vancouver also booked their ticket to the World Ultimate Club Championships in 2022. Traffic went unscathed in pool play against Calgary Wildish and Halifax Salty, giving up only three points total. This set up a semifinal showdown with Quebec Iris which they were able to pull out towards the end for the comfortable 12-8 scoreline.

In a rain-soaked final against Toronto 6ixers, mistakes plagued both teams thanks to the slippery disc and subpar field conditions. Vancouver faced a tough Toronto defense that did not make things easy for them. Traffic’s offense could not get into the flow they needed, while 6ixers relied on their experience and depth to pull out the W by a 12-9 count.

Following the morning matchup with 6ixers, Traffic got a surprise when they found out they would be playing Winnipeg Fusion in the second-place final and bid-earning game. From the time the game started, there seemed to be a marked difference in Traffic’s play after the final. Whether it was the mental hurdle of playing the 6ixers or just plain warming up, the Vancouver club looked more calm and confident in this matchup. After a close first half, the result was never in doubt as Traffic poured it on to win a silver medal and the bid to WUCC.

Winnipeg Surprises

After their 2019 fifth place finish at CUCs, Winnipeg Fusion reloaded this season with a lot of young talent. Boasting nine rookies and five second-year players on the roster, this team was hoping to gain experience with some high-level competition. The group was headlined by Sarah Jacobsohn, a World Games applicant pool member who most recently played with 6ixers during their historic 2019 run to second at USAU Nationals. Fusion started Saturday morning with a 13-9 pool play loss against 6ixers, but later that day defeated Ottawa Stella on universe to finish second in their pool, affording themselves an opportunity to play into the second-place final for the WUCC bid.

A hot start against Quebec Iris from Fusion’s defense put Iris on their heels. Iris was able to turn it around and force universe. On that final point, a Joely Valencerina throw got tipped by an Iris defender before being caught in the end zone in a layout grab by Caitlin Cho for the universe point victory. An energized Fusion headed into the second-place final with some much-needed momentum as they looked to topple Vancouver Traffic.

In their last game, the team came up short against Traffic, and would have to settle for a bronze medal. As you would expect, Jacobsohn was a major asset for Fusion, providing a strong option in the deep space to bail out high stall count throws. Winnipeg can look forward to a strong future as they tap into the talent of their development-focused youth programs. Getting a bronze medal at UCI is a great indicator of the talent that is being cultivated there, and a solid resume line to carry into future competition.

Iris Doesn’t Reach Full Potential

The Quebec squad came into UCI with one goal in mind: to earn a bid to WUCC. Having secured Jessie Grignon Tomas (formerly of Boston Brute Squad) and Anouchka Beaudry (formerly of 6ixers) for the 2021 season, it looked like they had just the tools to complete the task. The matchup between Traffic and Iris was highly anticipated, with the winner of that game essentially getting two chances to qualify for a bid to WUCC. Falling to Traffic 12-8 blocked Iris from the path forward through the bracket, but didn’t end their pursuit of a bid, as they still had the chance to play for the second-place final if they defeated Winnipeg Fusion.

But a Quebec vs. Vancouver bid game was not to be, as Iris was upset by Fusion on double game point. Iris was able to come back after going down a few breaks early, but unfortunately, they came up short and would drop down again, ultimately winning fourth place against Stella.

You have to feel for the Quebec squad, as they brought in some real firepower to make a run for the WUCC bid, but still came up short. It remains to be seen what will happen to the team next year, as well as whether their key 2021 pickups return for another season.

6ixers Remain on Top

Toronto 6ixers continued their dominance in the division, leaving no doubt that they are the top women’s team in the country. The youth pipeline continues to work its magic in Toronto, with the champions taking along some younger players who got their taste of high level women’s ultimate — and certainly didn’t slow them down on their way to a first-place finish. The closest any team came to challenging them was Traffic in the final, a game that ultimately went 6ixers’ way despite Traffic’s recent strong showing against the best of USAU’s Northwest. The Toronto group has clearly found a formula for success, and may be well on their way to becoming a juggernaut that contends for American and Canadian titles for years to come.

“It was awesome to be able to earn that win against a tough Traffic team,” said 6ixers captain Jordan Meron, “especially considering how young — and new — our team is. We have eleven players who are 23 or younger, and seven rookies this year. That’s as young and as new as we’ve ever been. It was so fun to watch those young folk step into pretty impactful roles this year. It was also nice to see that our developmental strategies are paying off! Overall, it felt like a great testament to the system we’ve built and the talent we’ve got on the squad.”

Other News and Notes

  • Ottawa Stella took 5th place after defeating Halifax Salty and then losing to Quebec Iris.
  • 6ixers not only won gold, but also got second in spirit, a strong testament to the program’s showing at the tournament.
  • The women’s division had lots of geographic diversity, with six provinces represented and no province sending more than three teams.
  • Due to inclement weather and field conditions, the women’s division was adjusted from three pools to two following a vote from the teams to opt to play fewer games.

Additional reporting by Kelsey Hayden.

Related Content

Huckin’ Eh: UCI Senior Monster Recap, Uni Series Continued, Vancouver Sweep?

On Ultiworld’s podcast for all things Canadian ultimate, Danie and Theo break down each pool and bracket play and admit that they may have underestimated some teams, but also brag about some spot-on predictions. This recap includes some spicy segments, including dramatic calls and finishes, come-from-behind wins, and the dramatic re-telling of Theo and Danie meeting in person for the first time. Buckle up for a huge episode of heartbreaks, big stakes, and hot takes.

  1. Montreal beat Toronto five times in the AUDL Canada Cup. 

  1. Theo Wan
    Theo Wan

    Theo recently left his teaching career to start a podcast about Canadian ultimate. He is a self-professed ultimate nerd who is willing to talk ultimate to anyone who will listen. He has captained an open club team out of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and resides in Toronto. He is one half of the Huckin Eh’ Podcast, your coast-to-coast guide for all things Canadian Ultimate. Theo is a fan of all teams Toronto and is a diehard fan of the Michigan State Spartans. You can reach him on Instagram (@wan_and_only_sports) or at [email protected].

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