CIAU vs NCAA: the rematch
By David Vernon
For all the hockey fans out there who missed the clash between the Canadian and American Olympic hockey squads last month in Nagano, there is a still a chance for fulfilment.
On April 11, Canada's best university hockey players will play the United States' best seniors in the second annual North American University Hockey Championship at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Hoping to avenge their 2-1 final-second defeat at the hands of the Canadians last year, the U.S. contingent has added a few new weapons to their arsenal.
Last year's tournament allowed only Americans to play on the NCAA team, but for this year's contest it was decided by both leagues that Canadian students attending American schools could play for their team south of the border giving the Americans a bigger talent pool to draw from.
"The game this year has become a CIAU versus NCAA match, whereas last year it was a Canada versus America match," said CIAU head coach Marlin Muylaert.
Muylaert, also the head coach of the Guelph Gryphons, said "our CIAU players will not be affected by the change" and guaranteed the same intensity and excitement as last year.
For the CIAU stars, seven players will make the trip once again to Detroit, hoping to repeat their spectacular performance of last year.
The Canadians will be led by goaltender Luc Belanger from Trois Rivi¸res, who set a new OUA record with a stunning 1.70 goals against average, a stellar .928 save percentage.
Along with Belagner, York's Mike Williams, who is playing in his first NAUHC game, will join the CIAU stars and should act as an offensive spark-plug. Williams led the CIAU with 24 goals and 44 assists for 68 points and was named the most valuable player for the OUA West this season.
"We were fortunate enough this year to get our hands on the top guys in the country," Muylaert said when asked about this year's team selections. "Most of the pressure will rest on the shoulders of our returning guys from last year."
American head coach Shawn Walsh from the University of Maine doesn't have the luxury of having a returning player.
"I think this year we would have had a very shallow and weak bench but with the help of our Canadian players our bench is looking a lot better," Walsh said.
Assistant coach George Gwozdecky from the University of Denver agreed with Walsh's comments.
"The addition of the Canadian players was needed in order to make our team more competitive," he said.
"We think the game will be as intense and exciting as last year's and of course we're playing to win," Muylaert said. Planning strategies for the game will commence this week as both coaches look to familiarize themselves with their players and count the days until they meet.