Puck Set To Drop At University Cup

The University of Alberta Golden Bears will find themselves in a familiar position this week in Saskatoon, wearing a big bright target on their backs as the team to beat at the CIS men’s hockey championship.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: www.universitycup.ca

The PotashCorp University Cup presented by Co-op gets under way on Thursday at the Credit Union Centre and culminates Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Central Time with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet.

Sportsnet also has live coverage of the last two contests of the preliminary round, Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. CT, on Sportsnet 360. All seven games from the six-team tournament will also be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

Joining top-seeded and Canada West conference champion Alberta at the competition will be the second-ranked Acadia Axemen (AUS champs), No. 3 Windsor Lancers (OUA champs), No. 4 McGill Redmen (OUA finalists), No. 5 Saskatchewan Huskies (hosts) and No. 6 Carleton Ravens (OUA bronze medallists).

Alberta will skate in Pool A with McGill and Carleton in the round-robin portion of the tourney, while Acadia, Windsor and Saskatchewan battle in Pool B. The top team from each group advances to Sunday’s gold-medal match.

Opening day will see the Golden Bears take on the Ravens at 1 p.m. and the Axemen square off against the Lancers at 7 p.m.

A new champion will be crowned on Sunday as the UNB Varsity Reds, the 2013 monarchs, fell in the AUS semifinals earlier this month.

Alberta is the most decorated team in University Cup history with 13 titles, three more than Toronto. The Edmonton powerhouse, however, is in a mini-championship drought, with its last triumph dating back to 2008. Since then, the Bears have reached one final in four appearances, losing in overtime to Saint Mary’s in 2010. A year ago they settled for third place in their pool as the No. 1 seed.

The Bears are once again enjoying a remarkable season, one of their best in recent years statistically. They head into the national tournament with a sparkling 38-5 overall record versus CIS opponents, including 25-2-1 in league play and a perfect 4-0 in the Canada West playoffs. In the regular season, they led the country in goals for (5.21 per game), fewest goals against (1.93) and power play efficiency (31.9%), while their penalty-killing unit ranked second (90.5%).

No less than seven Golden Bears averaged at least one point per game in league action, including every member of the talented and diminutive top line of team captain Sean Ringrose (15-21-36), Johnny Lazo (9-25-34) and Torrie Dyck (13-18-31) – all 5-foot-11 or shorter. Alberta also has depth in front of the net as veteran Kurtis Mucha (1.87 GAA / .909 SV%), the 2012-13 CIS goaltender of the year, has been sharing playing time all season with promising freshman Luke Siemens (1.98 / .919).

“We are excited to be going back to Saskatoon to compete for the University Cup. Our team feels we have some unfinished business from last season,” says Ian Herbers, a former NHL player in his second year behind the U of A bench. “We have worked very hard this season, improving every week in a very competitive Canada West conference, to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to excel at nationals. This will be four thrilling days of hockey for Saskatoon and CIS hockey fans.”

Second-seeded Acadia is back at the CIS tourney after a seven-year absence. The Axemen’s glory days at the University Cup came in the 1990s, when they claimed the program’s two titles (1993, 1996) and skated in two other finals (1992, 1998), all in a seven-year span.

This season, the Axemen were neck-and-neck with UNB throughout the conference schedule before finishing four points back of the V-Reds in the AUS standings. Acadia had the last laugh in the playoffs however, taking the AUS final in four games against Saint Mary’s, which had eliminated the reigning champs in the previous round.

Leading the way for Acadia is the dynamic duo of Liam Heelis (24-18-42) and Mike Cazzola (11-31-42), who tied for the conference lead in points and were both key elements of the AUS all-star team that claimed gold for Canada at the FISU Winter Universiade in Italy, last December. Heelis, who attended the Florida Panthers prospects camp last August, was named AUS player of the year after scoring a CIS-leading 24 goals in only 26 contests.

“We are very excited to be attending the CIS championship. We know that the University of Saskatchewan puts on a first-class event,” says 13-year head coach Darren Burns, who has captured the CIS banner as a player and as an assistant coach. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to vie for a national championship so it’s an exciting time to represent the AUS and Acadia in Saskatoon.”

