The University of Alberta Golden Bears mark the start of their 100th season at the Clare Drake Arena this weekend by hosting the University of Manitoba Bisons.
After finishing 8-0 in exhibition play, the Bears seem poised to continue the strong winning tradition that the university’s hockey program has established over the past century.
The Bears head into the season looking for answers after elimination in the semi-finals of last year’s Canada West conference playoffs.
Last year’s relatively early exit marked only the second time since the 2000-2001 season that the Bears failed to win the CanWest championship. Despite a disappointing end to last year’s campaign, Golden Bears general manager Stan Marple believes that such adversity will only help the team grow.
“Obviously when you don’t achieve what you’d like to achieve it makes you stronger and more determined,” Marple said.
“Last year we didn’t get to where we wanted to be in the end, being eliminated by Saskatchewan in the semis. Our guys have come back more hungry after the summer and realize we need to do things a little differently. The boys are very hungry, very focused.”
That focus has been evident over the past few weeks of exhibition play, as the Bears went undefeated while taking down some of the top teams in the conference. This past weekend, the Bears finished first at the 28th annual Brick Invitational tournament, posting a 2-1 shootout win over the University of Saskatchewan Huskies before a 5-4 overtime victory over the Mount Royal University Cougars.
It’s hard to think the Bears will have much trouble putting the puck in the net this season. The Bears welcome the return of their leading scorer from last season, Sean Ringrose, who scored both game-winning goals this past weekend.
Also returning are second-year standouts Levko Koper and Jordan Hickmott. Koper led all rookies last season with 28 points in conference play, while Hickmott was named to the 2012 CIS All-Rookie team and was named the Golden Bears’ Outstanding Freshman last season.
Goaltending is another area of strength for the Bears, with starter Real Cyr being selected as CIS goaltender of the year last season. This season marks Cyr’s last year of eligibility, only adding fuel to the fire for the Bears’ reigning MVP to deliver. The team’s other standout goaltender is 2011 Bears rookie of the year Kurtis Mucha, who could challenge Cyr for the starting job.
“We have more than one goaltender who is consistent and battles and will give us a chance to win every night,” said Bears head coach Ian Herbers.
“Our goaltending is looking very solid heading into the season, and there are going to be opportunities for a couple of guys to prove themselves.”
Meanwhile, the University of Manitoba Bisons will be on the hunt to repeat as Canada West regular season champs when they hit the ice this weekend.
Last year the Bisons finished one point above the Bears ending at the top of the regular season standings. The Bisons were 3-1 in exhibition play, posting a pair of impressive 6-2 wins over the University of Regina Rams this past weekend.
After splitting the season series with the Bisons last year, the Bears will be looking to keep their undefeated streak alive and their season record unblemished when they take to the ice this weekend.
The Bears and Bisons will play two games this weekend at Clare Drake Arena. The first game will take place at 8 p.m. Sept. 28th, followed by a game at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29th.
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