The guide to the 2021-22 Canada West MHKY season

VANCOUVER, BC – The Canada West men’s hockey season is here. Although it is a schedule only 76% of the regular length, the largest conference by land is ready to return to action for the first time since crowing the Saskatchewan Huskies as 2019-20 champions. 

Spanning from Vancouver to Winnipeg, the Canada West conference is the hardest of the three men’s hockey conferences to plan, and in 2021-22, that has only become more challenging. Dealing with several municipalities, tens of facilities, and of course, four separate provincial governments, it has not been a smooth ride to get this season underway. 

Yet with masks in some places, vaccines and masks in others, and some fans in the building and of course a sheet of ice, the time has come to drop the puck. It’s not a “normal” year but is closer than anything has gotten to since March 2020. 

Hockey fans, welcome to the 2021-22 Canada West men’s hockey season. 

Alberta Golden Bears

(Canada West)

A perennial contender, the Alberta Golden Bears, seek a return to the Canada West final and U CUP tournament after losing to the UBC Thunderbirds in the conference semi-final in 2019. 

Led by Head Coach Ian Herbers, the Golden Bears will have a much younger roster in 2021 than in 2019, yet leading goalscorer Grayson Pawlenchuk will still lead the offensive charge at Clare Drake Arena. However, there will be a shift from Matt Berlin in goal to former Kansas City Maverick (ECHL) Nick Schnider. 

The Golden Bears may have an extra step on their opponents to start the campaign, having played 10 preseason games, compared to the handful that other teams have played, and only losing a single one. 

Incoming forwards Josh Prokop, Brandon Cutler, Gary Haden and Eric Florchuk, will fill the void left by graduating players, and under Herbers’n attacking system, they should slide in seamlessly. 

Similar to other years, the Golden Bears are right in the U CUP conversation but will have to get past an aggressive Saskatchewan Huskies team if they want to claim a Canada West crown for the first time since 2018. 

Player to Watch: Grayson Pawlenchuk

Calgary Dinos

(Calgary Dinos)

The Calgary Dinos are a team bound for the middle of the standings, a place they have become familiar with since their last Canada West title in 2019. However, the program welcomes a new era of Dinos hockey this season, with the chapter closed on forward Matt Alfaro, goalie Matt Greenfeld, among others. 

Replacing them is a talented group, highlighted by former AHL defender Noah King and ECHL forward Jake Gricius and John Maser. All three played junior in the WHL before moving onto a cup of coffee in the pro game. 

In net, Head Coach Mark Howell will rely on Brodan Salmond, who took over in 2019-20, when Greenfield fell to an injury. The former Moose Jaw Warrior posted a .900 save percentage in 12 games in 2019-20 and will look to build on it as a third-year student, second-year athlete. 

In the offensive end, the scoring will run through veterans Kade Elder, who led the team in 2019-20 with 13 goals and 21 points, and Tim Vanstone, who assisted 14 times in the last campaign. 

A younger, but skilled team, the Dinos may not be clear-cut title contenders like Alberta and Saskatchewan, but they have all the characteristics of a darkhorse group. 

Player to watch: Tim Vanstone

MacEwan Griffins

New Griffins captain Ethan Price gets a solid scoring chance on Alberta goalie Nick Schneider during a preseason game earlier this month (Joel Kingston photo).
(Joel Kingston Photo)

One of the two new schools in Canada West, the MacEwan Griffins, have been waiting for this season longer than anyone else, except their expansion cousins, the TWU Spartans. However, the Griffins and Spartans are both coming into the 2021-22 season stronger, with the Griffins bringing in a talented recruiting class for a program still in its infancy. 

The Edmonton school comes into U SPORTS after having one of the most tremendous successful spells in ACAC history; however, they will not play at the level of a collegiate school. In the 2021 offseason, the Griffins brought in goaltender Ty Taylor, a former Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, and WHLers Sean Comrie, Ryley Appelt, Loden Schauffler, David Kope and Tyler Smithies. 

While a recruiting class of WHL players is nothing unique in Canada West, it is a significant first step for the Griffins, who improve their team, despite having never played a game at the U SPORTS level. 

The preseason was intriguing, to say the least, for MacEwan, winning two games of five while also losing handily to star-studded teams such as Alberta and Calgary. Overall, the Griffins are difficult to judge, but they will be far from the pushovers they could have been as a first-year team in 2020-21. 

Player to Watch: Ethan Price

Manitoba Bisons

colton veloso calgary dinos january 11 2020
(Dave Moll – Calgary Dinos)

After falling out of the first round of the playoffs in 2019-20, the Manitoba Bisons are searching for not only another playoff ticket but to make their way past the opening round. However, to get to that point, they will have to push through a conference with tougher competition than seen in past seasons. 

Although expected, the Bisons will have to adjust to life without FISU Canada standout and all-star defender Adam Henry, who graduated in 2020. While the program welcomes the defensive likes of Sam Stewart, Reece Harsch, and Chase Hartje, it will be difficult to compare to bluelines of the past. 

Up front the Bisons wil rely on Keaton Jameson and Devon Skolesky, two contributors who led the team in assists and points in 2019-20. Without an experienced blueline, however, the Bisons will be hard-pressed to make an impact at the top of the standings. 

Player to watch: Devon Skolesky

Mount Royal Cougars

Ryley Lindgren - 2021-22 - Men's Hockey - Mount Royal University Cougars  Athletics & Recreation
(MRU Cougars)

If the Alberta Golden Bears and Saskatchewan Huskies are the favourites in the conference, the Mount Royal Cougars are the ones poised to make a mess of everyone’s predictions. 

