September 26, 2012, EDMONTON – The puck drops on the 2012-13 Canada West men’s hockey season on Thursday and, with Mount Royal now in the mix, here is a look at the eight teams:
ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS
2011-12 conference record: 20-6-2 (2nd)
2012 playoffs: 1-2
Last CW title: 2010-11
Last CIS title: 2007-08
CW ranking: #3
Key additions: Rhett Rachinski (F), Burke Gallimore (F) and Brennan Yadlowski (D)
Key returnees: Real Cyr (G), Levko Koper (F), Jordan Hickmott (F), Kruise Reddick (F), Travis Toomey (F), Colin Joe (D), Greg Gardner (F), Ian Barteaux (D), Sean Ringrose (F), Jesse Craige (D), Johnny Lazo (F), Ben Lindemulder (D)
Key departure: JP Szaszkiewicz
EDMONTON – The Alberta Golden Bears boast talent and depth in all three areas of the lineup, and should be a contender for the conference championship. The 2012-13 season is the 100th season of play for the Golden Bears, and their 77th season in Canada West.
Alberta’s forwards are comprised of 12 players who scored 20 or more goals in the WHL in their respective careers, including 30-goal scorers Johnny Lazo, Levko Koper and newcomer Burke Gallimore, as well as returning leading scorer Sean Ringrose, team captain Greg Gardner, and Jordan Hickmott who was a 2012 CIS All-Rookie team member. Kruise Reddick, Travis Toomey, James Dobrowolski, Zack Dailey, Alex Rodgers and former Edmonton Oil King Rhett Rachinski round out Alberta’s riches up front.
In goal, the Golden Bears return both Real Cyr, last season’s CIS goalie of the year, and Kurtis Mucha, giving the program incredible depth in between the pipes as well.
The defence is made up of a number of returning players, five of which were in the top 15 for defencemen scoring last season. Returning players Ben Lindemulder, Colin Joe, Jesse Craige, Thomas Carr, Ian Barteaux , Jordan Rowley and Barron Smith make up the bulk of the blue-line, along with new recruit Brennan Yadlowski who previously played with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, and alongside 2012 NHL second overall draft pick Ryan Murray.
The program has a new head coach in Herbers, who is a former CIS and AHL champion, NHL defender and AHL head coach.
2011-12 conference record: 12-12-4 (5th)
2012 playoffs: 1-2
Last CW title: 1970-71
Last CIS title: N/A
CW ranking: #5
Key additions: Neil Manning, Kevin Smith, Joe Antilla, Brad Hoban, Scott MacDonald, Dillon Wagner, Linden Saip
Key returnees: Justin McCrae, Max Grassi, Jordan White, Ben Schmidt, Scott Wasden, Mike McGurk
Key departures: Marc Desloges, Jordan Inglis
VANCOUVER – Entering his 11th season as head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds, Milan Dragicevic calls this year’s recruiting class the best he has ever had. After some success last season, the reigning Canada West Coach of the Year is confident his team will be a contender to win a conference title for the first time since 1971.
New faces include the likes of former Vancouver Giants blue-liner Neil Manning, 2011 WHL champion Joe Antilla (Kootenay Ice), winger Brad Hoban who played five seasons with the Swift Current Broncos, and steady defenceman Kevin Smith (Kelowna Rockets). All are expected to be impact players in their first season in the CIS.
Up front the Thunderbirds will be relying on Max Grassi (25gp, 9g, 16a, 25pts) and Justin McCrae (15 gp, 5g, 2a, 7pts) to provide the offensive spark, while smooth skating Ben Schmidt and shutdown stalwart Mike McGurk will take care of things on the backend.
Goaltending is arguably the biggest strength for the UBC. Second Team Canada West All-Star Jordan White is back between the pipes and will have a healthy Steven Stanford to back him up.
