Cougar Corner: Six different fights in Cougar Athletics
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
On Friday Nov. 16, the Mount Royal Cougars men’s hockey team hosted the seventh annual ‘MRU Remembers’ game in appreciation of the Canadian military. The Cougars faced top dogs of Canada West, Saskatchewan Huskies, to open their weekend set but dropped a 3-2 contest in double overtime, going on to drop the revenge match 4-2 the next afternoon.
Ex-Kootenay Ice and Memorial Cup champion Wyatt Hoflin made his debut on the season in the absence of the starting two options, in rookie Riley Morris and fourth-year Colin Cooper who were both out with sickness. Hoflin stood tall in both games but got injured towards the end of the second period in game two, forcing Morris to suit up, not at 100 per cent, to finish the game.
Chris Gerrie scored in a back and forth affair that went into five periods of play before the Huskies scored in the three-on-three session, just a few clock minutes after MRU had a goal called back in overtime.
Second-year Cougar Gerrie commented on the weekend overall. He says, “It was a good learning experience for us against the number two ranked team in Canada. We’re not happy with the result but we can take a lot of what we took away to end the first half of the season here.”
Despite having the referees calling almost every call that night against MRU, the Cougars played to elite Canada West standards for at least 58 minutes each game. The slip ups on both nights cost the Cougars a potential four-point weekend and had to settle with only picking up one, a pattern that head coach Bert Gilling’s players are looking to urgently change.
“It hasn’t been easy for us, At the end of the day you sit there and say ‘who did we play against’ and look at the results… and those results are getting old,” says Gilling. “It’s good to see how close we are but we have to stop being in our own way.”
“I like the way our guys played and showed effort plays that we didn’t see against Calgary the week before, which is nice to see. It’s not put together yet. Our biggest takeaway is you gotta do it for 60 minutes against these kinds of teams and show that effort for 65 minutes or 70 need be,” says Gilling.
Despite the harsh result against a formidable Huskie side, the weekend opener had a more significant meaning that night at the Flames Community Arenas than most other game nights.
MRU sported camo patterned uniforms to go along with other examples of appreciation of the military. MRU has close ties to the military.
Proceeds from the 50/50 and puck toss at the second intermission are added to the donation towards the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund. The fund is allocated directly to the veterans’ families involved. These funds are used to include mobility access projects for veterans, housing and care accommodation for veterans, educational bursaries for veterans’ children and grandchildren.
Military personnel in uniform and with their families received free admission to the game.
On top of this, not only is the home of the Cougars next door to the military museums, the university itself was built on a former air force base for elite First World War pilots. The school began to offer military bursaries and more.
The Cougars faceoff against bottom-sided Lethbridge Pronghorns before beginning the cycle again and pay a visit to the opening weekend match-up against the Regina Cougars before the winter break.
The women’s hockey team will be looking to figure themselves out before the start of the second portion of the season.
MRU played well but were dusted aside in a sweep against the defending national champion Manitoba Bisons, dropping a 3-1 and 2-0 contest respectively.
Looking to bounce back against bottom placed Calgary, the Dinos managed to pick up the first win in their season against our Cougars winning 3-2. MRU picked themselves up and answered with a 2-1 win but the dropped points against a weaker team is what the concern is.
The next weekend, a split against the Saskatchewan Huskies ensued with a 3-2 win and dropping the return match 1-0, marking four straight one-goal games in which the Cougars could’ve stolen points.
Heading into the second final weekend before the break, MRU mirror the men’s schedule with another important home-and-home against Lethbridge for their first two meetings of the season as MRU cling onto the final playoff spot by two points. A couple three point wins will begin to separate the Cougars from the bottom to chase for middle of the league standings.
Finally, the Cougars host Regina to close the first half, who trail them by five points in the standings.
Men’s volleyball in the Canada West can be described with two words: Total War. But Coach Shawn Sky’s boys in blue are looking absolutely phenomenal this season with a 6-2 record, so far.
The Cougars reached a legendary second place in the U SPORTS top 10 ranking through their first eight matches.
The question is, can the Cougars keep up this momentum heading into the winter break and not lose matchups that on paper look like they shouldn’t.
MRU are set to pay a visit to a 2-4 Winnipeg Wesmen then host the UBC Thunderbirds who are sitting at 1-7.
If the Cougars learned anything from last season, it’s that every game matters and every win can determine a playoff spot.
If Sky can keep his boys composed and focused to chase other contenders in the war for the top spots in the Canada West league, they will push them aside in preparation for the heavy schedule in the final stretch for playoff positions. This is especially possible with the Cougars leading the intense Canada West league table in digs and kills per set.
The Cougars women’s volleyball team are sitting at an even 4-4 record. They began the year at 2-0 against Manitoba, getting swept by a formidable 8-2 Alberta and splitting two straight series against Brandon and UBCO.
Coach Sandra Lamb’s team understands what each game means in the packed Canada West conference. MRU clinched the final playoff spot with only one win ahead of the team below them and so far, they are headed down that same ‘fight to the last set’ direction.
Dropping games against second-bottom and bottom teams in 2-6 Brandon and 1-7 UBCO might be something the Cougars will look back on as a chance lost to jump up the league table.
Two more weekends before the break, the Cougars will have a chance to redeem themselves with another opportunity to beat a team in the lower half of the standings in a 2-6 Winnipeg team before hosting a vital 4-6 Regina who are neck-in-neck with the Cougars in the standings.
It’s the same story, just a different MRU team.
The men’s basketball team is sitting at 4-4, also formulating a sweep, getting swept and splitting two series.
After dropping the first two matches at home to UNBC, MRU split against Manitoba on the road before picking up their first sweep of the season at Trinity Western and then splitting a series with UBCO at home.
The Cougars are fourth in Canada West in total rebounds, fifth in field goal percentage and third in conversions from the three-point line.
The Cougars have a chance to pick up some needed wins in a tightly squeezed Canada West conference against winless MacEwan before visiting a formidable 7-1 UBC Thunderbirds pre -winter break.
The women’s basketball team has hard matchups straight from the season’s tip-off holding a 2-6 record.
Dropping the first four games against now first and second placed UNBC and Trinity Western isn’t something to be ashamed of. MRU almost stole a win away from home in a close 89-81 contest against TWU in their first meeting of the season.
The Cougars swept UBCO to pick up their first and second wins of the season to perhaps kickstart a vital season-deciding swing of momentum, even this early in the season. MRU are third in Canada West in rebounds per game, third in blocks per game and fourth in steals through eight games early on in the year.
MRU have a chance to add a few more wins against MacEwan at home, who both share 2-6 records before the Cougars visit 4-4 UBC with potentially climbing out of the basement of the league and forcing their way into the middle of the table to begin the start of the second half of the season.