Challenge Cup a tune-up for second half
After close to a month off, the Trojans men’s hockey team was put to work early in 2012, competing in the fifth annual Challenge Cup hosted at SAIT from Jan. 2-3.
Also participating in the tournament were teams from the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and the University of Lethbridge. Each of these teams compete in the larger CIS, and the exhibition matches gave the Trojans a great opportunity to test their skills against tougher competition.
Head coach Ken Babey thinks when the Trojans are at the top of their game they can battle it out with the bigger programs of the CIS.
“The calibre of play in that league is comparable to the top level teams in our league. If we could play against those types of teams every weekend our players would get better and the learning curve would be quicker,” he said.
The Trojans opened the tournament with a 4-4 tie with Lethbridge, a game in which SAIT blew a 4-1 lead.
“I think everyone was a bit rusty from the break, as we went on we got a lot better,” said Kelowna, B.C. native and first-year Trojan forward Tyler French.
There are three newcomers to the Trojans for the second half of the season, all of whom got their first taste of game action in the Challenge Cup.
After missing the first half of the season for not meeting the team’s academic standards, Trevor Bailey is now back in the lineup.
Bailey was the team’s rookie of the year last season, and was one of the team’s top performers in the ACAC playoffs.
Also joining the Trojans for the second half of the season are forward Curtis Billsten and defenseman Mitch McColm.
“Those guys are a big asset and will help us the rest of the year, but it’s going to take a bit of time,” said French.
Billsten said he hasn’t played high-level hockey for close to a year, and it took a while for him to find his legs in the two exhibition matches.
“Just getting my game shape back, my timing, it takes a bit of time to get your game back,” said Billsten.
“The first two periods of the first game, you just don’t feel like yourself, but in the third period both myself and the entire team showed better work ethic and we got the details of our game back.”
The Trojans received more good news when Garret Watson took to the ice for the exhibition matches, as he previously missed two months due to an injury. He is a leader for the team both on and off the ice and his presence was missed last semester.
The Trojans enter the second half of the season tied in third place, one point behind NAIT for second place and five points behind league leader Mount Royal (MRU). They will likely need to run the table in order to catch up with rival MRU.