The defending national champion University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team will open the New Year against an old foe, beginning the 2015 calendar year against the Calgary Dinos in a home-and-home series, the second between them this season.
Game one of the series gets underway at 6:00 p.m. MT at Clare Drake Arena on Saturday, January 3rd, while game two is Sunday, January 4th at 6:00 p.m. at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.
Alberta, ranked No.1 in CIS, finished the first half with a record of 15-3-0, and in first place in Canada West.
Hot on their heels, however, are the CIS No.4 ranked Dinos who closed out 2014 in second place in the standings, thanks to a 13-5-0 record.
The provincial rivals met twice already this season, with Calgary sweeping the first series by recording a 5-3 win in Calgary, and a 2-1 victory in Edmonton.
The Dinos have now won three of their last six conference games against the Bears, and four of their last 10, including two wins at Clare Drake Arena.
Alberta, however, has the superior record over time. Going back just to the 2008-09 season, the Golden Bears boast a 20-10 record against the Dinos, including 12-5 at home. In that time, Alberta has outscored Calgary 108-76, for an average score of 4-2 per game. The series slants even more in Alberta’s favour in the post-season where the Golden Bears are undefeated against the U of C with an 8-0 record going back six seasons. The Bears have outscored Calgary 35-6 in those eight playoff games as well.
The Dinos come into the series with the two best goalies in the conference in Kris Lazaruk and Jacob DeSerres. In 18 games, with DeSerres having played 10, the Calgary goalies have given up just 29 goals against, and have a combined four shutouts. Lazaruk boasts a 1.38 GAA and a .946 save percentage, while DeSerres has stellar numbers with 1.80 and .929.
Yet Alberta counters with the best offence in the conference, the Bears scoring 78 goals this season, which is 21 goals more than the second-most prolific offence (Mount Royal). Jordan Hickmott leads the point parade in Canada West, with 14 goals and 29 points, while T.J. Foster has 27 points. Brett Ferguson (19), Levko Koper (17), Jesse Craige (14), Stephane Legault (13), and Riley Kieser (12) are all in the top 20 as well.
The Dinos have notched 54 goals so far this season, and are paced by Elgin Pearce’s 11 goals and 20 points. Kodie Curran has 18 points from the blueline while, up front, Ryan Harrison has 13 and Chris Collins has 12.
Golden Bears’ goalies Kurtis Mucha and Luke Siemens are just behind Calgary’s goaltending duo, as Mucha sports a 10-1 record, as well as one shutout, a 2.12 GAA, and a .911 save percentage. Siemens, a sophomore who was the conference All-Rookie Goalie last season, is 5-2 this year, with a 1.96 GAA and a .888 save percentage.
Alberta and Calgary comprise 14 of the total 30 positions on the Canadian squad that will represent Canada West at the 2015 Winter Universiade that runs from February 4-14, 2015 in Granada, Spain. Each program has seven representatives named to Team Canada, including coaches and therapists, but the Golden Bears lead the conference in student-athletes on the team with six. Jesse Craige, Jordan Rowley, T.J. Foster, Jordan Hickmott, Kruise Reddick, and Levko Koper will all don Canadian sweaters in Granada, while Golden Bears and Pandas varsity therapist T.J. Mussbacher will also represent Team Canada at the Games. The Dinos have five student-athletes on the team in Kris Lazaruk (G), Kodie Curran (D), Chris Collins (F), Kevin King (F), and Elgin Pearce (F), while Calgary head coach Mark Howell will serve as an assistant coach on Canada’s bench and Dinos’ therapist Chris Linder will also make the trip to Spain.
Canada is the defending Winter Universiade champion in men’s hockey after the AUS conference team captured gold in 2013 in Kazan, Russia. Canada has won 13 medals in 14 appearances at the Winter Univerisade Games, including four gold medals. Canada West has captured bronze in 1997 and 2003, and silver in 2009. However, the entire 1981 Golden Bears team represented Canada in Jaca, Spain and earned Canada a gold medal. The Canadians will begin their title defence on February 3rd, 2015 with a game against South Korea, followed by games against Sweden (Feb. 5th) and Russia (Feb. 7th) before the playoff round (Feb. 11-14).