Reality finally hit the Dinos men's hockey team.
They have a new coach, a new system, and a whole whack of new players. It's a good thing too, because at last weekend's pre-season Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Eye Opener tournament, they lost two key players for at least six to eight weeks.
Forwards Jason Boyd and Sean Robertson both suffered serious knee injuries in what was supposed to be a warm-up for conference play beginning in early October.
"It definitely hurts us to have those two guys out of the lineup," said Head Coach Scott Atkinson. "They are both character guys who add a lot up front. I'm upset we lost them, but at least they aren't season-ending [injuries]."
In addition to the loss of Boyd and Robertson, the Dinos were handed a 5-3 defeat by the SAIT Trojans on Saturday night. But Atkinson isn't overly concerned about it. He seems confident the Dinos will be ready come the Oct. 12 season-opener and in the end, that's what matters.
"The Eye Opener is a tournament to get guys going, different teams seem to be at different levels of preparedness at this time of year," he replied. "It's a week into the season and we still have cuts to make. But there are teams like Lethbridge who already seem to have the power-play set. It's just a matter of progress."
The Dinos showed flashes of brilliance in their Sunday affair with the Mount Royal College Cougars, winning easily over last year's national college champions.
"I think in the second game we saw the pride of the team shine through," remarked Atkinson, who recently left the Cougars' bench to take over the Dinos program. "They weren't going to lose to another college team."
Everyone got involved in the scoring on Sunday, from utility-man Josh Woitas to all-star Ronnie Grimard. The final score was 9-4 and the team proved when it comes down to it, they'll be able to get it done.
After seven years under former coach Tim Bothwell and only a sniff at a national championship, Atkinson has brought a new mentality to a team dying for change.
"These guys have done everything I have asked of them up to this point," said Atkinson. "They told me early on that they we're excited and wanted a new system, and they've proved they weren't just talking."
The team will get a couple more chances to gear up for October when they host the University
of Lethbridge Pronghorns on
Thur., Sept. 20, and Mount Royal College on Fri., Sept. 21. Game time is 7 p.m. both nights.
Time will tell if all the talk translates into Canada West victories, but with their new coach, new system and new talent, they seem poised to contend in 2001/02.