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Canada West champions meet their match at the national quarter-finals

By Rodrigo Verney, March 29 2023

Another season for the University of Calgary Dinos men’s hockey came to a close this weekend at the national quarter-finals as the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers took them down in a 4–2 series. An incredible display of resilience and strength that ultimately culminated in a memorable six games. Now that the season is truly over, it is time to look back at the sensational rise of a team that will be talked about for a very long time.

The Dinos began their season as any other would. The team was ready to break the ice and the expectations were higher than ever for such a young squad. Big names that proved themselves as star players in the prior seasons were expected great things from the start. One of these names was the soon-to-be legendary, Carl Stankowski — a goalie that had fans amazed with his magic-like skills to avoid the opposing teams from scoring. The puck seemed to simply appear in his hands every time it was shot.

From rags to riches

The season started a bit on the rough side as the team suffered an inaugural back-to-back defeat at the hands of the University of Alberta Pandas with a 0–2 and 4–3 loss respectively. With this said, the team still looked connected. The main reason behind this loss could be attributed to the fact that they could have given a bit more on both defence and their transition game. Overall, nothing but pointers on the coaches’ notes. 

The next few games came and the Dinos were able to take five victories in an eight-game stretch. A good mark that was about to be challenged by an atrocious blowout loss that shook the core of the young team. The loss came at the hands of the Mount Royal University Cougars, the same team they got their first victory out of. The game was a 7–2 loss that marked a chapter in the book of our Crowchild Classic rivals. 

A match that started as pretty much tied with a goal a piece, came down to the last period in which the Cougars scored four times to send the Dinos home. But when at the bottom there is only one way to go.

Photo by David Mill

The golden era

The following game was at the Father David Bauer arena, still against the Cougars to complete the back-to-back weekend games. This time around, the home advantage and the yearning to make up for the loss gave the Dinos the wake-up call they needed to fight until the very last whistle was blown. 

The game opened with a first-period Cougar score. In the second period, the Dinos scored two goals but were soon matched by the Cougars with a 3–2 score. It all came down to the third period when the Dinos were able to make a desperation goal to send it to overtime. The first overtime was marked by their commitment and the tension in the air as the two teams were not able to score throughout the whole game. However, the second one saw Sean Strange score a season-changing three-on-three comeback goal to win the game.

“Having that never-quit attitude, relentless effort, we drew a few penalties and got some momentum, once we got those two power-play goals we just kept going from there,” said Strange in an interview with the Dinos.

Strange had no idea how much these words would mean to the team. The Dinos tapped into this mentality and became the most feared ruler on the ice, winning every game there was to win until the end of the season. An incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, 23 games stretch. This impressive feat included a win at the Crowchild Classic against the Cougars, the last team to beat them in the season. The Dinos closed the regular season with a 25–3–0 conference record. A golden standard that will wave on their banner for generations to come.

Reaping what we sow

The team advanced as a favourite and was ready to take control of the postseason. The Canada West playoff started off with a matchup against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the semifinals. That was our first loss in the postseason and it came in the first game of the series against them. However, the Dinos were yet to show their teeth and won the two other games for a combined 10 goals against three Huskies goals across the two other games. 

The final was against the University of Alberta Golden Bears again — a fitting conclusion to this season. The Dinos ended up winning the first game and losing the second one in overtime. Everything relied on the third. Luckily, the Dinos were able to make the most of it and won a tight game by a single goal when they scored two goals in the third. The Dinos officially became Canada West champions and skated the ice in one beautiful display of finally celebrating all of their hard work.

Although their national run was short-lived, the Dinos have a season to be remembered by. A season to be used to elevate future Dinos for a long time.

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