MRU Cougars end of term report card
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
Men’s Soccer: A+
This one’s a no brainer for the boys in blue representing MRU.
Mount Royal’s men’s soccer squad enjoyed the most legendary campaign in the history of Cougars athletics.
The men earned a 9-4-1 record which amounted to the most wins in a season, most points in a season, an undefeated record at home at 6-0-1 that also included it’s first playoff win in program history (at home), reaching the semi-finals for the first time, before striking Mount Royal’s first ever Canada West medal when they won bronze during playoffs.
The Cougars also earned major accolades as head coach Ryan Gyaki was named Canada West coach of the year.
First-year Cougar Dane Domic won USPORTS rookie of the year, Canada West rookie of the year and was named to the second-team Canada West all-star team. Domic isn’t the only Cougar named to a Canada West team, with Mo El Gandour named to the USPORTS second-team all-star team and the Canada West first-team all-star.
El Gandour’s outstanding year resulted in him being drafted ninth overall in the second round of the Canadian Premier League draft by hometown team Cavalry FC.
Other players named to Canada West teams included defenders Travis MacPhee and Daniel Harrison, along with Miguel Da Rocha and Tom Ruetten.
Women’s Soccer: D+
The women’s soccer squad had a heavy fall from grace after seeing their most successful season in program history just one year ago.
MRU failed to pick up a win inside their opening nine matches, drawing twice while scoring a mere three goals in the process. They finished with a 2-10-2 record this season after coming off a 6-6-2 record after finishing fourth place in Canada West and reaching the quarter-finals last year.
Their first win of the season came on match day 10 against the Lethbridge Pronghorns who ended up claiming the final Canada West playoff sport. Lethbridge finished a 1-6-7 record. Their lone win that came against MRU the day following Mount Royal’s first three points. Those seven Pronghorn draws lifted them to 10 points on the season while the Cougars fell short with eight. If the Cougars beat Lethbrige that second game, they would’ve been in the playoffs.
But that wasn’t the only reason why MRU failed to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. MRU dropped a vital three points during a 3-2 loss to Regina on Oct. 5. The Cougars blew a 2-1 lead with just over 20 minutes left on the clock.
Men’s Hockey: A-
The Mount Royal men have had an 8/10 start. Pretty good, but not quite on an elite stage.
They boast a 10-4-2 record and currently sit in fourth-place in the conference. Their hot start allowed them to reach as high as sixth in the USPORTS national ranks during the semester. The gap between fourth and fifth in Canada West is seven points while the distance from fourth to first is six points so Cougars will need to run the table against the lower half of the standings while keeping up with the top teams.
MRU opened their weekend with a sweep of defending regular season conference champion Saskacthewan before splitting their second weekend against them that saw an overtime loss. The Cougars also split weekend sets against first-place Alberta and arch rival Calgary Dinos who are all in a fight for the top four.
MRU is enjoying their greatets depth in recent years. Sophomore Ryley Lindgren is in fifth place in the Canada West scoring race with 16 points (9G, 7A) in 16 games. He earned the honours of being selected to the USPORTS all-star team that will play an exhibition series against Team Canada’s junior team, making him the second Cougar to do so in program history.
Meanwhile, rookie blue-liner Connor Blake leads the Cougars with 17 points (4G, 13A) in 16 games, sitting in fourth. The strong emergence of fourth-year goaltender Wyatt Hoflin has also been a boost of the team as the netminder is coming off a season-long injury that kept him sidelined last year. He owns a 5-3-1 record with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Women’s Hockey: B-
The Cougars currently holds fifth place with a 7-8-1-0.
It’s a hard fight for the middle of the back. MRU is currently 10 points away from first place but only six away from second. MRU needs to pick up crucial three-point against the lower half of the table while stealing some from the top.
Had the Cougars not dropped three points to Lethbridge, they would sitting in fourth and also create a four-point distance from them in the standings rather than being one point ahead of the final playoff position.
Third-year Anna Purscke leads the way with 12 points (6G, 6A) through 16 games thus far. MRU’s brightspot has been the brilliance between the pipes. Back-to-back Saskatchewan midget AAA rookie of the year Kaitlyn Ross owns a 4-1 record with the 1.01 GAA that’s tied for first in Canada West. Her .954 save percentage leads all starting goaltenders.
She’s followed behind fellow rookie and Oswego State transfer Cassie Shokar who own a 3-3 record to go with a second-best .1.17 GAA and second-best.952 save percentage. Cougar Hockey veteran Zoe DeBeauville needs more offence to support her outstanding 1.63 GAA and .919 save percentage while somehow owning a 1-4 record with those numbers.
