Hoping to add another achievement in their historic 100th season of play, the No.1 University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team will look to get their 50th Canada West championship this weekend in a best-of-three conference final series at Clare Drake Arena.
The Bears play host to the defending Canada West champions, and this year’s CIS Championship hosts, the No.5 University of Saskatchewan Huskies, playing for their 10th conference title, all games being streamed live at ab.canadawest.tv. Game one goes Friday at 7:00 p.m. while game two on Saturday and game three on Sunday, if necessary, go at 6:00 p.m.
In the last 16 years, only Alberta and Saskatchewan have won the Canada West championship, the Bears claiming 11 of those titles to the Huskies’ five. Alberta has also gone on to win nationals five times during that timespan, improving their total to 13 and eclipsing the University of Toronto’s previous record of 10. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, has yet to win the national tournament since their first and only title in 1983.
Both teams have already clinched berths to the championship, March 14-17, the Huskies hosting for the first time since 1998-2000.
In head-to-head play, the Golden Bears hold a 13-8 advantage in all-time series against Saskatchewan, but the squads have split evenly in the last four dust-ups, the Huskies earning two overtime victories last year in the conference semi-final before beating Calgary in the final.
Earlier this season, Alberta took a 2-1 shootout win in the 28th annual Brick Invitational tournament in Edmonton before skating to 2-1 and 4-3 losses in Saskatoon in October, and then replying with a couple of 3-2 wins at Clare Drake Arena in January.
In the five games, third-year rearguard Jesse Craige, the conference scoring leader for blue-liners, topped the Bears with six points while team scoring leader Jordan Hickmott had four. Saskatchewan’s Kyle Bortis, the Canada West scoring leader, also had six points while former Medicine Hat Tiger Brennan Bosch notched five points and led all players with four goals.
Bosch, a fourth-year forward, had a hat trick and four-point night for the Huskies in game one of their semi-final series against the Manitoba Bisons, yet third-year Derek Hulak tallied five and put up eight over the three-game series, extending his current point streak to a massive 11 games, picking up 24 points over that span.
Alberta puckstopper Kurtis Mucha has his own streak going at the moment, as the third-year goalie has strung together four straight shutouts and a shutout streak of 264:20 as he heads into this weekend’s action. The Sherwood Park, Alta. native has made over 100 saves since his last goal against on January 26, 2013, not to mention leading CIS in save percentage (.936) and goals against average (1.30) during the regular season.
On the offensive side, former Tri-City American Johnny Lazo and Hudson Bay, Sask. Native Torrie Dyck led the Bears last weekend, Lazo netting two goals and three points in the game one 4-0 victory over the Calgary Dinos while Dyck had a goal and two helpers in the first game, adding an assist in game two, as Alberta swept the DInos with a 2-0 victory.
Formed Edmonton Oil King Hickmott, who led the Bears with 15 goals and 35 points in the regular season, will be a constant threat around the Saskatchewan goal, as will Edmonton native Levko Koper, finishing third on the team with 27 points behind Lazo’s 32. Sophomore forward Kruise Reddick leads all Alberta players with four game-winners, just above a three-way tie for second between Sean Ringrose, Brett Ferguson, and Hickmott.