Courtesy: Taylor Rocca, WHL
While the 2016-17 Canada West men’s hockey season didn’t end as hoped for the Mount Royal Cougars, it’s tough to argue against the performance of a team that simply ran into one of the country’s best. If all goes according to plan, the Cougars are set to build upon last season’s success as they prepare for the 2017-18 Canada West campaign.
Scoring 99 goals in 28 games – good enough for second best in Canada West – the Cougars managed a mark of 15-13 during the 2016-17 regular season before sneaking past the Manitoba Bisons in a three-game Canada West quarter-final series. From there, MRU ran into the Saskatchewan Huskies, falling in back-to-back one-goal games to a team that went on to represent Canada West at the U Sports University Cup.
With only one new Western Hockey League recruit joining the squad this off-season, the hope is the Cougars have found a little extra playoff mojo to help that springtime push extend a little further.
Forward Ryley Lindgren joins the Cougars for 2017-18 after playing the role of playoff hero for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, helping propel the Speedy Creek boys to a somewhat unexpected run during the 2017 WHL Playoffs.
A fifth-round pick of the Brandon Wheat Kings at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Lindgren enjoyed an outstanding WHL career, skating in 259 career regular season games over four seasons and managing 167 points (69G-98A) along the way. Known for his grit and determination, Lindgren’s character made him the guy you loved to have on your side, but absolutely hated to play against. Following a trade deadline move from the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Broncos, the product of East St. Paul, Man., made his mark during the 2017 post-season.
The upstart Broncos edged the Moose Jaw Warriors in a thrilling, seven-game series during the first round of the post-season, fueled by the goal-scoring prowess of Lindgren, who notched five goals in seven games, including a hat trick in Game 4.
Once the Broncos advanced to the second round to take on the WHL Regular Season Champion Regina Pats, Lindgren continued to have an impact. In Game 1, the 5-foot-11, 187-pound sparkplug notched the overtime-winning goal, stunning the Brandt Centre crowd as the underdogs from Swift Current stole home-ice advantage from the powerhouse Pats. In Game 4, he registered four points, including two goals in regulation before setting up Glenn Gawdin for the triple-overtime winner as the Broncos staked out a 3-1 series lead. Unfortunately for Lindgren and his running mates, the magic ran dry as the Pats stormed back to win the series in an exhilarating seven games.
Despite the disappointing end result, Lindgren proved his worth as a big-game performer and it’s something the Cougars are hoping helps them take the next step as they seek out their first Canada West crown in 2017-18.
PLAYER TO WATCH
East St. Paul, Man.
Brandon Wheat Kings (2013-2014); Lethbridge Hurricanes (2014-2017); Swift Current Broncos (2017)
Top WHL season: 2016-17 / 72 GP / 27 G / 47 A / 74 Pts.
Lindgren’s hallmark is his high-energy presence and willingness to go to the dirty areas to get the job done. With smooth finish, his blend of grit and high-end ability to put the puck in the net makes him a frustrating opponent to deal with in the defensive zone.
Having notched 74 points (27G-47A) in 72 games split between Lethbridge and Swift Current during the 2016-17 WHL regular season, Lindgren solidified himself as a reliable contributor on offense. His 15 points (8G-7A) in 14 post-season games led all Broncos, confirming his ability to show up in critical moments.
About CW and the WHL:
Every year 100s of former WHL players attend post-secondary institutions across Western Canada, putting to use their WHL Scholarship money. Last season, more than 200 former WHLers skated for one of eight CW men’s hockey teams, including 51 in the CW championship series.
As part of the WHL and Canada West’s ongoing partnership, the WHL powers CW series highlights the latest crop of former WHL recruits, who will make the most of their scholarship package at a CW school of their choosing beginning this fall.