Coach’s Corner: Gilling leads the Cougars to the playoffs with momentum
By Josh Werle, Staff Writer
The 2021-22 U SPORTS men’s hockey regular season has come to a close. The Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars finished with a record of 13-6-1 which allowed them to grab the third seed in the Canada West division.
After a difficult start to the season, the team rattled off a seven-game winning streak in 2022, allowing them to finish strong and secure a spot in the playoffs. The men’s hockey Head Coach Bert Gilling is ready to lead his squad to postseason success and is prepared for the opportunity to win the Canada West Championship and punch their ticket to the National Championship at the end of March.
After completing his playing career as an NCAA hockey player for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, Gilling went on to receive a Master’s degree from Bemidji State University (BSU). During this time Gilling made the transition from player to coach, taking on a volunteer coaching position that eventually turned into a full-time assistant coaching job.
“[After] fifteen years as an assistant coach in some capacity at BSU, I was looking for a head coaching opportunity,” says Gilling. “That led me to Mount Royal …. I’m wrapping up my eighth year here at Mount Royal University as a head coach.”
Gilling enjoys all that coaching has to offer, especially getting the chance to build with his team and fight to become the best.
“[These] relationships and bonds last forever and I really enjoy the pursuit of the championship,” says Gilling. “At the end of the day, there’s only one team who can call themselves champions.”
This year, the Cougars squad is hopeful that they can call themselves champions and they have a chance to do so in this year’s playoffs. Although they were always confident, the fall semester schedule brought some adversity to the team early on, both on and off the ice.
“We had some tough losses, losses that we had the lead in and basically blew the leads,” says Gilling. “We had some off-ice adversity …. four guys that started [the season] with us departed by the end of November.”
This combination left the team limping into the Christmas holiday. But this break afforded the team a much-needed rest and reinvigorated them as they went into the second half of the season.
“All of the returning guys recommitted themselves to the cause,” says Gilling. “When we came back in January you could see it and feel it in our practices …. the guys were all-in and we went on a seven-game winning streak.”
This streak landed the Cougars in third place in the Canada West Division. At the time of writing, the Cougars are gearing up to play against the University of Regina in the quarter finals of the U SPORTS playoffs. The Cougars hold a record of 2-0 against the University of Regina in the regular season and look to repeat this in their best-of-three series.
“Our team is certainly excited to compete in the playoffs and with the success we have had in the winter semester, there is a strong sense of belief in terms of what we can accomplish in the playoffs,” says Gilling