By Radhya Comar, February 1 2024—
From the top bowls of the Scotiabank Saddledome, the two Calgary teams could not look more different. The University of Calgary Dinos, donning their red and white jerseys, starkly contrast the icy blue of the Mount Royal University Cougars. In the first period of the game, it really did seem as though these teams were in fact operating on two different game boards. The puck had barely touched the ice before being hurled into the Cougars net by Jake Gricius. This early triumph for the Dinos, a mere 22 seconds into the game, set the record for the fastest goal in the history of the Crowchild Classic. This set the tone for the rest of the first period as MRU attempted to catch up. Nonetheless, it looked as if both teams had adopted completely different playing styles. While the Dinos were fighting hard to get into the nooks and crannies of the attacking zone, the Cougars took numerous shots from the blue line.
Comparatively, the second period saw the game level off as both teams circulated the puck around the ice. Strong passes, consistent puck handling and strategic plays defined this portion of the game. Despite significant offensive efforts from Mount Royal, Dinos Goalie Carl Tetachuk was able to fend off multiple mind-bending shots for a record 39 saves in one night. Still, the Cougars were somehow able to find an opening and flick the puck into the top right corner of the net, marking their first goal of the game. This reinvigorated Dinos both on and off the ice. The red sea in the crowd filled the stadium with chants and reignited the Dinos offence, which had slowed down their plays. Dinos fans were then delighted by a goal from Colson Gengenbach, who scored a hat trick in last year’s Crowchild Classic. So, the second period came to a close with the University of Calgary in the lead, 2-1.
Thankfully, they were able to battle MRU’s aggressive offence to sustain the lead for most of the third period. Dinos fans were expecting to gain another win in the series until Cougars’ forward Blake Stevenson tied up the game with just seven minutes left.
The subsequent overtime period can only be described in one word – exhilarating. Fans were on the edge of their seats as both teams were looking to score a goal and seal their victory. However, both Tetachuk and Cougars’ goalie Shane Farkas were able to keep their efforts at bay; pushing the game to a shootout. MRU’s Connor Bouchard confidently skated up to the front, faked left and shot at the top right corner to get the puck in. His efforts were supported by Connor Blake, who brought the score up to 4-2 and all but cemented the Cougars’ win.
Both teams went to a rematch on Friday, January 26th which also saw Mount Royal University take the win. The game saw a slower start as the first goal was not scored until the 11th minute by MRU player Robbie Holmes. Despite scoring in the second and third periods, the agility and intensity of the Cougars proved too much for the Dinos, who were defeated 3-2. The two back-to-back games with the Cougars highlight the Achilles heel of the University of Calgary team. While they excel in playmaking, they are simply outnumbered in terms of tenacity and speed. These sentiments were echoed by the Dinos interim head coach Mark Howell following the second game:
“We have to play way faster and our effort and intensity need to be more consistent and not just in certain moments,” said head coach Howell.
Although this year’s Crowchild Classic certainly saw the Dinos make an active effort in strategizing and coordinating their defence, it also brought to light a pattern of inconsistency. All things said and done, both teams were able to make it a thrilling and memorable game worthy of the tenth edition of the series.