Hockey: Canada West weekly roundup

It's time for the return of our weekly recaps from around CIS hockey. This season we'll be trying something a little bit different than simply recapping games, as we have done in the past. For each conference we'll be giving our take on one storyline relating to every team, in an attempt to bring you the stories from both on the ice, as well as the bigger storylines surrounding each CIS team.

We'll start things off this week with a look at the weekend that was out west.

Alberta/Manitoba - Powerplay outage foreshadows Saturday night surprise

I won't usually combine thoughts, but Saturday night's insanity warrants the combo, and longer than usual rundown.

There aren't many times a team gets three 5-on-3 powerplays, doesn't score on any of them and skates away with a victory. The Bears learnt that the hard way Friday night in a 5-4 loss to the Manitoba Bisons. Alberta had three opportunities against Manitoba in the second period, failing on all of their 5-on-3s, which included nearly four minutes straight 5-on-3.

The Bears then went 0-for-4 Saturday night in a 2-1 loss that had a wild finish. After regulation solved nothing between the Bears and Bisons in a 1-1 game, things got bizarre in double-overtime. Alberta seemed to have won the game with a goal from Alex Rodgers. The Bears celebrated, the teams lined up to shake hands, the coaches shook hands, and then the refs stepped in.

All four officials huddled at centre, talked for a few minutes, and then sent the teams back to the benches, assessing a too many men on the ice penalty to Alberta. Naturally that didn't go over well with the Bears, as head coach Stan Marple and his team were livid at the decision.

While you can't see it in the game film, Rodgers jumped on the ice early for Levko Koper, but the refs and linesman missed the call in-game. The play went on for several seconds with a number of different Bears touching the puck before Rodgers scored, without a whistle. The refs missed the call, Manitoba went wild, with the refs giving Alberta a penalty that resulted in Blair Macaulay netting the winner on the PP (4-on-3, I should add, with CW's new 3-on-3 double-overtime format).

Alberta will be filing a formal complaint, protesting the result of the game, but don't expect anything to change. The Bears seem to have a case here given the refs didn't blow the play down when they're supposed to, that being during the play. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, and what the official explanation is from the league, but either way Manitoba is going to get a sweep and are right now undoubtedly the best team in the conference.

Friday - Manitoba 5 at Alberta 4
Saturday - Manitoba 2 at Alberta 1 (2OT)

Cougars come up short

On the opposite end of the standings spectrum is the Regina Cougars, who are getting off to a very slow start this season. Regina lost for the second straight Friday 5-2, this time to Saskatchewan at home. The Cougars then gave the Huskies a run for their money in Saskatoon the following night, before eventually dropping a 5-4 decision.

If Regina scores four goals in a game and loses, that's more than a deflating result for a team that won't score four goals on a night with any regularity. This Regina team is going to be hard pressed to score, and when they put up four on the scoreboard, they need to win.

Friday - Saskatchewan 5 at Regina 2
Saturday - Regina 4 at Saskatchewan 5

'Horns finally get their first

It took a while, but the Lethbridge Pronghorns finally got their first win of 2011-12, beating UBC Friday night. The 4-3 win, which came in a shootout, was Lethbridge's first of the regular season, and first overall after a winless preseason campaign.

The win was a big one for the 'Horns against a UBC team that is going to be battling the Pronghorns for fifth in the conference in all likelihood. Captain Dustin Moore's two goals sparked his team Friday, before a 5-3 loss Saturday put a damper on the 'Horns weekend.

There's lots of work to be done in Lethbridge, but with a win under their belts they can now focus on getting better with at least one in the 'W' column.

Friday - UBC 3 at Lethbridge 4 (SO)
Saturday - UBC 5 at Lethbridge 3

Huskies taking care of business

If things were supposed to be different in Saskatoon this season, they're off to a good start. It's only three games in for the Huskies (plus a couple of periods derailed by a leaky Zamboni), but Saskatchewan has taken care of business which is more than both Alberta and Calgary can say so far.

Time will tell if this team is truly different than the 2010-11 edition of the Sled Dogs, but so far, so good for a team that has enough talent to hang with anyone in the conference. Wins against the lesser teams, such as Regina and Lethbridge, shows some early season focus. These early points are huge especially given the struggles of some other elite teams.

Friday - Saskatchewan 5 at Regina 2
Saturday - Regina 4 at Saskatchewan 5

T-Birds reaching cruising altitude

UBC may have two wins to their credit so far this season, but in a league where those extra points gained via OT/SO losses can make all the difference with only a 28 game schedule, the T-Birds are sitting pretty.

With a SO loss and regulation win over the weekend, UBC sits with six points on the season through four games — good for third place, one point up on Alberta. If this start is indicative of the performance we can expect out of the T-Birds every weekend, then it's going to be a very different type of season out on the west coast.

It's early, but perhaps UBC is reaching a point where three point weekends aren't that unusual. Time will tell, but after a solid season a year ago, the T-Birds could be better than expected.

Friday - UBC 3 at Lethbridge 4 (SO)
Saturday - UBC 5 at Lethbridge 3

Calgary takes a sabbatical

Kick your feet up, take a break and figure things out. The Dinos have been the biggest disappointment of the young Canada West season, and will be looking for their first regulation win of the season this coming weekend when they play a home-and-home with Alberta.

This series could be just what both teams need, with neither one coming out fast this season. Calgary will certainly be better than they were over their first four games, and after a bye this weekend should have some system play issues ironed out.

Bye this week
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