Mount Royal Cougars Quick Hits
What to look for in February
By Brendan Stasiewich, Sports Editor
While at times the 8th ranked team in Canada makes you think, ‘woah, these guys are legit’, they’ve been plagued with some inconsistency in the new year. Being leapfrogged by Alberta in the Canada West standings after losing a weekend set on Jan. 28-29, the Cougars will need a strong finish to assure home ice throughout the playoffs.
Now right at home with Mount Royal after learning the proverbial CIS ropes in his half-season stint last year, Connor Rankin is having a record year. Next time you hear the Eric Church chart topper think of the Canada West leader in both goals (15) and points (31). Keep in mind he has done this while also missing a couple games due to injury.
“Rain drop, drop top, Cougs clinch a playoff spot,” says the caption on goaltender Emma Pincott’s latest Instagram post.
While the women dropped a couple this past weekend to Alberta in closely contested 1-0 games, they’ve been (arguably) Mount Royal’s best team in 2017.
The Cougars honoured seniors Cylenna Alexander, Maggie Shykula-Ross and Sarah Weninger before their final home game last weekend. Alexander and Shykula-Ross have been stellar on the blue line this season, while Weninger is leading the Cougars in points for the second straight year. The Cougars are going to need to depend on these three players in order to make a dent in the Canada West playoffs.
The Cougars are within striking distance of a Canada West playoff berth, and it’s important to note some of their toughest games are already behind them.
It’s interesting how the result of the game often correlates with Brett Layton’s play. Averaging 17 points per game this season, Layton was the reason why the Cougars had a chance to take down Canada West’s top team, the UBC Thunderbirds, a few weekends ago at home.
Layton put up 31 and the team only lost because Canada West’s top player, Connor Morgan, had another monster game, putting the Thunderbirds on his back on the way to victory. Watch for the Cougs’ big to be a difference maker down the stretch for Mount Royal.
‘Holy shit, that was amazing,’ ‘Holy shit, that was atrocious.’
While these two phrases seem to be antonyms, you can say both about the exact same team in the span of two nights. The team is a walking, breathing, basketball playing oxymoron.
While the women are falling out of playoff contention, they made their mark a few weekends ago, taking down the UBC Thunderbirds on home court. Because the team is outsized in (basically) each and every game they play, they need their only big presence around the basket, Becky Nash, to be on her game in order to win.
Nash was on her game when the Cougars took down the Thunderbirds. Having to guard Nash tightly and draw extra defenders, the Thunderbirds found their weakness to be in the corners and perimeter where Erin Kehrig and Drew Knox shot the lights out. It’ll be important for the Cougars to recruit some size in the off-season.
Mount Royal sits fifth in the Canada West standings due to Tyler Schmidt and Riley Friesen having great seasons. However, the Cougars often give less-skilled opponents a chance to win games because they give too many free points away.
The Cougars had to play five sets against the lowly 2-13 MacEwan Griffins last weekend, much because of momentum killing service errors. However, thanks to their all-stars, the Cougars can beat any team in the conference and will be fun to watch come playoff time.
As it stands right now the Cougars sit in the seventh and final playoff spot after sweeping a weekend set against the MacEwan Griffins. While nowhere near as dominant as the men this year, Alex Donaghy and Kylie Willis prove to be a good offensive force for the Cougars.
Taylor Pelland has been far and away the team’s most valuable player this season, not because of stats, but because she is Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter level clutch. Calm and poised on the court, she seems to always be the one who makes the big kill when the team is down 24-23, or in the fifth set.
It’ll be important for the Cougars to have a good finish to the season to avoid having to face off against undefeated Alberta early in the playoffs.