It was a long trip home for the Golden Bears hockey squad Monday – literally and figuratively. After going into the University Cup as the number-three seed coming off the program’s 49th conference championship, the Alberta squad returned home today after dropping both their games at the national tournament in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The Bears opened the tournament against the Atlantic conference finalists from St. Francis Xavier Friday night. St. FX was fresh off a 2-1 setback a day earlier to McGill in the tournament opener, and despite a tentative start from both teams, the X-Men would eventually come out on top scoring a 3-1 win over head coach Eric Thurston’s team. That loss for the Bears put them in a difficult spot heading into Saturday and the second of their two round robin games.
Needing a four goal win over McGill – or a bizarre 3-0 win over McGill coupled with a shootout win with St. FX after the game to break a tie between the Bears and X-Men – in order to advance to the final Sunday, Alberta came up short in a 6-3 loss to the Redmen. Specialty teams killed the Bears Saturday, going o-for-4 on the powerplay while the penalty kill surrendered a trio of McGill goals.
The losses marked the first time that the Canada West champion went 0-2 at the University Cup since 2007 when Saskatchewan went winless at the tournament after defeating the Bears in the conference final. Along with Alberta the Canada West’s other representative the Calgary Dinos went 0-2 at the tournament.
It was a disappointing conclusion to the careers of several key Bears including the dyanmic duo of Derek Ryan and Chad Klassen, along with Bears captain Eric Hunter who will all move on from the program after impressive collegiate careers.