Mount Royal’s mid-season report card
By Brendan Stasiewich, Sports Editor
December is finally here and that can only mean one thing. That’s right, it’s time for the Mount Royal Cougars mid-season rankings!
With six of the team’s seasons well underway, it’s a good time to look back and revisit the first half to see which teams lived up to expectations and which are going to have their work cut out for them in the second half.
Being in my fourth year I’m very happy to have had the privilege to follow along with all of Mount Royal’s CIS level sports teams. If you haven’t had the chance to get out and represent your school, I highly recommend you take advantage of the opportunities in January and February.
Let’s get started.
Let’s discuss the pinnacle of the Mount Royal sporting universe. Year in and year out the men’s hockey team seems to give the school their best shot at a national title. Thanks in large part to head coach Bert Gilling, the team has a “must-win” aura around them.
The first half of the men’s season reminded me a lot of Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Everyone expected huge things, but for various reasons the result was “just good” rather than G.O.A.T. worthy. For Kanye this may have been because he’s a little bit off his rocker. For the Cougars it’s because they’ve struggled to even be able to dress a full lineup due to injuries.
A testiment to their will to win, with key players like Matthew Brown and Tanner Olstad (just to name a few) missing important games, the fact that the team has jumped out to a 9-5 record is exceptional.
Ex-Calgary Hitmen standout Connor Rankin has filled the shoes of Tyler Fiddler, leading the team with 16 points while Colin Cooper has stolen more than a few games in net.
While the men are just 5-5 in their last 10, expect them to have a lightning second half of the season and again be competitive in the Canada West playoffs.
October is just not the women’s month. Last season they opened with four straight losses, this season they opened with five.
The women are an anomaly. Although they’re 4-10, they’ve never truly been out of a hockey game. They’ve yet to give up more than four goals in a game, a testament to their tenacious defensive play but, like a mirror image of last season, finding the net has been their biggest issue.
In 14 games they’ve scored 21 goals… Yikes. It’s hard to win games when your goaltenders, Emma Pincott and Zoe DeBeauville, who’ve both played exceptional this season, know that giving up even a single goal could prove costly.
The defensmen have played their hearts out. You have to give it up for Shawni Rodeback, Devonie Deschamps, Maggie Shykula-Ross and Channia Alexander, just to name a few. They’ve been throwing their bodies in front of pucks all season and, along with the goaltenders, have kept the Cougars in hockey games.
Last season at the midpoint the Cougars were 7-7, leading many to ask the question of whether or not it was the best Cougars’ women’s team ever. They finished the last half 3-9.
If we take out their 0-5 start to the season, the women have gone 4-5. They’re playing much better and always find a way to play up to their competition, like last weekend, when they came close to taking down UBC, the top team in the nation.
The women have heart. You can tell that teammates truly care about one another and they always stick up for each other on the ice. They have the right tools, they just gotta find a way to score.
These guys are fucking good. Flat out. In their last five games they’ve dropped just one set. That’s not a typo, it’s just plain ridiculous.
One of their two losses on the season came to the 7-1 Manitoba Bisons, with the other coming when the winless Thompson River Wolfpack came to Kenyon Court and upset the Cougar’s in their only poorly played match of the season.
Leading the Cougars this season has been Tyler Schmidt and Riley Friesen. This duo has been the Cougars’ wrecking crew all season. Let’s just say these two are a better defensive wall than anything Donald Trump could build.
Their numbers would be higher if not for the lack of sets the Cougars have actually had to play this season.
Matt Saly has also come into his own in his second year with the Cougars. An occasional player last season, Saly has stepped up his game in his sophomore season and has been a dependable player on the court all season long.
Coming off a 13-11 season last year, the team is much improved and should be in store for an exciting last half to the season.
In terms of heart and comradery, few teams come close to matching the women’s volleyball squad.
Last season they went 11-13, a drastic improvement from the year before, and they look to be on the right track to improve this season.
Unlike the men, the women have had many hard fought battles with four of their contests going to five sets.
After starting out 4-2, the women dropped a pair of games to the crosstown rival U of C Dinos last weekend, but are still in decent position in the Canada West standings.
Setter Amy Gordon looks to be a great leader on the court and Taylor Pelland is one of Mount Royal’s most clutch athletes. In the fifth set against UBC Okanagan a few weekends ago, Pelland accounted for near a third of the Cougars’ points on their way to a victory.
The women play their final two games of the fall portion of the season this weekend against the 7-1 team from Trinity Western. If the women can take one out of these two games they’ll have some great momentum going into the last half of the season.
What do ya know, things aren’t all doom and gloom for Mount Royal basketball anymore.
Solidifying themselves in the CIS last year with a .500 record, the Cougars have stormed out to a 4-2 start, with all four of their wins being blowouts. They’ve also scored 90 or more points in each of those four wins with Josh Ross leading the way with an average of 19 points per game.
Guard Derek Wolf has also done his part, knocking down 31 per cent of his three points attempts this season. Brett Layton has contributed close to the basket making 53 per cent of his field goals, accounting for an average of 16 points per game.
It’s hard to know for sure just six games in, but so far so good for men’s basketball.
This is going to sound weird for those who haven’t followed along with the women’s basketball team for the past few years. We can applaud the 2-4 start. The team didn’t get their second win last season until February 12.
Becky Nash is leading the team averaging just over 13 points a game and the trio of Angela Driscoll, Drew Knox and Michelle Tiffany have done an excellent job filling in the guard positions.
Again, it’s hard to get a true feel after just six games but this team has put themselves in a position to be one of, if not the, best CIS women’s basketball team the school has seen.