Calgary Dinos focused on playoffs after capping season with 23-game winning streak
CALGARY — Centre Riley Stotts took a welcome break from studying for a geography exam this week to discuss the University of Calgary Dinos' record-breaking 23-game winning streak in Canada West men’s hockey.
But truthfully, Stotts would rather talk about the Dinos' clash with the University of Saskatchewan on Thursday in Game 1 of their Canada West semifinals.
"As a team, we’ve put the streak on the back burner," said Stotts, a third-round (83rd overall) selection of Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 NHL draft. "We want to win the Canada West championship first and then go to nationals and win nationals."
Lofty goals? For sure. But winning has become a habit this season for the No. 1 ranked Dinos, who have never hoisted the David Johnston University Cup in spite of capturing eight conference titles.
U Sports does not keep official records, but the U of C streak of 23 straight victories is believed to be the third longest in Canadian university men’s hockey history.
Back in 2009-10, the University of New Brunswick won 26 straight games. Western University pulled off a flawless 24-0 season in 2002-03.
"I don’t think the streak is on anyone's mind anymore," said Dinos captain Noah King. "We just want to win this series. We want to win Canada West.
"And the national title is 100 times more important than the streak at this point."
The Dinos set the Canada West record on Jan. 27 in magical fashion against the Mount Royal University Cougars in the annual Crowchild Classic.
The Crowchild Classic takes place annually across the sports of hockey, basketball, soccer, and volleyball between the Dinos and local rival Mount Royal. The school with the most wins in the series is awarded a 68-kilogram cast-iron City of Calgary manhole cover (the two universities are located just off opposite sides of a major thoroughfare, Crowchild Trail.)
In men’s hockey this year, the Dinos pulled out a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the Cougars, shattering a 42-year-old Canada West record of 17 straight wins set by the legendary Clare Drake and the University of Alberta Golden Bears over two seasons in 1978-79.
"We never really talked about the streak until after the game," said head coach Mark Howell. "Then I congratulated the guys because you know it's an amazing feat to go that long and break a record.
"Just a tremendous feat by our guys."
The last loss for the Dinos came back on Oct. 14 when they absorbed a 7-3 beating courtesy of Mount Royal.
Defeats in sports — and in life — can result in finger-pointing or accountability. At the urging of the coaching staff, the Dinos chose the latter.
"We had some tough conversations," King said. "Everyone got assigned a role and knew what they had to do. Everyone is playing to their strengths, and everyone has come together."
In the gym and on the practice ice, Howell immediately noticed a huge difference in intensity and purpose.
"Our players are in such great shape right now," said Howell, who won a national championship as a player with the Golden Bears in 1992. "We play really fast. We check and get on top of people and force them to turn over pucks. We work hard.
"And because of that, we can create some offence."
The playmaking Stotts leads the way for the Dinos on offence with 10 goals and 37 points in 27 games.
But their last line of defence — goalie Carl Tetachuk — is a major reason behind Calgary’s glittering record of 25-3-0.
"Carl Tetachuk has been tremendous," Howell said of the former goaltender of the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors. "He’s been steady, calm and consistent."
Tetachuk will be called upon to continue that stellar play Thursday as the Dinos open their post-season by hosting Saskatchewan in one Canada West semifinal. The University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta meet in the other matchup.
In Atlantic University Sport, UNB meets Moncton in one conference semifinal while Saint Mary’s University and Acadia clash in the other semifinal.
Also, Concordia, UQTR, Lakehead and Windsor are all in quarterfinal series after earning byes through the first round.
The 2023 U Sports University Cup is scheduled for March 16-18 in Charlottetown.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.
Vicki Hall, The Canadian Press