Do the Mount Royal Cougars Have a Shot at the CIS Playoffs?
Making playoffs could help put MRU on the map.
Brendan Stasiewich, Staff Writer
Do you know where Lehigh University is? Probably not. In fact, before March of 2012 nobody in the world except for the mere 7,000 students at Lehigh probably knew the school even existed.
But then on March 16, 2012, every major sports news outlet in North America was talking about them. Lehigh was put on the map… because of a basketball game.
Everyone was talking about this small Pennsylvania school with an enrolment smaller than most arenas’ student sections. The team defeated the number two ranked Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — a team led by legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski (better known as “Coach K”) who many picked to win it all that year.
Before that game nobody had ever heard of Lehigh’s superstar, C.J. McCollum, much less had him on any NBA draft boards. In fact, if you asked me what a McCollum was I’d probably guess a feature piece written about a popular fast food chain.
However this smart kid from an academic university dropped 30 on Duke, got drafted 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, and the rest is history. Just like that everyone in America knew exactly who he was, and exactly who Lehigh was. Sports are crazy like that.
Lehigh isn’t alone. Thinking back on memorable improbable March Madness runs in recent history you remember the likes of Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, the only ever 15 seed to advance to the sweet 16. Nobody chalked the team dubbed “Dunk City” to even advance past heavily favoured Georgetown in the first round.
Where am I going with this? After all, this is Cougars’ Corner, and it’s a little early for a March Madness preview column, anyway. Sure the CIS men’s hockey national championship may not be as huge as the NCAA tournament, but the MRU Cougars have already done enough to put our school on the map this year, and a run at a national championship, while we’re enrolled in this school especially, would be something every student could be proud of — but would students be?
Sporting teams often embody American schools. Notre Dame is known for its prolific football history and the movie “Rudy”— not their outstanding academics. University of Alberta is known for their outstanding academics — not their countless national championships.
Even writing this I’m torn. If Mount Royal wins a national championship will it give the student body an extreme amount of pride? Will students be parading down Main Street in Cougars’ colours? Or will it just be any other day where a mention of “hey, Mount Royal won a championship last night” is met with a “oh that’s cool, I didn’t even know they were there.”
If Mount Royal stuns Canada (or at least those who pay attention) and wins a National Championship, it won’t get the same media coverage as Lehigh taking down Duke. Highlights might be shown 25 minutes into Sportscenter, and that’s really too bad.
The pride I feel watching this team play each and every weekend is astonishing. They’re good— really good. In a conference filled with the “big schools” like Alberta, Calgary, and UBC, not only are the Mount Royal Cougars competing, they’re dominating.
In fact the Mount Royal men’s hockey team might not even have to play the first weekend of the CIS playoffs due to a bye week — which would mark the first time that’s ever happened to a Cougars’ CIS team.
For those of you who don’t understand how the Canada West playoffs work, so probably nearly every person reading this, I’ll fill you in.
The top six out of the eight teams in the conference advance to the playoffs, with the top two seeds receiving a bye week while they let the 3-6 seeds fight it out in a best of three series.
Currently Mount Royal sits a point ahead of the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the second seed, quite a feat considering the rich history of National Championships at U of A. This weekend the two teams will play a home and home, and for Mount Royal just one win will be enough to give them a much-needed week of rest.
As much as I love the men’s hockey team, they’re not the only team to be proud of this year. Both volleyball teams have improved, and the difference between this years and last years women’s hockey team is night and day. Is this going to be enough to get these teams into the post-season? It’ll depend a lot on what happens this coming weekend, but they’ve all put themselves in a half decent position going into the last weekend of the regular season.
As for the men’s hockey team, when the Cougars host a home playoff series in early March it’ll be interesting to see the student presence that we all know is possible after the Crowchild Classic.