With only two conference games left in the 2018/19 Canada West regular season, the nation’s top-ranked team in the Alberta Golden Bears will host the Calgary Dinos on Saturday night at Clare Drake Arena.
The No. 1 ranked and 22-3-1 Bears and third-place and 18-6-2 Dinos will battle in a home-and-home series, with Calgary hosting on Friday, before the series shifts to Edmonton for a 7:00 p.m. game on Saturday night.
The Bears enter the regular season finale one point behind Saskatchewan for the top seed in Canada West, but have already clinched a top two seed. They will get a bye through the quarter-final round, before hosting a CW semifinal from February 22-24.
Alberta has won a conference-best 11-straight games, having earned a point in 19 straight. It’s the program’s longest point streak since going 26-0-2 in 2003/04.
The Dinos are locked into the third seed, and will host the Lethbridge Pronghorns in a quarter-final series next week in Calgary.
Sophomore Bears goalie Zach Sawchenko turned in his best month of the season in January, and was named the Western Hockey League Graduate of the Month.
Through five games in January, Sawchenko went 5-0-0 with a sparkling 1.57 goals against average. He also set a new CW record with his fifth shutout this season, and currently ranks first with a 1.49 GAA, and second with 15 wins and a .924 save percentage.
The Bears as a team have six shutouts, which ties the single-season conference record.
The Bears’ 125 goals in 26 games are the most in the conference, with Saskatchewan having the second most at 109. Four Bears rank inside the top 10 in conference scoring, with another three ranked between 10-15.
Third-year Bear Luke Philp added another six assists last weekend, and leads CW with 43 points in 22 games. His 43 points represent a career-high, and is the first Bear since Chad Klassen (2009-2011) to record consecutive 40-point seasons.
Also staking his claim for MVP consideration is Dinos forward Riley Sheen.
Sheen has 32 points in 26 games, with his goal total of 17 the second most in Canada West. His 32 points are also a career-high, shattering the mark of 13 he set as a rookie last season.
Included in their current 11-game win streak is a pair Alberta wins over Calgary in late November.
The Bears earned a 6-2 home win on November 23rd, before mauling the Dinos 8-0 the following night.
Sawchenko stared both games, allowing two goals on 36 shots. Only four Bears failed to record a point during the weekend sweep, which was the Bears highest scoring weekend this season.
The last Dino win over Alberta came on January 13, 2018, a 5-3 home win.
On Saturday, the Bears will honour their graduating student-athletes, including Riley Kieser, Stephane Legault, Tanner Clarkson, and Kenny Cameron. Kieser, Legault and Clarkson have been with the Bears for all five seasons, winning national titles in 2015 and 2018. Cameron joined the Bears after a stellar career with NAIT, winning a U SPORTS title last season.