The University of Alberta hockey teams return to action this weekend as the second half of the Canada West season continues. The Golden Bears will return to action in the comfortable confines of Clare Drake Arena where they take on the Manitoba Bisons. The Pandaswill travel to Manitoba and play the Bisons.
The top team in the Canada West, the Pandas (11-3-2-0) will clash with a Bisons (10-3-2-1) team which is just below them in the standings. With just two points separating these teams, this series may be key to determining standings when playoffs start in February. The last time these two teams met, the Pandas swept the Bisons. However, that was early in the season and the Bisons have rebounded from their less than ideal start.
Between these two teams are the top four players in the Canada West scoring race. Pandas players McDougall and Poznikoff with 20 points each and Ganser with 14 and Bisons player Keen with 17 points. Over all, the Pandas appear to have a slightly more diverse offense than the Bisons. However, the majority of their top scoring players are generally found on the same line. Another element of these two teams is that they both have traditionally strong defenses. Both of their games earlier this year were low scoring affairs with only one or two goals scored all game.
The Pandas are also without Head Coach Howie Draper who is currently with the U18 Canadian Women’s Team as they compete in the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Obihiro, Japan.
The Golden Bears announced over the winter break that the team will be joined by Tyler Soy in 2019. Soy, who was originally part of the recruiting class last fall chose to play professionally during the fall semester. The Golden Bears currently in second in the Canada West will host the Bisons. The Bisons have a 2-12-1 record which (along with the Regina Cougars) places them at the bottom of the Canada West standings.
Despite the seeming mismatch between these teams, they split their first series in Manitoba. This accounts for fully half of Manitoba’s wins! If the Golden Bears wish to challenge the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (currently three points ahead of them) for top spot in the Canada West, they will need to return to action with two victories. Two convincing victories with lopsided scores would be even better for the Golden Bears. The Golden Bears cannot afford to failing in capitalizing on opportunities.
The Huskies play the U of C Dinos this coming weekend. The Dinos (four points behind the Golden Bears) are third in the Canada West; they are one of the strongest teams remaining in the Huskies’ schedule. Meanwhile, the Golden Bears are playing one of the least successful teams in Canada West. This seems like a perfect opportunity to work to close the gap. The Golden Bears and Huskies will not meet again until the playoffs so, there isn’t a chance to gain ground that way.
With Luke Philp, Jason Fram, and Cole Sandford all in the top five of Canada West scoring, the Golden Bears will be hoping for a strong return to action. This effort should be helped by the fact that Manitoba has allowed 73 goals so far this season – second only to Regina at 74. It will also be interesting to see where Tyler Soy might fit into the Golden Bears line up.
The Golden Bears are in action at 7:00pm on both Friday and Saturday nights at Clare Drake Arena