The 32nd edition of the annual University of Alberta Golden Bears Brick Invitational tournament kicks off this Friday, September 23rd, at Clare Drake Arena. The Brick Invitational is just the second time fans will get to the see the Bears play at home before their home opener on October 14th.
Alberta will open the tournament against the Saskatchewan Huskies at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, Calgary and Saskatchewan will play at 2:00 p.m., followed by the Bears clashing with the Mount Royal Cougars at 6:00 p.m. to close out the tournament.
In 31 previous Brick Invitational tournaments, Alberta has won the tournament 16 times, while owning a 60-16-5 all-time record.
Saskatchewan is the only other CIS team with a winning record, as the Huskies have gone 41-35-2 in 78 games, while winning the tournament six times, and finishing second 10 times.
The Dinos have won the Brick Invitational four times, but not since the 1995-96 season, while Mount Royal has never won the tournament in three appearances, finishing second in 2012-13.
Alberta comes into the tournament having won three of the last four, including three-consecutive wins from 2012 to 2015, but lost to the NAIT Ooks in last year’s tournament.
But, the Bears graduated six players to the pro ranks this summer, and seven players in total, including their team captain and leading scorers. The program did, however, add one of the best recruiting classes in program history, with over 1,700 WHL points joining the Bears.
Head coach Serge Lajoie still boasts a formidable lineup, which includes third-year playmaker Stephane Legault, fourth-year sniper Jamie Crooks, and offensive-defenceman Dylan Bredo.
Legault and Crooks will seemingly take over as offensive leaders on the youthful Bears squad, which is set to feature as many as five CIS rookies. Legault’s six goals and 30 points are top among all returning players, while Crooks’ 13 goals are also the most by a returning forward.
Along the blueline, the Bears will be without two-time Canada West Defenceman of the Year Jordan Rowley, as well as five-year standout Thomas Carr. Bredo, however, finished second to Rowley with 15 points from the back-end a year ago, and was a member of the 2014/15 Canada West all-rookie team alongside Legault and fellow third-year Bear Riley Kieser.
Similar to every other position, the Bears may face a transition in between the pipes. Back is third-year goalie Luke Siemens, who backstopped the Bears to a 19-7-2 record a year ago. Pushing Siemens for playing time is former NAIT standout Kenny Cameron, who led the Ooks to a 32-0 record in 2015/16, and 2013 6th round pick Brendan Burke.
Alberta opens conference play against the defending Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies at Clare Drake Arena on October 14-15.