Looking to cement a spot in the postseason, the Bison men’s hockey team hoped to keep up with conference leaders Alberta and Saskatchewan as they engaged in a slugfest against the Mount Royal Cougars on campus at the Max Bell Arena this past weekend. If you liked goals, there were plenty to keep you satisfied.
Friday night’s game was as one-sided as one would expect when a 10-5-3 team takes on a 4-14 opponent. Bisons forward Matthew Lowry would have Cougars’ goalie Justin Cote’s number all night, as he opened the scoring 8:27 into the game when a scramble in front allowed him to roof one passed the Cougars goalie. Lowry added two more in the second period to get himself a hat trick. Dylan Kelly got on the scoresheet in the first with a beautiful toe drag, and added another on a breakaway in the second. Tyler Dittmer scored his ninth of the season late in the second period, extending the Bisons’ lead to 6-1. The Cougars’ lone goal came when Brenden Turnbull and the Cougars caught the Bisons napping earlier in the second.
In the third, the visitors scored just 36 seconds in as Eric Galbraith showed why he leads Canada West in goals by getting his13th of the year. Jessie Tresierra cut the margin further, but the game was never in doubt and the Bisons won 6-3.
Saturday’s game saw a number of changes to the Bisons lineup, as Bisons assistant coach Brad Purdie informed the Manitoban that veteran forwards Tyler Feakes and Luke Cain would sit out, Feakes with an ankle injury and Cain with an academic commitment. In their place were Austin Lauder and Craig Scott. For Scott, the game was his Bisons debut. Brock Sutherland played on defence, as captain Dane Crowley nursed a charley horse suffered in Friday night’s game. Finally, Joe Caligiuri got the nod in net in his first game action since Nov. 17 against UBC. Dalyn Flette got the start in goal for Mount Royal.
The Cougars started strong, as Jeff Barrett scored on Caligiuri just 1:01 into the game. Caligiuri was fighting the puck throughout this contest, an unusual sight for the third year player. The Bisons would respond three minutes later, as Scott scored his first goal as a Bison to tie things up. The home side grabbed the lead a short time later as Bisons set-up man Ian Duval rushed in, slammed on the brakes, and found the trailing Dittmer, who potted one in from the slot.
The Cougars tied things up off the stick of Jordon Harrison, but the Bisons took the lead into the first intermission as Blair Macaulay blazed in and got the puck to Duval who again found Dittmer, which lead to another goal, giving the Bisons a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
The scoring had only just begun in this slobberknocker of a game. Jeremy Schappert made it 4-2 Bisons but less than a minute later Barrett responded for Mount Royal to cut the deficit to one. Twenty-five seconds later, Blair Macaulay of the Bisons restored the two-goal margin. Again, less than a minute later Mount Royal cut the lead to one, courtesy of Harrison. The Cougars tied it up when captain Kevin Knopp scored on a short-handed breakaway. James Henry then broke in on a breakaway, deking out Flette and tucking in a nice backhanded effort. The goal put Manitoba back on top 6-5. The lead was short-lived, as Mount Royal responded before the period was over. Being tied 6-6 after two periods meant the end of the game for both starting goalies; Jesse Deckert came in for Manitoba, Justin Cote likewise for Mount Royal.
The third started with a 5-on-3 penalty kill for the Bisons that resulted in the Cougars taking a 7-6 lead, their first of the game. Tyler Dittmer would eventually tie it up and get himself a hat trick by way of a breakaway goal. The flood of goals stopped despite numerous shots on goal, as the teams headed into extra frames tied 7-7.
Four-on-four overtime solved nothing, despite a Bisons power play, so it was off to the extremely open and exciting 3-on-3 overtime. The game ended when Jesse Deckert sent a long pass up from the Bisons’ net to the Cougars’ blue line as Manitoba caught the visitors on a change. Ian Duval took the pass in on a 2-on-1 and slid it across to Macaulay who slapped it in high glove side to send the spectators in attendance for Minor Hockey Day home happy with an 8-7 Bison victory.
The top line of Dittmer, Duval, and Macaulay was on fire on the weekend, combining for 17 total points. Coach Mike Sirant was full of praise for the line.
“Our big scorers came through and made the big play to win the game.”
Sirant was also quick to point that out Saturday’s game was very “uncharacteristic” of how the Bisons typically play.
Rookie Craig Scott spoke after Saturday’s game about getting his first goal in his first game as a Bison.
“My nerves were just going and all of a sudden the puck just squirts out and I have an open net and all I’m thinking about is ‘don’t miss!’”
Manitoba now sits in third place, one point back of Saskatchewan. The Bisons next play on Jan. 18 against Calgary at Max Bell Arena.