The Bison men’s hockey team faced off against arch-rival Saskatchewan Huskies this past weekend and came away with a valuable split, solidifying their berth in the 2010-11 Canada West playoffs.
Friday night saw the Huskies serve up some humble pie to the Bisons in the form of a 6-3 victory for the visitors. The Huskies opened the scoring at 4:46 of the first period when Kyle Ross caught Steve Christie out of position, making an easy goal into the wide open cage. At 9:40 of the same period, Bison Tyler Dittmer replied with an even-strength blast from the high slot, handcuffing Huskie goaltender David Reekie, tying the score 1-1 going into the second period.
Then, the Bisons’ wheels fell off. Forty-two seconds into the second, on the first shot faced that period, Christie was again caught out of position. This time, Husky Craig McCallum was treated to the yawning cage. At 2:10 of the same period, a flustered Christie could not keep Huskies alternate captain Chris Durand’s shot out. It was only the third shot Christie had faced that period.
At this point, Manitoba opted to give Christie a rest and Jesse Deckert was put in net. Deckert kept the majority of the shots out and was even blessed with a couple of goalpost shots. The Huskies eventually figured out Deckert’s more conservative style of play and Steven Gillen snuck one in at 16:11. Saskatchewan’s Ross potted his second of the night on a Husky power play, putting one past Deckert at 18:15 of the second. The Bisons outshot the Huskies 16 to 12 at the end of the period.
In the third, Christie was back in net. Bison alternate captain Dane Crowley was penalized for slashing, and on the ensuing power play the Huskies capitalized, as Durand put in his second of the night at 5:50. Another penalty came to the Bisons, but this time it was Riley Dudar who managed to make the short-handed rush count at 13:16. With three minutes left to play, the Huskies wound up taking two successive penalties, giving the home team a two-man advantage, which saw Manitoba’s Kyle Howarth rounding out the scoring at 18:15.
“I don’t think we had much energy out there [tonight],” said Bisons goaltender Jesse Deckert. “We have to be ready to battle for our playoff lives tomorrow.”
The Bisons did just that, as they evened the series score with the visiting Huskies on the strength of a 6-2 home team win.
An early four minute penalty to the Huskies gave Bison Greg Beller all the extra room he needed, as he stunned Reekie with his shot, putting the home team up by one at 3:52. Not a minute later, the brothers Crowley got together on a goal of their own, as Troy took the slick feed from Dane, lasering the shot home, putting the home team up by two at 4:29. The Huskies got a power play thanks to a penalty by Nolan Waker and Zach Sim took full advantage, popping one in past Christie at 19:32 of the first. The Bisons outshot the Huskies 20-8 in the first.
The second period didn’t see any scoring until the 6:38 mark of the second, when a textbook rush play by the Huskies saw Michael Kaye draw all the Bisons to him, then get a neat pass off to the wide open Durand, who made no mistake tying the game up for the visitors. The Bisons kept the pressure on, however, and at 14:49, Ian Duval took the feed from linemate Tyler Dittmer, who smashed one in past Reekie. Nearly two minutes later, Bison Greg Beller appeared to score just moments before the net was knocked off its moorings. The referee ruled the puck went in, so the goal counted.
Forty-three seconds into the final frame, another textbook rush play saw Bison Jared Walker take the nifty feed from Howarth, his shot handcuffing Reekie. The final nail in the coffin was delivered by Howarth in the form of a shorthanded goal at 4:42, rounding out the scoring in the game.
“The next step for us is to forget about this one and start looking forward to next weekend,” said Saskatchewan’s Durand. “Regular season’s done, points don’t matter. It’s all about playoffs.”
“We’re always expecting tight games, especially against Saskatchewan,” said Manitoba’s Howarth. “They’re one of our main rivals. I guess we [ . . . ] came out a little bit pissed off from yesterday.”
“It looks like we’ll be playing Alberta in the semi-finals next weekend,” Howarth stated. “They’re a tough opponent. Hopefully we can get past them and get to nationals, which has been our main focus all season.”