The defending CIS champion Alberta Golden Bears take their show on the road this weekend for a trio of contests with top NCAA schools and as always, they're doing it in enemy territory.
It all gets going tonight as the Golden Bears square off against the Denver Pioneers. The 3-games in 3-days schedule certainly doesn't favor Alberta and their opponents are no pushovers either.
The Pioneers have been a highly respectable program for decades and have produced a plethora of NHL talent including soon to be Hall of Fame inductee Glen Anderson. Paul Stastny and Matt Carle are two recent stars who began to shine as Pioneers.
Current standouts in Denver include Rhett Rakhshani (NYI), Tyler Ruegsegger (TOR) and Joe Colborne (BOS) seen on the left.
Sunday night's game has them taking on Air Force, which can't really be described as a NCAA power but they aren't to be underestimated either. Players don't normally go on to fame and fortune from this program because, well because they obviously have an inclination to join the U.S. Air Force.
Eric Ehn (pictured) was the biggest name in the program in recent years but the Hobey Baker finalist has moved on. The Falcons do still have last year's leading scorers though in Brent Olson, Jeff Hajner and Greg Flynn. Their best player actually might be in net where Andrew Volkening was often a standout last year including a fantastic overtime game against highly ranked Miami (of Ohio) in the opening round of the NCAA National tournament.
Monday night the Golden Bears will face what might be the stiffest test, at least according to the recently released NCAA poll. The Colorado College Tigers are the 5th ranked program in the NCAA just edging the Pionners to 6th.
Like Air Force, it could be argued that the top Tiger is between the posts in goaltender Richard Bachman (DAL). Not to be confused with Stephen King's writing alter-ego, Bachman (pictured) was striking fear into the opposition (ZING!) all during his freshman year and now as a sophomore might be the top goalie in the NCAA. Chad Rau (TOR) leads the attack but Billy Sweatt (CHI) will be one to watch for as well.
As for Alberta, they might not be household names for a lot of fans but they have some players who can definitely be considered late bloomers with pro potential. Netminder Aaron Sorochan is now in his 4th year with the Bears and has two National Titles under his belt. Ben Kilgour is the senior player on the squad and after a terrific WHL career with the Tri-City Americans, he'll have pro options in 2009-10.
Ian MacDonald, Jason Fransoo, Jesse Gimblett, Eric Hunter (CHI & NYR)... these are all players worth keeping tabs on because their careers won't end when their CIS eligibility expires.
My personal prediction for the Bears this weekend: 1-1-1 with a win against Air Force, a tie either tonight in Denver or on Monday against Colorado College.