MHKY preview: Bears, Huskies tabbed as pre-season favourites

MHKY preview: Bears, Huskies tabbed as pre-season favourites

Canada West Communications

EDMONTON – Familiar foes find themselves the expected frontrunners this season in Canada West men's hockey, as the conference gets set for puck drop Friday night.

COMPLETE MHKY SCHEDULE

The 2017-18 CW regular season opens this weekend, and if the men’s hockey pre-season poll is any indication, the defending conference champion Alberta Golden Bears and last year’s U SPORTS silver medalist Saskatchewan Huskies are expected to compete once again for the CW crown. The pair finished tied in the poll, earning four first-place votes and three second-place votes apiece.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are no strangers when it comes to battling for the conference championship, as the duo have met 19 times in the conference championship series, including three of the last five years.

Last season the bitter rivals went the distance in the Canada West championship series, as it took three games to decide a conference champion, with the Bears eventually emerging victorious thanks to a 6-3 win at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon, which is set to be replaced next season with a new home for the hockey Huskies. 

While Alberta and Saskatchewan are the favourites according to the coaches heading into 2017-18, there will be no shortage of intrigue behind the Bears and Huskies.

The revamped Calgary Dinos slot in third in the poll, as head coach Mark Howell's team looks to regain the form that took the program to back-to-back conference championship series in 2015 and 2016. Calgary features 16 combined players in either their first or second year of eligibility and went 6-2 during the pre-season, with wins over fellow CW schools Lethbridge, Regina, Manitoba, and Mount Royal. 

Those three teams are all expected to finish behind the Dinos this season according to the poll, which slots the UBC Thunderbirds in the fourth spot. The T-Birds enter the 2017-18 season with the hope some stability at the head coaching position will set the course for future success, as the position has been filled on a permanent basis by Sven Butenschon. The former Vancouver Canuck served as interim head coach last season, after the rapid departure of Adam Shell prior to training camp in August of 2016.

Butenschon has brought in a healthy crop of players during his first recruiting cycle, most notably Tyler Sandhu at centre. The new addition is looking to help fill the void left by the departures of Anthony Bardaro and Luke Lockhart this season. Sandhu, who hails from Richmond, B.C., is coming off a career year in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans, finishing the 2016-17 season just outside the top 20 scorers in the league with 83 points.

For more on all eight Canada West men's hockey teams, take a look at the team previews below and be sure to watch every CW regular season and playoff hockey game online at Canada West TV. You can watch the action by purchasing a Canada West TV pass here.

For fans looking to get a sneak peak of the conference’s revamped streaming site this season, be sure to tune into the Canada West TV Game of the Week for free this Friday at 7 p.m. MDT, when the Alberta Golden Bears host the Mount Royal Cougars. You can watch the game by clicking here.

 

2017 CW men’s hockey pre-season coaches poll

Place / Team / Points (First-place votes)

T1. Alberta & Saskatchewan / 46 (4)

3. Calgary / 37

4. UBC / 24

5. *Manitoba / 23

6. Mount Royal / 23

7. Lethbridge / 18

8. Regina / 7

NOTES: First-place vote worth 7 pts., second-place worth 6 pts. etc. / *Awarded higher position based on greater number of higher placed votes.      

 

ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS 

2016-17 CW regular season record: 18-8-2, 2nd

2016-17 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): 4-2, Canada West Champions, 5th at U SPORTS Championship 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2017 / 26

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championship: 2015 / 15 

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 97 goals against, 3rd

Defence: 72 goals against, 2nd

Power play: 19.4%, 4th

Penalty kill: 86.7%, 1st 

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 15 – Jayden Hart, F

Assists: 19 – Stephane Legault, F

Points: 26 – Jayden Hard & Tyson Baillie - F

Wins: 8 – Brendan Burke & Luke Siemens - G

Shutouts: 2 – Brendan Burke, G

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Zach Sawcheno/ G / 1st/ Calgary, Alta. / Moose Jaw Warriors

Clayton Kirichenko / D / 1st/ Sherwood Park, Alta. / Medicine Hat Tigers

Steven Owre/ F / 1st/ Rocklin, California/ Medicine Hat Tigers

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program): 

Brendan Yadlowski / D / Edmonton, Alta. / 5

Luke Siemens / G / Delta, BC / 5

Rhett Rachinski / F / Edmonton, Alta / 5 

Key performer:

Luke Philp

Forward

2nd-year

Canmore, Alta.

