By Ava Zardynezhad, March 22 2022—
On Saturday, March 5, the University of Calgary Dinos’ men’s hockey team’s journey through the Canada West playoffs ended after a defeat against the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the semi-finals.
The Dinos were seeded fifth, concluding their regular season with 25 points, finishing just behind the Huskies. This cost the team home-ice advantage in the opening round of playoffs. Despite this, they were able to win the first game of the quarter-finals 3–2 in Saskatoon. The next game was lost to the Huskies 4–0.
During these two games, the Dinos felt offensive pressure from the Huskies. However, their strong defense during the first game of the series was able to take them to a third, tie-breaker game, which they won 4–3, defeating the Huskies in the quarter-final round for the first time since 2015.
With a major win under their belts, the Dinos met the Bears at the Clare Drake arena on Friday, March 4. They opened scoring in the second minute of the game with a power play goal by Kaden Elder. However, the Bears struck back with four unanswered goals in the first period, forcing the Dinos to pull goaltender Brodan Salmond. In the second period, Salmond was replaced with Carl Stankowski.
The Golden Bears continued their assault on the Dinos’ defense with 31 shots-on-goal, 29 of which were denied by Stankowski. Despite two other goals scored by the Bears in the second period of the game, the Dinos got the opportunity to score another power play goal in the second, bringing the score up to 5–2.
However, in the last period, the Golden Bears got another opportunity at breaking through the Dinos’ defenses, leading to a 6–2 loss for the Dinos.
The Dinos returned to Clare Drake the next day hoping to tie the series. However, a series of penalties created many opportunities for the U of A Bears to score. The Dinos finished with a 6–1 loss, ending their 2022 playoff journey.
“Game one got away from us,” said Coach Mark Howell on the series. “We made a couple of mistakes. Game two, we played a lot better. Ironically the score was 6–1. I don’t think it was a 6–1 game. [U of A] has a lot of skill and a lot of talent. We gave them opportunities to capitalize on and they did that. We were really optimistic going in and we weren’t able to get the one win to force game three.”
Despite everything, the Dinos played with ferocity, making 27 shots-on-goal in their second game and blocking 24.
“Our guys still competed and were optimistic. They played hard right to the end, which is a credit to them. They showed their true character and they played the game right until the final buzzer,” said Howell. The Dinos scored their only goal on a power play, 10 minutes into the third period.
The Dinos had a good run, all things considered. The team was returning from spending an entire year off the ice, with more new players than returning.
Howell explained that this year’s team was quite young, with players lacking “enough training to their level.” Howell considers the team’s greatest downfall to be a lack of consistency, which he credited to the long time it took for the team to come together, adjust and form an identity.
The new players, however, have had many chances for stellar performances during the playoffs. First-year goalie, Stankowski was able to give the team a few chances to score during the playoffs, with a particularly impressive performance as a reliever in the first game of the series against U of A.
“Overall, I think we gave a really good effort. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the result we wanted and we weren’t able to move [onto the finals]. We do have a young group of guys in the room. I think it’s a really good experience for us to make it to the second round and to get a couple playoff games under our belts in the USports league. Overall, we can learn from the experience and get better for next year,” said Stankowski about the semi-finals.
These games also marked the last USports games for a handful of players, who will be graduating this year. Ryan Gagnon, team captain and fifth-year student, reflected on his final game in the league.
“It was a hard fought series. [The Bears] are first place in our league for a reason and we knew that coming in. Even though we had a fairly young team and the guys were new to the whole Canada West experience, I thought they still battled hard and I hope they can learn from it and, hopefully, get them back in the future.”
Gagnon looks back fondly on his time with the University of Calgary.
“I’m proud of my time as a Dino and I’m proud of the guys I’ve gotten to play with along the way, all the coaches we’ve had and I’d like to thank them all and wish them all the best.”
The Dinos finished fourth in the league, just short of an opportunity to play at the USports National Championships in Nova Scotia. We wish them all the best for next year.