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Golden Bears Look to Turn Cougars Into a Scratching Post

Golden Bears looking for some much needed points this weekend as they host the University of Regina.

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The Golden Bears' first home stand of 2016 ended in mixed results. The Bears managed one victory and one shootout loss to the visiting University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a series that wasn't short on dramatics. This weekend, the Bears hope to find their way back into the win column while hosting the University of Regina Cougars. The first time these two teams met, the Bears mauled the Cougars in Regina.

The Bears continue their home-game heavy end to the 2015-2016 season while still sitting in sixth place in the CIS National Rankings and second in the Canada West. The Bears won their game on Friday night by a score of 6-3 based on a strong third period, but they lost the Saturday night game 3-2 in a shootout.

The Bears struck first on Friday night, with Crooks scoring a goal at 12:26 of the first period. The Thunderbirds were held off the board until 3:01 of the second period. Antilla scored a power play goal while Crooks found himself sitting for cross-checking. The Bears found themselves chasing the Thunderbirds when MacDonald scored at 9:26. The Bears kept up the pressure until Ferguson tied the game. Unfortunately, the Bears were caught napping because less than a minute later, Lockhart put the Thunderbirds ahead again. Thomas Carr levelled things for the Bears at 19:40 on a beautiful goal.The third period was the Kruise Reddick show, with the Golden Bears captain netting a natural hat trick. Reddick put the Bears ahead at 9:51, added some insurance at 13:31, and sealed the game at 17:03.The Bears secured three much needed points from a hotly contested game and kept pace with the University of Saskatchewan.

Much like Friday night, Saturday started with neither team being able to secure a definite advantage. The Thunderbirds struck first, however, with Lockhart scoring at 17:01 of first. Hilton added a power play goal in the second period to give the Thunderbirds the largest lead either team managed during the weekend series. Bredo answered for the Bears less than a minute later, and Hickmott tied the game at 16:28 of the third. From that point on, there was no more scoring. Finally, the Thunderbirds won the game in a shootout.  The parade to the penalty box in the first period saw 14 minutes of penalty time assessed to both teams, contributing to the antagonistic feeling of the series.

The upcoming series against the Regina Cougars is one on which the Bears need to capitalize if they wish to keep pace with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The Cougars sit last in the Canada West conference with only five wins on the season. The Cougars have scored the least goals of any team in the Canada West but have had the most scored on them. The last time the Golden Bears played Regina, the closest score was 6-1. The Bears need to use this opportunity to capitalize on their offense and shield their somewhat shaky goaltending. The Bears take an average of 44 shots a game, but (with the notable exception of Friday night's game) they haven't been able to get much past the opposition goaltenders.

However, the Bears have done a good job limiting the shots that make it to their goaltender. For instance, the first period of Friday's game, the Bears only allowed four shots on goal.  Facing only twenty shots, Demharter, who played goal on Friday, managed a save percentage of only 0.85. Siemens, once again in net on Saturday, stopped 24 of 26 and had a more respectable .923. Siemens has had a rocky year, with up and down performances. The Golden Bears desperately need to be able to trust in their goaltending tandem, and right now, there haven't been two reliable and strong performances by Golden Bear goaltenders in a row.

University of Alberta Golden Bears University of Regina Cougars
CIS Ranking 6 Not Ranked
Record (Rank) 13-5-2 (2nd) 5-15-0 (8th)
Goals For/Goals Against (Rank) 82/46   (1st) 53/99 (8th)
Power Play (Rank) 21/70 - 30% (1st) 10/67  - 15% (7th)
Penalty Kill (Rank) 63/73 - 86% (2nd) 56/77 - 87% (6th)
PIM 248 (1st) 248 (1st)
Leading Scorer (G-A-PTS) Jordan Hickmott (10-17-27) JJ Coleshaw (6-6-12)

The Bears need to capitalize on the opportunity this series presents. With a weak penalty kill and a lack of strong offensive threats, the University of Regina Cougars are a poor match for the Golden Bears on paper. The Cougars lack any players in the CIS top 50 scorers compared to the Golden Bears three (Hickmott, Reddick, and Koper).  Regina's top scorer ranks 35th in the Canada West and doesn't even show on the CIS rankings.

For a different perspective on the Golden Bears hockey team, the University produced a segment called The Green and Gold Show, where a panel of Dustin Neilson, Connor Hood, and Daniil Anselmi weigh in the season so far. The games this weekend go at the usual times: 7pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday.