In the first of two straight weekends against provincial opponents, the No.2 University of Alberta Golden Bears take part in a home-and-home series with the Mount Royal University Cougars.
Game one takes place in Calgary on Friday at 7:00 p.m., while Saturday's tilt begins at 3:00 p.m. in Edmonton.
Before taking on the Lethbridge Pronghorns in a week’s time, the Bears have their work cut out for them this weekend against a team fighting for a playoff spot. Mount Royal comes into the weekend with an 8-11-1 record, placing them in the sixth and final spot, three points back of fifth-place Regina and two points up on UBC.
Alberta, now 18-2-0, clinched a playoff spot last weekend by sweeping UBC in Vancouver by 4-3 and 5-2 scores, six different Bears having multi-point nights while senior forward Torrie Dyck continued his torrid scoring pace.
The native of Hudson Bay, Sask. has scored in each of his last six games, amassing nine goals over that span to take the lead in team scoring and putting him into a three-way tie for third in Canada West with 11 goals.
Last weekend also featured the debut of the newest Golden Bear, Joel Östman, who is the first-ever European-born player to play for the Bears and will play his first game at Clare Drake Arena this Saturday.
Originally from Täby, Sweden, Östman joined the Golden Bears in early January after initiating contact with Golden Bears head coach Ian Herbers in August of 2013.
The 6’3” and 210 lbs defenceman previously played with Sundsvall in the Swedish division 1 league, but he also spent time with Timara IK of the Swedish Elite League and with Sweden’s U-17 and U-18 teams. He recorded 21 points in 70 games with Sundsvall.
The rearguard joins a potent blueline that has scored almost 20 goals for Alberta this season and features Jesse Craige, Jordan Rowley, and Colin Joe, who all have 14 or more points so far.
Mount Royal’s biggest strength on the back end is third-year netminder Dalyn Flette, who’s coming off a 20-save shutout performance against Regina on Saturday, his second goose egg of the year. Born in Calgary, he’s also second in Canada West in minutes played, having stood in the Cougar goal in 18 of 20 games this season.
Up front, Mount Royal is led by sophomores Devin Gannon, Matthew Brown, and Cody Cartier, Gannon leading the trio in points (20) while Cartier leads the team in goals (10). Senior forward Eric Galbraith brings a veteran presence to the squad, notching 16 points in 2013-14 and leading the team last season with 16 goals and 27 points in their inaugural year in CIS.
The Alberta arsenal features many weapons with third-years Brett Ferguson and Kruise Reddick potting eight goals apiece while third-year Jordan Hickmott adds nine.
Fomer Victoria Royal Jamie Crooks is doing some damage in his first year with the Bears, netting eight goals and 15 points with the squad while fellow freshman T.J. Foster has five goals and 19 points.
Quietly, team captain Sean Ringrose has put together a six-game point-scoring streak by grabbing two goals and eight helpers, including four assists last weekend against UBC.
In goal, the duo of Luke Siemens and Kurtis Mucha continue to be a steady last line of defence, both ranking in the top four in the conference for goals against average (1.88 and 2.00, respectively) and in the top eight in the national rankings.
With the competing goaltending duo in Calgary, as well as the work of Francis Dupuis at Carleton, the chances of a third-straight year of Alberta claiming the CIS Goaltender of the Year award seem improbable but Siemens and Mucha would likely be happier with a gold medal at the 2014 University Cup in Saskatoon, Sask., March 20-23.