The Bison men’s hockey team continued their road trip this past weekend with a two-game series against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. The Bisons shut out the Pronghorns on Friday 4-0, then exploded for nine goals in a 9-3 win on Saturday. Manitoba is now 5-1 in 2017.
With the pair of wins, the Bisons move into sole possession of fifth place in the Canada West standings. The Bisons are four points back of the Calgary Dinos for fourth place and a home playoff date; Manitoba plays Calgary at home next weekend.
Special teams and goaltending played a factor in this one, as the Bisons came out 4-0 victors on Friday. Winger Nick Zajac opened the scoring for the Bisons on the power play with the assist coming from defenseman Rene Hunter and centreman Remi Laurencelle. There was no scoring until the halfway point of the third period when winger Liam Bilton scored a shorthanded goal – his first of the season.
Winger Jonah Wasylak grabbed his third of the season four minutes later, with Brett Brooks and defenseman Adam Henry earning the helpers. Wasylak’s tally was the only goal the Bisons scored during 5-on-5.
Zajac got his seventh of the season and second of the game to seal the win for the Bisons on an empty net. Byron Spriggs was exceptional in goal, making 31 saves for the shutout, earning him first star honours.
In the Saturday rematch, the Bisons offence erupted for a convincing 9-3 win. This game seemed to be over after the first period, with the Bisons exploding for five goals. Centreman Brett Stovin got the ball rolling 18 seconds into the game when he scored his fourth of the season. That was the start of the end for Lethbridge netminder Damien Ketlo. Quinton Lisoway popped in his sixth a few shifts later to make it 2-0 Bisons in the first five minutes.
The Bisons then added two goals in 20 seconds to make it 4-0 after winger Warren Callis and Lisoway scored. Captain Jordan DePape’s 10th goal of the season made it 5-0 before the period was up and the Bisons looked to be in full control.
In the second period, Lethbridge scored three straight goals to make it 5-3. At that point the momentum seemed to be shifting into the Pronghorns’ favour, but Callis’ goal with three minutes remaining put a halt to that.
With the score 6-3 after 40 minutes, the Bisons put the pedal to the metal and continued their barrage. Laurencelle scored on the power play less than a minute into the third period to make it 7-3. Justin Augert hit double-digits in goals when he scored his 10th of the season with five minutes remaining. Centreman Shawn Bowles rubbed salt into the gaping wound when he scored with five seconds to go to make it 9-3. His brother Brad Bowles picked up an assist on the play, his fourth of the day. Spriggs made 34 saves in the win for Manitoba; the former Winnipeg Blue now has a 9-7-0 record with a .917 save percentage.
The Bisons are back home to play the Calgary Dinos in a pivotal series on Jan. 27-28. First puck drop is at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Wayne Fleming Arena.