Title: Pandas hockey hopes to find consistency it’s been lacking
Date: January 3, 2013
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was an advance on all of the University of Alberta sports events for the weekend. This article appeared in the Jan. 2 edition of the Edmonton Journal.
EDMONTON – After a month off to rest, study and see family members, University of Alberta athletes are ready to get the second half of their seasons underway.
The Pandas hockey team will host Mount Royal University for games on Friday and Saturday in a series that could have large implications on the Canada West standings. Despite being ranked eighth in Canadian Interuniversity Sport polls and sporting a 10-6 record, the Pandas sit in third in the conference, just six points up on the visiting Cougars, who are in sixth.
The conference is so tight that every game and series is of paramount importance. After a month-long break, where the girls played just a lone exhibition game against Grant MacEwan University, there are no longer any days off.
“We have to be prepared to play our best hockey this coming weekend,” said Alberta head coach Howie Draper. “They were close games the last time we played. We certainly can’t take this weekend lightly.”
The Pandas have been without captain Sarah Hilworth for most of the season, which has created a scoring and leadership void that several players have been eager to fill. Karla Bourke has donned the captain’s “C” in Hilworth’s absence and leads the team with 14 points in 16 games, but it’s been a full team effort in terms of filling Hilworth’s shoes.
“I’ve been happy that all of our players have taken turns stepping up, which is important,” said Draper. “We want the girls to step up and stay at that level.”
With just 10 games remaining on the schedule and the standings in a state of flux, the Pandas are tasked with getting back to top form quickly and staying there.
“Consistency is the element we’ve missed the most,” said Draper. “To compete in the playoffs, we have to play 60 minutes every time.”
The Bears’ hockey team will be in action, too, but the games won’t have an impact on their Canada West-leading 14-4 record, as they’ll play a set of exhibition games against cross-town rival NAIT Ooks.
Also in exhibition action is the men’s volleyball team, which is on a four-game exhibition trip in California playing against some of the top teams from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Bears swept the UCLA Bruins 3-0 on Wednesday and will play Cal State Northridge, USC and Pepperdine before returning home Sunday.
The Pandas volleyball squad will also be in exhibition action, though it’s their opponents travelling to them instead for Alberta’s annual New Year’s Classic tournament. Four teams from the Canada West will join the Pandas and the National Institute of Fitness and Sports from Kanoya, Japan, in a round-robin format from Friday to Sunday.
The Bears and Pandas wrestling teams are both ranked second in the latest CIS top-10 polls, and they’ll look to assert their dominance at home this weekend in the Golden Bear Invitational Tournament. Both Alberta teams recently won the Huskie Open at the University of Saskatchewan. Bodies will begin hitting the mats Saturday morning with champions crowned later that same day.
Track and field
The starter’s pistol for the 2012-13 track and field season will be fired Sunday for the Calgary Dinos and Alberta Bears and Pandas, when the provincial rivals have a dual meet in Edmonton. It is the first event on the calendar for both schools, making the event as much about preparation as it is about bragging rights between the programs. The teams hope to get tuned up in advance of the Golden Bear Invitational, which starts Jan. 18.
Both the Pandas and Bears basketball teams remain off until play resumes on Jan. 11.