The Golden Bears hockey team will play for redemption when they go up against the team that eliminated them in the semi-finals of the Canada West playoffs last season.
This weekend the Bears will compete in the 28th annual Brick Invitational Tournament at the Clare Drake Arena. They’ll take on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for the first time since the two teams met in the playoffs last season.
“There definitely is no love lost between the two teams,” said Golden Bears general manager Stan Marple. “This rivalry goes back to when I played for the Bears in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. We’ve always had a strong rivalry with Saskatchewan and they have always been great competition, and I don’t think this year is going to be any different.”
Friday’s 7 p.m. game promises to be a hard-hitting battle, with last year’s physically grueling playoff series still fresh in the minds of returning players. The game will also provide crucial insight into how the two CanWest powerhouses will square off in the four regular season games the Bears and Huskies will play against each other this year. The Huskies are currently ranked fourth nationally, while the Bears are ranked at number eight.
The Bears come into the weekend with an undefeated 6-0 record in exhibition play, having most recently swept a home-and-home series against the SAIT Trojans this past weekend. Confidence is in no short supply for the undefeated Bears, and head coach Ian Herbers believes his boys are up for the challenge.
“There’s been a lot of learning and a lot of teaching this year,” Herbers said.
“We’ve come out in our exhibition games and been a physical team that has been able to challenge our opponents with our depth. Our team has a great attitude, and has shown very good effort. I am very pleased with the direction our team is going.”
The matchup will also see some new faces introduced to the Bears’ bitter rivalry with Saskatchewan. Newly recruited former major junior standouts Rhett Rachinski, Brennan Yadlowski and Burke Gallimore have been turning heads in exhibition action so far.
“Rachinski has played very hard and worked hard. He gives 100 per cent effort in everything he does,” coach Herbers said of the former Oil Kings Captain. “Yadlowski has come out and competed and worked hard to improve his game, and Gallimore is an exciting addition to our team.”
The second game of the Brick Invitational will see the Bears face the Mount Royal Cougars on Saturday night at 6 p.m. The Cougars are new to the CIS, having previously competed in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. MRU’s 3-2 win over the University of Lethbridge this past weekend has proven they’re not to be taken lightly.
While the first game of the tournament features one of the best rivalries in all of hockey, the second game features something completely different: the start of a new one.
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