September 25, 2012, EDMONTON –Canada West men’s hockey coaches think that 2011-12 champion Saskatchewan has the best chance to take the 2012-13 conference title, with a slight advantage over Manitoba and Alberta.
With the eight coaches not permitted to cast a vote for their own team, the Huskies picked up four of eight first-place votes, while Manitoba (3) and Alberta (1) both received strong consideration.
Here are the complete voting results, based on a 10-8-6-4-3-2-1 system (first-place votes in parentheses):
1. Saskatchewan (4) 64
2. Manitoba (3) 54
3. Alberta (1) 50
4. Calgary 38
5. UBC 27
6. Lethbridge 17
7. Mount Royal 13
8. Regina 8
As defending Canada West champions and with a lineup that returns 20 players from last season, the Saskatchewan Huskies look poised to earn their way into the 2013 University Cup, to be hosted next March at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon. All-Canadian Derek Hulak, along with other All-Stars and both goaltenders are all back.
Placing second in the coaches’ poll, the Manitoba Bisons watch some key graduates, including captain Mike Hellyer and Jared Walker, leave the program, but remain a veteran lineup at all positions. All-Canadians Blair Macaulay and Jeremy Schappert lead a list of stars who return for the upcoming season.
The Alberta Golden Bears remain formidable and look to reclaim the conference crown. With most players back for the team’s 100th Anniversary, along with some new recruits to bolster the depth the scoring, defence and goaltending are all intact. A host of All-Canadians and All-Stars litter the rtoster.
After coming within a hair of winning their first Canada West men’s hockey title since 1996, the Calgary Dinos try to overcome some key grads and have others step it up a notch in 2012-13. Gone are Reid Jorgensen, Teighan Zahn and Dylan Hood, but returnees include former CIS Goaltender of the Year Dustin Butler, Brock Nixon and Taylor Stefishen
While the UBC Thunderbirds have made strides in recent years, a .500 record will get you a tough seeding when it comes to playoffs. Eleven-year head coach Milan Dragicevic believes he has assembled a good blend of veterans and new recruits to challenge for their first Canada West banner since 1971.
Despite a veteran group of talent in 2011-12, the Lethbridge Pronghorns finished sixth and went on to be swept in the first round of playoffs last season. Gone are goalie Scott Bowles, forward Dustin Moore and defender Ryan Pottruff, leaving a younger, less experienced roster that looks to compete in a tough conference.
After a stellar 2011-12 season in the ACAC college ranks, the Mount Royal Cougars try their hand at the CIS level. Head coach Jean Laforest has added 10 new faces. Kevin Knopp is the team captain, scoring leader Tyler Jewitt piled up 29 points in 28 games last season and both goaltenders from last season return for another year.
The Regina Cougars squeaked into the playoffs in 2009 and have not made a return to the post-season since. With the addition of Mount Royal, the task gets more challenging for first-year head coach Todd Johnson. Matt Strueby is expected to be on the top line, while goaltenders Lucas Gore and Andrew Hayes provide a veteran presence in goal.
A complete 2012-13 Canada West men’s hockey preview will be published on Wednesday.