CANADA WEST PREVIEW
By David Bandla, Communications Director Canada West Conference
Friday, October 05, 2007
Canada West Overview
Let’s start at the top… Canada West has gone to a one-division system, meaning anyone could end up head-to-head at playoff time.
The Saskatchewan Huskies return the bulk of their conference title team of 2006-07, including captain Brent Twordik, scoring leader Mason Wallin, Curtis Austring and starting goalkeeper Jeff Harvey. The recruiting list could be enough to start reloading for this year and beyond.
Alberta had six straight conference titles, two straight national titles and 10 consecutive appearances at the University Cup before faltering at the end of last season. The Golden Bears have almost the entire group back, including offensive stars Dylan Stanley, Ben Kilgour and freshman standout Ian McDonald. Add in a healthy Chad Klassen, star blue-liner Harlan Anderson and a veteran Aaaron Sorochan in net and you get a team fully expecting a return to glory. Recruits Eric Hunter and Jason Fransoo provide even more stability to an all-around solid corps.
The Calgary Dinos have added veteran NHLer Jared Aulin, and he along, with Ryan Annesley, are expected to put the biscuit in the basket a ton this year. With Aaron Richards all returning up front and Travis Friedley manning the point, the Dinos boast an improved and well-rounded offence. Jordan McLaughlin is back and healthy to tend goal, while former Buffalo Sabres draft choice Jeff Weber could figure in the mix if the team’s needs a spark in net.
At UBC, a Thunderbirds team that has lacked offence appears ready to improve, but will it be enough to pull out more than just the low-scoring, one-goal victories. Darrell May is the top forward, but the best offensive player is likely all-star defenceman Brad Zanon. Mitch Bartley is back, along with several key players, but most important are the return of ’keeprs François Thuot and Gerry Festa, who are more than capable of pulling out victory even if the T-Birds do struggle on offence.
The Lethbridge Pronghorns had a terrific conference season, with star d-man Jay Langager and freshman forward Mark Shefchyk picking up oodles of awards at the conference at CIS levels. Langager has graduated the program to become an assistant coach, leaving an irreplaceable hole on defence and, really, on offence, too. Devin Featherstone and Andrew Jungwirth are the only returning blue-liners, meaning the recruits will be called upon to log plenty of ice time. New captain Shaun Norrie is back for a fifth year, while goalies Jesse Deckert and Scott Bowles will be the Horns’ last line of defence.
Manitoba looks to improve greatly, though the lineup is still a young one and plenty of questions need to be answered. Returning forward Chris Falloon had 29 points in 2006-07, while Bisons defenceman and team captain Rob Smith is also back. The goaltending duo of Krister Toews, overworked much of his CIS career, and Steve Christie, who was 5-2-0, are solid veterans who will mind the crease.
Like the Bisons, the Regina Cougars are young and full of questions in a very tough Canada West conference. Offensive stud Jason Weitzel is gone and only a handful of veteran players return to the lineup for ’07-08, including 20-point man Caine Pearpoint and defenceman Clay Thoring. With the departure of Clint Chalmers, Adam Ward will get the nod in goal after posting a 6-6-0 mark and a 3.29 GAA last year.
Alberta Golden Bears
2006-07 conference record: 20-4-4, 1st Mountain
2006-07 playoffs: 3-2-0, lost CW final
Last CIS title: 2005-06