Men’s hockey preview

Don’t fret, we let them play in a rink sometimes/ Arthur Ward

Don’t fret, we let them play in a rink sometimes/ Arthur Ward

Cougars hit the ice once again

Recently, I wrote a season preview for the Cougar women’s hockey team, who were one of the very few rays of light in an otherwise gloomy year for sports at the U of R, going 15-11-2 last season, making the playoffs, and are now looking to improve on that. This week, I am doing a season preview for the men’s team, who are coming off a season quite opposite of the women. They had a record of 8-20-3, started the season 0-9, and only managed fifty-nine goals all season, which was second worst in all of the CIS. However, the one thing both these teams have in common this season is they have their eyes on the playoffs.

According to head coach Todd Johnson, “It is really hard to predict where we will end up in our league, but I feel we have a good chance to be in the top five this year and host a playoff game.”

For the Cougars to be a playoff team one thing they need to improve is goal scoring, after having one of the worst goals for in the entire CIS, as mentioned above.       “Biggest obstacle will be generating offense,” says coach Johnson, “Our league is such a defensive league that we will need to work hard as a group to score goals.”

A couple of players the coach will look at to lead the team in this aspect of the game are second-year Dylen McKinlay and third-year Cody Fowlie.

In the previous quote, Todd says how they play in a very defensive league, in which you would expect third-, fourth-, and fifth-year players to be the ones carrying the workload on the back-end due to their increased experience playing at this level. For that reason, I was shocked when he told me that wasn’t who he was expecting to do most of the heavy lifting for him this year.

“Defensively, we have a few new players that have really stood out during the preseason,” says the fourth-year head coach. “Players like Landon Cross, Landon Peel and Tyler Bell.”

All of whom are first year CIS players.

In the coach’s eyes, he has the players capable of getting them to the playoffs, but whether or not they make it is on him finding the perfect chemistry.

“As a coach, it is about trying to put the pieces together with all the new players,” Johnson explains, “Trying to find who works well together and who has chemistry on the ice is always a bit tricky. Then it is getting all the players up to speed on the systems. Everyone needs to buy into what you are trying to do to be successful.”

Eyeing the playoffs after the season they had last year, in my view, may be reaching just a little bit, because there is a ton of room for improvement. With ten new players this year, it is going to be a struggle to get them all on the same page right from the get-go. That being said, what else, other than optimism, would you expect, or even want from the coach? If Todd Johnson thinks the playoffs are in their grasp, all he has to do is get the players to believe, as well, and anything is possible. That is the beauty of hockey.

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