Coming off a disappointing 8-6 loss to UBC, the University of Manitoba Bison men’s hockey team re-established their identity with back-to-back wins, beating the Lethbridge Pronghorns 5-3 Friday night and 6-0 Saturday night.
“Last weekend against UBC, that was about as far from our team identity as you can get,” said head coach Mike Sirant. “So this week in preparation for Lethbridge, we focused on our defensive play. The players set a goal before the game as to how many shots against we would allow, they made a commitment, they were accountable for it, and we exceeded our goal that we set.”
The goal the Bisons set for Friday night was no more than 25 shots against. Manitoba shattered that goal, holding Lethbridge to 11 shots against in an impressive display of team defence.
Despite stifling the Pronghorns’ offensive attack, the Bisons were behind most of the game. The game was reminiscent of a game earlier this season, when Pronghorns goaltender Damien Ketlo made 75 saves in back-to-back games to steal two wins from Manitoba.
“He made a lot of big saves at key times,” Sirant noted of Ketlo, who made 36 saves in the loss on Friday night. “Glad we were able to find a way to put a few by him.”
Jordan DePape opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the first period, but Lethbridge roared back with three unanswered goals in the opening frame.
Lee Christensen brought the Bisons within a goal during the second period, but Ketlo continued to frustrate the Bisons, keeping Lethbridge ahead going into the third.
The Bisons’ patience was rewarded in the third period with a flurry of goals. Ten minutes in, Taylor Dickin showed some nice hands as he buried a highlight reel goal, cutting across the crease and going top shelf on Ketlo.
The goals kept coming after that, as Jesse Paradis put away his own impressive goal after waiting out Ketlo with a backhand move before tucking the game-winning goal in. Chad Robinson put the final dagger in the Pronghorns after he unloaded a rocket off of a nice feed from Aaron Lewadniuk.
Sirant praised his team’s ability to show patience and stick to their system.
“That was the message after the first period: Just stay together, stick to the game plan, do the things we talked about prior to the game, keep composed, and we’ll find a way to come back and win the game.”
Darren Bestland led the Bisons in the third period with three assists. DePape finished the night with one goal and two assists.
The Bisons carried their scoring over from the third period on Friday into Saturday night’s game. Six different players found the back of the net for Manitoba, who demonstrated a balanced attack in the win. Brock Sutherland, Lewadniuk, Josh Elmes, DePape, Luke Paulsen, and Bestland all found the back of the net, with Dickin assisting on three goals.
Manitoba’s special teams enjoyed one of their best games of the season, going a perfect five for five on the penalty kill and converting on three of five power plays.
The herd will look to move above .500 on the road against the University of Regina next weekend. Game times are 7 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively.