Fans following the men's hockey team last season may have found themselves scratching their heads in confusion on more than one occasion. The season was characterised by the inconsistent play, which plagued the team in recent years, despite clear indications that the team possesses superior talent. The hockeysaurs went on a tear in the first of their regular season campaign, with seven straight victories, only to finish the season losing nine straight games. What was perhaps more frustrating than a losing 11–17–0 record was the fact that the Dinos were rarely out of contention for the victory.
"It's hard to identify the solution when you are playing well," explained head coach Scott Atkinson at the conclusion of last year's season. "It came down to needing one more goal, or one more save, or a lucky bounce."
The Dinos have made some off-season adjustments to address their shortcomings from last season, namely from their goaltending and offensive line. Talented netminders Scott Talbot and Jordan Mclaughlin, each of which have had success between the pipes with the Dinos, as well as newcomer Jeff Weber from the ECHL's Long Beach Ice Dogs, will all be competing for starting positions.
Left wing Teegan Moore, who amassed 115 points in his WHL career, is one addition with which Atkinson looks to give the offensive line renewed life. Last season's late procurement of right wing Torrie Wheat to the line up was also to provide the offence with a much-needed boost, but a shoulder injury reduced Wheat to limited ice time. Both Moore and Wheat are expected to play in Sep. 21–22 pre-season contests against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, who ended hockeysaurs' post-season run and. coincidentally, bestowed Wheat with his injury.
Atkinson, who is returning for his seventh season with the Dinos, has headed into this season with sharp focus on discipline and defence. Last year's defensive squad had impressive success on both ends of the ice, with only one defenseman tallying less than 11 points. With the return of the very capable Dan Ehrman and Drew Campbell on defence to the team this season, the feelings in the locker room have been those of excitement and optimism about the upcoming season.
"Overall, we feel like we have a really good team this year," said assistant Chris Chisamore. "[Most of] the guys have been around this summer, getting into the gym and staying on top of things rather than waiting until the fall. There are good feelings surrounding this group."
The hockeysaurs hit the ice in pre-season action against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns at Father David Bauer Arena Fri., Sep. 14. Although their first two periods showcased some sloppy passes and out-of-position defenders, the Dinos were able to find their groove and score three goals in the final period to put the Horns away in a 5–2 victory. However, a little inconsistency is was expected in the first game, with a few players who haven't played in nearly a year.
"We were soft in some parts of our game tonight," commented Atkinson. "We gave [the Horns] too many counter-opportunities, but we still did well in many areas of our game tonight."
Fans will have to come out and see for themselves whether or not the Dinos have finally found the keys to a consistently successful campaign, one in which the hockeysaurs look to advance farther in the playoffs than they have in recent years.
The regular season home opener takes place on Sat., Sep. 29 against the Horns at Father David Bauer Arena at 7 p.m.