In easily the most anticipated series on the Canada West men’s hockey schedule, the U SPORTS No. 3 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears host the No. 5 ranked Saskatchewan Huskies, Friday and Saturday night at Clare Drake Arena. The Golden Bears enter the weekend first overall in Canada West with a 20-3-1 record, four points clear of the second-place Huskies (18-5-1).
Game one of the series is set for 7:00 p.m. at Clare Drake on Friday (Feb. 2), with the rematch scheduled for 5:00 p.m. the following night.
It’s one of the most storied rivalries in hockey, with the two programs combining to win each of the last 21 Canada West titles (15 ALB, 6 SSK), with Friday’s game also marking the historic 500th all-time meeting between the two.
And, as it seems is the case every year, a series this late in the season between the two teams always has massive playoff implications. The Golden Bears have already clinched a top two seed and a first round playoff ‘bye’, while the Huskies need just one more point to do so as well. The biggest prize, however, is the coveted No. 1 seed, and home ice advantage through the conference playoffs. The Huskies have hosted the last two Canada West Championships, but will need a strong weekend in Edmonton to catch the Bears for first.
They first met in February of 1910, a 16-0 win for the Golden Bears. Since then, they have met 498 more times over the last 107 years, with Friday marking the historic 500th game between the conference powers. Overall, the Golden Bears have a 326-149-24 record, including a 35-21-0 record in the conference playoffs. The two programs have also met in 15 of the last 21 Canada West finals, including each of the last two.
"Both programs have such a rich tradition of excellence that every time these two programs meet, there is a lot of pride on the line." said Bears head coach Serge Lajoie. "The games are always intense and we always come out of these weekends a better team because UofS plays with such determination."
Owning the scoring race
Another common thread between Alberta and Saskatchewan is not only their dominance of the team hardware, but the individual accolades as well. Eight of the top ten scorers in Canada West are Bears or Huskies, including sophomore Luke Philp, who leads the conference with 34 points in 24 games.
One of the six Golden Bears in the top ten in individual scoring is rookie forward Steven Owre. The first-year Bear scored four goals in a weekend sweep of Lethbridge last weekend, giving him 14 goals and 23 points on the season. Both of his goal and point totals lead all Canada West rookies, with his 14 goals the second most of any player in Canada West. Owre has also tallied nine goals and 11 points in eight games in the month of January.
While the weekend series will pit two of the most prolific offenses in Canada West against each other, it will also be a battle of three of the best goalies in Canada West. Huskie Jordon Cooke is the two-time defending Goalie of the Year, and is a front-runner for a third with a 2.18 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage. Alberta’s duo of Zach Sawchenko and Brendan Burke have been equally as good, combining for a 2.09 GAA and 0.916 SVP.