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11-12-2012, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob Stauffer View Post
Here are some thoughts on the Conference through the first third or so of the season.

Saskatchewan-Talented but quiet offensively. Nonetheless made the most of a home ice advantage sweeping Alberta. Food for thought... the Huskies have won the last 4 games that matter against the Golden Bears. The Huskies got the results, but do they have the process? The Huskies have a better record than I thought they would have right now, but haven't impressed as much as I thought they could.

Alberta-The Golden Bears have unbelieviable numbers so far this season. They have outshot their opposition by at least 10+ shots in every game and are +36 in GF/GA. This suggests they are actually better than their 9-3 record indicates.The Bears third line is now scoring and they have depth in case of injury. My prediction is Alberta will be first place in the Conference after the 2nd week in January, when Saskatchewan comes calling.

Manitoba-I saw both games in Edmonton played between Alberta and Manitoba. The Bears dominated them. I do think the Bisons will at least split with Alberta in December, because they are a "home show". I don't think Manitoba is as good as they were last season.

Calgary-They are well coached but lack depth at forward and struggle to transition the puck out of their own zone.

UBC-Best team they have had on paper in years. Can they keep up a pretty good start?

Regina-Can a team full of JR' A players run with the big boys? I think water will seek it's level shortly!

Mount Royal-Stole a game against the Bears earlier this season. We're out-classed in a return series. A big physical team that lacks scoring and needs saves.

Lethbridge-Greg Gatto is at the place that Dave Adolph, Doug Irwin and Bill Peters have been at before...coming to the realization that is almost impossible to win consistently in Lethbridge.
Originally Posted by Ched View Post
Hollywood et al

i am not sure how Saskatchewan can be regarded as weaker when they have the record they do and they have added some serious firepower and depth. their roster is improved over last year (admittedly losing Kyle Ross is huge). I understand they have been outplayed this year in several games and have been fortunate to win but as you say a win is a win. their goaltending seems to be very good this year.

I also wonder about the Bisons. I think they are a better team (at least up front and in the pipes) this year but last year were so ready to start the regular season after the powerful team-building Europe trip. This year they met a very ready Alberta team in Edmonton in week 1 and then had Sask back home in week two before heading to Calgary back to back weekends for weeks 3 & 4. very tough schedule.

They are starting to round into form. Here is my take.

Dittmer - DuVal - Macaulay (outstanding first line - even improved over Dittmer - Walker - Macaulay last year, a faster line i do not know of)
Rowinski - Cowan - Lowry (snake bit and still finding chemistry but very good line - not yet at where Hellyer - DuVal - Lowry were last year - Rowinski and Lowry need to find their past form esp Rowinski, Lowry has been exceptional despite the lack of scoring)
Cain - Henry - Feakes (fantastic third line - I like them better than Rowinski - Benias - Cowan from last year, and there is more offensive potential here - Henry is going to be a star in CIS, Cain is very smart and effective and Feakes is an experienced, gritty player with a bit of an offensive side - even if he missed two breakaways last night)
Kelly - Ciarelli - Lauder (very impressive fourth line and a big improvement over last year's Bestland - Davis/Lauder - Flynn trio)

Depth with Green, Paradis, Chartier and Scott is very good. Last year we had to keep moving dmen up front.

Losing Walker, Hellyer and Benias up front is tough but with Cain, Henry, Feakes, Kelly, Ciarelli, Paradis and Green we have not only reloaded we have upgraded our weaponry - both in calibre and size. As the year goes along my thinking is we will be putting the puck in the net more often than we did last year.

Defence is not as big or mean as last year but this year's version is a bit more adept at moving the puck and joining the rush. We miss Erb, Rumsey, Mealy and Schmidt but the new group is very solid and returning vets are better than last year. Mestery is coming along nicely, Bestland is much improved, Christensen is a real player and Sutherland will be good. Bobbee and Lockerby are really smart and move the puck well. Crowley and Schappert are all-stars.

Deckert and Caligiuri have 1 more year of experience and it seems Deckert is healthy and focused.

All in all, I think the Bisons are at least as good if not better than last year.

Last year at the 10 game mark we had scored 31 goals and allowed 22 with a record of 6-2-2 for 14 points (and had played both Regina and Lethbridge at that point).

This year we 6-3-1 with 29 GF and 24 GA for 13 points and are 5-0-1 in the last 6 games, 6-1-1 in the last 8). we scored 4 and allowed 11 in the first series in Alberta. And, we have played 6 on the road and 4 at home. Admittedly we have a long way to go to match the 20-5-3 record of last year.

this weekend is huge in Vancouver. Last year we split this series to go to 7-3-2. If we can manage two victories (tough i know as we seem to struggle there) we will be 8-3-1 and on a serious roll. My prediction is that Matt Lowry breaks out this weekend, Rowinski gets a nice goal and the second line finds some serious chemistry. I also think the Cain - Henry - Feakes line will do some damage as well. Henry goes back to his Junior home to play in front of a lot of friends and former teammates.

After UBC two home series to round out the first half. It really emphasizes the very small margin of error in a very tough conference and a 28 game regular season.
Against Manitoba, Sask's first line did well but their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines never raised a fuss. Manitoba's 1st line also does most of their scoring but at least the other lines can apply pressure.

Regina is hard to figure. When I saw them in pre-season they looked as grim as they did last year. Their other exhibitions against Sask and the Alaskans produced similar results. But splits with UBC, Calgary, and Sask (all without fluky wins after being outshot by loads) have to be respected.

As for the Bisons, they might consider switching Cowan and Henry if the current alignment doesn't work out. However, the current alignment might be based on the theory that Cowan adds a checking component to the 2nd line and Henry adds some speed and skill to the 3rd line. Lowry and Rowinksi need to score more. They are getting chances and generally make their opponents scramble. So I would say they will eventually start to rack up the points.

The new Bisons are better on paper (as a group) than the players they are replacing. But experience and chemistry take time.

If I had to predict, I'd pick Alberta to host Manitoba in the final.

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