The U SPORTS No. 1 ranked and Canada West-leading Alberta Golden Bears will return to action following a one week break, as they host the Lethbridge Pronghorns this weekend at Clare Drake Arena.
The series opener is set for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop on Friday night, with the rubber-match slated for 5:00 p.m. on Saturday night.
The Golden Bears enter the conference’s fifth weekend of play with a perfect 8-0-0 record. Their 16 points are three clear of Saskatchewan, who is second with a 6-1-1 record. Lethbridge sits seventh in Canada West with a 1-6-1 record, riding a six-game losing streak into Edmonton. The Pronghorns start also doesn’t bode well for their playoff chances, as they are already out of a playoff spot. Lethbridge last qualified for the playoffs in 2011-12.
Before Saturday’s game, the University of Alberta will be honouring Clare Drake, who is set to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 13th in Toronto. Clare, his family, and past Golden Bears captains and coaches will take part in the on-ice celebration. Drake coached the Bears for 28 years, winning 697 games, six national championships, and 17 national championships. A new banner will be raised to the rafters of the rink donning his name, highlighting all of Drake’s incredible career accomplishments.
While the Golden Bears recruiting class this off-season wasn’t nearly as massive as it was the year prior, the Bears still added some key pieces, including WHL All-Star goalie Zach Sawchenko. The former Moose Jaw Warrior has been as good as advertised, as the rookie goalie leads Canada West in goals against average (1.35) and save percentage (0.938) this season. He also sports a 5-0 record.
WHL Graduate of the Month
After each month of the Canada West men’s hockey season, the conference and WHL honour a WHL graduate, who is now excelling as a student-athlete with one of eight Canada West men’s hockey programs. For the first month of the 2017-18 season, that award went to sophomore Bear Luke Philp. The second-year centre leads Canada West with 12 assists in eight games, while sitting second overall in points with 13.
Through eight games this season, the Bears have had consistently strong goaltending, but the same cannot be said about the Pronghorns. Garret Hughson has played the majority of the minutes for Lethbridge, but has struggled early with a 3.36 GAA and 0.895 SVP. Backup Ty Edmonds hasn’t been any better, as he owns a 5.08 GAA and 0.833 SVP over three games. One reason for the lack of support from the goaltenders is potentially their shot suppression, as Lethbridge has averaged 33 shots against per game.
Despite the Pronghorns missing the playoffs last season with a 11-14-3 record, they had their fair share of success against the Golden Bears. The Golden Bears earned 5-2 and 2-1 wins, while the Pronghorns countered with a pair of double overtime wins (4-3, 3-2).