What a post-season run it has been already for the Windsor Lancers. After finishing fourth in the OUA West standings, they went 7-1 in the conference playoffs, including upsets over higher-ranked Western, Lakehead and McGill, to advance to the University Cup tournament for only the third time in program history, the first since back-to-back appearances in 1998 and 1999.

Windsor native Parker Van Buskirk has been sensational in net during the playoffs, posting OUA bests in wins (7), goals against average (1.75) and save percentage (.952). In Saturday’s 3-2 Queen’s Cup victory over McGill, the former OHL netminder made 50 saves to lead the Lancers to their first OUA crown since 1998.

“We’re pleased to be representing the University of Windsor at this year’s national tournament,” says six-year bench boss Kevin Hamlin. “Our journey has had many interesting turns and I imagine there are some yet to come. It was a real challenge to get out of the OUA. We beat four great teams in Toronto, Western, Lakehead and McGill and we are looking forward to an excellent week of competition.”

Fourth-ranked McGill was part of a dog fight all season with Carleton and UQTR in the ultra-competitive OUA East division, with the Redmen ending up in third place despite a superb 21-5-2 record, one point behind the Ravens and tied in points with their archrivals from Trois-Rivières.

After five straight appearances at the University Cup tournament, culminating with the program’s first-ever national title in 2012 in Fredericton, the Redmen missed the event last year following the graduation of the core of their championship squad. They are back this year sparked by New York-born defenceman Ryan McKiernan, who led the team in scoring and was the highest-scoring rearguard in the country in league play with a 13-24-37 dossier in 28 games. In the playoffs, all-star centre Cedric McNicoll, a former 100-point man in the QMJHL who became eligible to play for McGill this season after a few pro campaigns between the AHL and ECHL, exploded with 16 points in eight contests.

“We are still growing as a team and getting better every day. We have 23 guys in their first or second year with our program and we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we have an opportunity to win another championship,” says Kelly Nobes, one of only six head coaches in CIS history to take two programs to the University Cup tourney (Laurier & McGill). “Our leadership group has been outstanding and we have evolved into a mature and resilient group, peaking at the right time. We believe in each other. We faced very tough opponents in the OUA playoffs and feel that we’re battle-hardened and ready for the next step.”

The tournament can’t start soon enough for host Saskatchewan, which has already been sidelined for 23 days following a loss to UBC in Game 3 of the Canada West quarter-finals, on Feb. 23. The Huskies hope to fair better than a year ago, when they went 0-2 in front of their faithful fans to finish third in their pool.

Veteran forward Derek Hulak ran away with the conference scoring title this season with a 13-25-48 mark, only two points behind the nation’s lead and 12 more than his closest Canada West competitor. The league MVP will be the top scorer at this week’s tourney, ahead of the Acadia duo of Heelis and Cazzola.

“We are very honoured to once again be hosting the PotashCorp University Cup presented by Co-op,” says Dave Adolph, the longest serving head coach at the championship with 25 years of CIS experience, including the last 21 with the U of S. “For the last few years, our local organizing committee has worked hard to showcase the CIS men’s hockey game. We want to represent our school, this organizing committee and our team well. This is our third straight year at the championship so this team knows what to expect. We are in a very challenging pool with two conference champions and we will have to be at our very best every shift to be successful.”

In its seventh season of operation after rejuvenating a defunct program, sixth-seeded Carleton qualified for its first-ever University Cup thanks to a 7-4 win over Lakehead in the OUA bronze medal game for a wild-card berth. The Ravens were the hottest team in the country in the second half of the regular schedule, winning all 13 contests after the December break to leapfrog UQTR and McGill by one point in the OUA East standings.

The fast-paced, hard-working Ravens are the second-highest scoring team at the championship with 4.54 goals per outing, thanks in large part to super-freshman Mike McNamee, who tallied 37 points in 28 league games before adding 13 more in nine playoff confrontations.

“We are thrilled to represent Carleton University for the first time at the University Cup,” says Marty Johnston, in his fourth campaign at the helm. “We expect very tough competition in Alberta and McGill. Both teams have a long history of success and have extremely deep hockey teams that are well coached. We’ll have to be at our best from the drop of the puck. Our special teams will be a key part of our success as well as getting consistent production from all four lines.”

