Saskatoon, Sask. – March, 1996.
2Pac had the No. 1 album. ER was TV’s most-watched show. The Birdcage topped the box office.
And it’s the last time the Dr. W.G. Hardy Trophy was captured by a team other than the University of Alberta or University of Saskatchewan.
That shared dynasty continues, with the Golden Bears and Huskies facing off in the best-of-three Canada West Men’s Hockey Final this weekend at Merlis Belsher Place. Games 1 and 2 are set for Friday and Saturday, and Game 3 ,if necessary, goes Sunday.
Between them, the Bears and Huskies have won 22 – soon to be 23 – straight conference titles, a streak so long it pre-dates the birth certificates of several players on both rosters.
This will be the fourth straight time Alberta and Saskatchewan have met in the championship series. Alberta skated past Saskatchewan 2-0 in Edmonton last year and prevailed in three games on the Huskies’ ice in 2017. The U of S authored a home sweep of the Bears three years ago.
There was nothing decided in four regular season meetings between the pair, who were separated by just a single point in the conference standings. They split a pair of games at Clare Drake Arena at the end of September, then traded victories in Saskatoon just prior to the holiday break. The teams’ head-to-head meetings account for more than half of the seven losses Alberta and Saskatchewan have combined for in the regular season and playoffs.
Something will have to give, though the notion of either team budging is near unfathomable, considering Alberta has not lost in regulation since October and Saskatchewan is on a 12-game winning streak.
Since the Calgary Dinos swept the Regina Cougars 2-0 to capture the Canada West hockey title in 1996, the Golden Bears have captured the conference 16 times, Saskatchewan the other six. Alberta has failed to reach the championship series just once in that span, while the Huskies are playing in the Canada West final for the 18th time over the last 23 seasons.
Huskies head coach Dave Adolph has been around for that entire span, and then some. His tenure behind a Canada West bench began in 1989 witht he Lethbridge Pronghorns, when current Golden Bears head coach Ian Herbers was a third-year blueliner on the U of A’s roster.
There is a new twist to the proceedings, with this being the first Canada West championship series contested in Merlis Belsher Place. The sparkling new facility opened last September, replacing the historic Rutherford Rink that the Huskies had called home since 1929.
Following this weekend, both Alberta and Saskatchewan will be off to Lethbridge, where they’ll join the host Pronghorns at the University Cup, March 14-17. Alberta is defending national champions, winning their 15th title last year, in Fredericton, N.B., where the Huskies placed fourth.