Evan Daum, CanadaWest/Dylan Dodge, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY - After half a season of action, Mount Royal Cougars sits in fifth place with a record of 6-9-0-1 for a total of 13 points. MRU had the unenviable task of facing off against conference leaders Alberta and Saskatchewan over back-to-back weekends to wrap up the first half, and while the Cougars proved competitive against the Bears and Huskies, they came away without a point from the four games as they dipped to fifth place in the standings after posting a better-than-average record (6-5-0-1) through their first dozen outings.
Special teams have been a gift and a curse for the Cougars; Mount Royal has been effective with the man-advantage (converting 19.1% of opportunities), most particularly on the road (22.6%, second in Canada West), but the PK has been a different story.
MRU has allowed 20 power-play goals and is killing off just 71.8% of penalties, which ranks fourth-worst in all of U SPORTS. The Cougars have, however, scored short-handed four times.
Fresh from the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, first-year forward Brad Kennedy has already established himself as a force in Canada West, ranking second overall with 10 goals, including a conference-leading seven on the power-play, and second among rookies with 14 points. Cam Lanigan has become the No. 1 netminder for MRU, starting the team's last eight games over which time the veteran goalie has gone 3-5 while allowing 2.63 goals against per game and recording a .910 save percentage.
Connor Rankin, last year's scoring leader, had to sit out three games due to an injury. Despite the rocky start, he believes the team will be right up there when the regular season concludes.
"We have had a lot of ups and downs in the first half. We started off a little slow... a lot of new players and the chemistry just wasn't there to start. However, we have found our game lately, the Cougar hockey style of play. Although we are 5th in the standings I feel like the Cougars are going to be a tough team to handle after Christmas."
Head Coach Bert Gilling stated that the most important thing is that his team has stuck together as a team through some adversity this past fall.
"It has been a very challenging season on and off the ice for Cougar hockey to this point. Our record is reflective of that and we own it. Frustration occurs when expectations don't meet reality. The expectation for our hockey program based on the success of the last few years is that we should be doing better than where we currently sit. Yet, within the team, there is optimism with all the progress and growth that we have experienced in the first sixteen games of the season. We believe that the best is yet to come for Cougar hockey for the 17-18 season. With only twelve regular season games remaining the margin for error gets even tighter. Every team is playing for something."
The Cougars return to action January 5th in Regina before return to the FCA January 12th for a home and home series with the Lethbridge Pronghorns. The popular Crowchild Classic hockey game between UofC and MRU will be January 25, 2018 at the Scotiabank Saddedome. There will be more info to come in the new year on the event.