With NHL labour talks slowly grinding towards another prolonged lockout, it doesn’t appear as though there will be much professional hockey to look forward to this fall. However, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport season is upon us and the Dinos men’s hockey team is ready to make some noise in the Canada West conference. Last year’s team struggled with consistency in the first half of the season and had a tough travel schedule.
Head coach Mark Howell said the team can make great strides in their consistency this season. The team also has a more favourable travel schedule.
“With the schedule the way it is this year, it will give the team a chance to get established in their courses as well as allow some of them to adapt to new surroundings,” said Howell.
The team had a fantastic conclusion last season with Howell and assistant coach Cory Cross, a former NHLer. Unfortunately, their performance early last year meant that the team finished in the middle of the pack in the conference. They were knocked out in the cw finals in a heartbreaking triple overtime defeat at the hands of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
“Penalties were a big problem for us last season. The team has made great strides to eliminate the problem this season,” said Howell.
Every team at the CIS level faces the problem of losing players after graduation. Rather than mourn their losses, the Dinos have asked others to step up. Former Calgary Hitmen forward Brock Nixon is expected to be a veteran presence on the team this season. According to Howell, the fifth-year senior is “ready to take on more of a leadership role with the club.”
Dinos that will need to take on a larger role are incoming defensemen Giffen Nyren and veterans Eric Frere and former Calgary Hitmen sniper Tyler Fiddler. If players can step up, great things are in store for the 2012–13 season.
In addition to the skaters, the Dinos will once again need solid goaltending from net minders Dustin Butler, Kris Lazaruk and sophomore Jacob DeSerres.
“Expectations are high, you expect every year to compete to win the league — that doesn’t change and it continues to be the goal,” said Howell.
After coming so close to winning the conference last season, making the CW playoffs should be expected this season for the Dinos. The Dinos will have to prove they can stay disciplined and win on the road if they want to advance to the CIS finals this season.
With these ambitions, the Dinos open their regular season on the road on Sept. 27 against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The Dinos have played six preseason games with mixed results. The team has a .500 record heading into the University of Alberta Brick Invitational on Sept. 19–22. The team opens their home schedule against Lethbridge on Sept. 28 at Father David Bauer Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. so get out and support your Dinos.