Mount Royal Cougars Look for Strong Second Half Finish in Inaugural CIS Season

Mark StaffieriContributor IIJanuary 8, 2013

Christina Hodgson is the team leader in scoring, Image obtained from Mount Royal Athletics
Christina Hodgson is the team leader in scoring, Image obtained from Mount Royal Athletics

As the Mount Royal Cougars begin the second half of their inaugural season in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the program has had a respectable first half to reflect upon. Although the Cougars have a 6-10 record (and a four game losing streak), there are many positives. Carla MacLeod, a member of the 2010 women’s team that claimed gold at the Vancouver Winter Games, is an assistant coach on the team.

In their third CIS match (which was also their CIS home opener), Mount Royal found themselves taking the national powerhouse Alberta Pandas to overtime. A November 16-17 series resulted in a sweep of a very talented Lethbridge Pronghorns squad. Mount Royal also has a winning record on the road (5-3), their 9 power play goals rank in the Top 20 among CIS programs, and the club is averaging nearly two goals per game.

Considering that Mount Royal competes in the extremely competitive Canada West conference, their performance has been nothing short of inspiring. With five games having gone to overtime, the Cougars have been competitive. In their 10 losses, only two have seen the club allow five goals twice (a 5-2 loss to Regina on October 26, and a 5-2 defeat against Saskatchewan on November 30).

Their first ever CIS contest (on October 5, 2012) resulted in a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies. In the historic win over Saskatchewan, Rayna Cruickshank became the great answer to a trivia question as she logged the first regular season CIS goal in Mount Royal history (in addition, it was also scored on the power play). Emily Harrison would follow it up by scoring the first overtime goal in Cougars history.

Of note, the Cougars have four players with CIS experience, and one with NCAA experience. Cruickshank, a 5'10" defender comes to the Cougars after playing for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Harrison is a 5'6" forward that competed for the Queen’s Golden Gaels in the Ontario University Athletics conference. Defender Taylor McLeod and goaltender Jessica Ross both hail from the Calgary Dinos program. Forward Kat McDonald played for the Robert Morris Colonials, an NCAA program that competed in the College Hockey American conference.

Heading into the second half of the season, it is no surprise to Mount Royal fans that team captain Chrissy Hodgson is their leading scorer (12 points on six goals and six assists). The 5'3" senior from Drumheller, Alberta started with Mount Royal when the program was still part of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).

During the Cougars final season in ACAC hockey (2011-12), Hodgson became the conference’s all-time assists leader. This adds to a list of remarkable ACAC accomplishments that includes a scoring title and a league championship in 2010. Her leadership (she is known affectionately as Captain Classy) is an essential component in guiding the Cougars to what they hope is a postseason berth in the Canada West conference playoffs.

Head coach Scott Rivett is an integral part of the team’s success. In his fifth year with the Cougars, he has a remarkable breadth of experience, including a silver medal at the 2008 Alberta Winter Games. As a coach who enjoys an up-tempo style game, the depth on offense will be crucial in their second half.

Of their 10 remaining games, six will be at home (against Manitoba, UBC, Lethbridge and Calgary). While they will have a road series against Regina (a team they have not beaten), the opportunities for home wins against Manitoba, UBC, and Lethbridge provides great optimism for fans and players alike.