Underdog Pronghorns ready to face top-ranked Golden Bears at University Cup
Eight teams are vying for a men’s hockey title this week in Lethbridge at the U SPORTS University Cup Men’s Hockey National Championship. The host University of Lethbridge Pronghorns open up play against the top-ranked Alberta Golden Bears Thursday night, a team that is looking to defend the title they won in 2018.
“We all know that the defending champions don’t go away easy,” Pronghorns head coach Murray Nystrom said. “So we know the task in front of us is a tall one, but we’re excited about that, we relish that.”
The Enmax Centre should be a familiar setting for several Pronghorns players, including former Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Russell Maxwell.
“There’s definitely a little bit of nostalgia — it’s definitely a little weird,” Maxwell said at practice Wednesday morning.
“It feels like a different life, but it gives myself, in particular, a little extra energy.”
The ‘Horns are undoubtedly the underdog in their game against Alberta, but in a win or go home event, they believe they have a chance to advance.
“In a single-game elimination tournament, it’s anyone’s game,” said Pronghorns captain Justin Valentino. “You run into a hot goaltender, your special teams get hot — anything can happen in a short tournament.”
The Golden Bears beat the ‘Horns in all four previous meetings this season, by a combined score of 24-10. The ‘Horns, though, can find a silver lining in one of those defeats, which happened Thursday on the same ice surface the two teams will play on.
“We’re extremely excited for this opportunity,” Pronghorns forward Sam McKechnie said. “We had a close game with them here at the Enmax Centre. We brought them to overtime, so we’re looking forward to it.”
As for Maxwell, as a five-foot-eight hockey player from the small town of Magrath, he’s used to being looked over, and the role the ‘Horns find themselves in suits him just fine.
“I guess you could say that in my time here in Lethbridge I’ve often been the underdog,” Maxwell said with a grin. “So it’s nothing new and it’s always a challenge. It’s something fun and we’re hoping to make it a good story.”
The Pronghorns will look to knock off the defending champion Golden Bears Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Enmax Centre.
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