2011-12 conference record: 15-11-2 (4th)
2012 playoffs: 5-3 (CW runner-up)
Last CW title: 1996
Last CIS title: N/A
CW ranking: #4
Key additions: D Giffen Nyren, D Alex Dzielski
Key returnees: F Brock Nixon, G Dustin Butler, F Taylor Stefishen
Key departures: F Reid Jorgensen, D Teigan Zahn, F Dylan Hood, F Teegan Moore
CALGARY – The Calgary Dinos have watched the other side celebrate championships for the past two years and, in 2012-13, they hope to turn the table and claim their first Canada West title since 1996.
Last season saw Reid Jorgensen, Teegan Moore and Joel Eisenkirch play their final year of eligibility in the CIS, conclude with a heart-breaking, triple-overtime loss at Saskatchewan. Team captain Jorgensen will be the hardest to replace not only because of the offence that will be missing, but leadership. Calgary also lost Dylan Hood and Teigan Zahn who have decided to take a chance at the minor-pro level.
Calgary has six new players on the roster this fall, but only three of them will be true first-year players. Jesse Ismond joins the squad after enjoying a successful four year career with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice where he was teammates with fellow Dino Kevin King. After taking a year off, defencemen Alex Dzielski and Giffen Nyren decided to leave the pro level for a chance at an education while continuing their hockey careers. Dzielski won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup in 2011 with the Alaska Aces, while Nyren split his time between the Abbotsford Heat and Utah Grizzlies. The team also added fifth-year Corey Banfield, who has played previously at St. Thomas University, along with Rylan Wiest and Brooks Myers both out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The biggest focus will for Calgary coming heading into Thursday’s season opener will be getting off to a strong start. The past two seasons has seen the Dinos struggle in the first half of the campaign, forcing them to rally to hold off opponents for a chance to host a playoff series. The key to this may be the team’s offence, which was fifth in the conference in goals scored.
2011-12 conference record: 7-18-3 (6th)
2012 playoffs: 0-2
Last CW title: 1993-94
Last CIS title: 1993-94
CW ranking: #6
Key additions: Damien Ketlo (G), Chase Schaber (F), Hayden Rintoul (D), Cody Chikie (F), Tim Campbell (D)
Key returnees: Dan Iwanski (F), Clayton Cumiskey (F), Brent Henke (F), DJ McDougal (D)
Key departures: Scott Bowles (G), Dustin Moore (F), Winston Day Chief (F), Taylor Gal (F), Ryan Pottruff (D)
LETHBRIDGE, AB – After limping into the post-season last year with a veteran-laden team, the Lethbridge Pronghorns will be significantly younger this season. Despite returning 15 players from last year’s team, no member will be in more than their third year of eligibility.
For the first time in five years, the Horns will enter the season with a question mark in the crease. Five-year stalwart Scott Bowles played out his eligibility. Set to battle for the starting role this season is freshman Damien Ketlo, the Lethbridge Hurricanes 2011-12 MVP and Dylan Tait, also a former Hurricane. Tait made seven appearances last season, mostly in relief appearances but put up solid numbers with a 2.89 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage.
In addition to the loss of Bowles, the Horns are without their top three scorers from last season. Captain and leading scorer Dustin Moore and Winston Day Chief graduated, while Taylor Gal decided to not to return for his third season. Up front, Dan Iwanski and Clayton Cumiskey will be tabbed to lead the way offensively, but head coach Greg Gatto also expects big things from a trio of newcomers.
Former Kamloops Blazers captain Chase Schaber gives the Horns a bona-fide number one centre and leadership, and former Western leaguers Cody Chikie and Killian Hutt have shown the ability to contribute offensively.
The blue line is completely revamped. DJ McDougal, Tyler Hlookoff and Mason Conway all return but the addition of former Victoria Royal captain Hayden Rintoul, local product Cason Machacek and former OHLer’s Tim Campbell and David McMullin are set to bolster the back end.
