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The University of Regina men’s hockey team embarks on the regular season

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

After a last place finish in 2010-11, the University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey team can only go up from here. Hopefully.

During preseason action, the Cougars sported a 3-3-1-1 record, two of those loses coming at the hands of two powerhouse schools in the States, University of North Dakota and Bemidji State. Although both of the loses were by rather large margins, 1-8 and 0-7, head coach Blaine Sautner still believes that the trip across the boarder was a valuable experience.

“It was a great experience for our players to play NCAA teams,” Sautner said.  “UND had 15 NHL draft picks on their team, so we knew it was going to be a huge challenge for us, and it was, but I would do it again, because you always want to push your players to be at their best. It was also nice to play in front of 11, 000 fans.”

The Cougars are six games deep into the 2011-12 regular season, and they boast a 1-5-0-0 record thus far. However, Regina has had one of the hardest starts to the season, taking on the top teams in Canada West in its first few weekends of regular-season play.

“It is a tough start to the season, not only playing some tough teams, but five out of six on the road is tough as well,” Sautner said. “I think anybody can beat anybody on any given night, so it was important for us to go in and compete hard and give ourselves a chance.

“We played well in Manitoba and managed to win Friday night [6-1], and I thought we deserved a better fate in Saskatoon the week before, as we were winning 4-3 with eight minutes left. A couple of turnovers and we end up losing 5-4, but it showed that we can compete with anyone.”

Although it has been a bit of a rocky start, a long season will give the Cougars plenty of time to crawl there way into a playoff position. It is largely believed that if the Cougars are going to have success this season, then they are going to have to rely on a few veterans and countless rookies to get them to the top.

“We realize that having a young team mistakes are going to be made because of our youth,” Sautner said. “We will be patient with our young guys, as long as the effect is there everyday in practice and they continue to try and develop. Our defence is the youngest in the league, so we know that there is going to be a learning curve, but we still expect to go our and compete hard every night.”

Although having such an excessive amount of rookies may not be ideal, many of them have the talent to make an immediate impact. With the help of some new players and plenty of veterans to anchor the team, the Cougars have all of the credentials to finish out of the basement this year.

“You go into every year of being in the playoffs and this season is no different,” Sautner said. “As a team, we want to get better everyday and be tougher to play against.  Work ethic has to be No. 1 for us and if we work hard the rest of it will take care of itself. Get in the playoffs and anything can happen."

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