The second half the 2017-18 University of Manitoba men’s hockey season kicked off with a bang, as the Bisons played host to the top-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Bisons played hard to frustrate the Bears and walk away with a weekend sweep at home.
In the first game of the weekend, the Bears came out swinging and the Bisons answered in kind riding a strong penalty-kill to a 5-4 overtime win.
Alberta opened scoring with goals from Steven Owre and Jamie Crooks in the opening period. Sean Christensen scored one for the home side to give the Bisons life and Quintin Lisoway evened the score midway through the first.
In the second, Brad Bowles gave Manitoba the lead. An outlet pass from behind the Golden Bears net was picked off by Bowles in the high slot, catching Bears netminder Brendan Burke off guard and Bowles rifled a shot top-corner.
After Michael St. Croix scored to give the Bisons the 4-2 lead early in the third period, penalty trouble swung the momentum of play back to the Bears. Cole Sanford scored to bring the Golden Bears within one, and Brandon Magee got the lone powerplay marker to tie the game with three minutes left to force overtime.
One minute into the extra frame, Remi Laurencelle put on a one-man show to win it for the Bisons. Snagging the puck in the Manitoba end, Laurencelle turned on the jets and ripped down the left side, he went glove-side on Burke to give him his first loss of the season.
Manitoba’s penalty kill helped out, going six for seven. With a banged-up blue-line, Bisons captain Brett Stovin was called on to play defence and gained praise from his coach.
“He did an outstanding job for us,” said Bison head coach Mike Sirant. “He’s been playing good defence all year, and to step into that situation to be playing the number one team in the country, he did outstanding.”
In the second game of the weekend, the Bisons were further able to stymie the Bears and won a 3-1 decision to sweep the series.
Bison forward Zach Franko got his team on the board first. Adam Henry snapped a quick outlet pass to St. Croix sending the puck cross-ice to Franko. He ripped a shot low-blocker on Canada West’s best goaltender Zach Sawchenko.
The Bisons briefly held a 2-0 lead off a goal from Brett Brooks in the second, but the Bears finally responded. A Ryan Rehill shot was stopped by Bison goalie Byron Spriggs, and Riley Kieser was there to tuck in the loose puck to make it 2-1.
A minute later, Lisoway banged home his fifth goal of the year to restore the two-goal lead and the Bisons held on to win.
Spriggs made 63 saves during the weekend series, helping the Bisons improve to 11-5-2, five points back of the second-placed Saskatchewan Huskies.
“Byron is outstanding,” Sirant said. “He’s been very good for us all year and this weekend was no different. He definitely made the difference for us in goal tonight.”
The Bisons will be back in action on Jan. 12-13 in Saskatoon, taking on the third-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies.