After splitting their series against the Saskatchewan Huskies last weekend, the Bison men’s hockey team was looking to gain needed points as they faced off against the Lethbridge Pronghorns, Jan. 21-22.
On Friday night, the Bisons lit up the lamp early as Kyle Howarth came in on the rush with linemate Blair MacAuley, scoring 23 seconds into the game. The Pronghorns came out very aggressive in their own zone, double-teaming some of Manitoba’s star players, resulting in retaliations by the Bisons. At 17:03 of the first period, MacAuley popped in his own even-strength goal, giving the home team a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
Again, there were a number of penalties doled out to both teams at the beginning of the second, but no power-play goals were made. At 12:29 of the frame, Howarth scored his second of the night, shooting the puck into a wide-open cage on Lethbridge goaltender’s, Scott Bowles, stick-hand side.
In the final frame the Pronghorns woke up slightly, finding their skating legs; at 7:30 of the third, Pronghorn Andrew Courtney put an even-strength marker past Bison goaltender Steve Christie. Manitoba responded with a pair of goals of their own, first with a goal from Jared Walker at 10:29 and one from Del Cowan at 12:55. The final score was 5-1 for Manitoba.
Stats-wise, the Bisons out-shot the Pronghorns 35 to 24, with neither team capitalizing on the power play. Howarth led the team in scoring with two goals and an assist.
“We came out pretty sloppy and flat, and they got a couple of quick ones on us. We have to recuperate and come back tomorrow,” said Pronghorns goal scorer Andrew Courtney.
Howarth acknowledged, “We’ve been struggling this year on the power play. We’ve tried switching up a bit [line-wise], I guess we’re just getting used to each other. Our penalty kill’s been great this year, and it would be nice for our power play to get going a bit here.”
“Maybe we could have a better first period [tomorrow night],” said Howarth. “I know we came out to a 2-0 lead [tonight] but we didn’t play the way that we wanted. Maybe we could hit them a bit more. Other than that, I thought we did really well.”
Saturday night’s action saw the Pronghorns challenge the Bisons as they came out with an aggressive forecheck, much of the focus on aggravating Bison goaltender Christie.
The Pronghorns were assessed a penalty 21 seconds into Saturday night’s game, and Tyler Dittmer found the twine, putting the home team up by one at 1:59 of the first. Less than two minutes later, a minor scrum saw Bison Chris Benias assessed a double minor for spearing, which led to the Pronghorn Winston Day Chief scoring a power-play marker at 5:08. The Bisons’ crease was clogged up like a sardine can on the play, making the save next to impossible. Captain Mike Hellyer argued the play, but the ref allowed the goal.
The Pronghorns thought they were ahead at 7:50 after putting one in past a harassed Christie. However, as the net was about a foot off its moorings, the goal was waived. The game remained deadlocked until the 15:44 mark, when Howarth knocked in the even-strength goal past the Pronghorn goaltender Bowles. At the end of the period, the Bisons were out-shot by the Pronghorns 8-12.
At 8:47, thanks to a very sloppy clearing attempt by the Pronghorn defenders, MacAuley picked the defender’s pocket and set up linemate Howarth, putting the home team up by two. By the end of the second, the Bisons had out-shot the Pronghorns 20-9, making the shot totals 28-21. There was no more scoring in the third, which meant the 3-1 score stood, securing the victory for Manitoba.
Bison Beller said, “We were just looking to get the sweep, really. We just wanted the four points; it was really important to get that for the standings, that was the main thing.”
Said Howarth about his four-goal weekend, “That was unexpected, but it’s always nice to chip in with some goals. Hopefully we can keep that rolling for next weekend.”
For next weekend, Beller stated, “We’re playing Regina; they’re in the bottom right now, but we can’t take them for granted. We need the sweep, that’s what we need to concentrate on.”