Men’s Volleyball: C
One year ago, the Cougars were inside the national top-five with a 9-3 record. Today, the Cougars sit seventh with a 4-8 record heading into the new year.
What a difference one year can make. I guess that’s what happens when the all-time Canada West leader in points in kills after senior Tyler Schmidt graduated last spring. MRU split their opening weekend against the now 1-9 MacEwan Griffins before splitting with the 5-5 Manitoba Bisons. They then went on to get swept by UBC (9-3) and then made up for their shortcomings with a sweep against the winless UBCO Heat (0-10).
The Cougars however, end 2019 on a four-game losing skid after getting swept by the Brandon Bobcats and Alberta Golden Bears. It won’t get any easier when they open the year 2020 against the number one ranked program in the nation when they make a trip to Langley to face the 11-1 Trinity Western Spartans.
Second-year Cougar and senior outside-hitter Trent Mounter leads MRU with 130 kills, 3.02 kills per set while third-year setter Keal Prince leads the way with 286 assists. Senior outside-hitter Matt Saly leads the Cougars with 74 digs and is trailed by Mounter’s 64.
Women’s Volleyball: A
It’s a bit early to add the plus but the Cougars volleyball squad has caught fire and have been on a road to dominance.
They’ve won 37-9 sets so far this season.
MRU sits pretty atop of Canada West with a 11-1 record while sitting inside the national top-five. The Cougars’ first test will come on the first weekend of 2020 when they face the top women’s volleyball program in the nation, Trinity Western Spartans on the road.
Outside-hitter Chantal Park leads the conference with 0.77 aces per set while third-year setter Quinn Pelland sits atop with 9.68 assists per set. MRU sits in fourth as a team in kills, fifth in assists with 508, second in assists per set with 11.55, fouth in digs with 699 and second in digs per set with 15.89.
Men’s Basketball: C+
MRU is tied for ninth place with a 3-5 record so far this season.
The Cougars opened the season with a three-game win streak but have failed to find the win column since, dropping their last five games of the fall semester. After dropping the rematch against Regina, MRU went on to get swept by first-placed Alberta Golden Bears before taking two more L’s against the Victoria Vikes who are 6-2 on the year who are tied for sixth and are the last Canada West team to be above .500.
The Cougars did almost steal an overtime decision to close their final weekend of 2019 but dropped a close 95-93 decision. The wins will have to come against the middle of the pack schools and avoiding losses against the lower half if MRU wants a chance to return to the Canada West playoffs.
Nate Petrone has been straight fire from beyond the arc as he leads Canada West with 58.8 shooting from the three-point line. Three Cougars own double-digit averages in points as Matthew Guinto’s 16.6, Lincoln Anderson’s 12 and Adam Pahl’s 11.5 leads the way for MRU.
Women’s Basketball: B
It may look like a “meh” start to the 2019/2020 season for women’s basketball but they are already on course for a battle to decide at least one of the final playoff spots up for grabs come February.
MRU sits at a 3-5 record and have already surpassed their win total from last year and are in a four-way tie for eight place in Canada West heading into the new year. The Cougars split their first two weekends before getting swept by powerhouse Alberta Pandas and then splitting their third weekend of the season to conclude the semester. MRU’s third win did come in impressive fashion as they opened their last weekend of 2019 with a 66-64 victory over the fourth-placed, 6-2 Victoria Vikes.
Though they avoided sweeps against teams who will fight for the final few playoff spots in February, picking up an extra win can still make or break a playoff appearance or facing a less-dominant team.
MRU faces Thompson Rivers (5-5) when school resumes in January before Manitoba (3-5), Lethbridge (5-5), UFV (5-3), Winnipeg (5-4) and Calgary (8-0). Last year, 8-12 Winnipeg and Manitoba earned the 11th and 12th playoff spots so reaching the eight or nine win number isn’t far-fetched for the Cougars.
Second-year Maddison Hooper is the lone Cougar with over 10 points a game, boasting an 11.6 average while logging a team high 29 minutes per game. The Cougars does have a lot of work to do when they return to actions in 2020. They sit in third-last in field goal shooting with a poor 31.7 per cent count from the field,averaging the least amount of assists per game as a team with 8.3, commit the third-highest turnovers with 22.8 a game. They do however, sit in fourth with 3.4 blocks per game.