Can the men carry over success?
MRU’s most prominent club looking to improve coming off a fantastic 2016/2017 season
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
Mount Royal University Men’s hockey teams have just wrapped up pre-season and are gearing up for the start of the 2017/2018 season.
Last season’s squad put up a record of 15-11-2 with a very rough ending to the regular season, finishing with a six game losing skid heading into the playoffs.
MRU faced-off the against the Manitoba Bisons in a gritty best-of-three series hosted by the Cougars, and won the first round of the Canada West playoffs with a 2-1 series victory.
Waiting for the Cougars were the top dogs of Canada West, the Saskatchewan Huskies who swept MRU 2-0. The Huskies took their talents all the way to finals but lost to now back-to-back University Cup winners, University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
The Cougars peaked at 5th place nationally in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), holding a stellar 11-5 record heading into December. It was a tough stretch after December where the Cougars saw mid-season woes, going 4-6-2 in the last stretch of the season.
Canada West pantheon and Captain Cougar Matt Brown finished off his legendary university career last season, putting up 21 points in 22 games.
Brown is the CIS’ all-time leading goal getter when he left university hockey and signed a contract with the East Coast Hockey League’s (ECHL) Colorado Eagles who are under the Colorado Avalanche farm system. He put up four points in twelve games and played a game in the playoffs before getting injured.
Cam Maclise also took his talents to Colorado after falling just short of a point-per-game season, netting 27 points in 28 games. His impactful playoff performance helped lift his team to win the Kelly Cup playoffs, tallying six points in twelve playoff games.
In his second CIS season, Connor Rankin lead the Canada West conference in the point category, tallying 35 points in 26 games earning him a spot in the first all-star team.
Jamal Watson put up a decent 23 points inside his first 26 CIS games, earning him a spot in the all-rookie team for Canada West. Fun fact about Watson, he played in his first ever playoff series last season, as he never got the opportunity in juniors whilst playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Cam Lanigan played most of the season as backup to 2015/2016 Canada West all-rookie goalie Colin Cooper, but Lanigan got the nod in all playoff games.
Cooper posted an 11-7-1 record with Lanigan seeing only six games, going 2-3-1 and rookie Wyatt Hoflin put up a 2-1-1 record.
The men had pre-season action in late September, winning one of three games against University of Calgary Dinos and the U of S Huskies.
Dinos picked up both wins against the Cougars with 7-4 and 4-1 games while the Huskies were the lone win for the boys in blue, seeing a 3-2 win for MRU.
Riley Lindgren highlights this season’s recruiting class and will be looking to add firepower on offence; something the Cougars will need with losses such as Brown and Maclise.
Former Swift Current Bronco of the WHL put up 167 points in 259 games, splitting duties between Lethbridge and Brandon during his time in junior.
Other newly acquired talents include:
Defenseman Austin Adamson put up 27 points in 58 games for Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), also having 134 games in the WHL under his belt for Red Deer and Saskatoon.
Kord Pankewicz, who split duties between the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) Brooks Bandits last season, totalling 28 points in 31 games.
Offensive defenseman Shane Poulsen racked up an impressive 101 points inside 188 games in the BCHL, looking to bring his puck moving ability to last years top-ranked powerplay in Canada West.
Calgary native and defenseman Allan Macpherson is coming off his own career year, putting up 31 points in 55 games for the Calgary Canucks of the AJHL.
Bradley Kennedy spent most of his junior career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), putting up 143 points in a 232 game career on the east coast, playing for the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Weeks Crushers; he put up 41 points in 21 games.
Junior nomad Clive Rozdeba played in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan before settling in MRU coming off a 36-point season in Saskatchewan’s Junior Hockey League League (SJHL).
Saskatoon native Josh Bly spent most of time in junior in the SJHL, racking up an over point-per-game career with 102 points in 99 games before getting recruited by MRU.
Mitch Lipton is coming off his best career year in junior, putting up a 78 point campaign for the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL.
Kelowna, B.C. native Hunter Zandee spent the majority of his junior career in the BCHL, totaling 46 points 140 games.
This recruiting class will help to further improve a developing and growing squad which contains one fifth-year senior and five fourth-year players.
MRU’s offence was scary good last season putting up 99 goals. Letting in 2.8 pucks a game is still a concern on the defensive end.
In order to compete with conference powerhouses such as the Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears who actually beat Saskatchewan in the Canada West playoffs, team defence will have to improve and hopefully the injusry bug won’t be affecting the team this season.
Watch for MRU to finish in the top-half of the standing and again, will make a deep playoff push this year.