In the hopes of winning 15 conference games before the Winter Break for the first time since 2004/2005, the 13-1-0 University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team will battle the 6-7-1 Mount Royal Cougars in a home-and-home series this weekend. The Cougars will open the series at home on Friday night, before the series shifts to Edmonton for Game 2 on Saturday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Alberta’s 13-1-0 conference record puts them atop of the Canada West standings, three points ahead of the second place Saskatchewan Huskies (11-2-1). The Cougars 13 points, meanwhile, slots them into fifth place in the standings, three points behind the Manitoba Bisons. The Golden Bears earned a pair of decisive wins against MRU earlier this season, knocking off the Cougars 7-0 in Edmonton, before earning the sweep with a 5-1 win the following night in Calgary.
A sweep this weekend would give the Golden Bears a 15-1-0 conference record before the winter break, a feat they haven’t accomplished in 12 years. After a 15-1 start themselves, the 2004/2005 Golden Bears finished the season with a 24-3-1 record, en route to their fifth-straight Canada West Championship, and the first of back-to-back national titles.
One of worst kept secrets in U SPORTS Hockey has been the play, and utter dominance by Golden Bears forwards Luke Philp and Trevor Cox. The pair of sophomores have torn up competition so far this season, with Philp ranking second in Canada West with 23 points, and Cox third with 21. Cox’s 18 assists are also a league-high, while Philp has found his scoring touch as of late with six goals in his last six games.
Equally as impressive as the play of Philp and Cox has been the performance lately of sophomore defender Jason Fram. The Delta, BC product has turned into quite the two-way star for the Bears, which may be best highlighted by his effort against UBC last weekend. Fram recorded one goal and four assists in two Bears wins, and now sits ninth in Canada West with 14 points in 14 games, the most by any defenceman.
Rookie of the Year?
While the Cougars rank just fifth in Canada West in goals this season, with 38, one of the better stories out of Calgary has been rookie sniper Brad Kennedy. The former Halifax Moosehead leads all Canada West rookies with nine goals in 14 games, while his 12 points ranks third among all freshmen. Entering the winter break, Kennedy, along with Bears goalie Zach Sawchenko and Regina Cougar Zak Zborosky are considered the early favourites for the conference Rookie of the Year Award.
Special teams troubles
Although the peripheral stats for Mount Royal this season have been fairly consistent (5th in goals, 4th in goals against), a closer look shows that the Cougars special teams play has held them back from owning a better overall record. MRU ranks seventh out of eight teams with 16.4% efficiency on the PP (10/61), while ranking dead last with a 72.9% penalty kill unit (45/62). To make matters worse, MRU has given up four shorthanded goals, a league-high.