Preview: men’s hockey
The Dalhousie men’s hockey team is used to heartbreak. Just two years ago they ended a seven-year playoff drought, leading to renewed optimism, but an 11-game losing streak last season brought them back to where they started.
“Last season was a little bit of a rough one,” says Dal defenceman Nicholas Croft. “We had a tough start, although we turned it around after Christmas, but by then it was too little, too late.”
Adding to the team’s troubles, the university announced last season they would demolish Memorial Arena, the Tigers’ home for 30 years.
Left with a disappointing seventh-place finish, the Tigers now have a chance to change their fortunes in their new arena, the Halifax Forum. Helping them along the way will be newly-named captain Pierre-Alexandre Vandall, who joined the club two years ago.
Vandall will be tasked with leading a focused Tigers squad. Although injuries played a part in the team’s misfortune, a change in the players’ mentality was necessary to turn Dal’s season around.
“After Christmas everybody focused more on hockey, everybody worked hard,” says Croft. “This year we are looking to build on the second half so that hopefully we can play well for the entire year.”
This particular change led to a close win against rival Saint Mary’s, and even a dramatic shootout victory against current champion UNB, which placed the Tigers just one point out of the playoffs at that point of the season. It was a huge feat considering they had effectively dug themselves out of the league’s basement.
Whether the Tigers are able to overcome the odds this season will likely determine their place in the AUS standings.
Notable newcomers include two players with Junior A experience, Andrew Langan, a former captain with the Woodstock Slammers, and Kendall MacInnis, previously with the Truro Bearcats. Both players are expected to make a difference with the team immediately.
An added challenge for the Tigers this season, playing away from campus at the Halifax Forum, may prove to be a help or a hindrance. Although attendance will predictably be low, the Tigers are hoping for otherwise.
“We would like to see as many fans as possible,” says Croft. “Students: we need support.”