SCSU HUSKIES (0-0-0) vs UNIVERSITY of ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS (4-1-1)
Saturday, October 3, 7:07 PM CT
Herb Brooks National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
The Canadian Interuniversity Cup two-time defending champion University of Alberta returns to St. Cloud for a single game this Saturday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. These two squads have a limited history and last played on October 8, 2005 at the NHC. The Golden Bears hold a 2-0-0 record vs SCSU and edged the Huskies 2-1 in that contest and 4-2 in an earlier game on October 6, 1996 in St. Cloud. Alberta finishes the weekend with a game vs Minnesota State University – Mankato on Sunday at the Verizon Center in Mankato, MN.
Alberta is the pre-season favorite in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) hockey which includes 4 divisions and 35 teams spanning the entire country of Canada. Alberta competes in Canada West which includes member schools Saskatchewan, Mount Royal, Calgary, Regina, Manitoba, Lethbridge and the University of British Columbia. CIS schools do offer athletic scholarships called Athletic Financial Awards (AFA) and aged-out major junior players are eligible to play for CIS teams although not eligible for NCAA play. Of interest is that there is only one CIS sport with an age limitation and that’s football. The Golden Bears web site does not list ages in their roster but be assured the average age is about 23.
Despite being an exhibition game, the Golden Bears present a formidable opponent from several standpoints. First, Alberta enters this contest with six games under its belt (4-1-1) including the annual game vs the Edmonton Oilers rookies (6-3 loss). In other games, the Golden Bears have compiled a 4-1 record with wins over the University of Saskatchewan, University of British Columbia and Augustana and a double overtime loss to NAIT Polytechnic. Thus, the Golden Bears will have their game legs under them and their special teams play will have had enough ice-time to make them effective. Second, even though the days of the “Brawling 80’s” are long gone from the Western Hockey League expect some significant physical play from a squad containing 21 players six feet or taller and 23 former WHL players. Known for it’s hard-hitting defenseman and power forwards expect that type of play to be carried over by these former WHL players. As a result, expect the Huskies to get their fair share of practice on special teams Saturday night.
Players to keep an eye on for the Golden Bears include two Canada West All-Stars in 6’2″ Jordan Hickmont (Mission, BC) and Kruise Reddick (Manor, SK) and CIS All-Rookie Team members Stephane Legault (Edmonton, AB) and Brett Ferguson (Vibank, SK) who combined for 49 points last season. Hickmont led Canada West in goal scoring and compiled 19-21-40 in 28 games. The Alberta defense is led by Thomas Carr (Edmonton, AB) and Jordan Rowley(Edmonton, AB) and in goal by Luke Siemans (Delta, BC) who finished fourth in Canada West with 10 wins last season.
The #17 pre-season ranked Huskies will certainly be at a disadvantage having only limited coaching supervision the last several weeks and an hour and a half of practice the morning of the game to work on special teams. However, it is an exhibition and the ultimate purpose of this game is to give the entire squad a game day experience, the ability to tinker with some lines and defensive pairings and to work on special teams play. Also, expect to see all three goaltenders make an appearance. The Huskies will then have another week of practice and then hit the road to the Kendall Classic in Anchorage, Alaska where they will face the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on Friday and the University of Alaska -Anchorage in a week.
Rosters have not been released and it would be a crap shoot to predict lines and defensive pairings. With nine first-year players, the coaches are expected to match youth with experience as they try to find effective combinations to begin the season. At forward, despite the loss of leading goal-scorer, Jonny Brodzinski (21 goals) the Huskies return seven of their top-ten scoring forwards from last season including Joey Benik who led the squad in points with 16-23-39 in 40 games. David Morley had an outstanding second half of the season in 2014-15 and finished second on the team in goal scoring with 17 and 29 points. Senior Kalle Kossila ( 6-20-26) battled injuries last season and is primed for a productive final year. Sophomore power forward, Patrick Russell was an impact first-year player in 2014-15 at 10-15-25 including seven power play goals. Blake Winiecki and Judd Peterson are two more sophomores that are expected to make huge strides in their second year. Senior, Jimmy Murray (5-11-16), Junior, Ben Storm (2-3-5), junior, Daniel Tedesco (2-1-3) and red-shirt sophomore, Ryan Papa will be key returning forwards that need to contribute to the offense if the Huskies are to be successful. First-year forwards Mikey Eyssimont, Patrick Newell, Robby Jackson and Jacob Benson all have arrived on campus with impressive junior hockey resumes and will all be given an opportunity to contribute to the offense and at times on special teams.
Defensively, the Huskies took the biggest hit with the departure of Andrew Prochno (3-12-15), Tim Daly (1-7-8) and Jarrod Rabey (0-2-2) who all logged loads of ice-time over the past four seasons. With Ben Storm shifted to forward, there should be no less than two first-year defenseman in the lineup each game. Captain Ethan Prow is seasoned player and led the Huskies defense in scoring with 4-19-23 in 2014-15. Prow along with Sophomore Nathan Widman (2-6-8) will be called upon to log extensive ice-time and to be on the ice for crucial face-offs and on special teams. Widman, a late recruit in 2014-15 made an impact as one of the top shut-down defenseman in the league. Finnish duo Junior, Niklas Nevalainen and Sophomore Mika Ilvonen will be given every opportunity to demand extensive ice-time this season. Ilvonen is a gifted offensive defenseman and needs to spread his wings on the ice. Seasoned Junior hockey defensemen, Jon Lizzotte and Jimmy Schuldt will be joined by highly touted youngster and Buffalo Sabres draftee, Will Borgen in the lineup on Saturday. Fourth defenseman, Clark Kuster is still rehabbing from a knee injury and won’t see action this weekend.
Goaltending is solid and comfortably in the hands of Charlie Lindgren who won 19 games in 2014-15 and posed a 2.26 GAA and .919 save percentage. Backing him up will be Rasmus Reijola 2.13 GAA and .901 save percentage and newcomer David Zevnik from Lakeville, MN.
Expect a challenging game from the two-time defending CIS champion, Golden Bears on Saturday.
Enjoy the game.