With four weekends left to go in the regular season, the No.1 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears will aim to use the upcoming two-game series against the Regina Cougars to stake a better claim on first place in the Canada West standings.
Game one of the series gets underway at 7:00 p.m. MT at Clare Drake Arena on Friday while game two is Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Sporting a 17-3-0 record, the Bears are one of three Alberta-based teams at the top of the conference, sitting six points up on the second-place Mount Royal Cougars and eight points above the third-place Calgary Dinos.
With Mount Royal and Calgary respectively facing UBC and Saskatchewan, both teams just a game below .500, Alberta might have a chance to increase their lead in the standings by squaring off against 6-13-1 Regina, but the Cougars have an eye on the final playoff spot, just five points behind sixth-place Manitoba.
Regina hosted Alberta in October of 2014, when the Bears picked up 2-1 and 5-2 victories, which was the start of a 10 game winning streak that propelled them to their current position in Canada West.
Alberta spent last weekend sweeping the Dinos in a home-and-home series to start off the 2015 calendar year, pushing their current win streak to four games.
Regina, on the other hand, comes into town on a two-game losing streak, courtesy of Mount Royal, and is 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
Leading the team on offence is former Kelowna Rocket Cody Fowlie, the sophomore potting 12 points so far this season while rookie Dylen McKinlay has nine.
Two U of A forwards lead Canada West freshmen with 16 and 14 points, respectively, Stephane Legault also topping the assist column with 12 while Riley Kieser is the best clutch performer for rookies, with three game-winning tallies.
The blueline is also chipping in with major contributions, four defenders netting at least 10 points apiece, senior rearguard Jesse Craige leading the way with 16 points on the season, including scoring two goals in 10 seconds last Saturday against Calgary.
The 2012-13 Canada West Defenceman of the Year also ranks second in the nation for plus/minus, holding a +16 rating behind teammate and 2013-14 Canada West Defenceman of the Year, Jordan Rowley, who leads CIS with +21.
Not to be outdone, the veteran forwards on the Alberta team boasts two players in the top three scorers in the nation, Jordan Hickmott scoring 32 points to put himself second, while also leading CIS with 16 goals.
Former Edmonton Oil King and current CIS Athlete of the Week T.J. Foster is second in the country with 14 goals and sits tied for third in points with 31.
On the back end, former CIS Goaltender of the Year Kurtis Mucha is tied for first with UNB’s David Shantz with 11 wins on the season, sporting the fourth-best goals against average at 2.03 and second best in Canada West.
This weekend will likely see the Sherwood Park, Alta. native split netminding duties with sophomore Luke Siemens, falling just behind his teammate with a GAA of 2.09.
The Cougars goaltending duo of Lucas Gore and Mitch Kilgore have struggled in GAA (2.76 and 2.85, respectively) but Gore is second in the conference in saves (324) and minutes played (738:12).
Joel Ostman is returning to Sweden.
The defenceman, who joined the Bears in 2014, has been dealing with a persistent injury soon after his arrival in Canada, and will return to Sweden to continue to heal. He played in 16 games for the Bears, and helped the team win the University Cup last season.