After a bittersweet taste of what it was like to come so close to the championship final at the CIS Cavendish University Cup this past March, the Bisons men’s hockey team know their collective goal for the 2010-11 season.
“[The University Cup] is where we want to get to again this year,” states fifth year forward Nolan Waker.
“Everybody who was here last year knows how much it hurts [ . . . ] to lose, so I think we’ll just take that experience and use it in a positive way this year.”
Former Bison captain Calin Wild worked out with the team in preparation for his new role, playing professionally for the CHL’s Texas Brahmas. This begged the question, which players on the ice were proving to be the biggest pests for the former captain to deal with?
Wild chuckled, “You know, [Chris Benias] is always one of the biggest pests out there, running around. That’s just his game. He’s always hard to play against. Over the past two years, Troy Crowley is always working hard and he’s just flying out there, so he’s hard to control too. He gets in your face.”
“[The returning players] worked really hard in the summer. They’re all in really good shape and look ready to complete for another shot at the National Championship,” added Wild.
Coach Mike Sirant was actively finding the missing keys needed to build upon momentum created by last year’s playoff experience, which saw some strategic scouting being done in the off-season. Perhaps this was in response to the way so many of the Bisons top snipers, such as the always dangerous Mike Hellyer, were tossed around like rag dolls in a dryer during their loss against the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
Some size has been added through the recruitment of players such as defensemen Jeremy Schappert, Brent Poplawski and Zachary Tulley, along with the return of Nick Cowan, who was away from the Bisons for one year. Also, forwards Wes Pawluk and Devin Himpe will add a bit more size to the line-up.
Dane Crowley, a second year defenseman who saw limited ice time last season, will be a part of this year’s new line-up and said about the new players, “Schappert will be a top four defenseman, and Cowan is coming back. He wasn’t here last year and should step it up and be top two for sure.”
Added Waker, “We have a few new d-men. They’re puck movers and big strong guys. They’ll be out a lot of minutes for us. They’re just good solid players.”
There is also depth in net this year with returning goaltenders Steve Christie — who earned the hardware for being top goaltender in the CIS last season — as well as the always sharp Jesse Deckert. The new face in the mix comes in the form of former WHL goaltender Joe Caligiuri, who is sure to add some experience to the young group.
“I’m going to predict that they’re going to be back [at the nationals]. I’ve high hopes that the guys will get back there,” Wild stated.
“That’s our goal,” Waker agreed. “Canada West is sending two teams again, but we don’t want to go in the back door this year. We want to win the West and we just don’t want to get back to the University Cup. We want to win!”
The Bisons have three non-conference games coming up, two against Brock University at Max Bell Arena on Sept. 24–25, and then the annual game against the Manitoba Moose prospects on Sept. 29 before their home opener on the weekend of Oct. 8–9.