On Tuesday afternoon, Canada West released their men’s hockey schedule for the 2017-18 season.
The Alberta Golden Bears open their Canada West title defence against the Mount Royal Cougars during a home-and-home on October 6-7. Perennial Canada West superpower and finalists at nationals in 2017, the Saskatchewan Huskies will also play a home-and-home against provincial rival, the Regina Cougars on opening weekend.
The regular season wraps up on February 10, with the first round of the playoffs starting February 16. Six teams will make the playoffs, with the top two receiving byes into the second round. U SPORTS Nationals will again be held in Fredericton from March 15-18.
Below are some of the key match-ups to keep an eye on for the 2017-18 season.
UBC at Lethbridge: October 27-28, 2017
These two teams had a multitude of epic games last season. Both UBC and Lethbridge jockeyed for position in the standings for most of the year. The Thunderbirds squeaked into the sixth position, though they would exit in the first round at the hands of the Calgary Dinos.
Last year, UBC claimed two double overtime wins at home in early November. The next time these two teams met in Lethbridge in January, the Pronghorns swept the series. The second game of the two-game series saw the Pronghorns win 8-7 in overtime, an absolute barn burner. The Pronghorns only managed one more win in the second half of the season after that sweep, a 4-3 victory against Alberta.
UBC has a couple interesting recruits coming into the fold next year and with head coach Sven Butenschon in his first official season, UBC will be looking to build on the success of last year’s campaign.
Mount Royal at Manitoba: October 27-28, 2017
These two teams have developed a bit of a rivalry over the course of the last couple of seasons, though the Cougars have gotten the better of the Bisons. Mount Royal holds a 10-1 record against the Bisons during the last two seasons, including the playoffs and regular season.
This will be a test early on for Manitoba on whether they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Alberta and Saskatchewan this season. The Herd lost in three games last year to the Cougars in the conference quarter-finals, getting thumped 7-1 in game three.
The Bisons will look to ride the momentum they picked up in a superb second half, and the Cougars will not want to alter their winning formula against the Bisons.
Alberta at Saskatchewan: November 17-18
Alberta is returning to the scene of the crime of their Canada West championship, with Saskatchewan hoping to erase that memory in their first showdown of the regular season.
It’s the clash of the Canada West titans. Anytime these two teams play it always entertaining. Since 1997, the only teams to win the Canada West conference have been either the Huskies or the Golden Bears. The Bears, the most recent champions, have won 14 times in that time span, the Huskies have won five.
Last season many pegged the Huskies to win the conference. Though it was not to be, as Alberta upset Saskatchewan in three games. The Huskies ended up making it to the championship game at nationals, falling in the end to the dynasty that is the University of New Brunswick.
Calgary at Mount Royal: January 25, 2018
This is technically a home game for the Cougars, but once again the Crowchild Classic will be held on neutral ground at the Saddledome. Last year 12,205 fans watched the Dinos beat the Cougars 5-4 in double overtime. The atmosphere was raucous and the game itself was thrilling.
Expect more of the same this year as these two teams resume niceties. The Crowchild Classic came to be in 2012 to mark the first year of U SPORTS competition between Mount Royal and Calgary.
The Crowchild Classic pits the basketball, volleyball, soccer, and hockey teams against each other in a multi-sport, season-long series. Last year the Dinos won 8-6. The “medal” is a 68kg cast-iron City of Calgary manhole cover.
With most teams in the Canada West conference already on the recruit board, the 2017-18 season looks to be as competitive as usual out west. As per usual, both Saskatchewan and Alberta appear to be the early favourites, but with two months remaining in the offseason there’s still a lot that can change.
You can view the full 2017-18 Canada West men’s hockey schedule here.