Cougar athletics seeing success in early 2018
Turn of calendar inspiring performances early on in the new year
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
It is still early in 2018, but Cougar athletics are already reaching new highs early on in the new year, while others are looking to use the turn of the calendar and begin preparing to battle for playoff spots.
MRU ended 2017 on a high-note by once again, upsetting the defending national champion Alberta Panda for the second time this season on home-ice and carried that momentum into the new year.
2018 has been kindest to the women’s hockey team early on as the Cougars have not only repeated history, but have also created program history.
The Cougars have completed back-to-back sweeps for the first time since the 2013/2014 season, beating out Regina and Lethbridge and with that, have put together five wins in a row for the first time in the USPORT era.
Sitting at fifth-place, MRU have a tough schedule to finish the season and will need to scrap any points they can.
The Cougars play both of the top-two teams Manitoba and UBC and then visit Saskatchewan for the season finale. MRU however, has a golden opportunity to create more separation between themselves and the teams outside the playoff picture who are looking in as the Calgary Dinos are second-last place but only four points behind the Cougars.
A shaky end to 2017 saw the Cougars enter the new year at a 8-9-1 record and in a three-way tie with UBC and Lethbridge for the final playoff spots in Canada West.
Since the acquisition of new recruit Chris Gerrie and the turn of the calendar, the Cougars have completed back-to-back sweeps for the first time since January last year, dusting aside the last placed Regina Cougars and created big seperation by getting four points against the Lethbridge Pronghorns this past weekend.
MRU have a chance to catch up to the third-placed Manitoba Bisons next weekend at home and then have the Crowchild Classic against the Dinos, which will be another huge factor into the Cougars chances of locking a spot.
The Dinos had to forfeit six games due to playing with an ineligible player and are currently second-last place but still within reach of playoffs so taking any hope from them will be a huge morale boost for the boys in blue.
Following that the final two series will be at home against UBC for another huge match-up and have a massive obstacle in the way as their regular season finale is against the formidable Saskatchewan Huskies, who are are a shoe-in for a top-two finish in the standings.
The Cougars women’s basketball team are still in the process of figuring out a formula for success but have reached a new high in 2018 already, picking up their first win of the season on Jan. 13, out-dueling the MacEwan Griffins on the road with a 70-61 victory.
With the same opponents left as the men’s team, the Cougars will look to build off last weekends success and carry that momentum for the remainder of the season.
MRU’s men’s basketball team are still in the midst of a dog-fight in a tightly packed Canada West conference, currently sitting in ninth place out of the possible 12 playoff spots after splitting their opening two weekends of 2018 against MacEwan and Regina.
With only six games left, the Cougars have a tough task ahead of them as they play first-placed and 13-1 Alberta Golden Bears at home next weekend.
Following that, the Cougars play University of Victoria, who are tied for eighth-place and close the season out against third-placed Calgary Dinos for a Crowchild Classic season finale.
The women’s volleyball team have had an okay start to 2018, splitting both their series against key higher ranked opponents, Thompson Rivers and Alberta.
The Jan. 13 win against Alberta on home-court marks the first time in the program’s history where the Cougars have defeated the Panda.
With the same matchups as the men, the Cougars have a solid chance to pick up some much needed wins against MacEwan who sit second last in the league.
Following that, the trip to Manitoba could decide the Cougars’ playoff fate as both Manitoba and Brandon will be massive steps towards clinching a spot in the final eight. The Bobcats are tied for wins with the Cougars while the Bisons are on their tail, sitting a spot below them.
Playing Calgary for the season finale could be a hard uphill battle for MRU but even a win could make a huge difference in achieving the goal of making playoffs.
MRU’s volleyball team are still struggling, sitting two spots behind a playoff spot but still have a chance to crack the final eight.
The Cougars have the MacEwan Griffins who are currently behind them in the league table, then travel to Brandon to face-off against a higher ranked Bobcats squad.
Following that, they stay in Manitoba and play the Bisons who are currently a few wins ahead of the Cougars and are gripping onto the final playoff spot. The season finale will have Crowchild Classic showdown against the formidable Calgary Dinos.
If the right teams drop the right amount of games and the Cougars go on a huge streak, the playoffs are still possible.