Fort Smith’s Shaun MacPherson and the Mount Royal University Cougars are continuing to grow and even better times lie ahead after Christmas.
The six-foot, 200-pound defenceman currently has two assists in 16 games with the Cougars so far this season.
“The team has really showed a lot of potential in the last five or six games,” MacPherson said. “We should be in great shape for the second half.”
MacPherson signed with Mount Royal last spring after finishing his junior career as captain of the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Last season, he had 10 goals and 26 assists in 52 games and was widely regarded as one of the best defencemen in the SJHL in 2014-15.
The Cougars finished their pre-Christmas schedule with a win and a loss over the nation’s number one-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon. They lost 4-2 to the Huskies Nov. 27 but won 5-3 the following evening.
Coach Bertrum Gilling has even higher hopes for the remainder of the season. Last year, the team knocked off the Huskies in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the University of Calgary in the second round.
“Last year was my first year coaching the team and I only had a window of about a month to recruit for 2015-16,” he said. “We are still in the development stages and things are going well right now and hopefully will continue to.”
Mount Royal currently sits in third place in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association men’s ice hockey standings with a 9-5-0-2 record. The other teams in the conference include entries from the Universities of British Columbia, Manitoba, Regina, Calgary, Lethbridge and Alberta.
“We went out last season looking to improve mobility with our defence and we’ve got that with Shaun,” he said. “He has played in every game and in different situations. His growth will continue and he has a bright future playing here.”
MacPherson was one of seven players Gilling recruited for this season.
“He brings to the team what we need…that speed, makes plays, great transition game,” Gilling said. “The whole team is playing up to expectations and I’m obviously happy with that.”
With the exception of two home losses to the Huskies at the beginning of November, the team won five and lost only one game on the road. The last home game on Nov. 20 was a 3-1 win over the Calgary Dinos.
“I feel everyone has adjusted pretty well,” MacPherson said of the rookies on the team, including himself. “It is a lot tougher here in the corners and the players are bigger.”
Mount Royal sees its next action January 8-9 at the University of Lethbridge, taking on the Pronghorns.