 

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

NO. 1 ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS

Team statistics

Head Coach: Ian Herbers (2nd season)

Regular season record: 25-2-1

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West

Playoff record: 4-0

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 38-5

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 5-0 vs. Saskatchewan

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 1

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (15 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 20

National ranking (offence): 1st (5.21)

National ranking (defence): 1st (1.93)

National ranking (power play): 1st (31.9)

National ranking (penalty kill): 2nd (90.5)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners: Jordan Rowley (defenceman), Sean Ringrose (most sportsmanlike), Ben Lindemulder (hockey, academics & citizenship)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Jordan Rowley (D), Sean Ringrose (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Kurtis Mucha (G), Jesse Craige (D)

Conference all-rookie team: Luke Siemens (G), Jamie Crooks (F), TJ Foster (F)

Season leader (points): Sean Ringrose, 15-21-36 (27 GP)

Season leader (goals): Jordan Hickmott, 16 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Brett Ferguson, 22 (28 GP) / Jordan Rowley, 22 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Jordan Rowley, 8-22-30 (28 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Kurtis Mucha (16 GP, 14-2, 3 SHO, 1.87 GAA, .909)

Playoff leader (points): Jamie Crooks, 5-3-8 (4 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Jamie Crooks, 5 (4 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Sean Ringrose, 6 (4 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Ian Barteaux, 1-2-3 (4 GP) / Jordan Rowley, 1-2-3 (4 GP)

Playoff leader (goalie): Kurtis Mucha (2 GP, 2-0, 0 SHO, 1.00 GAA, .952)

Season leader (goalie): Luke Siemens (2 GP, 2-0, 0 SHO, 1.50 GAA, .927)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 37th

First appearance: 1964

Last appearance: 2013 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 62 wins, 31 losses, 2 ties (.663)

Titles: 13 (2008, ‘06, ‘05, ‘00, ‘99, ’92, ‘86, ‘80, ‘79, ‘78, ‘75, ‘68, ‘64)

Finals: 18 (13 titles plus 2010, 1991, 1985, 1977, 1966)

Best result: 13-time champions (see years above)

Sequence: 2nd consecutive appearance (16th in 18 years)

Appearances Coach Herbers (including 2014): 2nd

Record Coach Herbers: 1-1 (.500)

Titles for Coach Herbers: 0

 

NO. 2 ACADIA AXEMEN

Team statistics

Head Coach: Darren Burns (13th season)

Regular season record: 21-4-3

Regular season standing: 2nd AUS

Playoff record: 6-2

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 30-10-1 (w-l-t)

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 0-0

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 2

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (3 polls)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 17

National ranking (offence): 8th (4.21)

National ranking (offence): 4th (2.38)

National ranking (power play): 8th (22.7)

National ranking (penalty kill): 9th (85.6)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners: Liam Heelis (MVP), Darren Burns (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Evan Mosher (G), Chris Owens (D), Liam Heelis (F), Mike Cazzola (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: Brandon Glover (G), Geoff Schemitsch (D)

Season leader (points): Liam Heelis, 24-18-42 (26 GP) / Mike Cazzola, 11-31-42 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Liam Heelis, 24 (26 GP)

Season leader (assists): Mike Cazzola, 31 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Chris Owens, 9-22-31 (28 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Evan Mosher (23 GP, 17-5, 1 SHO, 2.12 GAA, .919)

Playoff leader (points): Liam Heelis, 5-6-11 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Liam Heelis, 5 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Brett Thompson, 9 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Chris Owens, 4-5-9 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goalie): Evan Mosher (8 GP, 6-2, 0 SHO, 2.28 GAA, .910)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 7th

First appearance: 1992

Last appearance: 2006 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 7-5 (.583)

Titles: 2 (1996, 1993)

Finals: 4 (1998, 1996, 1993, 1992)

Best result: 2-time champions (1996, 1993)

Sequence: Return after 7-year absence

Appearances Coach Burns (including 2014): 2nd

Record Coach Burns: 0-2

Titles for Coach Burns: 0

 

NO. 3 WINDSOR LANCERS

Team statistics

Head Coach: Kevin Hamlin (6th season)

Regular season record: 17-11-0

Regular season standing: 4th OUA West (9th overall OUA)

