The Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union’s 1999/2000 hockey championship–the final CIAU tournament of the 1999/2000 season–takes place this week in Saskatoon, culminating in the gold medal game on Sunday. The Dinos are one of three Canada West teams in the tournament, joining the University of Alberta Golden Bears and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The other competitors are the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds and the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes.
University of Calgary Dinos
As the sixth seed at the tournament, the Dinos will have their work cut out for them in the battle for the University Cup. While the Dinos may boast a balanced four-line attack, they don’t have a stellar offense, other than Ronnie Grimard, who led the team with 37 points in 25 games. The mid-season departure of Eric Schneider forced the rest of the team to step up, but it will be tough for the Dinos to put together the offensive effort needed to get past their pool-mates, the Trois-Rivières Patriotes and the Alberta Golden Bears.
Mike LaPlante and Dallas Fallscheer lead a tough, but overall inexperienced, defence corps that has improved significantly over the course of the season.
Goaltenders Scott Rideout and Tyler Nilsson are capable of stellar play, but, like the rest of their team, prone to inconsistency. Rideout has stepped up his role this season with more stable play, to take a firm hold on the number-one-goaltender position.
The Dinos are not completely outclassed at the tournament, but will have to play to their potential to compete with the rest of teams. Unfortunately, they don’t often put together three great games in a row.
University of Alberta Golden Bear
The defending national champions went 1-2-1 against the Dinos in the regular season, but had an astounding 20-3-5 record overall. Russ Hewson finished second in the country in scoring with 22 goals and 32 assists in 28 games, but, according to Dinos coach Tim Bothwell, the Bears’ strengths go well beyond the Canada West’s leading scorer.
"You can shut Russ down, but they’ve still got a lot of guys that can hurt you. Alberta is probably as good a team as is here," he said. "They’re solid and deep, but they’re not as experienced as they were last year."
Bears goalie Clayton Pool had the second best goals-against average in the country at 2.00, over 23 games, during which he had three shutouts.
Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes
The Dinos’ first opponent at the tournament will be the Trois-Rivières Patriotes. The Patriotes have a number of offensive stars, including Jean-François Brunelle (26gp, 19g, 28a, 47p), Phillippe Tremblay (26-17-27-44) and Daniel Payette (25-10-30-40); but their top star is goaltender Luc Bélanger. Bélanger topped the CIAU with a 1.78 GAA in 22 games, and has been scouted by the Montréal Canadiens.
In Bothwell’s opinion, the Patriotes’ experience will be one of the biggest factors in getting them through the national tournament.
"They have 12 guys who have been here before," he noted.
The Dinos’ shot at winning the opener lies in their grittiness.
"We have to play a tough physical game and get under their skin," he said. "They have a history of being undisciplined."
Bothwell admits that the Patriotes are the superior team, but he won’t count his team out.
"They’re certainly the better team, but I feel pretty good going in. It’s one game–anything can happen."