Exhibition schedule shows Cougars what they are facing next year
by Bryce Forbes
The Cougars now know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.
With 11 months left until they start tackling the superior Canada West competition, Mount Royal University’s major sports teams scheduled most of their exhibition season against the same squads they’ll be facing when they move up a level next year.
“I’m very happy that our coaches chose to play (Canada West) schools, for the most part, because it gave them an indication of where they are at and where they need to be,” said Karla Karch, Cougars’ athletic director.
“It prepared them for the ACAC this year, but it also gave them a 12-month-out indicators of where they need to go.”
For some, like men’s hockey, it was a sign they belong.
For most of the others though, it was a sign of the level they need to compete at come next year.
But it’s also easy to point out that it was the beginning of the season, with some of the teams still trying to gel together.
Take the women’s hockey team.
They lost seven straight games, being shut out for the first five games against teams like the University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan and University of Lethbridge.
“In most of the cases, the score doesn’t indicate the way the play actually was,” said head coach Scott Rivett.
“I would say there was only one game where we didn’t show up and that was the last one against (University of Alberta).”
But then it started to come together for the team, which features 14 new players, against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Battling a perennial Canada West contender, the team finally found the back of the net, scoring twice, but still falling 4-2.
“We were struggling to score some goals, there was no question about that early on,” he said.
Nonetheless, Rivett calls it a good learning curve.
“We didn’t make our exhibition schedule really easy on us, but that’s okay,” he said. “Our girls learned a lot about where we are at now, but we need to get to in the next year and a bit.”
The men’s team showed it could compete at the highest level, going 4-2 in their six games, outscoring opponents 17-14 in the process.
However, in this case, head coach Jean Laforest doesn’t want his team to get too far ahead of themselves — it’s still pre-season.
“Obviously we had success in the pre-season, but again it’s only pre-season,” he said. “If that was regular season, I would be ecstatic, but it is pre-season, so you have to temper your enthusiasm and energy level, but still give credit to the guys.”
Laforest isn’t the type of coach who just wants to compete — he wants to win.
“We know we can play in that conference, he said. “It’s now making sure that we build a team that can be in the top-three tier.
“We won’t be satisfied until that happens.”
Laforest went on to say he’s expecting to see almost instant success.
“I don’t want it to be a 10-year project,” the coach said. “I’m thinking within a couple of recruiting classes we should be competing with those top teams.”
Like Laforest, Karch said it’s important to take into account it was the pre-season, where everyone sees playing time and new strategies are implemented.
“Exhibition is not about the wins or losses, it’s about where they are at and maybe finding their team, giving them the opportunity to showcase what they have and gearing up for their first league game,” Karch said.
“While we may not have won as many games, I believe each coach when they plan their exhibition season with a goal in mind which could and would satisfy those areas.”
Overall, the Cougars are likely still a few years away from competing, finishing up the exhibition season against CIS competition with 12 wins, 25 losses and one tie.
Check back next issue when I look at the difficutlties student-athletes will now face in Canada West