Hockey: Canada West weekly roundup

The final regular season weekend of the first half is in the books and with that it's time to breakdown where all seven teams stand heading into the holiday season. Here's a final look at the Canada West hockey landscape before the New Year.

Huskies head in looking good

A pair of wins over Regina by a combined score of 16-2 means the Saskatchewan Huskies are heading into the break feeling pretty good about themselves. Sitting atop the standing with 24 points (which should be 26 without a Zamboni meltdown in Lethbridge) Saskatchewan has been the class of the conference so far, albeit by a narrow margin.

Regardless, with the conference's three top scorers in Kyle Bortis, Derek Hulak and Kyle Ross, Saskatchewan has shown they have the most offensive firepower of any Canada West team. With 10 more goals than third place Manitoba, the Huskies have found the back of the net more than any other team, and with only 37 goals — tied for second best in the conference behind Alberta's conference low of 34 — against haven't exactly been easily beaten defensively.

This team has looked good so far this season and aside from a sweep at the hands of the Calgary Dinos in the Stampede City have been consistently playing at a level that is good enough to win every night.

Friday - Regina 2 at Saskatchewan 10
Saturday - Regina 0 at Saskatchewan 6

Bears beating who they should

Sitting with 24 points through the first half is nothing to scoff at for Alberta, but upon closer review that number might be misleading. The Bears have taken care of business against the teams you'd expect them to, mainly Lethbridge, Regina and UBC. Alberta is a combined 8-0-0 against those three teams. Against the three other playoff teams from a year ago, however, the Bears are only 3-3-2.

That rather average rate of success against the conference's upper teams could be a worry for head coach Stan Marple and company come playoff time. Then again only Manitoba, who sports a 6-2-2 record against Alberta, Calgary and Saskatchewan, have been all that good against the conference's best teams.

Friday - Alberta 2 at Manitoba 3
Saturday - Alberta 4 at Manitoba 3

Bisons better than expected

We all expected Manitoba to be a good squad this season, but to be sitting only two points back of first at the break coupled with the fact they've been the best team over the first half against the rest of the conference's elite has to come as a slight surprise. Manitoba's 6-2-2 record as mentioned above is the best in the conference in head-to-head play against last year's playoff teams — by far.

It's been about balance for the Bisons to this point, allowing them to be as good as they have been. Sporting only three scorers inside the top 20 in CW scoring, but with a total of nine inside the top 40, Manitoba has been getting contributions up and down the lineup (Alberta has the second most balance with seven players inside the top 40, while Saskatchewan is third with six).

If Manitoba can keep up their balanced attack and continue to get decent goaltending, safe to say this team will have a pass into the second round of the playoffs.

Friday - Alberta 2 at Manitoba 3
Saturday - Alberta 4 at Manitoba 3

Calgary needs more from Jorgenson

While it's far too early to write off the Dinos season, it's not too soon to call into question the performance of Reid Jorgenson so far this season. After a stellar campaign a year ago the fifth-year forward has been a far cry from the player that finished third in CW scoring in 2010-11.

Jorgenson sits with only nine points in 16 games this season and that lack of production has been a big part of the Dinos disappointing first half of the season that has them only a few points up on UBC for fourth in the conference.

Calgary was idle this week.

T-Birds penalty kill needs to progress

It wasn't a phenomenal first half, nor was it a brutal one for the UBC Thunderbirds. Simply put this team has been OK, but has all but assured themselves a playoff spot baring a huge letdown in the second half. The T-Birds are six points up on sixth place Regina and eight up on last place Lethbridge, so this team will be playoff bound.

As for what will potentially lead the T-Birds to a postseason upset, that has to be their penalty kill. For a team that's supposed to be defensively sound, work hard, and frustrate the opposition it's been far too easy to beat UBC on the powerplay this season — only Lethbridge has been worse on the PK. At 75% this season UBC has some work to do with their penalty kill and then, maybe, they can surprise a team in the playoffs.

Friday - Lethbridge 2 at UBC 5
Saturday - Lethbridge 3 at UBC 7

New season, same story for Cougars

It's the same issue this team has faced for the last decade plus — they can't score. Regina is second last in goals for this season in front of only Lethbridge. The Cougars can't get into track meets with teams and in a conference where Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and even Calgary (although you wouldn't know it from the numbers) can score in quick succession, the Cougars are in tough.

Given the struggles of Lethbridge more than anything Regina will be a playoff team this season, but without much scoring again this season the Cougars more than any playoff bound team need to play a tight game that has proven ineffective the vast majority of the time. To sum it up, the Cougars aren't as talented as the teams ahead of them in the standings and need to get a little lucky to beat those squads.

Friday - Regina 2 at Saskatchewan 10
Saturday - Regina 0 at Saskatchewan 6

Lonesome at the bottom for Lethbridge

There's nothing positive you can say about the Pronghorns first half, in fact you could make the argument it was one of the worst in program history. Nothing went right for the 'Horns who aren't going to be a playoff team save for another miraculous second half. Perhaps a midseason recruit could save this season for head coach Greg Gatto and company — he's pulled that off before.

It wouldn't surprise me if he brings in one, or possibly two impact players that could help Lethbridge leapfrog Regina. Something tells me Gatto might have something up his sleeve. That being said, if some big additions don't happen this team won't be a playoff squad.

Friday - Lethbridge 2 at UBC 5
Saturday - Lethbridge 3 at UBC 7

One final note... also of note, a Canada West combination team of Pronghorns and Dinos will be taking on the Canadian World Jr. team December 13 in Calgary as the Red and White gear up for their Boxing Day tournament opener. It's the same thing we saw a few years ago when a joint Saskatchewan-Regina team played Team Canada in Regina at the Brandt Centre.

Evan Daum is The CIS Blog's national hockey editor. Contact him at
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