Making the adjustment

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Cougars men’s hockey forward Matt Strueby jumped from the WHL to the CIS this season

Autumn McDowell
Sports Writer

He began playing hockey at the age of two, was named the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s most valuable player in 2007, and then went on to play three seasons with the WHL’s Regina Pats.

While playing for the Pats, he was able register 127 points in 206 games. This season, he has been proud to call the University of Regina Cougars his team. Although the transition from the WHL to the CIS can sometimes be a difficult one, Matt Strueby has made it look easy.

“It’s been good,” said Strueby on his first year playing CIS hockey. “I mean, it’s a different game then the WHL, but it’s been really fun. We have a pretty close group of guys which is nice.”

Surprisingly, one of the biggest differences that Strueby has noticed when comparing the two leagues has been the size of his competition.

“They’re bigger and stronger guys” said Strueby. “I recognize many of them because a lot of WHL guys come to this league, but they are all just bigger and stronger now.”

It wasn’t the playing that had Strueby worried coming into his first year of university, but rather the juggling act that he knew he would have to perform in order to balance a heavy class load while still playing hockey.

“I was very nervous,” Strueby said. “It has been tough, but you’ve got to do it.”

At the moment, Strueby is registered in five classes at school, while practicing nearly every weekday and playing almost every weekend. According to Strueby, the busy schedule may be affecting his play.

“Personally, I haven’t been as good as I should have been,” he said.  “I think I have been OK. It’s just been a bit of an adjustment for me this year. I would have wanted to contribute more.”

Although his statistics are not exactly where he wants them to be, Strueby sits fifth on the team in scoring with two goals and six assists in 20 games.

Unfortunately, the team sits dead last in the standings with a 7-13-2 record, but the future still looks bright for the Cougars.

“As a team, we all want to be better than we are right now, but were young,” Strueby noted. “We have all made really big strides, so hopefully we can build on that.”

The Cougars are poised to miss the playoffs this year, a situation which is no stranger to Strueby, who hasn’t made the playoffs since his first season with the Pats back in 2008. 

“I’ve had a couple of long off-seasons. I have a playoff curse,” said Strueby jokingly. “But, in the off-season, I am mainly going to focus on school.”

Strueby will be back next year for another season with the Green and Gold, during which he plans to be able to “balance school and hockey better, and try harder at school.”

There is no doubt that Strueby has a long career of hockey ahead of him. His willingness to battle in the corners and nose around the net make him a valuable player on any team’s roster. If Strueby has his way, in ten years he plans to still be doing what he loves to do. 

“I want to still be playing hockey,” said. “I want to go over to Europe and get a contract to play somewhere, but we’ll see what happens.”

Although Strueby was out of commission for the team’s weekend matchup against the visiting Manitoba Bisons (11-5-4) at the Co-operators Centre, the team still managed to split the weekend series.

Dillon Johnstone scored the lone goal of the night to give the Cougars a 1-0 win on Friday. Adam Ward was impressive in net for the Cougars, making 34 saves. Late heroics by the Bisons led them to a 2-1 shootout victory on Saturday. Again, Johnstone scored the only goal for the Cougars, who got 32 saves from A.J. Whiffen

The Cougars will now make the trip to Edmonton to take on the Alberta Golden Bears (13-5-2), before they play their final home games of the season on Feb. 11-12.

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