Need to know: CIS University Cup primer

Alberta Golden Bears captain Kruise Reddick lifts the University Cup after defeating the UNB Varsity Reds 6-3 to win the 2015 Canadian Interuniversity Sports hockey championship. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

The seeds are set for the CIS men’s hockey championship being held at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax from March 17-20 and broadcast on Sportsnet.

It’s been a crazy year with lots of upsets and the most parity in recent memory. Who will be lifting the University Cup at the end of the tourney?

Before you fill out your bracket, buy your tickets and plan your viewing, here is a breakdown of my perspective on the 2016 field.

UQTR Patriotes (OUA champions)
Regular Season Record: 24-3-1 | Post-season record: 7–0
City: Trois-Rivières, Que.
Enrolment – 14,500

Why I like them: UQTR’s offence is tough to stop. The Patriotes averaged five goals a game during the regular season — tops in the CIS.

Players to watch: Guillaume Asselin
The third-year winger has dominated the CIS this season, leading the country with 47 points in the regular season. Asselin added one goal and nine assists for UQTR in the playoffs.

Twitter account: @PatriotesUQTR
Fun fact: This is the first CIS men’s hockey championship in which the Patriotes are the No. 1 seed since 1999.

Saskatchewan Huskies (CWUAA champions)
Regular Season Record: 22-6-0 | Post-season record: 4-0
City: Saskatoon
Enrolment – 20,957

Why I like them: A balanced attack up front and solid goaltending will lead to success for the Huskies.

Players to watch: Jordon Cooke
The sophomore goaltender and former Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year with the Kelowna Rockets has been tough to beat this season. Cooke was 19-5 with a .921 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average during the regular season. The 22-year-old stopped 54 of 56 shots in the Canada West final against the Alberta Golden Bears.

Twitter account: @HuskieAthletics
Fun fact: It was Saskatchewan’s first men’s hockey conference title since 2012.

St. FX X-Men (AUS champions)

Regular Season Record: 18-6-4 | Post-season record: 5-1
City: Antigonish, N.S.
Enrolment – 5,127

Why I like them: The X-Men have arguably the hottest offence coming into the University Cup, with six players in the top 10 for playoff scoring.

Players to watch: Eric Locke and Nathan Chiarlitti
Locke was the AUS’s regular season MVP, scoring 14 goals and 21 assists in 28 games. Chiarlitti earned playoff MVP honours after leading the league in playoff points.

Twitter account: @StFXAthletics
Fun fact: St. FX last won the AUS title in 2004.

Western Mustangs (OUA finalists)
Regular Season Record: 18-10-0 | Post-season record: 6-3
City: London, Ont.
Enrolment: 28,386

Why I like them: The Mustangs offence is heating up at the right time. After a quiet start to the season by its standards, Western scored 35 goals in nine playoffs games — the most in the OUA.

Players to watch: Greg Dodds
Dodds was solid in the Mustangs’ OUA West final against the Guelph Gryphons, allowing just four goals in three games, including a 29-save performance in Game 3. Dodds kicked out another 42 shots in the Queen’s Cup, only to see Western fall to UQTR 4-3 in overtime.

Twitter account: @WesternMustangs
Fun fact: Veteran coach Clarke Singer guided the Mustangs to their lone national title in 2002.

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UNB Varsity Reds (AUS finalists)
Regular Season Record: 23-3-2|Post-season record: 3-2
City: Fredericton, N.B.
Enrolment – 11,000

Why I like them: The Varsity Reds are still one of the top teams in the country despite falling to St. FX in the AUS final. UNB was second in goals per game in the regular season, averaging 4.64, while boasting a 2.18 goals-against average, also good for second in the CIS.

Players to watch: Philippe Maillet and Philippe Halley
Maillet continued his strong junior season in the playoffs for the Varsity Reds with two goals and two assists. Maillet also led the team in regular-season scoring with seven goals and 24 assists in just 17 games. Halley led UNB in post-season scoring, which was highlighted with a three-point performance against St.FX in Game 2 of the AUS final.

Twitter account: @VarsityReds
Fun fact: Head coach Gardiner MacDougall has led the Varsity Reds to four national championships and three CIS silver medals in his over 16 years with the school.

Alberta Golden Bears (CWUAA finalists)

Regular Season Record:19-7-2 | Post-season record:2-2
City: Edmonton
Enrolment – 39,312

Why I like them: Find their offence. In the Canada West final against Saskatchewan, the Golden Bears were held to just two goals in two games. That’s a far cry from the 12 goals Alberta scored in the series before against the Mount Royal Cougars. The Golden Bears tied for third during the regular season by averaging 4.14 goals per game.

Players to watch: Kruise Reddick
The Alberta captain is one of seven Golden Bear veterans that won championships with the team in 2014 and 2015. Reddick had five power-play goals this season on an Alberta squad that led the CIS with a 30.5 per cent power-play efficiency.

Twitter account: @BearsandPandas
Fun fact: The Golden Bears have accomplished a University Cup three-peat once in their history, from 1978 to 1980.

Carleton Ravens (OUA bronze medallists)
Regular Season Record: 20-7-1 | Post-season record: 5-2
City: Ottawa
Enrolment – 28,289

Why I like them: Defence wins championships. The Ravens were one of the top defensive teams in the OUA playoffs, averaging just 2.13 goals per game. Take out the OUA East final against UQTR and Carleton’s defensive effort is very impressive.

Players to watch: Brett Welychka
The centre dominated in his rookie seaosn, finishing second in CIS scoring with 14 goals and 32 assists in 27 games — one fewer game than scoring champion Guillaume Asselin. Wlychka also knows how to win, hoisting two OHL championships with the London Knights.

Twitter account: @CURavens
Fun fact: It’s the second time in three years that the Ravens will play in the University Cup.

St. Mary’s Huskies (Hosts)
Regular Season Record: 17-8-3 | Post-season record: 3-3
City: Halifax
Enrolment – 7,155

Keys to win: Build off the home crowd. The Huskies are hosting the tournament at Scotiabank Centre, home of the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. Saint Mary’s was hot down the stretch, winning eight of nine games in January before losing to St. FX in the AUS semifinals.

Players to watch: Stephen MacAulay
The Cole Harbour, N.S., native broke out in his third season with the Huskies, leading the team in regular season scoring before adding one goal and five assists in the AUS playoffs.

Twitter account: @SMUHuskies
Fun fact: Coach Trevor Stienburg led Saint Mary’s to its only University Cup title in 2010. The Huskies also lost to the UNB Varsity Blues 2-0 in the 2013 tournament final.