After losing to UBC in the 2019-20 quarterfinals, the Cougars have reloaded, bringing in a talented group headlined by WHL forward Josh Tarzwell and Kyle Walker. They’ll join a forward core that features star forward Ryley Lindgren, who scored `18 goals and 31 points in 2019-20. 

The “Riley tandem” of Riley Simms and Riley Morris will tend the goal in 2021, looking to improve on the 4th best defence in the conference that they posted in 2019-20. Without Saskatchewan goaltender Taran Kozun in the conference, Morris could also play himself into the conversation for Canada West Goalie of the Year come March. 

Led by Lindegren, the Cougars will likely rely on their powerplay once against, as they attempt to match the heights of a conference-best 23% scoring rate that they set in 2019-20. From top to bottom, the Cougars have a strong team and a group that could play their way into potential upset scenarios.

Player to Watch: Ryley Lindgren

Regina Cougars

Brandon Holtby named Canada West Third Star of the Week - University of  Regina Athletics
(Regina Cougars Athletics)

The Regina Cougars will be in a familiar spot in 2021-22. They once again find themselves in the shadow of their provincial rival Saskatchewan Huskies and are poised to finish near the conference’s bottom. 

Their success will rely on the goaltender of fourth-year netminder Brandon Holtby, as well as forward Conner Chaulk; however, neither are likely to lead them to much fanfare this season. 

Holtby finished with a .912 save percentage in 2019-20 and led the Cougars in a late-season dash, as the team from the provincial capital claimed 13 of a possible 16 points down the stretch. With him in the net, a decent defensive performance could lead him to potential individual accolades. 

Player to watch: Brandon Holtby

Saskatchewan Huskies

(Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

The defending conference champions will have eyes on them this season, at least on their bench. Led by Olympic double gold medal medalist and Stanley Cup champion Head Coach Mike Babcock, the Huskies are bound to come under scrutiny from across the hockey world. However, with Babcock and a rebuilt roster that came to the school to play under his guidance, the Huskies are favourites to win the conference and even U SPORTS. 

The most significant departure for the Huskies is Canada West 2019-20  Goaltender of the Year and goalscorer Taran Kozun. However, there are several holdovers, in addition to a fresh-faced group. Defenders Gordie Ballhorn, Evan Fiala, Shane Collins and Cody Spagrud; forwards Wyatt Johnson, Jared Dmytriw, Donovan Neuls, Carter Folk, Jeff Faith and Justin Ball all return to the roster from the 2019-20 winning season. 

While some of the new additions are strong players from the CHL, there are more mature players who stand out. Defender Connor Hobbs was one of Babcock’s first recruits, as he leaves the American Hockey League’s Hershey Beard to get an education, while he is also joined by forwards Alex Zawatsky and Vince Loshsiavo, both coming from European pro leagues. 

With the hockey world watching, the Saskatchewan Huskies are under pressure, yet also scrutiny. Naming Babock as Head Coach for the next two seasons was a bold move to replace long-time bench boss Dave Adolph, but it could pay off in a U CUP title. 

Player to watch: Connor Hobbs

Trinity Western Spartans

(TWU Spartans)

Playing out of the Langley Events Centre, the Trinity Western Spartans come to U SPORTS and establish themselves as the school with the nicest arena in the country. However, while a great facility can aid a team, it does not make a program strong on the ice. With that in mind, Head Coach Barret Kropf has assembled a strong team. 

Backstopped by veteran OUA goaltender Talor Joseph, the Spartans have added his brother Jadon Joseph from the Swedish third division, alongside Josh Borynec, who had experience from the now-defunct Lethbridge Pronghorns program. 

The Spartans won’t be the strongest team in the league, with a heavy holdover group from their days in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League; however, playing UBC more times than any other school, familiarity could brew a few wins. 

Although it’s unlikely the 2021-22 season features the Spartans in the playoffs, Kropf and the school’s recruiting should push them to Canada West darkhorse status within the next half-decade. 

Player to Watch: Talor and Jadon Joseph 

UBC Thunderbirds

(SFU Athletics)

Coming off a Cinderella season in 2019-20, the UBC Thunderbirds will be looking to finish off what they started, albeit with a very different roster. In the 2020 Canada West playoffs, the T-Birds expelled their demons of playoffs past, knocking out the MRU Cougars before upsetting the heavily favoured Alberta Golden Bears. 

Although the T-Birds weren’t able to push by the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West final, they booked themselves an unexpected U CUP ticket, where they had a date with the UNB Reds that never happened. 

Oer 600 days later, Head Coach Sven Butenschon has recruited a talented two classes, with student-athletes coming from around the Canadian Hockey League, rather than just the WHL, as he has focused on in the past. 

Star goaltender Rylan Toth returns to the mix, while defenseman Shaun Dosajnsh and forward Matt Revel lead their positions. Incoming players include Liam Kindree and Jack Wismer, two hard checking forward, in addition to Cyle McNabb, Carson Miller, Scott Atkison, Chris Douglas Ethan Anders, Matt Leduc and Matthew Smith. 

Although the T-Birds are a very different lineup, the team’s core remains, and after winning the Captain’s Cup Preseason Tournament, the 2021-22 T-Birds could become the best team under Butenschon’s tenure. 

Player to watch: Tyler Sandhu


  1. Saskatchewan Huskies
  2. Alberta Golden Bears
  3. Calgary Dinos
  4. MRU Cougars
  5. UBC Thunderbirds 
  6. Manitoba Bisons
  7. MacEwan Griffins
  8. TWU Spartans
  9. Regina Cougars

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