After playing seven of their first eight games of the season on the road, the Golden Bears finally returned home last weekend for a series against the Manitoba Bison. Although the Bears had been posting decent numbers through the early part of the season, the results simply had not followed; with a 5-2-1 record the Golden Bears entered the weekend in third place in the Canada West standings. Would a couple games in front of the home crowd, with the friendly bounces of Clare Drake Arena, be just what they needed to get their season back on track and headed in the right direction? Unfortunately not.
On Friday night both teams looked tentative early and very little happened until the final five minutes of the first period when the Golden Bears started cycling the puck and effectively taking control of the game. In the final quarter of the period the Bears got puck after puck on net and generated numerous scoring chances but could not beat Justin Paulic, the man between the pipes for the Bison, who turned away all twelve shots he faced in the game’s first twenty minutes.
When the second period started the Bears picked up right where they had left off, again controlling the play; by the time the second period ended the shot totals would be 26-7 in favour of Alberta. In the 36th minute of play the Golden Bears would finally find the back of the Bison net after Levko Koper found a wide open Kruise Reddick who buried his fourth goal of the season. In the third period Alberta would extend their lead to two when Jamie Crooks’ point shot first made its way through a crowd and then past Paulic.
Given how the previous 30 minutes of the game had been trending, many in the arena likely thought that the game was all but done at this point, with only a few seconds more than twelve minutes left to play. And those people, myself included, were wrong. With Bears forward Jayden Hart serving a double minor for spearing, Shaq Merasty got the Bison on the board at the 13:55 mark of the third period. Not satisfied with just breaking Luke Siemens bid for a shut out, Merasty would strike again with just over a minute left to play to draw the Bison even and force overtime.
Despite recording a shot a minute during the five minute four-on-four overtime period the Bears could not bring the game to a close, meaning the a second overtime period, now with only three skaters aside, would be required. Three-on-three is all about possession, once you get it you don’t want to give it up. And Alberta got possession, and they did not give it up. It took two minutes before they were finally able to score the game winner, but in those two minutes they recorded another five shots on goal and almost ended the game a couple of times. In the end it was Jamie Crooks with his second of the evening that gave the Bears a much deserved win.
Friday Night Final Score: Alberta 3 - Manitoba 2 (2OT)
On Saturday night the Bears would again score first; this time it was Brett Ferguson scoring his second of the season. But a pair of goals from Bison forward Brett Brooks would give Manitoba the lead after the game’s first twenty minutes. Shots in the first period favoured the Bears slightly by a count of 13-10; over the next two periods though the Golden Bears would dominate the shot count 32-9, but wouldn’t be able to even the score until the 17:47 of the third period when Rhett Rachinski scored his fifth goal of the season.
And many in the arena likely thought that, for the second night in a row, these two teams would be heading to overtime. And those people, myself included, were wrong. Two minutes and one second after the Bears had tied the game, Jordan DePape found himself on the receiving end of a beautiful no look pass from Brett Stovin and put home the game winner to send the Bison home from Clare Drake with three of four possible points, and dropping the Bears to a 6-3-1 on the season.
Saturday Night Final Score: Alberta 2 - Manitoba 3
Weekend Preview: Golden Bears vs Dinos
University of Alberta Golden Bears
University of Calgary Dinos
|Goals For/Goals Against (Rank)
|34/21 +13 (T-1st)
|30/29 +1 (T-4th)
|Power Play (Rank)
|10/35 - 28.6% (1st)
|10/38 - 26.3% (2rd)
|Penalty Kill (Rank)
|31/34 - 91.2% (2st)
|35/46 - 76.1% (5th)
|Leading Scorer (G-A-PTS)
|Jordan Hickmot (5-7-12)
|Chris Collins (5-7-12)
With three regulation losses and one more in overtime, the Golden Bears have now lost the same number of games as they did all of last season, when they finished with a 24-3-1 record. This weekend the Bears, who have slipped to fourth in the CIS Rankings, play a home-and-home series with the Calgary Dinos in the first real Battle of Alberta of the season (sorry Mount Royal). Like the Bears, the Dinos have also struggled early in the 2015/16 season, posting a 4-4-2 record after finishing second in the Canada West standings last season with a record of 20-8-0.
The Dinos offence this season has been led by Chris Collins (5-7-12, tied for 3rd in CWUAA) and Elgin Pearce (4-7-11, tied for 7th in CWUAA). The early season numbers from Collins, who is in his third season with the Dinos, indicate a return to form for the former Chilliwack Bruins/Saskatoon Blade. In his first season with Calgary Collins led the team with 36 points (19 goals and 17 assists), then last season those numbers dropped to 12 goals and just 8 assists, good for third on the team in scoring behind the now graduated Kodie Curran and the previously mentioned Elgin Pearce.
Friday night’s game will be played in Calgary starting at 7:00PM. The two teams will then head up Highway 2 for the Saturday night rematch at Clare Drake Arena; that game starts at 6:00PM.