Normally, after a game the Wayne Fleming Arena hallways are loud with music and laughter, but after a heartbreaking 5-3 U of M Bisons men’s hockey team loss to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, there was silence.
“The guys battled hard. We knew what was on the line,” Bisons captain Brett Stovin said.
“You can only ask so much of the guys — we were rolling with our older guys and guys that have played a lot of minutes throughout the year. We put the fate of the team on the guys’ backs that have carried us throughout this year.”
Throughout the game, there were many times where it seemed the hockey gods were with the Bisons.
Early on, down 1-0, Bisons goalie Byron Spriggs lost the puck after a shot. The puck rolled under the goalie, who swatted it away and onto the stick of a Pronghorns attacker. Spriggs threw himself in front of the follow-up shot and the puck glanced off his shoulder, dancing along the goal line but staying out.
Then, heading into the second period knotted 1-1, Lady Luck again smiled on the herd.
Mitchell Dyck broke into the Lethbridge zone and threw the puck into the slot. The throwaway shot deflected off a streaking Jeremy Leipsic and past Garret Hughson for a 2-1 Bisons lead.
Blake Orban tied the game for Lethbridge late in the frame, sending the two teams into the third tied 2-2.
Lethbridge regained the lead off a Sam McKechnie goal and then Manitoba’s Adam Henry struck shorthanded.
With sustained pressure, Henry walked in and threw a shot on goal. The puck weaved through a crowd and under the arm of Hughson to tie the game 3-3.
Then the luck turned in Lethbridge’s favour.
A McKechnie shot was stopped by Spriggs but the rebound popped right to Ryan Chynoweth for the 4-3 goal. Then, with the Manitoba net empty, a Jeff Rayman clearing attempt hit the stantion and rolled into the net.
Head coach Mike Sirant was at a loss for words following the game, ending the media scrum after answering a single question.
“Regardless of the outcome today, the message was [to] keep our heads up, get ready to come back and compete again,” Sirant said.
“Show character, show professionalism, [and] get ourselves as mentally ready to win tomorrow. Mathematically, there’s still a chance to make the playoffs.”
“We know that we’re mathematically still in it,” Stovin said.
“But it’s a very tough spot — we have to win out and Lethbridge has to lose out. So the fate of our season is in our hands […] so you focus on your own game, you look to your older players that are graduating this year and you just go to work for them and battle for them.”
The Bisons and Pronghorns will lock horns again today. Puckdrop is at 2 p.m. CST.