The sweet taste of relief

Bisons halt losing skid at 12 with weekend split against Calgary

Adam Henry (2) gets ready to hop onto the ice during Manitoba's weekend series with the University of Calgary Dinos

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The losing streak has halted for the U of M Bisons men’s hockey team.

Manitoba welcomed the University of Calgary Dinos to town this weekend, earning a split series to end the skid at 12 games. The Bisons now enter the holiday break at 3-12-1 on the year.

Christmas came early at Wayne Fleming Arena Saturday, as the Bisons beat the Dinos 3-1 to snap the skid.

“Amazing character win,” Bisons head coach Mike Sirant said.

“To respond from last night’s game — and with the short roster we had because of all the injuries — for the guys to gut it out was […] a great team win.”

This however came after a disappointing 7-0 loss on Friday. A messy second period — where the herd gave up five goals — was the difference maker.

“If you lose, you lose as long as you’re competing,” Sirant said Friday.

“Our compete at times was embarrassing. What else can you say?”

 

Friday

The opening period of Friday’s game was a testy affair, with 20 minutes of penalties handed out. Kamerin Nault was the major offender, taking a 10-minute misconduct penalty just 20 seconds into the game.

Josh Uhrich got Calgary on the board at 12:02 in the first.

A head man pass by Coda Gordon sprang Uhrich on a partial break. His backhand chance snuck by Dasan Sydora for the 1-0 Dinos lead.

From there the Dinos took over the game.

Gordon and Dane Gibson scored goals just over a minute apart to open the second to give Calgary a 3-0 lead. Bradley Schoonbaert and Ryan Graham added a pair of their own, and Riley Sheen capped the period with his 12th of the season.

The conference-leading scorer picked up the puck in open ice and walked in unchallenged. His laser from the right faceoff dot blew past Byron Spriggs — taking over in relief of Sydora — for a 6-0 Dinos lead in the second.

“We didn’t compete,” Sirant said.

“Our first period wasn’t bad, we took too many penalties but we fought our way through those kills […] but the second period we didn’t compete.”

Manitoba was behind the whole way, losing puck battles and foot races through 40 minutes. By the second intermission Calgary was outshooting Manitoba 30-11.

Frustrations boiled over in the final frame.

On a penalty kill, Liam Bilton hit Calgary captain Dylan Busenius up high, just inside the Manitoba zone. The hit opened a large gash on Busenius’s face, sending him to the dressing room and ending Bilton’s night.

“Extremely dirty play,” Dinos head coach Mark Howell said.

“Like, it’s 6-0, you know he’s never going to finish that hit on a penalty kill. It was a direct attack at our best player, dirty play, headshot, elbow — just looked at it —extremely, extremely dirty play.”

No announcement was made by the Bisons or Canada West regarding supplemental discipline. Bilton was however scratched ahead of Saturday’s game.

Regan Nagy added another Dinos goal to ice the game 7-0.

 

Saturday

In Saturday’s action, penalty trouble for the Bisons got Calgary ahead in the first.

On a five-on-three powerplay, a point shot bounced off the glass and was picked up by Logan Fisher. Fisher sent a cross-crease pass to Gordon, and he banged it into the yawning cage for the 1-0 Dinos lead.

The herd came out with energy in the second and Adam Henry tied things up. A collision in the high circle knocked the puck to open ice, where Henry picked it up and picked the corner. The shot went bar down on Jordan Papirny, knotting the game 1-1.

“Scoring that goal for me — I haven’t scored a lot in the first half — so just felt good, a bit of relief,” Henry said. “[Scoring] gave me some confidence moving forward.”

Henry’s goal gave Manitoba momentum and he was instrumental in the team’s go-ahead goal.

On a five-on-three Bisons powerplay, Henry snapped a point shot on net. The shot hit Nault and he passed the puck through his legs to Zach Franko for the goal. The goal was Franko’s fourth of the season and gave Manitoba a 2-1 lead in the second.

“Long overdue,” Franko said. “I think [I’ve] started to pick up my game a little bit the last month or so, scoring a little more, so it’s been good.”

Franko added another goal in the third, as the Bisons held on for a 3-1 win.

“We’ve been on a pretty tough stretch of games,” Henry said. “I think it was 11 or 12 in a row, which is not good in this league or any league.”

Franko added the team “can’t be satisfied” with a single win, because “you never know in this league.”

The victory is the team’s first since its 3-2 win over the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the home opener.

“The timing is perfect,” Sirant said.

“We don’t play again now until January so we can really savour this win — a long time coming — […] and now we’ve got time to regroup, get our injuries healed and ready to make a run in the second half.”

 

The Bisons will be back following the break to visit the Golden Bears. Game one is Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. CST and game two is Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. CST.