2011-12 conference record: 20-5-3 (1st)
2012 playoffs: 0-2
Last CW title: 1964-65
Last CIS title: 1964-65
CW ranking: #2
Key additions: James Henry, Paul Ciarelli, Brock Sutherland
Key returnees: Blair Macaulay, Jeremy Schappert, Dane Crowley, Tyler Dittmer, Ian Duval, Matthew Lowry, Del Cowan
Key departures: Mike Hellyer, Jared Walker, Myles Rumsey, Chris Benias, Travis Mealy
WINNIPEG – This season is a whole new beginning as the Manitoba Bisons lose numerous star players from last season including captain Mike Hellyer but still have a core nucleus ready for another winning run in the ultra competitive conference.
Back with the Bisons are 2011-12 Canada West Most Valuable Player and CIS Second Team All-Canadian Blair Macaulay and 2011-12 Canada West Outstanding Defenceman and CIS Second Team All-Canadian Jeremy Schappert. In addition, newly anointed captain Dane Crowley returns as he was selected as a 2011-12 Canada West Second Team All-Star.
Last season, Macaulay was the leading goal scorer in not only the conference but also the entire CIS with 23 goals and third in conference with 33 points. Schappert was first in conference defenceman scoring with 23 points, two points ahead of his teammate Crowley. Along with them, top-20 scorers in the lineup are Tyler Dittmer (24 points), Ian Duval (22) and Matthew Lowry (2).
With the motivated veterans back in the mix, there are also several new faces. There are 12 players in their first season with Manitoba, adding depth at forward and mobility on defence. Newcomers who expect to make an immediate impact include forward James Henry, who played five WHL seasons with Vancouver and Moose Jaw, forward Paul Ciarelli played the last four WHL seasons with Brandon and defenceman Brock Sutherland had a five-year WHL career with Lethbridge, Tri-City and Calgary.
MOUNT ROYAL COUGARS
2011-12 conference record: 22-1-3 (ACAC)
2012 playoffs: 2-3 (ACAC bronze)
Last CW title: N/A
Last CIS title: N/A
CW ranking: #7
Key additions: Billy Marshall, Michael Burns, Devin Gannon, Matt Brown
Key returnees: Kevin Knopp, Tyler Jewitt, Eric Galbraith, Justin Cote, Dalyn Flette
Key departures: Darnell Glass, Vinnie Muchalla, Jeremy Roberts
CALGARY – The Mount Royal Cougars are not taking chances against university competition, even with a squad that won 22 regular season games last year in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
Preparing for his first season of university play in Canadian Interuniversity Sports, head coach Jean Laforest went out and found 10 new student-athletes he hopes will help get the Cougars into playoff contention right out of the gate.
Third year forward Kevin Knopp of Vernon, B.C., is the new captain.
New forwards include Devin Gannon and Matt Brown from the Cowichan Capitals of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). They will start the season on the same line and if their results from the non-conference schedule continue, will provide plenty of offence.
Back is the Cougars’ leading scorer from 2011-12, Tyler Jewitt, who recorded 11 goals and 18 assists in 28 games last season.
Also newly recruited are defencemen Billy Marshall from the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials and Dominic Perreault from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins. They will play substantial minutes.
Goaltenders Justin Cote and Dalyn Flette are also back. This is Cote’s fifth and final year. Flette had a 2.00 goals-against average in 12 ACAC games last year while Cote’s was 2.32 in 16 contests.
2011-12 conference record: 5-20-3 (7th)
Last CW title: N/A
Last CIS title: N/A
CW ranking: #8
Key additions: D James Friedel, G Mitch Kilgore, F Skyler Hladun
Key returnees: G Lucas Gore, G Andrew Hayes, F Tyler Henry, F Troy Hunter, D Russ Nielsen, D Mark Schneider, F Matt Strueby
Key departures: F Terrance DeLaronde, F Lucas Isley, F Brett Leffler
REGINA – Under the direction of first-year head coach Todd Johnson, the Regina Cougars open up the Canada West schedule this weekend at home against the UBC Thunderbirds.