Playoff record: 7-1

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-15

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 3-2 (2-1 vs. McGill / 1-1 vs. Carleton)

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 3

Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (1 poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 7

National ranking (offence): 19th (3.18)

National ranking (defence): 14th (2.85)

National ranking (power play): 15th (18.1)

National ranking (penalty kill): 6th (87.2)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners (OUA West): None

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA West): None

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA West): Parker Van Buskirk (G)

Conference all-rookie team (OUA West): Julian Luciani (D), Mac McDonnel (F)

Season leader (points): Spencer Pommells, 13-19-32 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Spencer Pommells, 13 (28 GP)

Season leader (assists): Spencer Pommells, 19 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Kenny Bradford, 10-5-15 (26 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Parker Van Buskirk (26 GP, 16-10, 1 SHO, 2.66 GAA, .920)

Playoff leader (points): Spencer Pommells, 4-7-11 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Matt Beaudoin, 5 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Evan Stibbard, Spencer Pommells, Drew Palmer, 7 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Kenny Bradford, 3-6-9 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goalie): Parker Van Buskirk (8 GP, 7-1, 0 SHO, 1.75 GAA, .952)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 3rd

First appearance: 1998

Last appearance: 1999 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 0-4 (.000)

Titles: 0

Finals: 0

Best result: 3rd in pool (1999, 1998)

Sequence: Return after 14-year absence

Appearances Coach Hamlin (including 2014): 1st

Record Coach Hamlin: 0-0

Titles for Coach Hamlin: 0

 

NO. 4 McGILL REDMEN

Team statistics

Head Coach: Kelly Nobes (4th season)

Regular season record: 21-5-2

Regular season standing: 3rd OUA East (3rd overall OUA)

Playoff record: 6-2

Playoff finish: OUA finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 29-11

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 3-5 (1-2 vs. Windsor / 2-3 vs. Carleton)

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 4

Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (1 poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 18

National ranking (offence): 4th (4.50)

National ranking (defence): 10th (2.52)

National ranking (power play): 6th (24.2)

National ranking (penalty kill): 7th (86.5)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners (OUA East): Ryan McKiernan (defenceman)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA East): Ryan McKiernan (D), Cedric McNicoll (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA East): None

Conference all-rookie team (OUA East): Samuel Carrier (D)

Season leader (points): Ryan McKiernan, 13-24-37 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Cedric McNicoll, 15 (23 GP)

Season leader (assists): Ryan McKiernan, 24 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Ryan McKiernan, 13-24-37 (28 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Jacob Gervais-Chouinard (18 GP: 12-4, 1 SHO, 2.44 GAA, .917)

Playoff leader (points): Cedric McNicoll, 5-11-16 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Cedric McNicoll, 5 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Cedric McNicoll, 11 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Ryan McKiernan, 2-6-8 (8 GP)

Playoff leader (goalie): Jacob Gervais-Chouinard (8 GP: 6-2, 0 SHO, 2.36 GAA, .924)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 7th

First appearance: 2006

Last appearance: 2012 (champions)

All-time record: 7-7 (.500)

Titles: 1 (2012)

Finals: 2 (2012, 2011)

Best result: 1-time champions (2012)

Sequence: Return after 1-year absence (6th appearance in 7 years)

Appearances Coach Nobes (including 2014): 4th (1 with Laurier / 3 with McGill)

Record Coach Nobes: 5-3 (.625) / 4-2 with McGill (.667)

Titles for Coach Nobes: 1 (2012 with McGill)

 

NO. 5 SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

Team statistics

Head Coach: Dave Adolph (21st season)

Regular season record: 17-10-1

Regular season standing: 3rd Canada West

Playoff record: 1-2

Playoff finish: Lost in Canada West quarter-finals

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 21-15

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 0-5 vs. Alberta

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 10

Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (1 poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 10

National ranking (offence): 12th (3.71)

National ranking (defence): 6th (2.45)

National ranking (power play): 9th (20.9)

National ranking (penalty kill): 10th (85.1)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners: Derek Hulak (MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Derek Hulak (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: Kendal McFaull (D)

Season leader (points): Derek Hulak, 13-35-48 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Kenton Dulle, 15 (26 GP)

