It was win and you’re in for the U of M Bisons men’s hockey team over the weekend.
But, after a pair of back-to-back losses to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the Bisons once again could not clinch a playoff spot. With one weekend remaining on the schedule, the herd sits fifth in the conference with 22 points.
With the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds one point back and the University of Regina Cougars just outside the playoff picture at 19 points, the U of M will need a lot of help to make the post-season.
A 3-2 double-overtime loss for the U of M was unfortunately not the biggest story Friday night.
Early in the third period, Jonah Wasylak was caught by a blindside hit from Sam Ruopp. Wasylak’s helmet came undone and the fifth-year forward’s head hit the ice, drawing blood.
Trainers from both teams as well as the team doctor rushed in to help, Wasylak was helped off the ice and Ruopp received a match penalty.
The Bisons rallied to tie the game but lost in overtime.
The game did not start the way the Bisons wanted Friday, after a Devon Skoleski penalty led to a Huskies goal to take a 1-0 lead over the herd.
The equalizer came in the second period when a Josh Tripp pass to the slot gave Sean Christensen a lane straight to Huskies goaltender Taran Kozun. Christensen snapped a shot home to tie the game 1-1.
A shorthanded tally from Carson Stadnyk spoiled the fun and gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead with half a minute to go in the second period.
Then in the third period, after Ruopp made his bed, Skoleski made him lie in it.
On the power play from Ruopp’s match penalty, Jeremey Leipsic took a pass below the goal line and sent the puck through a crowd to Skoleski. Cutting through the faceoff circle, Skoleski ripped home his seventh of the year and the crowd exploded.
After the first overtime solved nothing, Logan McVeigh buried a shot on Tyler Brown to give the Huskies the win.
Whistles were out in full force Friday — in total, 16 penalties were doled out to both squads for 105 minutes of special teams play.
The Bisons took seven penalties in the game and head coach Mike Sirant believes that is what is bringing the team down.
“We do have to for sure limit the amount of penalties that we take,” Sirant said.
“Especially when you’re playing good offensive teams like Saskatchewan and of course Alberta next weekend, you want to keep their power play off of the ice.”
Another one-goal loss was the story Saturday, as a 4-3 regulation loss left the herd with only one point on the weekend.
If you saw the first four minutes of the game, you would’ve sworn it was going the other way.
Just 48 seconds into the game, the Bisons struck first with a beautiful individual effort from Ryan Carlson. The Minnesota native used his speed to beat the Huskies defender wide and slid it five-hole to give the herd a 1-0 lead.
Carlson was not finished.
Less than three minutes later he took a pass from Lucas Skrumeda as he entered the zone and went five-hole again on Travis Child for his second of the night.
The U of S quickly answered with a goal of its own, beating Bisons goaltender Riley Lamb with a scrum in front of the net and suddenly the herd’s lead was cut in half.
Shortly after, a tip in front by Kohl Bauml tied the game 2-2.
The first period ended with both sides even, but early in the second the Huskies struck again and the herd found itself behind for the first time in the game.
The Huskies dominated the Bisons in the second period, outshooting the U of M 19-3. In the third, Adam Henry stepped up for his team.
Shortly after a U of M power play expired, Henry picked up the puck in the high slot and walked in on Child. He unleashed a picture-perfect wrister that found the top corner, and with that Henry tied the game 3-3 with over half a period left to play.
This comeback was not to be, as with just under three minutes left in the game the Huskies scored to make it 4-3.
A beautiful rush-and-shot from Jared Dmytriw sealed the game for the Huskies.
The eight penalties in the game seemed to be the difference between a win and a loss for the herd.
Sirant weighed in on his team’s penalty troubles, especially against a tough University of Alberta team in the Bisons’ next series.
“Our five-on-five play was good this weekend but we have to continue to work on our [special] teams,” Sirant said.
“They were better tonight and down the stretch into the playoffs, [special] teams can make it there. So we just have to keep focusing and working on those areas.”
The Bisons finish the regular season of the road, in Edmonton, Alta., to face the University of Alberta Golden Bears Feb. 7 and 8. Puckdrop is 8 p.m. CST both nights.