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U of Calgary men’s hockey team looking to make history on both sides of border

Noah King and Mark Howell have the singular goal this week of bringing home a hockey gold medal playing for Team Canada at the World University Winter Games.

But as members of the of the University of Calgary’s men’s hockey team, King as captain and Howell the head coach,
they’ll still be keeping tabs of the Dinos gunning for history north of the border.

Team Canada closes out round robin play against Latvia and the Czech Republic in Canton, N.Y., ahead of this weekend’s medal round at the legendary Olympic Center in Lake Placid,

“We’re [in New York] and playing for a gold for Team Canada, but obviously on the days off and your time off, how the guys [in Calgary] are doing is in the back of your head,” said King, a 23-year-old defenceman from Winnipeg. “If I have time, I’m definitely going to watch the Thursday and Friday games.

“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind [on the Canadian team]. Everyone has their own games going on this week, so I think it’s in everyone’s heads.”

When the Dinos travel to Saskatchewan to take on the University of Regina Cougars on Thursday, they’ll be aiming for their 16th and 17th consecutive wins, which would tie the 1978-79 Alberta Golden Bears for most consecutive victories in Canada West (CW) men’s hockey history.

“Our players are aware of [the streak], and I think they take a lot of pride in it,” said Howell, who has served as head coach of the Dinos since 2009. “As a coach I’m aware of how important it is to win weekends, and to sweep weekends. You look at our conference, Mount Royal is winning games, and the University of Alberta is winning all the time.”

The CW is as competitive as can be this season, with the Dinos, the top-ranked team in U Sports, not even in first place in their own conference, sitting one point behind the Mount Royal Cougars.

The 17-3-0 Dinos extended their club-record 15-game winning streak with a 7-5 win over the MacEwan Griffins on Jan. 6.

“Going into winter break, I think everyone was beat up and tired so it was nice to get that break, but I think when we were on such a roll, it was just like, ‘Oh, I wish we just kept playing because we’re playing so well’,” said King. “Coming back from the break, every game [could feel like added pressure] to keep winning, to keep this thing going… but I don’t think we’re playing to keep a winning streak alive. We’re just kind of playing the right way and playing for each other. And it seems to be going well this year.”

Things are going particularly well for King, who won a WHL championship with Swift Current in 2018. He has yet to lose a game this season because he only returned from injury in November after the Dinos were three games into their winning streak.

In the 12 victories since, the 6-foot-4 rearguard has 10 points and a plus-12 rating. At the World University Games, he has one assist and is plus-3 in three wins for Canada over Ukraine, Sweden and Japan.

“Obviously, [King is] a big, heavy, steady defenceman who’s really good defensively,” Howell said. “But I think over his two years with us he’s growing his offensive game and his offensive abilities.

“We’ve given him some room and flexibility to jump up into the offence and play on the power play. So because of that, his confidence is growing, and he’s becoming increasingly capable and confident of what he’s doing on the offensive side of the puck.”

King continues to build chemistry with his Team Canada defence partner Scott Walford of McGill University, a common theme on the Canadian roster that Howell helped assemble as general manager of the team. The Red Deer, Alta., native had GM duties added to his associate coaching duties after helping lead Canada to bronze at the 27th Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain in 2015.

The 2023 all-star U Sports squad features four CW players, eight Ontario University Athletics (OUA) members, and 11 Atlantic University Sport (AUS) players that continue to find their rhythm in round robin play, looking to win the first gold medal for Canada at the tournament since 2013 in Trentino, Italy.

Canada golden on the ice in Lake Placid

As King and Howell aim for the top of the podium, another University of Calgary athlete has already struck gold in Lake Placid.

Speed skater Laura Anne Hall of Salmon Arm, B.C., took the top spot in the women’s 3,000m on Monday, setting a track record of  four minutes 25.70 seconds, 2.48 seconds ahead of silver medallist Jiwoo Park of Korea.

Sainte-Marie, Que., native Rose-Anne Grenier of Laval University claimed bronze with a time of 4:29.10.

The 19-year-old Hall is a member of the World Cup racing pool for the Canadian national team, one of four long track athletes representing Canada at the games to have national team experience.

Elizabeth Anne Filiatrault , also of the University of Calgary, added a bronze in the women’s ski cross final on Monday.

Laval’s David La Rue won bronze in the men’s 1,000m speed skating final, and Shilo Rousseau of the University of Ottawa took gold in the women’s 12.5km short biathlon event over the weekend for Canada’s other medals at the games.

Canada is currently tied for fourth on the medal table with five, as Japan sits in first with 17 medals.

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