Canada West conference play continues for the University of Alberta hockey programs. The Golden Bears and Pandas will each play one game in Clare Drake Arena this weekend as part of a home and home series with the University of Calgary Dinos. The Golden Bears take the ice at 7pm on Friday night; the Pandas will finish the weekend with a game at 5pm on Saturday.
After am unexpected sweep at the hands of the University of Manitoba Bisons, the Golden Bears fell to second in the U Sports Top 10 ranking. Remaining on top of the Canada West standings, the Golden Bears will look to rebound against Calgary.
Currently in 7th in the Canada West standings, the Dinos have had a difficult season. After self-reporting an ineligible player, they forfeited six games. The Dinos split the first season of 2018 against the UBC Thunderbirds giving them something to build off as the prepare to face the Golden Bears.
The Dinos will be a difficult match up for their Golden Bears. In their first series – among the forfeited games – the Dinos pushed the Bears to overtime. A strong and skilled team, the Dinos will be looking to make their way back into the Canada West playoffs. Not only would defeating the Golden Bears help them do that, it would also be a statement on the quality of the team assembled.
Luke Philp, Trevor Cox, and Stephane Legault – all in the top 10 of Canada West scoring race -- will be hoping to make an impact on the scoreboard. All three were unable to score against the Bisons last weekend and will be looking for strong performances to get back into the winning column. Brandon Magee also in the Top 10 of Canada West scoring will hope to continue his success from the Manitoba series. In the Golden Bears top scorers can return to their form from earlier in the season, they Dinos defense and goaltending will face a very stiff test of their abilities.
With both of the Golden Bears goaltenders having played one game against the Bisons, it is difficult to tell who will start at home. There is no hot hand, so to speak. Both Burke and Sawchenko have strong results this season making either a solid choice. Sawchenko has slightly better numbers but Burke has more experience. Whichever goaltender the Golden Bears chose for Friday’s game will give them a chance to win.
The Pandas series against the top ranked University of Manitoba Bisons saw them come away with one victory, in double overtime. Currently fourth in the Canada West standings and second in the U Sports Top 10, the Pandas are battling for one of two byes through the quarter finals of the Canada West playoffs.
The Dinos are currently sixth in the Canada West, the last playoff spot. Coming off two losses last weekend, the Dinos will be looking to gain ground on the fifth place Regina this weekend.
The Pandas swept the Dinos in the first series between the two teams. They will be hoping for similar results this time. Having struggled against lower ranked teams – such as the Mount Royal Cougars – this season, the Pandas will be hoping for a dynamic start to the game. An early goal or two would change the flow of series. An early lead would allow the Pandas some breathing room.
With four players in the top 10 of the Canada West scoring race (including current scoring race leader Autumn MacDougall), the Pandas scoring by committee philosophy has been successful in creating multiple offensive threats throughout their line up. The Pandas offense should match up well ahainst the Dinos defense which has allowed only 29 goals, the third lowest total in the Canada West.
The series, much like the one against the Bisons, looks to be a defensive battle. The Pandas has been one of their strengths over the course of the season. Able to contribute offensively and severely limit shots on goal, the Pandas appear to have found a winning defensive formula. As the Canada West season enters its final stretch, the Pandas will be looking to capitalize on their strong defense and earn the maximum points in as many series as possible. With the Saskatchewan Huskies playing Manitoba Bisons this weekend, the Pandas will be hoping their defensive mindset helps them earn six points and pass the Huskies in the Canada West standings.
On January 19th and 20th, the Golden bears will host the last place Regina Cougars at Clare Drake Arena. The Pandas will travel to take on the Cougars on the road.