By Carly Benson
The Dinos men’s hockey season came to a close Mar. 11-12 with consecutive losses to the University of Manitoba Bisons. Finishing fourth in the Canada West division, the Dinos did not qualify for nationals and turn their attention to next season, along with a farewell to fifth-year veterans who will be graduating this year.
Although the Dinos went into the games against U of M determined to come away with a win, things did not go as planned. Friday’s first period started slowly, and it wasn’t until the midway mark that Manitoba finally broke the scoreless tie with a powerplay marker. Despite out-shooting the Bisons 11-5 in the opening frame, the Dinos could not find a way to get the puck past goaltender Krister Toews.
Late in the second period, the Bisons added another goal with the man advantage to take a 2-0 lead heading into the third. Their goalie continued to stand tall for them in net, denying every Calgary opportunity.
Finally, Alex Lalonde snuck one by the Bisons’ net-minder a mere 45 seconds into the third, pulling his team to within striking distance. Both Bracken Kearns and Gable Gross picked up the assists, which gave Calgary renewed life. But Toews thwarted every chance.
He helped his team hang onto their precarious one-goal lead through the first six minutes of the third, until Manitoba scored again to give themselves some insurance.
The game ended with a 3-1 loss for the visiting Dinos, though with a best-of-three series they still had a chance to come back and win the war.
Saturday’s game opened much the same, with no real action through the first 10 minutes of the first period. However, when Manitoba scored at 10:22, it started the avalanche of goals that would eventually bring the score to 4-1 in favour of the Bisons before the period ended.
Only two minutes after the first goal, Dino Wesley Reid scored on the powerplay to tie it up again. Unfortunately, the Bisons responded less than 30 seconds later with their second, adding a third and fourth within the next five minutes to take a commanding lead early on in the game.
Calgary ran into some penalty trouble at the end of the first. Although the Bisons only scored one powerplay goal, the Dinos were forced to play almost half of the first period a man short, as they took four consecutive penalties near the end of the frame.
The second period opened with Calgary down two players, and they had to battle hard to keep Manitoba from capitalizing on the five-on-three opportunity.
Having killed off that chance, momentum swung their way again, but the Dinos still couldn’t solve Toews, who was in goal again for the Bisons.
With only 35 seconds on the clock, Lonny Tetley finally put the puck past the solid goaltender to bring the Dinos to the same position they had found themselves in the night before–heading into the third period down by a pair of goals.
Like the previous evening, the third period saw nothing more than the final Manitoba goal and five Calgary penalties. With the 5-2 loss, the Dinos’ season ended on a somewhat bitter note.
“We out-played them in both games, we dominated the play in both games… we just couldn’t find the back of the net when we needed to,” said Dinos forward Brent Gibson afterwards.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win every game,” forward Ryley Layden agreed.
But in the end, it came down to goaltending and discipline. The Dinos out-shot their opponent in both games, but Toews played phenomenally and made a huge difference in the outcome. For his efforts, the Bison goalie was named CW Freshman of the Year.
But the Dinos also hurt themselves with the number of penalties that they took.
“You can’t win a hockey game when you’re playing a man down,” said Gibson. “It’s been one of our biggest fallbacks all year. Five-on-five we’re one of the best teams around.”
The Dinos took 23 penalties in the two-game series, and have had penalty trouble in other games throughout the year.
Despite the finish, however, the Dinos can still take a lot of positives out of their season.
“We made a lot of strides forward with a young core group of players. We’re excited for the years to come,” said Layden.
Some of this year’s veterans lose their opportunity to play for the national title as their eligibility runs out. But perhaps the lessons learned this year will produce different results next season.