Season leader (assists): Derek Hulak, 35 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Zak Stebner, 2-11-13 (24 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Ryan Holfeld (26 GP, 15-11, 3 SHO, 2.42 GAA, .918)

Playoff leader (points): Derek Hulak, 2-1-3 (3 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Derek Hulak, 2 (3 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Andrew Bailey, 2 (3 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Kendall McFaull, 1-1-2 (3 GP)

Playoff leader (goalie): Ryan Holfeld (3 GP, 1-2, 0 SHO, 4.38 GAA, .857)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 16th

First appearance: 1967

Last appearance: 2013 (3rd in pool)

All-time record: 16-19 (.432)

Titles: 1 (1983)

Finals: 5 (2005, 1987, 1983, 1982, 1981)

Best result: 1-time champions (1983)

Sequence: 3rd consecutive appearance

Appearances Coach Adolph (including 2014): 11th

Record Coach Adolph: 7-14 (.333)

Titles for Coach Adolph: 0

 

NO. 6 CARLETON RAVENS

Team statistics

Head Coach: Marty Johnston (4th season)

Regular season record: 22-5-1

Regular season standing: 1st OUA East (1st overall OUA)

Playoff record: 6-3

Playoff finish: OUA bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 31-10

Overall record vs. U Cup teams: 4-3 (1-1 vs. Windsor / 3-2 vs. McGill)

Top 10 final ranking (March 16): No. 5

Top 10 best ranking: No. 4 (1 poll)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (20 polls): 17

National ranking (offence): 3rd (4.54)

National ranking (defence): 4th (2.38)

National ranking (power play): 14th (18.8)

National ranking (penalty kill): 21st (81.6)

 

Individual statistics

Conference award winners (OUA East): Joey West (most sportsmanlike)

Conference 1st team all-stars (OUA East): Matt Stanisz (D)

Conference 2nd team all-stars (OUA East): Mike McNamee (F)

Conference all-rookie team (OUA East): Mike McNamee (F)

Season leader (points): Mike McNamee, 14-22-36 (28 GP)

Season leader (goals): Damian Cross, 16 (25 GP)

Season leader (assists): Mike McNamee, 22 (28 GP)

Season leader (points by defenceman): Matt Stanisz, 0-19-19 (18 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Francis Dupuis (15 GP: 14-1, 2 SHO, 1.78 GAA, .928)

Playoff leader (points): Mike McNamee, 7-6-13 (9 GP)

Playoff leader (goals): Mike McNamee, 7 (9 GP)

Playoff leader (assists): Tim Billingsley, 7 (9 GP) / Joe West, 7 (9 GP)

Playoff leader (points by defenceman): Tim Billingsley, 1-7-8 (9 GP)

Season leader (goalie): Francis Dupuis (9 GP: 6-3, 2 SHO, 1.79 GAA, .936)

 

University Cup history (since 1963)

Appearances (including 2014): 1st

First appearance: 2014

Last appearance: None

All-time record: 0-0

Titles: 0

Finals: 0

Best result: None

Sequence: 1st appearance all-time

Appearances Coach Johnston (including 2014): 1st

Record Coach Johnston: 0-0

Titles for Coach Johnston: 0

 

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times Local)

Wednesday, March 19

13:15 Meet the Teams Media Conference (Credit Union Centre)

18:30 SaskTel All-Canadian Presentation (TCU Place)

19:15 SaskTel Gala (TCU Place)

 

Thursday, March 20

13:00 Pool A #1: No. 1 Alberta vs. No. 6 Carleton (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

19:00 Pool B #1: No. 2 Acadia vs. No. 3 Windsor (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Friday, March 21

13:00 Pool A #2: Loser Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 McGill (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

19:00 Pool B #2: Loser Pool B #1 vs. No. 5 Saskatchewan (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Saturday, March 22

14:00 Pool A #3: Winner Pool A #1 vs. No. 4 McGill (Sportsnet 360 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)

19:00 Pool B #3: Winner Pool B #1 vs. No. 5 Saskatchewan (Sportsnet 360 & www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Sunday, March 23

13:30 Final (Sportsnet & www.CIS-SIC.tv)

* The webcasts of the 3 televised games will be on pay-per-view basis.

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