The upcoming edition of men’s hockey will feature a brand new look, as 14 of the 25 players will put on the Bisons colours for the first time. Despite losing a number of veterans, Manitoba, led by head coach Mike Sirant in his 19th year at the helm, should be competitive yet again.
The loss of all-star Ian Duval will be tough to swallow for the Bisons, as his leadership on the ice was vital over the past few seasons. Jesse Paradis, an alternate captain last year, should step into an even bigger role in 2014 to fill the hole left by Duval.
Paradis is a well-rounded left winger with speed, who can also distribute the puck. He was second on the team in points during the 2013-14 Canada West season with 27, and will be relied upon to put up big numbers again in his third year.
Aaron Lewadniuk is another forward with experience, who will look to produce again this year. The 26-year-old enters his second season with Manitoba, after leading the team in 2013-14 with 29 points. The centre, who has twice put up 80 points in his career (2006-07 with Winkler, 2009-10 with Brandon) provides a huge scoring threat every time he touches the ice.
Jordan DePape, a rookie phenom last year with 24 points (third in Canada West) should put up similar numbers in 2014. The right winger will likely see his fair share of ice time this season, and will be dangerous whenever he touches the ice.
Dylan Kelly—entering his third year—adds a tough element up front. Look for the physical forward to throw his weight around, along with providing heavy traffic at the front of the net.
Manitoba sees its biggest change at the blue line—where the stability of fellow all-stars Dane Crowley, Jeremy Schappert, and Travis Bobbee—will be greatly missed. The roles of heavy hitter Brock Sutherland, along with third-year Lee Christensen, are likely to increase, as they anchor the defence in 2014.
Newcomers Reid Gow and Channing Bresciani will add point-per-game potential. Gow had over 50 points in each of the past two seasons with Spokane, while Bresciani put up over 30 in 2012 and 2013 with the Winnipeg Blues.
The Bisons will make another big adjustment at the goalie position, as Joe Caligiuri, a frequent face in net, finished off his eligibility last season.
Second-year player Deven Dubyk will be the only goalie returning from last year, and should start in net. He had a 3.55 goals against average in 2013, with one shutout. Byron Spriggs (Winnipeg Blues) and Brendan Jensen (Fargo Force) will be the other two puck stoppers.
Herd stifled in season opener
The Bison men’s hockey team was provided back-to-back losses in their season opener against the Calgary Dinos. The first weekend double header of the season was a chance at redemption against the Dinos, who eliminated the Bisons in last year’s Canada West semifinal matchup, but it was Calgary who came out on top.
Rubbing salt in old wounds, the Dinos outshot and outscored the Bisons, resulting in a 10-2 goal differential between the teams.
Friday night was a close game on the score sheet, but the Bisons were unable to capitalize on their chances. Penalty trouble stifled the momentum against the Dinos during the game, and worsened by Saturday night.
The Bisons were in the box five times Friday night, giving up three power play goals, and were sent to the box a total of eight times on Saturday night. The roster is split evenly between first-year players and returning players, perhaps contributing to the team’s penalty woes.
Despite giving up a large number of power plays Saturday night, the Bisons’ penalty kill improved significantly, only allowing one power-play goal against. The Bisons’ offensive effort also improved Saturday night, as they were able to put 24 shots on net, seven more shots on goal than in their Friday night matchup.
Calgary had nonstop production offensively during both games, scoring at least one goal in every period over the two-game series. Dubyk took the loss on Friday, stopping 25 of 31 shots, while Jensen, who stopped 28 shots, couldn’t come up with a win in his first CIS game on Saturday.
For Manitoba, Aaron Lewadniuk had a strong weekend, putting up nine shots, one goal, and one assist. The senior is among the group of returning forwards that will likely be relied on to form a new identity in the absence of their former captain and starting goalie. Newcomer Chad Robinson also had a strong start to the year, with a goal and four shots over the two-game set.
The Bisons look for redemption this week as they take on the Regina Cougars in their season home opener. Catch them in action on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.