Sophomore centre Luke Philp became a mainstay in the Golden Bears top-six in his rookie campaign in 2016-17, helping Alberta capture the conference championship last February. While not scoring as many points as fellow rookie Tyson Baillie (26 vs 18), Philp was on the ice in every situation for the Bears last season. The former Red Deer Rebel scored three power play goals, added a shorthanded tally, was relied upon in numerous defensive zone starts, and was among the Bears time-on-ice leaders.

 

UBC THUNDERBIRDS

2016-17 CW regular season record: 12-13-3, 6th

2016-17 post-season record: 0-2, lost to Calgary in QF

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 1971 / 2

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: Highest finish 2nd in 1963 

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 76 goals for, 7th

Defence: 95 goals against, 6th

Power play: 13.1%, 8th

Penalty kill: 76.1%, 8th 

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 14 – Anthony Bardaro, Forward

Assists: 16 – Anthony Bardaro & Austin Vetterl, Forwards

Points: 30 – Anthony Bardaro, Forward

Wins: 7 – Derek Dun, Goalie

Shutouts: 0

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Shaun Dosanjh / D / 1 / Richmond, B.C. / Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Matthew Revel / F / 1 / Abbotsford, B.C. / Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Tyler Sandhu / F / 1 / Richmond, B.C. / Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Austin Glover / F / 1 / Saskatoon, Sask. / Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

Graham Millar / F / 1 / Penticton, B.C. / Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Rylan Toth / G / 1 / Saskatoon, Sask. / Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program): 

Anthony Bardaro / F / Delta, B.C. / 4

Joe Antilla / F / Madiera Park, B.C. / 5

Luke Lockhart / F / Burnaby, B.C. / 4

Derek Dun / G / Surrey, B.C. / 1 

Key performer:

Jerret Smith

Defence

2nd-year

Surrey, B.C.

It took no time at all for the local product to adjust to the level of play in Canada West, as Smith led all Thunderbird defenceman in points last season with 16, led the team in power play goals with four, and finished third in conference rookie blue line scoring. Smith also led the T-Birds in their quarter-final playoff series against Calgary with three points.

Logging heavy minutes in all situations, Smith was a big factor in UBC’s power play resurgence late last year and will be a major contributor at both ends of the ice again this season.

 

CALGARY DINOS

2016-17 CW regular season record: 23-12-3, 3rd  

2016-17 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): 2-2, lost in semis to Alberta

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 1996 / 8

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: Highest finish - 3rd (1996, 1995, 1990, 1988, 1981, 1980, 1976, 1974)

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 83 goals for, 6th

Defence: 77 goals against, 3rd

Power play: 22.7%, 3rd  

Penalty kill: 81.7%, 3rd  

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 21 – Elgin Pearce, F

Assists: 18 – Chris Collins, F

Points: 35 – Elgin Pearce, F

Wins: 10 – Matthew Greenfield, G

Shutouts: 4 – Steven Stanford, G 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Ryan Gagnon / D / 1 / Quesnel, BC / Victoria Royals

Trent Lofthouse / F / 2 / Surrey, BC / University of Regina Cougars

Tim Vanstone / F / 1 / Swift Current, Sask. / Prince Albert Raiders

Matt Alfaro / F / 1 / Calgary, Alta. / Lethbridge Hurricanes

Riley Sheen / F / 1 / Edmonton, Alta. / Red Deer Rebels

Matt Alfaro / F / 1 / Calgary, Alta. / Lethbridge Hurricanes

Ryan Graham / F / 1 / Calgary, Alta. / Swift Current Broncos

Chris Rauckman / F / 2 / Red Deer, Alta. / University of PEI

Josh Uhrich / F / 1 / Rosetown, Sask. / Miramichi Timberwolves

Garrett Forster / F / 2 / Delta, BC / St. Cloud State

Tyler Gutenburg / G / 2 / Brandon, Man. / Neepawa Natives

Jordan Papirny / G / 1 / Edmonton, Alta. / Swift Current Broncos

Dane Gibson / F / 3 / Sidney, BC / University of Maine

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Elgin Pearce / F / Port Coquitlam, BC / 4

Dylan Walchuk / F / McBride, BC / 5

Parker Bowles / F / Kelowna, BC / 1

Steven Stanford / G / Calgary, Alta. / 2

Danny Gayle / F / Calgary, Alta. / 4

Key performer

Dylan Busenius

Defence

4th-year

Sherwood Park, Alta.

