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After A Weekend Split The Golden Bears Slip In The National Rankings. Look To Get Back On Track Against Saskatchewan.

After splitting their weekend with the Mount Royal Cougars, the Golden Bears look to get back on track against the Saskatchewan Huskies.

After opening the season on the road with series in Lethbridge and Regina, the Golden Bears finally kicked off the home portion of their schedule last Friday night, playing host to the Mount Royal Cougars at Clare Drake Arena. Before the game actually got underway, there was a quick ceremony to raise the Golden Bears most recent CIS National Championship banner. This was of course the second year in a row that they’ve done this. Two years that just happened to coincide with my first two years as a Golden Bears season ticket holder. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not my being a season ticket holder was a major factor in those national titles.

When the game got going it was the Bears who scored first, Kruise Reddick with his third goal of the season during the game’s ninth minute, and despite what it showed on the scoreboard - the shots were 9-6 in favour of Mount Royal after the first period - it was the Golden Bears who carried the play during the game’s first 20 minutes. Unfortunately the Bears missed the net on a number of great scoring opportunities, and some not so great ones as well and as a result were unable to extend their lead beyond a single goal.

In the second period the Bears were again out shot, this time by a 10-4 margin (that might be the fewest shots I’ve seen the Golden Bears take in a period), and this time outplayed as well, as the Cougars took control of the game. Killing a penalty in the games 37th minute the Cougars finally got on the scoreboard when Golden Bears goalie Luke Siemens effectively passed the puck to Jamie King, the closest Cougars penalty killer, who scored what will probably be the easiest goal he’ll score all season. Just over a minute and a half later the Cougars would score again to take the lead, a lead they would not give up.

The Golden Bears played a much better third period but after falling behind by two goals at the 54 minute mark the hole was just too deep to climb out of. Rhett Rachinski gave the Bears a chance to tie the game late when, like Reddick, he scored his third goal of the season, but an empty net goal by the Cougars with under a minute to play brought this game to an unsatisfying end for the home team.

Final Score: University of Alberta Golden Bears 2 - Mount Royal Cougars 4

Game two of the weekend series took place three hours to the south, via Highway 2, at the Flames Community Arenas where the Cougars play their home games. In the back half of the home-and-home series the Golden Bears played a much more complete game, avoiding the period long letdown that was a big part of their loss in Edmonton the night before, but the Cougars kept this one close eventually forcing the game into overtime.

After a scoreless first period, and Cougars goalie Colin Cooper was about the only reason it was a scoreless first period, the Golden Bears struck first, on a power play, when Rhett Rachinski grabbed a loose puck at the side of the net to put the U of A up by one; that goal extended Rachinski’s goal scoring streak to four games. It would be a short lived lead though, with Mount Royal evening the score before the end of the second frame. Despite the Bears best efforts and 11 shots on goal, the game would remain tied through the final 20 minutes of regulation.

The Golden Bears would start the overtime period on the power play, thanks to a high sticking penalty to Tyler Fiddler in the final minute of regulation. With a 4-3 man advantage the overtime didn’t last long, just 35 seconds to be exact, before Jordan Hickmott scored Alberta’s second power play of the night from the slot.

Final Score: University of Alberta Golden Bears 2 - Mount Royal Cougars 1.

University of Alberta Golden Bears

University of Saskatchewan Huskies

CIS Ranking 3 2
Record (Rank) 4-1-1 (3rd) 6-0-0 (1st)
Goals For/Goals Against (Rank) 23/11  +12 (1st) 23/13 +10 (2nd)
Power Play (Rank) 8/24 - 33% 7/24 - 29.2% (3rd)
Penalty Kill (Rank) 22/24 - 91.7% (1st) 22/25 - 88.0% (3rd)
PIM 62 (4th) 76 (1st)
Leading Scorer (G-A-PTS) Jordan Hickmot (4-4-8) Andrew Johnson (6-3-9)

This week the Golden Bears are in Saskatoon to take on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. And after dropping a game last weekend, having another go into overtime, and an overtime loss earlier in the season, the Golden Bears now find themselves in the somewhat unfamiliar position of not being the number one ranked team in the country. In fact they’re not even number two, that’s where you’ll find the Huskies. The Bears actually slipped all the way to the third spot. The last time they were ranked this low was more than three years ago in the October 23, 2012 rankings.

With two games against the Huskies this week though, the Bears have a chance to bounce right back in the CIS national rankings. To do that they will need to avoid some of the mistakes that have plagued them early in the season. Luke Siemens has twice given the puck away to a defender resulting in a goal against, both games that the Golden Bears ended up losing. His numbers are solid otherwise, his 0.937 save percentage is second only to Colin Cooper’s 0.945, but in close games those mistakes show up big on the score sheet.

The Huskies have started off the season very strong, sweeping the Calgary Dinos on the road, the Lethbridge Pronghorns at homes, and then a home-and-home with the Regina Cougars. Their +10 goal differential is second only to Alberta’s +12, and Andrew Johnson (formerly of Moose Jaw, Seattle, and Swift Current for the WHL fans out there) leads the CWUAA in goals withs 6 and is tied for the league lead in points with 9. After finishing sixth in Canada West play last season with a 10-15-3 record, and being knocked out of the playoffs in three games by Mount Royal, the Huskies appear to once again be one of the best teams in Conference. And that’s nice to see, I just wish they weren’t ahead of Alberta.