The Hurricanes play the Capilano Blues in Fort McMurray, Alta., at 6 p.m. Atlantic.
It is a rematch of last year’s opening round match, which the Hurricanes led 2-1 with about 15 minutes to play only to lose 3-2.
The Vancouver-based Blues lost the national final on penalty kicks.
Hurricanes head coach Jonathan Vos called the Blues a strong, fast, physical team, which is technically sound.
“We know we can compete with them,” he said Sunday during the team’s final practice in Prince Edward Island. “We know we’re that close.”
The Blues won the PACWEST conference while the Hurricanes won the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) championship for a third straight year. The Hurricanes have been to the nationals five of the last six years with their best finish coming in 2011 when they placed second.
Despite the team’s history, they enter the nationals ranked seventh out of eight teams.
“We definitely . . . come in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” said captain Josh Martin.
The defender from Sydney, N.S., is in his fourth year of eligibility, but he was not part of last year’s squad. Two years ago, Martin and the Hurricanes lost their opening game to Vancouver Island University, which went on to finish second on penalty kicks.
Martin said the team is “hungry” entering its first game at nationals with the Blues.
“We’re expecting them to have a lot of quality attacking players, so we just want to work together on defence and then hopefully counter to get the goal against them,” he said.
The Hurricanes have an experienced squad with good depth and are bigger than they were a year ago.
Holland College cruised through the ACAA regular season with an 11-0-1 record.
But they were pushed in their semifinal with Mount Saint Vincent. The Hurricanes found themselves trailing for the first time during the season 22 minutes into the semifinal.
They responded en route to a 3-1 victory.
The final with King’s was scoreless through the first half before Holland College scored three times to cash their ticket to the CCAA tournament.
Winning the national championship requires three straight victories.
“We have to be at our best when we get there,” Vos said. “We can’t play a bad game and hope to get through.”
James Mallard is in his first season with the Hurricanes, but he knows being a lower seed means nothing once the whistle is blown.
Mallard was on the UPEI Panthers squad that hosted the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship in 2014. The Panthers defeated Saskatchewan in the opening game and went on to capture the bronze medal.
He sees similarities to his current team.
“I think we have a great shot of bringing home a national title this year,” Mallard said.
A look at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association men’s soccer championship schedule. All times are Atlantic. Seedings are in parenthesis.
1 p.m. – Humber Hawks (1) vs. SAIT Trojans (8).
3:30 p.m. – Sainte-Foy Dynamiques (4) vs. Algonquin Thunder (5).
6 p.m. – Capilano Blues (2) vs. Holland College Hurricanes (7).
Players to watch – The Blues are led by Keith Jackson, who scored 11 goals to lead the PACWEST. Ibra Sanoh had an ACAA-best 14 goals for the Hurricanes.
8:30 p.m. – Keyano College (3) vs. Douglas Royals (6).
1 p.m. – Consolation semifinal.
3:30 p.m. – Consolation semifinal.
6 p.m. – Championship semifinal.
8:30 p.m. – Championship semifinal.
6 p.m. – Bronze semifinal.
8:30 p.m. – Bronze semifinal.
Noon – Placement match.
2:30 p.m. – Placement match.
5 p.m. – Bronze medal match.
7:30 p.m. – Gold medal match.