The Golden Bears hockey program has been one of the the University of Alberta’s strong suits in recent years and that continued throughout the 2014-15 season. The Bears have lost players to graduation, pro leagues, and even their head coach to the NHL, but the team hopes to continue that success into the 2015-16 season. Overall, the Bears hockey team was won 15 CIS National Championships in its history, and is looking for its third consecutive national title this year.
After being a key part in the Bears championship win, Jordan Hickmott will again be heavily counted on for offensive production as the Bears’ leading scorer, T.J. Foster, moves on to professional hockey. Hickmott was just two points behind Foster, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs American Hockey League affiliate for the upcoming season. Stephane Legault, a former Edmonton Oil King had an impressive rookie season with the Bears, scoring close to the point-per-game rate with twenty-one points in twenty-eight games.
Although five of the Bear’s top scoring forwards are returning, Legault will help replace the offense lost by the departure of forwards T.J. Foster and Johnny Lazo. Luke Siemens played twelve games last season, but may be relied on for a more prominent role after starting goaltender Kurtis Mucha graduated. Mucha departs from the Bears after backstopping them to two national championships. Siemens had a 10-2 record with the Bears last season.
The Golden Bears continued their hockey supremacy boasting a 24-3-1 record and another banner-raising season. The Bears placed first in their division and featured a CIS-leading 49 points on the year. The Bears generated the most shots for and allowed the fewest of any team in the CIS, reflecting just how dominant they were during the 2014-15 season.They also lead the league in goals scored with 125, and tied for the league low in goals allowed with 56 — giving them a league best goal differential of +69.
After a first place season, the Bears rolled through Canada West playoffs, defeating the UBC Thunderbirds in the semi-finals, and the Calgary Dinos in the finals without losing a game. That trend continued at the CIS National Championships, as the Bears won all three of their games in the championship tournament, defeating the UNB Varsity Reds 6-3 in the gold medal game to capture their second consecutive national title.
The Golden Bears can become the first team to win three consecutive national championships under new head coach, Serge Lajoie. Lajoie fills the position left by last years’ head coach Ian Herbers, who moves on to fill an assistant coach position with the Edmonton Oiler’s coaching staff under Todd McLellan. After an incredible 72-12 (.857) record in the regular season and 20-2 (.909) in the post-season, the Bears look to continue the same kind of success under Lajoie as they did under Herbers. The Bears open the 2015-16 season with their first seven out of eight games on the road, so a strong start is possible given their success on the road last season (12-2).
Key dates on the schedule for the Bears this season include a Nov. 13 and 14 matchup against the Calgary Dinos, who finished second in Canada West last year, and handed the Bears their only consectuive losses of the season last year. Anonther key matchup comes in the form of a season ending home-and-home series against the Mount Royal Cougars, who finished third in the standings last year. Prediction: The Bears retaining the majority of their offensive leaders will help lead to another dominant season, with a strong push for their third consecutive championship.