Both University of Alberta hockey teams will be advancing to the playoffs after the Pandas hockey team finished at the top of their division and the Golden Bears won 13 straight games.
The two teams finished their regular seasons on February 9. Both earned bye weeks and will play at home for the Canada West division semifinals towards the end of the month. Both teams will play a best of three semifinals to determine who moves forward to the final game at the Clare Drake Arena. The Pandas and Golden Bears will play out their playoff series on February 22, 23, and 24.
Pandas finish the season at the top of their division
Pandas forward and fourth-year kinesiology student Alex Poznikoff scored the last regular season goal for the team. She said it is “incredibly exciting” to be in the playoffs this year.
“It is kind of crazy to think that playoffs are already here,” she said. “It is getting down to the real nitty-gritty here.”
The Pandas finished the season with a 25 win and five-game loss record. They cemented their first-place finish in the Canada West division on February 9 with a defeat of the University of Manitoba Bisons and a two-goal shut-out of the University of Calgary Dinos.
“It was a really great season for us,” Poznikoff said. “Right from the start, we knew as a group where we wanted to go. Then we worked on it together, contributing where we could all the time.”
In her mind, the hardest games the Pandas had to play were in October where they had a loss to Mount Royal University Cougars and a tight overtime win against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. She added that the team really practiced “to be the best in the league” from the start of the season.
Poznikoff said the team is not preparing any differently for the playoffs than the regular season.
“We are taking an extra couple of days on the weekends to rest,” she said. “But we are ready for the high-tempo play to start.”
The Pandas will face the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in their playoff series starting on February 22 at 2 p.m. at the Clare Drake Arena.
Golden Bears win 13th straight game to get to playoffs
Jason Fram is a first-year business student and defenceman for the Golden Bears. While playing defence, he managed to score one of five goals against the Calgary Dinos on February 9 at the Clare Drake Arena. He said that playoffs are the best time of the year for the team.
“Whenever we get to play hockey it is meaningful,” he said. “[Playoff] time makes it resonate just a little more.”
The Golden Bears finished their regular season with 24 wins and a three-loss record. Fram said they started the season off with difficulties, like numerous injuries and some tough losses, including one in overtime against the UBC Thunderbirds on September 8 at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
“We definitely finished the season strong,” he said. “Around Christmas time was the turning point for us.”
He added the team is ready to face the playoffs and the challenge it will bring.
“Right now we are getting ready for what will hopefully be a successful playoff push,” Fram said. “The regular season is over. It does not matter what you do there. Now it is all about what you do in the now.”
The Golden Bears will face the Calgary Dinos in their playoff series starting on February 22 at 7 p.m. at the Clare Drake Arena.