Volume 95, Issue 89

Thursday, March 21, 2002
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Will Western drink from the University Cup?

No less than six in the Cup mix

Will Western drink from the University Cup?

By Benjamin Mills
Gazette Staff

A hush falls over the crowd, two mighty gladiators meet face to face at centre ice, the puck drops and pandemonium is unleashed.

It's the Canadian Interuniversity Sports University Cup and after the final goal is scored and the Zamboni has made its last pass, one team will be crowned CIS hockey champions.

Six teams enter, one team leaves, in a Thunderdome-like battle royale – minus Tina Turner, of course.

The Mustang men's hockey team has been placed in a pool with two formidable opponents – the hosts from the University of Guelph and the newly-crowned number one ranked team in the nation, the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

Western head coach Clarke Singer said it's easy to see why Alberta heads in with the number one ranking. "They're ranked number one for a reason – they've won two out of three University Cups, so they're going to be a great opposition," he said.

The Golden Bears are a storied franchise. They have won an eye-popping 41 out of the last 66 Canada West championships. They are led by three-time Canada West Coach of the Year Rob Daum, whose numbers speak for themselves – he boasts a whopping .758 win percentage in 316 career games.

"He's proven that he's one of the best coaches in the CIS, not only this year, but in the history of the CIS," Singer said of Daum. "His team echoes his enthusiasm, intensity and work ethic. Basically, they play a great style and he has a lot to do with that."

Singer was quick to note that coaching will not determine the outcome of this tournament, adding, "at this point, it comes down to the teams. Coaching doesn't really have anything to do with it now – it's going to be in the players' hands to get the job done."

Claire Chapple/Gazette

Lest we forget the other team in Western's pool, the possible dark horse of the tournament, the Guelph Gryphons.

They may not boast the best numbers out of the six teams – a .500 regular season, no players in the top 25 scorers in the CIS and the lowest seeding in the tourney – but they are the host and usually that is seen as a distinct advantage.

"Guelph is a team that should not be taken lightly," Singer said.

If you want a reason not to underestimate the host team, look no further than last year's tournament when the host team Laurier upset the powerhouse St. Thomas Tommies.

Alberta head coach Rob Daum begs to differ, although some might think the Golden Bears may be out for revenge, seeing as the Mustangs knocked them out of the tournament last year.

"We have a very different team this year and I don't think last year's loss [to Western] will play into it at all this year," Daum said.

Just as Western has showed a great deal of respect for their opponents, Alberta and Guelph have reciprocated the thought.

"[Being in the same pool as Western is] not really an enviable position to be in," Daum said.

"All the way through their four lines and six defense, they're exceptionally strong," said Guelph head coach Jeff Reid. "Now they have to go out and do what they've been talking about all year."

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Copyright The Gazette 2002