The CIS No. 4 University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team will open their 2016/17 Canada West season at home, as they host the CIS No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies in a two-game set at Clare Drake Arena.
Game 1 is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday night, with puck drop for Game 2 scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.
Week one of the Canada West regular season between these two powerhouses is also a rematch of last year’s Canada West final, won by the Saskatchewan Huskies in a two-game sweep. The conference title was Saskatchewan’s 10th overall, and ended Alberta’s run at the conference three-peat. These two squads have also combined to win the last 20 Canada West titles, with Calgary’s win in 1996 being the last outlier.
While Alberta enters the season like any other - with championship aspirations - the Bears will have to do so after facing tremendous off-season turn over. The Bears graduated seven fifth-year players, including their team captain, leading scorer, and top defensive pair. While replacing so many key pieces is nearly impossible, Alberta did have one of the most successful off-seasons in program history, adding over 1,700 WHL points among their recruits.
Offensive mainstay’s Stephane Legault (30 pts), Riley Kieser (16PTS), and Jamie Crooks (24 PTS) will anchor the forward crew for Alberta, while Dylan Bredo and Sawyer Lange return on the backend.
As for rookies, former Kootenay Ice Luke Philp has impressed during camp, scoring six goals in seven non-conference games, while Tyson Baillie has found the scoresheet five times in as many games.
Not without movement of it’s own, Alberta may face a rotation of faces in the crease. Conference goals against average leader Luke Siemens returns, joined by rookies Kenny Cameron and Brendan Burke, each of whom will push for playing time.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, not only begins their season ranked higher on the CIS Top Ten, but also comes into the weekend clash as the No. 1 team on the Canada West pre-season coaches’ poll.
The Huskies began their season a week earlier than the Bears, accruing a 2-0 record after a sweep of the UBC Thunderbirds in Saskatoon. 14 Huskies recorded a point in the season-opening series, as they outscored UBC 11-1 over two games.
Saskatchewan returned all of their leading scorers from a year ago, including goal leader Levi Cable, point leader Kohl Bauml, and conference wins leader Jordon Cooke.
Both Bauml and Cable are entering just their second seasons in Green & White, and are coming off Canada West All-rookie team selections in 2015/16 after combining for 61 points. The pair of sophomore phenoms will be joined up front by Andrew Johnson (26 PTS), John Lawrence (19), and Josh Roach (18).
Cooke, meanwhile, is coming off a first team conference and CIS all-star season in between the pipes after leading Canada West with a .0921 save percentage and 19 wins.