The University of Alberta Golden Bears are off to a strong start in their #16in16 campaign. Last weekend saw them dispatch the Regina Cougars in a commanding series sweep. Though still early in the season, the Golden Bears have been winning accolades, topping the CIS Men's Hockey rankings for the last two weeks, which the Bears have held that position for the 28th consecutive set of CIS rankings. The Bears look to bring the commanding form they demonstrated in Regina (victories with score lines of 9-2 and 6-1) home as they play their home opener this weekend.
Last weekend in Regina, the Bears offense entered a zone where it seemed to be able to score at will. The first goal, a tally by Jordan Hickmott, came only 16 seconds into the game. Talk about a quick start. Koper scored a second goal about halfway through the period, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead that the Cougars would erase before period's end. However, from that point on, the game seemed to be completely in the Golden Bears's control. Goals from Rachinski, Cruise, Reddick, Crooks, Hickmott, Hart, and Rowley over the course of the next two periods put the game completely out of reach for the Cougars. The Alberta power play tallied three goals on five chances, and the penalty kill was perfect, killing all seven penalties taken by the Bears.
The second game quickly became a repeat of the first. It took the Bears longer to score, with Mitch Topping's first goal of the 2015-2016 season coming at 8:13 in the first period. From there, the Bears added two more goals from Ferguson and Koper before the end of the first. Regina managed to get one goal back in the second - a power play marker scored by Troy Hunter. The Bears added three power play goals through the second and third periods, scored by Rachiniski, Hart, and Carr. The Bears power play managed three goals on six chances, and two of three penalties taken by the Bears were successfully neutralized.
With an overall power play success rate of 37.5%, the Bears sit second in the CIS rankings, and first in Canada West. Howeverm the Bears face a challenge in the Mount Royal penalty kill this weekend, which is 7th in the CIS ranking and the highest of all Canada West teams. The Cougars power play, while not as effective as the Bears', is also highly ranked, with a 26.3% rate of conversion; it would be better for the Bears to allow the Cougars limited opportunities on the power play. The Cougars have spent approximately half the time in the Bears have so far this season, so the coming games will be a test of discipline as well as special teams.
Luke Siemens recorded two more victories for the Bears, making 22 saves on Friday night and 28 saves Saturday. The season record improved to 3-0-1. The Bears currently sit in second place in the Canada West Standings, behind the undefeated Saskatchewan Huskies.
Having been on the road for the last two weekends, the Bears now look to open their season at home against the Mount Royal Cougars (2-1-1), who are fourth in the Canada West standings. This weekend the Bears will play a home and home, ceding Clarke Drake to the Pandas on Saturday night.
Before the teams even hit the ice, the Bears will raise the banner from their most recent CIS National Championship to the rafters of Clare Drake, adding to the atmosphere and history of the building. They are quickly running out of room though, so for added enjoyment, spectators can try and imagine where all these banners are going to be hung if the Bears dominance continues.
University of Alberta Golden Bears
University Mount Royal Cougars
|CIS Ranking||1||Not Ranked|
|Record (CWUAA Rank)||3-0-1 (2th)||2-1-1 (4th)|
|Goals For/Goals Against||19/6||13/8|
|Shots For/Shots Against||202/101||124/119|
|Leading Scorer (G-A-PTS)||Jordan Hickmot (3-4-7)||Tyler Fiddler (1-6-7)|
With both Fiddler and Hickmott sitting on seven points so far this year (the most of any Canada West player), the battle between these two teams should be interesting. Mount Royal's offence has been more concentrated than Alberta's, however, with two players from Mount Royal (Fiddler and Brown) ranked in the CIS top 50 in points. Comparatively, the Bears have six (Hickmott, Koper, Ferguson, Hart, Legualt, and Reddick). The Bears have also seen consistent production throughout their team. Secondary and even tertiary scoring was definitely a factor in the lopsided score lines from last weekend.
Friday night's game should provide a good opportunity for fans to see how the team looks against a team currently in the middle of the Canada West table. Last season when these teams played in late February, the Bears dominated the Cougars their last game of the year, winning 7-1. Overall, the Bears had a 3-0-1 record against the Cougars last year. The first of the four games the teams will play against each other goes Friday night at 7pm in Clare Drake arena. The weekend series will finish in Flames Community Arenas at 6pm.
Saturday night the University of Alberta Pandas will look to improve their 2-4-0 record, good for sixth place in the Canada West conference, against the Mount Royal Cougars (2-3-1), who are currently in fifth place by playing in opposite arenas during the home and home. This should be an exciting weekend for hockey at the University of Alberta.