By Sonny Sachdeva, September 10 2015 —
The Dinos men’s hockey team is heading into the 2015–16 season with a significantly different look.
Coming off a fantastic season in which the University of Calgary put together a 26–14–0 record (the second-best mark in the Canada West), the club begins their new campaign missing seven key contributors.
Defenceman Kodie Curran is arguably the most significant loss. The Calgary native finished second on the team in scoring last season with 25 points, despite missing 10 games due to injury. Curran also anchored the Dinos blue line, finishing second on the team with a plus-24 rating.
The exceptional goaltending tandem of Kris Lazaruk and Jacob DeSerres have also moved on from the Dinos program — a change that could bring about the team’s biggest test in 2015–16. The netminding duo rose to become one of the finest in the CIS last season, led by Lazaruk, who finished with the lowest goals-against-average in the country.
Veterans Colton Grant, Ryan Harrison, Davis Vandane and Walker Wintoneak have also finished their eligibility with the Dinos, leaving even more roster spots for the Dinos recruitment staff to fill.
While the Dinos undoubtedly lost some key pieces, they have some quality players joining the fold in 2015–16. Four forwards, four defencemen and two goaltenders joined the club this summer, looking to earn key roles before the Dinos play their first game on Sept. 11 against the Mount Royal Cougars.
Coda Gordon figures to be one of the most exciting prospects. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 2012 and has since gone on to become an offensive force in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos. Gordon has piled up 132 points for the Broncos over the past two seasons, showcasing an elite offensive skill-set that could have a significant impact on the Dinos’ future success.
Dinos head coach Mark Howell hopes the young forward’s talent translates to the CIS.
“Coda is an elite forward,” said Howell. “Drafted by the Flames, he’s chosen to go to school and not pro. We’re going to count on him to play significant minutes and be a great contributor offensively.”
The Dinos have one other NHL prospect joining their forwards roster as well. Mike Winther was drafted 54th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2012 and split his time between four different WHL clubs over the past five seasons, finishing with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2014–15.
Mitchell Cook and Chase McMurphy round out the new forwards. Both spent last season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and finished among the top scorers for their respective clubs.
On the blue line, the Dinos have Ryan Suchorab, Nick Walters, Kolton Dixon and Caylen Walls coming aboard this season.
Suchorab, former captain of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons, is fresh off of being named his club’s MVP and top defenceman, while also earning a nomination as the AJHL’s most outstanding blue-liner. He’ll join Nick Walters — a former 2012 draft pick of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues — in vying for one of the top spots on the Dinos blue line next season.
Dixon and Walls will also be in the mix, as both have the size and experience to make an immediate impact.
However, goaltenders Steven Sanford and Curtis Honey will be the most intriguing prospects to watch this season. With the Dinos’ former tandem moving on, Sanford and Honey will be relied on to adjust quickly and help the Dinos remain one of the top teams this season.
After suiting up for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for three seasons, Sanford should have a good enough grasp of the CIS’ style of play to shore up the Dinos’ net early on.
“Steven has three years experience in our league,” said coach Howell. “I think he is going to carry us early on and then from there it’s a competition between our goaltenders for minutes.”
Returning to his native Alberta after three seasons with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Honey looks set to challenge for some time in the Dinos’ cage as well.
The Dinos will likely undergo a crucial adjustment period over the course of their first few games as they integrate their newest additions and figure out how to replace the talent they’ve lost. These tests will certainly come quickly. The Dinos’ first three preseason games are against Mount Royal (who beat U of C five times last season), the SAIT Trojans (who went 27–9 last season) and the Calgary Flames prospects.
Coach Howell will have to get his group adjusted and ready to compete as soon as possible if they hope to remain one of the top clubs in the Canada West.