Men’s hockey best in the nation
The Dinos men’s hockey team had to wait until Dec. 3, 2013 to make it official. After crawling up the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings one spot at a time throughout the first half of the season, the Dinos were finally recognized as the best team in Canadian university hockey in the most recent edition of the top 10 list.
Led by rookie sensation Chris Collins, the Dinos have dominated Canada West this season. Collins leads his team with 13 goals and 24 points in 16 games, trailing only fourth-year University of Saskatchewan forward Derek Hulak in the Canada West scoring race, and has fit nicely on a line with third-year playmaking forward Taylor Stefishen, who has racked up 20 assists in 14 games.
The Dinos’s season-opening 13-game win streak culminated in a 2–0 win over the then-undefeated University of Alberta Golden Bears on Nov. 22 in front of a big crowd at Father David Bauer Arena. Although they would suffer their first loss of the year to the Golden Bears in overtime the next night, the win allowed the Dinos to take full control of first place in the Canada West. A combined 17–2 thrashing of the University of Regina Cougars in a two-game series the following weekend secured their reputation as the No. 1 in the CIS.
The success of the Dinos has been aided by their explosive offence, which is averaging a torrid 4.8 goals per game. Ten Dinos have more than 10 points this season, including third-year defenceman Giffen Nyren, who is the top scoring defenceman in the Canada West with 18 points.
Not to be outdone by the skaters, the Dinos goaltenders have also excelled at the other end of the rink. The goalie tandem of Jacob DeSerres (1.50 goals against average, .941 save percentage) and Kris Lazaruk (1.62 GAA, .938 SV%) have backstopped the Dinos to their 15–0–1 record and lead the Canada West in the two major statistical categories for goalies.
The Dinos have very few — if any — obvious holes in their overall game going into the second half of the season. During the remaining 12 games of the regular season, their main battle will be a mental one. The motivation for the first half of the season was to prove they were No. 1, but staying there will require just as much hard work and allow little room for unchecked egos.
The format for this year’s University Cup may provide an additional challenge. The third place University of Saskatchewan Huskies are guaranteed one of the two Canada West berths as the event hosts, leaving only one spot available for the Dinos and Golden Bears, who are a cut above the rest of the conference.
If there’s one date for students to circle on their calendars this semester, it is Sunday, Feb. 16 — the Dinos will face the Golden Bears in the final game of the regular season, a matchup that could decide who finishes the season at the top of the standings.
Dino-grade: Tyrannosaurus The Tyrannosaurus is the undisputed king of the dinosaur kingdom, an apex predator that fears no other organism in its ecosystem.
Women’s basketball on a roll
After a shaky start to the 2013–2014 season that began with an eight-game losing streak — including six preseason defeats — the Dinos women’s basketball team have exceeded all expectations for the first half of their season. After closing out the first half of the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, the Dinos currently sit tied for second place in the Canada West prairie division with 16 points.
The Dinos have made many positive strides towards a championship season. They have outscored their opposition by an average of 14.3 points per game and their tenacious play has been further exemplified by averaging 45.3 rebounds per game, which ranks fourth in Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
Head coach Damien Jennings’s defensive philosophy has panned out for the Dinos. The Dinos have held their opponent’s field goal percentage to a stingy 32.0 per cent, which ranks eighth in the CIS. As the old saying goes, defence wins championships.
Captain Tamara Jarrett has provided consistent leadership and scoring — she leads the club with 14.1 points per game. Guard Kristie Sheils’s play has also been noteworthy, as she has provided a steady offensive output, averaging 12.3 points per game.
The Dinos have also been gracious to their home fans, remaining unbeaten at home so far. However, the U of C faithful have not returned the love, as home games have only averaged 368 fans per outing.
The only sore spot for the Dinos is their field goal percentage, which sits at 34.1 per cent. However, their ferocious work ethic on rebounds has compensated for their shooting shortcomings.
Overall, Dinos fans have much incentive to support their women’s basketball team. If the Dinos continue their torrid pace, they could find themselves in the hunt for a Canada West title.
The Dinos open 2014 against the pacific-division-leading University of Northern British Columbia Thunderwolves on Jan. 9 in Prince George.
Dino-grade: Troodon These adaptable and clever dinosaurs are great team players. They work in feisty packs to take down larger prey.
Women’s hockey, men’s basketball struggling
Player turnover is a harsh fact of life in university hockey. Last year’s Dinos women’s hockey roster featured the likes of Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser and Russian national team star Iya Gavrilova, who led the team to a 23–4–1 record and first place in the Canada West conference.
The Dinos have struggled this season without the dynamic duo — Wickenheiser graduated university, while Gavrilova is training with the Russian team full time ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The team has compiled a 7–11–1 record and are in sixth place out of eight teams in the Canada West conference.
Scoring has been an issue for the Dinos, as they are averaging only 1.53 goals per game. While fourth-year forward Janelle Parent leads the team with eight goals and 14 points, no other Dino has managed to score more than three goals or seven points this year. Wins will be elusive if the defence can’t afford to allow more than one goal on an average night.
There are few bright spots on the team. Forward Jessyka Holt has looked good in her first year with the Dinos, as has rookie goaltender Hayley Dowling, who is sporting a 4–2–0 record with a 1.21 goals against average and .936 save percentage. Dinos interim head coach Kelly Bechard — who is filling in for Danielle Goyette while she coaches Canada’s Olympic team — may consider giving Dowling more starts down the stretch in an effort to spark her team.
The Dinos have 10 games left to turn their season around and fend off the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns for the final Canada West playoff spot. Their Crowchild Classic matchup against the Mount Royal University Cougars on Feb. 6, 2014 at the Saddledome could be a key game for ensuring a playoff berth.
Dino-grade: Alamosaurus The Alamosaurus was a true survivor, existing long after the demise of the other species of long-necked dinosaurs.
With a strong showing in the preseason — which included a victory against a NCAA Division I team — the Dinos men’s basketball team looked promising. However, once the regular season began, their play began to tailspin. Going into the second half of the season, the Dinos have a record of 5–5, placing them fifth in the Canada West prairie division.
Before losing their final game of 2013, the Dinos were on a five-game win streak. The Dinos have not been stellar in any major statistical category. However, they do rank fourth in the nation in three-point shooting at 38.9 per cent, and are also fifth in defensive rebounding at 29.3 per cent. The Dinos have outscored their opposition by a margin of 1.8 points per game, but will want to improve on this key statistic if they hope to win more games in the second half of the season.
The Dinos do look to be playing with heart. However, they are not putting their energy towards productive aspects of the game. They average 21.9 fouls per game, leading to easy free throw shots for their opposition. The Dinos also need to take better care of the ball, as they average a ghastly 16.4 turnovers per game.
One bright spot has been the play of fourth-year guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, who is posting 21.2 points per game, which ranks fifth in Canadian Interuniversity Sport for that category. Ogungbemi-Jackson is definitely a crowd pleaser at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium due to his ability to get buckets.
Despite the shortcomings of the Dinos season, playoffs remain a possibility. They sit only four points back of a playoff position, ground that can be made up with more consistent play. The Dinos have shown they can make noise in the Canada West, but the onus is on them if they wish to be seriously considered for a Canada West title.
Dino-grade: Triceratops Big and brutish, but not a dangerous force in the dinosaur world.