Volume 93, Issue 92
Thursday, March 23, 2000
UNIVERSITY CUP, HERE WE COME. Western travels to Saskatoon for the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union finals this weekend, where they hope to bring home university hockey's greatest prize.
By Chad Thompson
Tonight is Hockey Night in Saskatoon for Western's hockey team.
After a stellar season of play and a win over York University in the Ontario University Athletics Far West finals, the Mustangs travel even farther West to take part in the annual hockey ritual known as the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union championships.
Western head coach Clarke Singer said the national championship had been on the minds of his players for a long while. "It was our goal at the end of last year we knew that's where we wanted to be. A lot of hard work was put into this year."
Although Singer has now reached this goal in his first year as head coach, he quickly diverted the credit to his team. "I'm very appreciative of how the year's gone. I'm fortunate to have the team I have in front of me."
Western forward and fifth-year player Damon Hardy said the team was eagerly anticipating the tournament. "We are all very excited, no one on the team has been to CIs before. It's really rewarding and a little bit of a relief that it [finally] happened."
Western's first game is against the University of New Brunswick, a team which Western has not played this season. Singer said he did not foresee a problem in facing the East champs.
"UNB are in the same situation [we are]. We are going to focus on what we do well and prepare like we do every other game."
Hardy said he felt facing teams they have not previously met was a key aspect of the nationals.
"I think it makes the tournament unique, all the teams are blind going in and we need to be at the top of our game. We match-up well from what we have been told, we just need to play our game."
Western has only been to the national championships on four prior occasions and Singer said the players' nerves would be riding high, but it was all a natural part of the experience.
"I would say we're anticipating the games. It's the most important games we'll play all year. The players don't have nerves now, but in the dressing room before the first game there will be butterflies in their stomachs. It's natural, if you don't have them you aren't normal."
Hardy took a philosophical stance on the Mustangs' preparation for the tournament. "We've had a hard week of practice. We are only concentrating on the nationals and have pushed the rankings aside. The only thing guaranteed is [we will] play our game."
After UNB, Western takes on the tournament's host, the Saskatchewan Huskies. Singer said the fan support for the Huskies could actually benefit his team.
"Obviously, Saskatchewan will have the fans on their side. It might add pressure to them, we want to keep a slow pace. It will be a different game than the guys are used to, there will be eight to 10 thousand fans. We'll talk and prepare for them after the UNB game."
Hardy agreed the fans would play a factor in Western's game plan.
"They're expecting 12,000 fans for either [tomorrow] or Saturday. It's going be exciting, loud and intense. We as players look forward to it the crowd might affect our strategy and we will have to slow things down a little."
Saskatchewan head coach Dave Adolph said although the teams varied in their level of skill and it will come down to who plays well on a given day.
"Alberta is the most talented team in the [West] by a long shot. They play a very similar style to Western four lines, six defencemen, forecheck hockey," he said.
"Calgary and ourselves are more of the blue collar type teams who play a more gritty and grinding style of play."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000