The University of Manitoba men’s hockey team played a tough home series against the second-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies this weekend. The Bisons lost a close game on Friday, falling 2-1 in overtime, but came out with a big 5-2 win on Saturday.
On Friday night, the Bisons returned home to Wayne Fleming Arena for a date with the Huskies. The game was chippy and physical from the drop of the puck, with both teams finishing their checks and trying to agitate their opponent. The game was hard-fought, but ultimately the Huskies took it 2-1 in overtime.
The Bisons wasted no time, getting out in front just 13 seconds into the contest. Brett Stovin pounced on a loose puck along the boards, and fired a pass towards the front where Nick Zajac was waiting on the doorstep. Zajac fought off a defender, tipping the puck past Huskies goaltender Daniel Wapple for a 1-0 Bisons lead.
It took Saskatchewan until the middle of the first to tie things up. Hudson Friesen took an ill-advised slashing penalty after a scrum, which sent the Huskies to the power play. Jesse Forsberg stepped into a shot from the point, which went through a crowd and top corner on Byron Spriggs to tie the game 1-1.
Three successive penalties early in the second put the Bisons on their heels, but Zajac once again made his presence known. After a somewhat questionable tripping call on Justin Augert gave the Huskies the advantage, Zajac made two blocks within moments of each other. The first caught him in the hand and appeared to sting the Manitoba forward, but he got back in the play to make a second block with his shin moments later.
The game was settled in overtime, with the Huskies taking the game thanks to a goal by Colby Harmsworth. The puck was controlled down low in the Bisons’ corner by Levi Cable, who sent a pass cross-ice and past the Bisons’ defense. Harmsworth received the pass at the side of the net, burying the game winner under the pad of Spriggs who slid to try and make a stop.
“Well it’s a hard-earned point but we’re not satisfied with that,” Bisons head coach Mike Sirant said postgame. “The point helps but we’re not satisfied.”
Sirant also noted that it was bad coverage on the backside that lead to the game winner but felt Spriggs did all he could to make the stop.
Spriggs saw his second start in a row on Saturday, and he was tested early in the first period, making a couple key stops. Spriggs made 41 saves on the night in the 5-2 win for Manitoba. The physicality was on full display, as the provincial rivals lost no love from the night prior.
The home side struck first late in the opening frame through Quinton Lisoway when he came barreling down the right wing and fired over the shoulder of Jordon Cooke. The Bisons held their first lead of the weekend after 20 minutes.
The Bisons made it 2-0 at the halfway mark of the second. Zajac scored his second of the weekend after Remi Laurencelle sent a pass cross-ice and Zajac finished short-side shelf on Cooke.
Saskatchewan cut the lead to 2-1 the very next shift after Parker Thomas jumped on a loose puck at the top of the slot and finished high on Spriggs.
With Josh Roach off for goalie interference, the Bisons capitalized on the power play to restore their two-goal lead. Brett Dudar managed to get a puck through at the side of the net during a scramble in the crease.
Manitoba made it 4-1 when Zajac threw a nifty backhand pass from the corner to Laurencelle who one timed it far-side on Cooke. Saskatchewan drew back within two after Jordan Tkatch buried a rebound on the power play.
Rene Hunter slid a puck five hole on Cooke with two and a half minutes remaining in the third to put the home side up 5-2. The Bisons took this game and earned three points out of a possible four on the weekend.
“Our guys should be proud of their performance and their effort today,” Sirant said postgame. “They showed sacrifice, courage, and the will to win.”
The Bisons head out to Calgary to play a two-game series against the Mount Royal Cougars on Dec. 2-3.