By Emilie Medland-Marchen, January 22 2017 —
The Dinos men’s hockey team split wins with the No. 8 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears in two games on Jan. 20 and 21.
It was an essential weekend for the Dinos, who are currently one spot behind Alberta in the Canada West. One more win would put them ahead of their cross-province rivals, while second-place in the Canada West would have secured a bye to the USports playoffs.
The Dinos lost the first game at home on Jan. 20, falling 2–1 to the Golden Bears in a nail-biter. Despite a valiant effort from Calgary in the first quarter and a half — they scored the first goal of the night at the top of the second — Alberta came back in the third period, scoring two goals and settling into a third-place position in the Canada West.
“I thought we started really well,” Dinos head coach Mark Howell said. “We didn’t give them anything in the first period, played a really smart, hard, intense first period. I even thought at the start of the second we were really good. Then right after we scored 1–0, I thought we would take it. But we started trading chances back and forth and stopped playing the way we had to play.”
Calgary showed potential in the first period, outshooting the visitors 9–6 by the end of 20 minutes. A penalty for Alberta in the first 30 seconds of the game set a strong offensive tone for Calgary, who picked up the pace and tried to capitalize on a power play opportunity. But despite a snappy wrister from fourth-year defenceman Drydn Dow on the power play, the Dinos’ efforts were thwarted by Alberta’s goalie, who stopped all nine shots fired his way.
The Dinos scored the first goal of the night at 5:18 in the second period. Fourth-year forward Chris Collins snapped up the lead for the Dinos, clipping Alberta netminder Brendan Burke’s right glove with assists from veteran forward Dylan Walchuk and third-year defenceman Dylan
“Well, we only got one, but I thought we competed hard for the puck,” Howell said. “Our defence were pretty smart for the most part. When your defence plays a solid game, you’ve got a good chance to compete with a good team.”
Collins — the sole goal scorer of the night — agreed.
“Coach has been telling me to stand in front of the net more,” Collins said. “I was there and our D-man shot the puck. I got a piece of it and it threw the goalie off.”
Despite the Dinos’ early lead, Alberta was quick to settle the score. The restless Golden Bears played an aggressive third period, tying the game 1–1 at 3:27. A number of Dinos rushes and breakaways failed to lead to anything, despite the Dinos outshooting Alberta 24–20 by halfway through the period. A roughing penalty for second-year forward T.J. Dumonceaux at 11:18 was a sign of bad things to come for the Dinos. Alberta scored their second goal of the night right off the power play, creating a gap that Calgary couldn’t match.
The end of the third period was a mad rush to the finish. Howell called a timeout for Calgary and pulled the goalie with just a minute and a half left in the game. But despite rushing the Golden Bears’ net with an extra man, the Dinos couldn’t extend the game into overtime.
“If we want to be able to beat the top teams, we have to be able to play the whole game, not just the first twenty minutes,” Collins said. “We were just trying to get everything on net, crash the net and hope the puck goes in. You never want to be in that position when you have a goalie pulled, but when you do you can’t hold anything back.”
While it was a hard defeat on the first night of back-to-back games for the Dinos, the team came back swinging on Jan. 21, earning a convincing 3–0 win over Alberta in Edmonton. It was a historic night for fifth-year veteran goalie Steven Stanford, who shut out the Golden Bears in the team’s first loss on home ice since 1964.
The Dinos maintained their spot firmly behind U of A in the fourth position in the Canada West. With the University of Manitoba winning both of their two games on Jan. 20 and 21, the three close teams will fight for the top spots in the Canada West division throughout the remainder of the regular season.
But for Collins, there is plenty of opportunity to make sure the road to the playoffs is free of obstacles.
“For us we’ve got a pretty tough road to play,” Collins said. “We just have to make sure we’re ready to go each period and make sure we have some good sixty minute games ahead of us.”