The University of Alberta Golden Bears and the Mount Royal University Cougars enter their upcoming home-and-home series on October 12th on opposite sides of the CIS spectrum: both in historical and modern context.
The Golden Bears have won a record 13 national CIS Championships and 49 Canada West Championships, and they boast an all-time record of 1793-840-138 in their 100 years of league participation. The Cougars, on the other hand, are just embarking on their inaugural season of CIS hockey. So far this season, the Bears sit tied for first place in the Canada West standings with a 2-0 record, while the Cougars are off to an 0-2 start with back-to-back losses at the hands of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
“We played two close games with U of S last weekend, and from the outcomes it is very clear that we can compete.” Cougars head coach Jean LaForest said. “Our current expectations are that we compete and prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities in order to offset the talent depth differential we have with the top programs in our conference.”
This home-and-home series will mark the first time in league history these two schools will square off in regular season CIS action.
Although this matchup may seem like David vs Goliath on paper, that was not the case in the preseason when these two teams faced each other on September 22. The Cougars gave the Bears one of their stiffest challenges of the preseason, as the U of A barely edged out a 5-4 overtime victory over the enthusiastic Cougars. Bears veteran forward Sean Ringrose was the hero in that game as he notched the overtime winner past Cougars goalie Justin Cote, who made 51 saves in the loss.
“We have to play a complete defensive game.” LaForest stated, reflecting on his team’s gutsy loss to the Bears last month. “We would like to see an improved defensive series against the U of A.”
The Bears rolled through the preseason unscathed with an 8-0 record and victories over the University of Calgary, Augustana, SAIT and Saskatchewan. But the Cougars suffered some growing pains, going 2-2 with one-goal victories over Calgary and Lethbridge.
Despite some bumps in the road, Mount Royal coach Jean LaForest was pleased with the effort shown by his team in the preseason.
“I think our players are responding well to our CIS transition,” LaForest said. “We played .500 hockey in the preseason and were able to see some very positive things both from individual players and our overall team play.”
Golden Bears head coach Ian Herbers was also encouraged by his team’s effort last week, beating the defending Canada West conference regular season champion Manitoba Bisons by scores of 4-2 and 7-2.
“I thought our guys came out with a lot of jump, a lot of energy and executed fantastically,” Herbers said. “They did everything that was asked of them and that’s the way we need to approach every weekend: with that kind of attitude, and then try to carry it through six periods. I thought it was a great team effort and there were a lot of great things accomplished.”
Coach Herbers plans to only make a few small tweaks to the lineup this weekend due to strong play from all four lines. Goalies Kurtis Mucha and Real Cyr both played strong games, and will continue to split starting duties this weekend. But Herbers was impressed with his team’s performance overall, and is hopeful for their continuing growth.
“We’ve got guys pushing hard and working hard to get into the lineup, which is making everyone better and making the team better,” he said.
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