Cougar Men’s Hockey opens 0-2 against powerhouse Calgary
1-8 is not the way you want to start a new season
The Cougar men’s hockey team opened their 2019 campaign this weekend against last year’s third-place team, the University of Calgary Dinos. U of R men’s hockey comes off of a strong pre-season, but it will be an uphill battle. Last season the team was 4-24 for last place in Canada West. The team has reloaded this year with some new faces and the core veteran group is only getting better, but in the opening weekend the Cougars got more of the same. For second-year forward Connor Chaulk, the game was an imperfect opening for the new season.
“It was a tough start for us, it wasn’t the foot we wanted to get off on. I think that they are the best team in the league, but it shows us the level we need to play at to compete with the best teams in the league.”
In the first game on Friday, the score-line was ugly. The Dinos blew away the Cougars 8-1. The Cougars came out of the gate hot, getting the first shot of the game off a great rush by second-year centre Connor Chaulk. Dinos goaltender Matthew Greenfield was solid, as he would be all night long, and he stopped the forward in his tracks. After trading possession for the next few minutes, Calgary opened the scoring with a long shot through coverage.
The Dinos found the back of the net twice more near the end of the frame. One of these goals came at the hands of Luke Harrison off a beautiful feed from Jordan Xavier. Xavier got one of his own with seven seconds left to play. At the end of the first period, shots were only 14-9 in favour of Calgary and both teams were trading chances evenly. Things only really started to open up in the second.
The Dinos quickly broke the game open with two goals, and things started to devolve from there. The Cougars ended up allowing ten powerplays, two of which resulted in goals for the visiting Dinos. Special teams need improvement on both sides of the ice, the Cougars failed to score on four powerplays of their own in a heavily penalized game and instead allowed Calgary to score a shorthanded goal.
“I think at times we did play very well, but the penalties were quite the issue. We spent the majority of the games in the penalty box, and you can’t give good teams the power play.”
In terms of how the special teams performed, Chaulk is more optimistic.
“I thought our penalty kill was really good, but the power play needed some work. I think its about getting into those game situations and building chemistry.”
Goaltending was also a weakness for the Cougars on opening night. Dawson MacAuley didn’t get enough help from the players in front of him, getting peppered with 37 shots throughout the night, but there were certainly some goals he would like to have back, particularly a long one from far back at the beginning of the second period.
On Saturday, the story was much of the same. The game opened up evenly; the Dinos scored in the first period but the Cougars kept it close, tying it up with a goal of their own early in the second. However, once again penalties sunk the Cougars. They allowed for another eight powerplay opportunities and the Dinos capitalized on two once again. The Cougars also failed to score on three of their own. For Chaulk, these penalties come down to emotional control.
“I think that’s an internal issue we need to look at, I think the retaliation penalties were big this weekend.”
Rookie goaltender Curtis Myden was in net for the Cougars in their second game, and he faced even more shots than MacAuley did on opening night, stopping 35 of 40. That is a solid performance for the rookie and should get him a few more looks early in the season.
The Cougars’ lone goals of the weekend came from Tate Coughlin and Ben Duperreault. Coughlin’s was his first of the year, pre-season included, and bodes well for the Cougars scoring depth going forward.
The team heads to Lethbridge next weekend to play two more against the 1-1 Pronghorns. Lethbridge was 9-19 last season in Canada West action and should prove to be a less dangerous team than the powerhouse Dinos. If the Cougars can come out of the gate strong again and stay out of the penalty box, they should have a good chance to bring their season back to .500. For Chaulk, they can only go up from here.
“I really like where we are, even though the results were the same as last year this weekend I think we have a really good group of guys and in the long run it will improve.”