Going into his fourth year with the Dinos, Dylan Busenius has improved his point totals every season, sitting with 29 points in 71 career games entering 2017-18. The steady, two-way defender will lead the charge on the blue line along with team captain, Dan Gibb and Drydn Dow. Busenius is expected to contribute offensively as well, as he registered 51 shots, good for second amongst defenders. The clutch defender also scored the biggest goal of the season for the Dinos, as his triple-OT goal clinched a first round victory over the UBC Thunderbirds.

 

LETHBRIDGE PRONGHORNS  

2016-17 CW regular season record: 11-14-3, 7th

2016-17 post-season record: DNQ

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 1993-94 / 1

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 1993-94 / 1

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 90 goals for, 5th

Defence: 103 goals against, 7th

Power play: 18.5%, 5th

Penalty kill: 81%, 4th 

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 16 – Justin Valentino, LW/C

Assists: 22 – Mitch Maxwell, Right Wing

Points: 29 – Mitch Maxwell, Right Wing

Wins: 11 – Garret Hughson, Goalie

Shutouts: 0 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Ty Edmonds / G / 1 / Winnipeg, Man. / Prince George Cougars

Dallas Valentine / D / 1 / Lousanna, Alta. / Kamloops Blazers

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Tim Campbell / Defence / Thornhill, Ont. / 5

Key performer:

Justin Valentino

LW/C

4th-year

Thompson, Man. 

Valentino has steadily improved each year statistically and raises the level of play of those around him. The Thompson, Man. product posted 28 points a season ago to finish second in team scoring behind Mitch Maxwell (29 pts.). His speed, work ethic, and hard-nosed mentality are critical to the style of play that the Pronghorns like to execute, with his versatility giving head coach Spiros Anastas the flexibility to play him in any situation. 

 

MANITOBA BISONS

2016-17 CW regular season record: 14-12-2, 5th 

2016-17 post-season record: 1-2,  lost to Mount Royal in CW quarter-finals

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 1965 / 2

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 1965 / 1

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 96 goals for, 4th

Defence: 88 goals against, 5th

Power play: 17.1%, 6th

Penalty kill: 77.6%, 7th  

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 12 – Jordan DePape, F

Assists: 17 – Brett Stovin, F

Points: 23 – Jordan DePape, F

Wins: 12 – Byron Spriggs, G

Shutouts: 3 –Byron Spriggs, G 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Michael St. Croix / F / 3 / Winnipeg, Man. / Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Zach Franko / F / 3 / Winnipeg, Man. / Acadia Axemen

Lucas Skrumeda / D / 1 / St. Andrews, Man. / Everett Silvertips

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Jordan DePape / F / Winnipeg, Man. / 4

Shaq Merasty / F / Minnedosa, Man. / 3

Lee Christensen / D / Winnipeg, Man. / 5

Key performer:

Brett Stovin

Forward

3rd-year

Stony Mountain, Man.

After a challenging 2016-17 season when he played injured and successful surgery in the summer, Bison third-year forward Brett Stovin is expected to be back at his 2015-16 Canada West All-Rookie Team level this season.

Stovin, 23, brings numerous skills as he's strong on both siders of the puck, tying for second in team scoring with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) while playing in 23 conference regular season games in 2016-17.  The veteran forward also plays on special teams and against some of the top lines, logging key defensive minutes.

In addition, his leadership is shown on and off the ice.

“Brett provides leadership as he is a positive person who cares about his teammates and supportive while making people makes people around him better,” said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.

"He understands the game and knows what it takes for individual and the team to be competitive and successful this season.”

