SASKATOON -- The Laval Rouge et Or chipped the Vanier Cup out of its icy resting spot Saturday.
The reunion, after a year-long estrangement, was both happy and frigid.
"This puts a Band-Aid on the scar," Laval head coach Glen Constantin said after his team beat the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 13-8 in the national football final at Griffiths Stadium.
The victory, played through wind-chills in the -30C range, came just over a year after Saskatchewan beat Laval 29-27 in a national semifinal, a loss that extinguished Laval's dreams of a third straight Vanier.
"We were scarred last year," Constantin added while a sellout crowd of 12,567 filed out of the stadium. "We were embarrassed by the chants (of taunting Huskies fans). We knew we'd come back here. It's not about revenge; it's about putting a bow on this thing."
The host Huskies, meanwhile, lost their fourth Vanier Cup in the last five years -- a record of futility that left players and coaches teary-eyed and immensely frustrated.
"When you get here three times in a row, you're obviously proud and everything, but it just rips you up inside," said Huskies' safety Dylan Barker, who has lost Vanier Cups each of his three seasons with the program. "If you don't know what it's like to get here, fine. But when you're here three times, it's unbelievable. You feel this pain all year, right until you get back here -- if you do get back here.
"I came to this team the first year, we get to the Vanier and it's 'wow; this team's for real.' But when you get there three times in a row and you lose three in a row, it starts to wear on you. I'm so proud of us for getting here, but how many times can you say that?"
Saturday's game was played with a frozen football that felt more like a cinderblock. One day earlier, two footballs literally broke during practice when kickers put their shoes to the leather.
The game, predictably, was a defensive struggle played mostly in the middle of the field.
But Laval, despite being outgained 285 yards to 164, enjoyed an edge in play thanks to better special teams.
Laval was 10-1 heading into Saturday; Saskatchewan 9-2.
"Winning the Vanier here is the greatest feeling of my life," said Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx, who completed 10 of 23 passes for 106 yards. "We had revenge to take from last year. Maybe we struggled a little bit offensively, but it's still a great feeling."
Laval opened the scoring with Cameron Takacs' 26-yard second-quarter field goal. They later conceded a safety, then scored the game's first touchdown with 1:11 to play in the opening half when Guillaume Allard-Cameus scored from two yards out. That touchdown was set up by Nicolas Bisaillon's 22-yard punt-return from midfield and a late-hit penalty assessed to Huskie punter Braden Suchan. Those events placed Laval on the Saskatchewan 15. The Huskies closed the gap from 10-2 to 10-8 early in the fourth quarter when fullback Dan Houle hauled in a 58-yard pass that took the ball to Laval's three. Tailback Tyler O'Gorman punched it in on the next play, but the two-point convert failed.
Takacs put the game away when he booted a 15-yard field goal with 44 seconds on the clock.
Saturday's game was the first ever played outside Ontario. Constantin prefers playing late-season games in a dome -- next year's Vanier will be played under cover in Toronto -- but he said his players refused to be intimidated by the arctic air that covered Saskatoon.
"The media made a big issue of (the weather)," Constantin said. "I told the kids you know what? We've all tobogganed, we've all skied and done things outside. I told the guys to focus on what we can control, which is the football game and our intensity."