Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
Two Canada West teams with two very different histories head to the University Cup this week.
That reality, however, means little for the Saskatchewan Huskies and Alberta Golden Bears, who both travel to the CIS national tournament in Halifax with the same goal – to become national champions.
For Saskatchewan, the University Cup hasn't been overly kind, with the program a combined 4-7 in their last five trips to the tournament and with just one title (1982-83) in 16 total trips to the event.
Regardless of those numbers, the Canada West champion Huskies enter the tourney as the No.2 seed, intent on keeping their storybook season alive.
The tournament marks head coach Dave Adolph's 12th trip to the event, where he's suffered through several frustrating setbacks, including the last time the Huskies went in as Canada West champions in 2011-12.
"I heard about that all year. Either whispers behind my back, or even from colleagues in my own college about how we can never get it done," said Adolph, referring to Saskatchewan's 5-1 loss to Moncton in their first game of the 2012 U Cup, which scuttled the Huskies national title hopes.
"Those are hard things to deal with, but those are my issues. When you have a team like we have, they don't care about my past, they just care that I do my job and we play fast and with discipline. They love the way we play and I'm not going back on the past one bit."
With a young, highly skilled squad, Adolph is hoping this is finally the Huskies year to claim CIS hockey’s top prize after so many close calls, including two championship game losses to Alberta.
"I can't tell you how many times I've gone to the national championship absolutely scared of what people were going to say if we lost the first game," Adolph said. "I don't care this time. I really don't care. I love our team. I love the way they've competed. I know they're looking forward to the next challenge and none of them are scared and it's awesome."
Joining the Huskies in Halifax from the conference are the two-time defending University Cup champion Alberta Golden Bears, who are hoping to put a disappointing loss in the conference final to Saskatchewan behind them and capture the program's 16th national banner.
"We were able to quickly put things into perspective. We're still three wins (away) from accomplishing our ultimate goal," Bears head coach Serge Lajoie pointed out.
"The guys felt that it was a missed opportunity to get better as a team and to reach another one of our goals - that was to be Canada West champions and be in control of where we would be seeded going into the national championship tournament. For the fifth-year guys, they take it upon themselves to show leadership and I'm sure they were very disappointed, but we've been able to regroup."
1. UQTR Patriotes (OUA champions: 24-3-1 regular season / 7-0 playoffs)
2. Saskatchewan Huskies (CWUAA champions: 22-6-0 regular season / 4-0 playoffs)
3. StFX X-Men (AUS champions: 18-6-4 regular season / 5-1 playoffs)
4. Western Mustangs (OUA finalists: 18-10-0 regular season / 6-3 playoffs)
5. UNB Varsity Reds (AUS finalists: 23-3-2 regular season / 3-2 playoffs)
6. Alberta Golden Bears (CWUAA finalists: 19-7-2 regular season / 2-2 playoffs)
7. Carleton Ravens (OUA bronze medallists: 20-7-1 regular season / 5-2 playoffs)
8. Saint Mary’s Huskies (Hosts: 17-8-3 regular season / 3-3 playoffs)
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times ATLANTIC TIME)
Wednesday, March 16
7:55-17:15 60-minute practices OPEN TO MEDIA (Scotiabank Centre)
11:00 Meet the Teams Media Conference (Scotiabank Centre)
18:30 All-Canadian Dinner & Gala (Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel)
Thursday, March 17
16:00 Quarter-final 1: No. 7 Carleton vs. No. 2 Saskatchewan (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Quarter-final 2: No. 6 Alberta vs. No. 3 StFX (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Friday, March 18
16:00 Quarter-final 3: No. 5 UNB vs. No. 4 Western (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 8 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 1 UQTR (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Saturday, March 19
12:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (SN 360 & TVA Sports / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
16:00 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (SN 360 & TVA Sports / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
Sunday, March 20
14:00 Bronze (Eastlink TV / www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:30 Final (Sportsnet 360 & TVA Sports 2 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *
* Webcast of the semifinals & final are on pay-per-view basis.