Johnson, who was an assistant coach with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice before taking over as the U of R’s bench boss in the off-season, likes the improvement he’s seen from his team since the players took the ice in early September.
The Cougars are strong in net, led by a pair of second-year netminders in Lucas Gore and Andrew Hayes. Gore led Canada West’s goalies in minutes played last season, while Hayes looked good last year in a brief stint with the Cougars after joining the team at midseason. Mitch Kilgore (Weyburn Red Wings) was a runner up for SJHL Goaltender of the Year honours last season and has played well in three appearances for the Cougars in the non-conference schedule.
Expect the U of R’s blue-liners to be anchored by team captain Russ Nielsen, who enters his fifth and final season of CIS eligibility. Nielsen will be joined by rookie James Friedel (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) on the top pairing, while second-year defencemen Mark Schneider and John Sonntag will also see heavy minutes on the back end.
Up front, Johnson expects Matt Strueby, Tyler Henry, and Troy Hunter to form the team’s No. 1 forward line. Strueby was just under a point-a-game pace last season, while Henry had 14 points as a rookie during the 2011-12 campaign and Hunter will be relied upon to play a much larger role in the team’s offence this year. Brock Appleyard, Craig Cuthbert, and Tyler Penny could form a No. 2 line that will be looked upon to help shoulder the offensive load.
2011-12 conference record: 19-6-3 (3rd)
2012 playoffs: 6-2 (CW champions)
2012 CIS: 1-1
Last CW title: 2011-12
Last CIS title: 1982-83
CW ranking: #1
Key additions: Brandon Herrod, Jesse Ross, Jimmy Bubnick
Key returnees: Derek Hulak, Kyle Bortis, Matthew Delahey
Key departures: Kyle Ross, Travis Brisebois, Shaun Vey
SASKATOON – As host of the 2013 University Cup, the Saskatchewan Huskies know where they will be in March, but that doesn’t mean they will take the rest of the season for granted or miss the opportunity to defend their conference title.
The Huskies’ roster includes 20 returning players, including 2011 conference scoring champion and All-Canadian Derek Hulak, as well as linemate and fellow all-star Kyle Bortis. They finished one-two in conference scoring in 2011-12 and will be looked at to once again lead the team. Hulak tallied 11 goals and 33 assists, while Bortis notched 17 goals and 22 assists.
Also returning to the Huskies offensively is Craig McCallum, Matthew Spafford, 2010-11 conference all-star Andrew Bailey and new captain Brennan Bosch.
Defensively, returners Matthew Delahey, Brett Ward, Cody Hobbs and Ryan Funk will be asked to play a large role. Ward scored the triple overtime winner for the Huskies, while Delahey was named a conference all-star after recording six goals and 11 assists.
Fourth-year goaltender David Reekie and third-year netminder Ryan Holfeld will once again split time between the pipes for the Huskies. In 2011-12, Reekie recorded a 2.68 goals against average and a .911 save percentage, while Holfeld had a 2.11GAA and a .930 save percentage.
New additions include forwards Jimmy Bubnick (Calgary Hitmen), Brandon Herrod (Kelowna Rockets), Kenton Dulle (St. Thomas University), Jordan Peddle (Edmonton Oil Kings), Andy Blanke (Swift Current Broncos), Marc-Andre Carre (LaRonge Ice Wolves) and Jesse Ross (Weyburn Red Wings).
David Bandla, Communications
Canada West Athletics
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About Canada West Universities Athletic Association
Canada West is consistently the most decorated of the four conferences in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), winning at least 10 CIS national titles every year, 1997 to 2010. Comprised of 16 schools from the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, Canada West produces numerous major award winners and Academic All-Canadian student-athletes each year, with many going on to athletic success around the globe in pro leagues or events such as the Olympics, Paralympics or Universiade Games. “cwuaa” on Twitter.