Last week Bison Sports announced that a total of 18 student athletes have been chosen to receive the Mike Ridley Award — 14 from the men’s hockey team and four from the women’s hockey team. The awards were established in the 2003-04 season as an endowment fund for the University of Manitoba wherein players are awarded based on exhibited superior athletic ability coupled with good academic standing and a high level of leadership as a full-time student. Mike Ridley played with the Bisons from 1983-85 and is currently the only former Bison player to have his jersey retired to the rafters of the Max Bell Arena.
In a statement from Bison Sports, Athletic Director Coleen Dufresne said, “We are always proud to highlight the enormous generosity of [the Ridleys] that allows the annual presentation of this award to our student-athletes in Bison Hockey programs.”
The men’s hockey team, meanwhile, played a back-to-back series against the University of Alberta Golden Bears over the weekend in a matchup that pitted the top two Canada West teams against each other. The last time the two teams met in October they split their two game series 1-1, in what turned out to be an extremely close fought battle.
If the previous games were tightly contested, then Friday’s game was no exception, as the Bisons and the Bears traded the lead three times before Alberta completed a three goal third period comeback to win the game 4-3. The game looked as though it was headed into overtime with both teams tied 3-3 late in the third, but Alberta forward Eric Hunter scored the game winning goal with only 38 seconds left in the period to pull U of A ahead and earn the squad their 19th conference victory. Defenseman Travis Mealy and forward Chris Benias led the Bisons with two points each in Friday’s game.
The following night the Bisons came out of the gate strong, taking a 2-0 lead before the midway point of the first period. Alberta then scored once on the power play and once on the penalty kill to tie the game up 2-2 going into the third period. After both teams traded power play goals in the third, Bisons defenseman David Brown scored what would turn out to be the game winning goal, making it 4-3. With 10 minutes left in regulation Manitoba clamped down defensively and maintained their lead, thanks in large part to the stellar performance of Bisons goalie Steve Christie.
“We had a great series in Edmonton with them earlier this year. We managed to beat them the first game in a real hard fought game and narrowly lost the second game, so we [knew it was] going to be a very tough challenge,” said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant. “Obviously Alberta’s one of the top teams in the country so [the outcome] really shows where we are at this time of the year.”
Coming out of last weekend’s action the Bisons still stand second in Canada West standings and remain the only team to have beaten first-place Alberta (twice this season) in regulation.
Aside from all the awards and the action on the ice, the men’s and women’s hockey teams will also be hosting a fundraiser dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The event will be held in the multipurpose room, second floor University Centre, and will feature guest speaker and former Olympian Vaughn Karpan. For tickets or to make a donation, those interested can visit the Bisons website at Gobisons.ca.