Mount Royal takes down Regina in Cougar showdown on opening weekend
Cougar Hockey recruits looking sharp early on
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
A perfect 2-0-0 start for Cougar Hockey is just how coach Bert Gilling and his team wanted to jumpstart their 2018/2019 season after completing the sweep of the Regina Cougars on opening weekend of Canada West hockey.
MRU has beaten Regina for a fifth straight time while completing back-to-back sweeps against them.
This season is set to showcase the brightest recruiting class in Cougar Hockey history.
“Just in the context of it, it was. When you factor how our season was last year and now it’s year five with the program,” Gilling says on this year’s recruiting class.
“There’s excitement in the air but we gotta play the games.”
Key recruits such as last seasons CJHL goaltender of the year Riley Morris will be heavily leaned on to answer MRU’s goaltending questions that stretch back a few seasons. Morris backstopped the Cougars to 0.909 per cent and a 1.95 GAA in his first weekend of U SPORTS action.
“We lost our fifth-year goaltender Cam Lanigan who ended as our number one goalie for his last three, four years. That’s an interesting position to follow, we need a goalie to step up. If we want to inch in to the top, we need that level of goaltending and at every game,” says Gilling.
Tyson Helgesen, ex-captain of the Spokane Chiefs, who took part in the New York Rangers’ rookie camp before settling in Calgary, will be adding more talent on the blueline. Meanwhile, Colton Bobyk is a huge upgrade of muscle on the blueline and has one of the scariest shots on the team while bringing in much needed experience as he has Memorial Cup games under his belt.
“We’ve had limitations to puck skill and moving defensemen over the years. Our depth was hit and miss compared to the top teams but this season we got good returning players in MacPherson, Green, Pankewicz,” says Gilling. “Look at the recruits, Tyson is going to be an impactful type of player. (Colton) Bobyk is going to be a huge element on our power play and adds his size. Kade Jensen is thick and solidifies our back core.”
Colton Kroeker is a playmaker that the Cougars need in terms of adding more weapons on offense. He is coming off a 61 point season with the Kootenay Ice where 46 were assists and shined in his debut weekend with the Cougars, scoring two goals in game one of the season.
After a step-back season where MRU finished the regular season with a 12-14-2 record, its lowest win total since 2014, the Cougars are looking to get back to the high standards Gilling has imposed on his teams previous.
“Upfront we got second year guys who didn’t play much last year. Our depth is better and we got more of a presence this year. We are confident in goaltending we just need to have one of the three to carry the mail and be the number one,” Gilling says.
Last season’s most touted recruit Ryley Lindgren, spent most of the season in the stands, only suiting up for four games in total due to injury. He too was one of the standout performers in the opening weekend, scoring once in each game.
“Ryley was brought in last season as one of the highest ranked junior guys out of the WHL but was plagued by injuries. He is supposed to have a Tyler Fiddler impact on this program so it will be fun to see him play full-time.”
Fiddler was Cougar Hockey’s first ‘blueprint’ player who is in Europe playing pro in Denmark and is still one of the more celebrated careers as an MRU hockey player to date.
Last winter’s recruit Chris Gerrie will also be looking get his wheels moving faster and begin to contribute on a now full-time level.
“Chris brings in that quality we need on the top line as a versatile weapon on the offence. It’s hard to come in half way through the year, but he had a great summer. Look for him to have a breakout season.” Gilling comments about his second-year Cougar.
Cougar seniors contributed heavy in the sweep as fifth-year David Stephens is leading the pack with two goals and four points early on while Zack Henry added his name to the goal column as well.
All in all, MRU hockey is on the rise. Maturation is still the team’s biggest soft spot as only three fifth-year forwards are on the team while the rest is a mix of third-year players and younger. Vet Connor Rankin is sidelined with injury while Colin Cooper should be set on seeing more ice this year as the team’s second goalie.
MRU are set to fly to the states and face off against formidable NCAA opponents Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State for the holiday week and return back to Canada West play on Oct 12., for a weekend set against UBC.