MRU Cougars year in review: A hat-trick of silverware
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
We’re all missing sports. We’re desperately watching any classic game shown on TV. We’re all Youtubing and rewatching highlights to boost our morale with good memories.
But enough about COVID-19 and the hardships it brings to our life. Mount Royal, as a school, enjoyed its greatest varsity season since joining the university ranks back in 2012.
The men’s hockey team continues to reach new totals by earning its most amount of wins and points with an 18-6-2 record. Cougar hockey even shipped off two players who went pro right after their season ended. Women’s basketball reached five win seasons for the first time since 2012 under new head coach Robyn Fleckenstein. And did we all forget that MRU hauled in a total of three medals?
Let’s relive all three of Mount Royal’s legendary seasons that easily raised the bar for future varsity seasons for Cougar Athletics.
The boys in blue representing MRU kicked-off the school year in epic fashion this past fall. Coach Ryan Gyaki’s footy squad became the first Mount Royal team to… well, you’ll see.
However, first they had to go through a lot. This year’s men’s soccer team became the first Cougars club to win their division after MRU finished their regular season with a 9-4-1 record.
The Cougars used home field to their full advantage when they held an undefeated record at Cougar Stadium Field, boasting a 6-0-1 record allowing for more history to be made.
MRU booked its fifth consecutive trip to the Canada West playoffs but this time, the Cougars men’s soccer squad enjoyed the privilege of hosting its first-ever playoff game when they hosted the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.
The Cougars, carried by the greatest supporter showing in campus history, advanced to the Canada West semi-finals with a 2-1 win. A spot for the Canada West finals along with a berth to the USPORTS nationals was on the line.
In their way was the dreaded Calgary Dinos.
There was no better way to settle the score after t-wrecking them to open the 2019 campaign 5-0 before dropping the return match 1-0 in the last game of the season.
Unfortunately, the Cougars had their run to nationals fall short when inner-city rival Calgary Dinos ousted them 2-1 in the final-four contest, but they still had the chance to make school history.
They did just that when they defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 3-1 in the Canada West bronze medal match to claim Mount Royal University’s first-ever medal at the university level since transitioning to USPORTS in 2012.
MRU’s dirty gold was complimented by a collection of individual accolades. Coach Gyaki was named Canada West coach of the year while rookie Dane Domic was recognized as both Canada West and USPORTS rookie of the year after his brilliant debut campaign.
Domic tallied six goals and eight assists in his first 13 games as a Cougar and finished second in conference scoring.
Teammate Moe El-Gandour, eventual draft pick of the Cavalry FC, was named to the Canada West first-team all-star group after tallying 11 points in 13 games that went along with a team-leading seven goals. Centre-back and senior Travis MacPhee was also named a first-team all-star. Domic and defender Daniel Harrison were both named to the second-team, while rookies Tom Ruetten and Miguel Da Rocha were named to the Canada West all-rookie team.
Enjoying one of Mount Royal’s two runs at the national title, the Cougars women’s volleyball fell victim to the cancelations in sports caused by COVID-19.
However, as tough as the heartbreak was for the proud MRU women’s volleyball players and staff, there is still history to celebrate and athletes to recognize.
Move over men’s soccer because this year’s MRU women’s volleyball squad also created school history by becoming the Cougars second team to medal in Canada West.
The Cougars enjoyed the now, second most regular season in school history after finishing second in Canada West with a 21-3 record.
MRU’s dominant regular season saw them get recognized at the national level early on by cracking the USPORTS top 10 very early on during the first week of November, getting ranked sixth, holding a 5-0 record.
From November on, the Cougars climbed up the national rankings sitting inside the top five and even peaked at No.4.
The Cougars qualified for playoffs for the fifth year in a row and sixth out of their eight years overall after boasting a 21-3 record. Just like the men’s soccer squad, a hard-fought and dominating regular season rewarded the Cougars with their first-ever Canada West home playoff series.
The hunt for nationals was on. MRU hosted the 13-time Canada West and 12-time national champion UBC Thunderbirds inside the friendly confines of Kenyon Court where the Cougars clipped the T-Birds while going the distance to win the quarter-final series 2-1.
Advancing to the conference semi-finals presented the opportunity to clinch not only a spot in the conference finals, but also a trip to the USPORTS national playoffs.
MRU however, dropped their final-four contest to powerhouse Alberta Pandas in another three-game marathon. Their post-season however, wasn’t over.
The Cougars enjoyed the ultimate privilege of hosting the Thompson River WolfPack inside the Mount Royal campus for the Canada West bronze medal match and took full advantage of playing in front of a bouncing Kenyon Court.
MRU dominated the WolfPack with a 3-1 win to secure the school’s second bronze medal of the year and second medal overall.
The Cougars were slated to start the USPORTS nationals in Calgary but the outbreak of the coronavirus halted any hopes of a Mount Royal national title.
They weren’t quite the gold standard but they were pretty darn close to it.
The Cougars women’s hockey team fought and clawed its way to Mount Royal’s historic silver medal at the Canada West level this past season.
Despite a rocky 12-14-2-0 regular season record, the Cougars claimed fourth-place in Canada West heading into their fourth consecutive playoff appearance and fourth overall.
MRU hosted Regina in an all-Cougars contest where Mount Royal swept Regina 2-0 in a best-of-three Canada West quarter-finals. MRU blanked Regina during the series with 1-0 and 2-0 wins respectively.
Next up was yet another shot at school history… In their way? The Calgary Dinos.
Once again a Crowchild Classic semi-finals series between two inner-city rivals was to determine a spot in not only the Canada West finals series, but also a berth to qualify one Calgary team to the USPORTS national final.
This time, it was the Cougars who one upped their rival when they t-Wrecked the Dinos emotionally by ripping their hearts out with a game-three, double overtime victory on Dino home-ice.
The Cougars women’s hockey team became the first MRU team to advance to the Canada West finals. Already with a spot in nationals secured, one more task was at hand… the conference banner.
However, the Alberta Pandas had other ideas and set out to defend their Canada West title and did just that when they swept Mount Royal 2-0 in a best-of-three series.
MRU scored just one goal during the finals as they dropped a harsh 5-1 contest before getting shutout 2-0 in game two.
Their season however would still go on, but what could’ve been a legendary march to nationals fell short.
Mount Royal took a short flight east to PEI to begin their hunt for a national title and started on a high when they upset the No. 3 ranked Toronto Varsity Blues in the USPORTS quarter-finals 2-1.
However, the playoffs were canceled shortly after and what could’ve been… we’ll never know.