By Steven Kelly
The wait for the University of Calgary men’s hockey team is over. The Dinos, who finished fourth in Canada West standings, are set to play the first place University of Alberta Golden Bears in the first round of the playoffs. The three-game series will run in Edmonton this weekend. Playing all three games on the road will be no easy task for the Dinos, especially when they are facing a team that has only lost four games in regulation this year.
“Their record speaks for itself, their ability to skate and apply pressure to the puck has made them successful this year,” said Dinos head coach Mark Howell.
Six of the top 10 scorers in the conference play for the University of Alberta.
“They are a dangerous hockey club. We will need to manage the amount of opportunities we give them,” says Howell. “We will be on the short end if we try to play a run and gun style of game. We need to win this series by committee. We need to be disciplined and focused. We want to play a patient, grinding hockey game.”
To prepare for the their three-game series, the Dinos have been hard at work for the past two weeks. Howell has been working with his team, and trying to establish a message to his team that, “we want them to chase us.” The Dinos have been practising daily, focusing on concentrating on specific situations and how the team as a whole needs to handle each play. Howell cited that they are continuing to practise and work on their powerplay, a unit that has been successful for them all year, at 20.6 per cent, second in CanWest, as well as their penalty kill.
Another challenge facing the Dinos is Clare Drake Arena, the Bears home rink, which is a North American-sized ice surface unlike Father David Bauer, which is an international-sized rink.
“When you play at home you have an advantage, they gain a lot from their fans,” said Howell. “They have a smaller rink, so we will need to play a hard, in your face style of hockey.”
Dinos goaltender Dustin Butler has a lot of respect for the Bears.
“Obviously they are top of our division, and are a very good team. I think, though, that if we can bring our ‘A’ game, then we can have success. We respect what they can do, but at the same time we can’t give them too much respect.”
Butler, who will be starting for the Dinos this weekend, is looking to focus on his job and not get caught up with everything.
“I am going to treat [this game] as if it were any other game and focus on my job, which is stopping the puck.”
Howell said it is obviously important for his goaltender to play well this weekend.
“U of A will get lots of shots, and Dustin and our six defencemen will have to play solid.”
Butler knows this weekend will be a challenge.
“I need to keep the puck out of the net and give my team a chance to win,” he said. “I need to make the saves I should be making, and hopefully I can make a couple saves that I shouldn’t make.”