Cougar Corner: Playoff season is near
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
The end of the 2019/2020 varsity season is near.
Three out of the six remaining Mount Royal Cougars varsity clubs have their eyes set on playoffs while two narrowly missed out and one is on the outside looking in.
Mount Royal’s most successful 2019/2020 club are looking like a formidable opponent heading into the final weekend of regular season play.
The Cougars sit in second-place in Canada West with a 19-3 record and have enjoyed national recognition for nearly every week as they currently sit at number four in USPORTS.
On top of the outstanding team play, the MRU well-oiled machine does enjoy standout performances.
Sophomore Dholi Thokbuom ranks third in blocks per set with 1.12 in Canada West while senior outside hitter Chantal Park owns the highest count of service aces per set with 0.56.
Third-year setter Quinn Pelland’s 9.42 assists per set puts her third in Canada West.
The Mount Royal men are playoff bound for the seventh-straight season and will host a Canada West quarter-final for the first time since 2016/2017 and fourth time overall since joining USPORTS in 2012.
MRU finished the regular season fourth-place with a program-high 18-8-2 record and will host the UBC Thunderbirds on the Feb. 15 weekend.
The Cougars are on the hunt for their sixth consecutive semi-finals appearance and will face the top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears, if they beat UBC.
On top of seeing great success as a team, the Cougars enjoyed plenty of individual success, as well.
Sophomore Ryley Lindgren was tied for the goal-scoring lead with 18 goals and finished third overall in the conference in points with 31 through 28 games.
Rookie blue-liner Connor Blake finished his first season with MRU as the second highest scoring defenceman, putting up 25 points (7G, 18A) through 28 games.
Second-year net-minder Riley Morris finished the regular season with a 12-3-1 record and posted a 2.68 GAA and .897 save percentage.
MRU made program history after sweeping the UBC T-Birds to conclude their 2019/2020 campaign.
The Cougars will host their first-ever playoff series after finishing fourth in the Canada West regular season with a 12-14-2-0 record.
Third-year Cougars forward Anna Purschke finished the season tenth in the conference as the MRU leading scorer with 18 points (11G, 7A).
The true story of the Cougars’ success comes from the strong goaltending between the pipes.
Rookie MRU goalie and back-to-back Saskatchewan midget AAA goalie of the year Kaitlyn Ross led the conference in wins for rookie goaltenders and finished with a 8-3-0 record, including four shutouts.
Ross put up a brilliant 1.14 GAA which is good for second in Canada West along with the third-highest save percentage of .943.
She was supported by fellow rookie and NCAA-III Oswego State transfer Cassie Shokar who finished 5-5 on the year and put up her own impressive totals of 1.54 GAA and .934 save percentage.
Cougar Hockey veteran Zoe DeBeauville finished 1-6 but despite seeing nearly no support on offence during her starts, put up a 1.89 GAA and .914 save percentage.
It’s a step in the right direction. That’s the best way to describe the 2019/2020 Mount Royal campaign.
Head coach Robyn Fleckenstein led MRU to a 5-15 record and fell just two wins behind a first-ever playoff berth in Canada West during her first season at the helm.
The Cougars women’s program posted five wins for the first time since MRU transitioned to the USPORTS level back in 2012/2013.
Rookie Jenika Martens was the lone MRU player to put up a double-digit count in scoring and enjoyed success in her role as a “Lou Williams” during her debut campaign. She put up 11.2 points off the bench and led MRU in scoring and rebounds per game with 7.4 during her stellar debut season.
One year sure can make a difference.
Just after enjoying Mount Royal’s greatest season as a school that saw: a fourth-placed finish inside USPORTS’ toughest conference, a first-ever quarter-final hosting that was followed by a semi-final appearance and national playoffs, the Cougars are on the fringe of missing the playoffs.
Five of the eight playoff berths are secure with one weekend to go. MRU sits in seventh with an 8-12 record and are in the middle of fighting for their playoff lives.
Manitoba and Thompson Rivers both sit at 7-13 and are tied for eighth while MRU are just one win behind seventh-placed Saskacthewan who hold a 9-11 record.
What looked like a promising start quickly turned into a season of misery for Mount Royal, whose cold end to the season. matched the sub-zero weather outside.
MRU lost 17 straight games after starting 3-0 and missed the playoffs by just three games.
Despite the poor team play, the Cougars enjoyed several individual successes.
Rookie Nate Petrone had an outstanding debut campaign as he finished with the highest shooting percentage in Canada West, converting a brilliant 46.9 per cent from beyond the arc.
He also finished with 11.4 points per game shooting a team-high 48.5 per cent from the field, while contributing 1.3 assists per game.
Third-year guard Matthew Guinto started in all 20 games from the navy and white. He led MRU with 14.9 points per game on 41.5 per cent shooting, including a 31.9 per cent clip from the three point line and contributed 1.6 steals per game.
Lincoln Anderson and Adam Pahl were the other two Cougars to average double-digit point totals. Anderson put up 10.1 points a game through 17 starts while Pahl averaged 12.2 points a game while logging a team-high 30.2 minutes per game and led the team in rebounds with 5.4.