Following their first home shutout in over 50 years, the No. 8 University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team will look to start a new streak this weekend, as they tangle with the No. 7 Mount Royal Cougars in a home-and-home series.
The Cougars will host the Bears on Friday in Calgary, before the series travels up the QE2 to Edmonton, with puck drop set for 6:00 p.m., Saturday at Clare Drake Arena.
Fans in attendance on Saturday can get all their team news, including stats, rosters, game lineups and standings at uab.ca/gameday.
Although every series during the Canada West season is important, this may be the biggest one yet for the two provincial rivals. The Cougars currently lead the Bears by two points in the Canada West standings, owning a 15-6-1 record through 22 games, and currently occuping the No. 2 overall seed.
Along with a top two seed would not only be a first round playoff ‘bye’, but also a home semi-final series. The Cougars could go a long way to securing their first-ever playoff ‘bye’ this weekend with a pair of wins over the Bears.
Alberta, however, will bring plenty of animosity to the series, having suffered a tough shutout loss at home last Saturday against Calgary. The Bears will also have the added benefit of beating Mount Royal twice already this season. In fact, the Golden Bears own a seven-game win streak over MRU, including a two game sweep in last year’s Canada West semi-final.
What has changed from those previous losses, and even the first series this season, is the sudden emergence of star Cougars Connor Rankin and Cam Maclise. Rankin, a second-year Cougar, currently leads Canada West with 14 goals and 29 points in just 20 games, including eight over his past four games. Despite only suiting up in 11 games as a rookie last year, Rankin also scored twice, recording four points overall in three playoff games last season.
Maclise, on the other hand, has jumped into the second overall spot on the scoring chart thanks to 18 points during his current ten-game point streak.
The Golden Bears will counter with an emerging player of their own, in rookie goalie Brendan Burke. The Paradise Valley, Arizona native stopped 47 of the 48 shots he faced in last weekend’s series against Calgary, and now owns conference-best 1.56 goals against average over ten appearances this season.
Another area fans should watch for is the special teams battle between the two powerhouse clubs. Mount Royal currently owns the conference’s No. 1 powerplay, connecting on just under 25% of their chances. The Bears, meanwhile, own the best penalty kill unit, which has been successful 90% of the time. Not only is Alberta uber-stingy on the PK, they have scored a U SPORTS leading nine shorthanded goals this season, while giving up just ten PP goals.