The No.1 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears will defend their Canada West title this week, beginning on Thursday, when they host the No.4 Calgary Dinos in a best-of-three championship series at Clare Drake Arena.
The Battle of Alberta best-of-three gets underway at 7:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena on Thursday, while game two on Friday and, if necessary, game three on Saturday also start with puck drop at 7:00 p.m.
Both the U of A and U of C will advance to the CIS University Cup tournament, hosted by St. FX in Halifax, next weekend.
It marks the 12th time in Canada West history that the Dr. W.G. Hardy Trophy will be awarded to the victor of the Battle of Alberta. Alberta and Calgary have clashed 11 times in the past for the conference trophy, with each team winning it five times. The bulk of those contests, however, were played before the 1990-91 season, and although the Golden Bears have a 25-11 record in the Canada West final, dating back to 1966, they hold a 7-4 championship series record over the U of C.
The Dinos won five of their eight conference banners by defeating their rivals to the north, but their last win against the Bears in the Canada West final stretches back to the 1989-90 season.
In more recent times, the Golden Bears have claimed 13 of the last 18 Canada West championship banners handed out, including last year’s when they beat the Dinos 8-1 in the first game before grinding out a 2-1 win in game two to earn the team’s 51st conference title in 78 seasons.
The U of A also owns an 18-7 all-time playoff series record against Calgary and have won the last 13 straight series, championship or otherwise, against the Dinos. Since 1995-96, the season of Calgary’s last series win over Alberta, the Golden Bears have outscored the Dinos 142-42 in 13 straight playoff series victories.
The two squads split the season series during the 2014-15 regular season, Calgary taking the first two games in a home-and-home series back in November before the Bears evened things up with another home-and-home at the start of January. Alberta outshot the Dinos 147-82 in the four games, but had less of an edge on the scoreboard at 15-11.
Alberta then avoided game three against UBC by scoring three goals in the final nine minutes of game two, including team captain Kruise Reddick’s winner with 33 seconds left on the clock, to win 4-3 and take the series 2-0.
Reddick, named the Canada West-WHL Graduate of the Month for February, was also the captain for Team Canada recently, leading five of his teammates as well as five Calgary players to a bronze medal at the 2015 Winter Universiade at Granada, Spain.
Calgary, meanwhile, fought off MRU, winning the first game in double overtime before needing a third and final game to eliminate their cross-town rivals.
The U of A and U of C programs dominated the Canada West awards by combining for eight Canada West awards and 11 conference all-stars.
Former Edmonton Oil King T.J. Foster garnered the Outstanding Player of the Year award, as well as the Dave “Sweeney” Schriner trophy for leading the conference in scoring. He’s the 13th Bear to win each award.
Foster’s 42 points placed him second overall in CIS leaders, but the January WHL Graduate of the Month led the country in plus/minus with +41 and also notched four game-winners.
Jesse Craige received the Mervyn “Red” Dutton award for Outstanding Defenceman, the 18th player in Evergreen and Gold silks to earn the distinction, following teammate Jordan Rowley, who won last season, and alumni Kyle Fecho who won it three straight teams between 2009-2011.
Craige finished second among blueliners in Canada West with 19 in 26 games and scored a hat trick for Team Canada in a comeback 5-2 win against Russia while in Spain.
The final award in the trophy case for Alberta this year was Stephane Legault capturing Rookie of the Year, becoming the seventh Bear to be honoured, leading all freshmen with 21 points while teammates Riley Kieser and Dylan Bredo join Legault on the Canada West All-Rookie Team.
Calgary netminder Kris Lazaruk grabbed Goaltender of the Year, while he and fellow netminder Jacob DeSerres earned the Adam Kryczka Memorial trophy for the best GAA on the season, allowing only 53 goals total between the two of them.