 

MOUNT ROYAL COUGARS

2016-17 CW regular season record: 15-11-2

2016-17 post-season record: 2-3, lost in CW semis

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2015-16 / 3rd in CW (highest finish)

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: N/A 

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 99 goals for, 2nd

Defence: 80 goals against, 4th

Power play: 23.1%, 1st

Penalty kill: 80%, 5th

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 17 – Connor Rankin, F

Assists: 18 – Connor Rankin, F

Points: 35 – Connor Rankin, F

Wins: 11 – Colin Cooper, G

Shutouts: 2 – Colin Cooper, G 

Key additions:

Ryley Lindgren / F / 1 / East St. Paul, Man. / Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Bradley Kennedy / F / 1 / Antigonish, NS / Pictou County Crusher (MHL)

Mitch Lipon / F / 1 / Regina, Sask. / Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL) 

Key losses:

Matt Brown / F / Truro, NS / 5

Cam Maclise / F / Lacombe, Alta. / 4

Key performer:

Connor Rankin

Forward

3rd-year

North Vancouver, BC 

Returning as the top scorer in Canada West last season, Rankin will be looked to be a major scoring threat for the Cougars in 2017-18. With his 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points, Rankin was named a U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian for the second consecutive time in his career. A veteran of more than 330 WHL games, Rankin enters his second full season of Canada West play a pre-season contender for the Dave "Sweeney" Schriner Trophy as the conference's top scorer.

 

REGINA COUGARS

2016-17 CW regular season record: 3-25, 8th

2016-17 post-season record: DNQ 

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2008-09/4th (highest finish)

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: N/A

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 60 goals for, 8th

Defence: 131 goals against, 8th

Power play: 14%, 7th

Penalty kill: 79%, 6th 

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 9 – Ian McNulty, F

Assists: 11 – Cody Fowlie, F

Points: 17 – Ian McNulty, F

Wins: 3 – Andy Desautels, G

Shutouts: N/A

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Michael Herringer / G / 1 / Courtenay, B.C. / Kelowna Rockets

Zachary Zborosky / F / 1 / Regina, Sask. / Lethbridge Hurricanes

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

Mitch Kilgore / G / Outlook, Sask. / 5

Key performer:

Michael Herringer

Goalie

1st-year

Courtney, B.C.

Having been recognized as one of the top goalies in the WHL last season, Herringer will step right into an important role with the Cougars and look to help Regina improve on a conference-worst 131 goals allowed a season ago. 

The former Kelowna Rocket enters the goaltending fold in Regina with the No. 1 job within grasp after Regina struggled last year in between the pipes, posting a combined 4.47 GAA and .872 SV%.

Herringer joins the Cougars with a proven WHL track record, which saw him hold down the starting job each of the last two seasons for Kelowna.

 

SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

2016-17 CW regular season record: 21-5-2, 1st

2016-17 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): 5-3, lost in University Cup final to UNB Varsity Reds

Last CW championship / total CW championships: 2016 / 16

Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships: 1982-83 / 1 

2016-17 CW regular season ranks:

Offence: 106 goals for, 1st

Defence: 61 goals against, 1st

Power play: 23%, 2nd

Penalty kill: 85%, 2nd

2016-17 CW regular season leaders:

Goals: 13 – Logan McVeigh, F

Assists: 18 – Logan McVeigh, F / Josh Roach, F

Points: 31 – Logan McVeigh, F

Wins: 19 – Jordon Cooke, G

Shutouts: 4 – Jordon Cooke, G 

Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):

Collin Shirley / F / 1 / Saskatoon, Sask. / Kamloops Blazers

Carter Folk / F / 1 / Regina, Sask. / Victoria Royals

Taran Kozun / G / 1 / Nipawin, Sask. / Utah Grizzlies

Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):

N/A

Key performer:

Jordon Cooke

Goaltender

4th-year

Leduc, Alta.

Reigning U SPORTS and Canada West Top Goaltender Jordon Cooke returns to the University of Saskatchewan Huskie men’s hockey program for his fourth season. Last year marked the second straight year he was given the honours.

In 2016-17, the Leduc, Alta., native posted a 19-4-2 record, 1.94 goals-against average, and a .929 save during the 2016-17 season.  He was also named to Canada's team at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland over the holiday break. Cooke's four shutouts last year tied the Canada West single-season record, and his seven career shutouts are the most among any active Canada West goalie.