The University of Alberta Golden Bears had a seven-game winning streak grow to eight, only for it to be dashed over the weekend as the U of M Bisons men’s hockey team split the weekend series.
The Bisons were led by goaltender Tyler Brown in a game-one loss, and a three-goal second period propelled the herd to a victory over the Golden Bears in game two.
A roar from the bench erupted each time Brown made a save to keep his club alive Friday. Yet as the game got closer to the finish, that roar was silenced by an empty-netter and 2-0 loss to the Golden Bears.
The Winnipeg-born netminder was the hero of the game for the U of M, making save after save for the defensively troubled Bisons squad. The rookie netminder stopped 45 of the 46 U of A shots he faced in the loss.
Post-game, when asked about his goaltender, Bisons head coach Mike Sirant was pleased with Brown’s play.
“This, by far, was his best game,” he said.
“You can see he’s taking the steps to getting back to being up to his full capabilities.”
This was Brown’s third game of the season, coming after a year of rehab due to surgery.
The U of M came out flat to start the game. The Golden Bears dominated in puck possession all the way through the first period.
The U of A took advantage of an exhausted U of M line trapped in its own zone and struck first for a 1-0 lead. Luckily, after the first period, the U of M was only down one thanks to save after save from Brown.
The Bisons gave it all in a late-game push with Brown out for the extra attacker, but a Steven Owre empty-netter sealed the Bisons loss 2-0.
When asked about the red-hot Alberta team and the message in the locker room before the game, Sirant was optimistic.
“We had a certain game plan that we wanted to execute,” he said.
“Alberta plays so fast that although we tried to prepare for it this week, we just weren’t playing at their pace or their tempo […] but as the game went on, we got better.”
The pace was high and the chances were there Friday, but the U of M could not produce. Despite only having 20 shots, many of them were high-opportunity scoring chances.
“We had enough chances to get a goal or two — we just have to take the next step of putting the puck in the net when we do create those chances,” Sirant said.
After a tough loss the night before, the U of M looked to strike back and even the weekend series at one apiece. It did just that with a wild 5-3 win to give the U of A its second regulation loss of the season.
The Bisons struck first on the man advantage after Colton Veloso was driven into the net without the puck by a Golden Bears player.
On the ensuing powerplay, Jonah Wasylak did all the work down low, drawing two defenders to him. He dished the puck to second-year forward Jeremey Leipsic who made no mistake, snapping a shot past Matt Berlin for the 1-0 Bisons lead.
As the pace got faster, bodies started to fly from both teams. Big hits came from all over the ice as bad blood seemed to boil. Although the U of M was outshot 12-3 in the first period, it locked down and escaped to intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The Bisons continued to apply pressure to start the second and were rewarded with another tally.
The crowd erupted as Nathan Halvorsen rushed up the ice on a 3-on-1 with captain Adam Henry and rookie Tony Apetagon. Apetagon finished off a stellar passing play to double the Bisons lead.
Shortly after, the Bisons two-goal lead was erased when the Golden Bears put a couple quick ones past Brown to make it 2-2.
This lit a fire on the Bisons bench, as the herd answered back with two goals of its own. The first marker came off the stick of Lucas Skrumeda, while the second was popped in by Ryan Carlson.
The Bisons headed into the third period hoping to hold on to a 4-2 lead. Instead, they built on the lead.
Midway through the third, Wasylak shoveled home a goal on the doorstep to give the Bisons a 5-2 lead that was quickly cut back down as Cole Sanford scored for the U of A.
The Golden Bears poured on the pressure late but could not break through as the U of M skated away with the 5-3 win.
First-placed Golden Bears was handed its second regulation loss of the season by Henry and the Bisons, something the captain says will give his club a boost.
“I think it just lets us know that we can do this,” Henry said.
“They are one of the top teams in the country every year […] and if that doesn’t give us confidence, I don’t know what will.”
The Bisons travel to Lethbridge to play the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns Nov. 29 and 30. Game one will be at 8 p.m. CST and game two at 2 p.m. CST.