By Carly Benson
The Dinos suffered a heart-breaking loss Fri., Mar. 4 to put them down 1-0 in their three-game playoff series against the University of Alberta Golden Bears, and were unable to push the series to three. Sat., Mar. 5 they fell apart, losing 7-1 and destroying any opportunity to move on to the final round of the Canada West playoffs. However, all is not lost for the Dinos. If they defeat the University of Manitoba Bisons Mar. 11-13, they can claim third place in CW and still go on to nationals.
Friday night started out all wrong for the Dinos. Barely two minutes into the game, the Bears struck. Then, though Calgary knew it had to stay out of the penalty box to avoid the potent U of A powerplay, they got into penalty trouble about halfway through the first. This cost them another goal, putting them down 2-0 going into the intermission.
However, things continued to go downhill as the U of A drew more blood on their next powerplay, a mere 28 seconds after the puck had dropped in the second. A minute and a half later, they scored again to make it 4-0.
Somehow, the Dinos found the fire and resolve to continue fighting despite the deep hole they were in. Copying their hosts, they used a powerplay to cut into the Bears’ lead. Colin McRae scored the goal, with assists going to Craig Strain and Wade Davis. Then, after killing off consecutive penalties to swing the momentum back their way, Calgary struck again, this time with both teams at full strength. Wesley Reid made the game 4-2 at the 14:07 mark, leaving Calgary just under half the game to complete the comeback.
“We’ve been there before,” Captain Bracken Kearns said of his team’s resilience. “We were focusing on the positives, and it propelled us to come back.”
“We knew we had the confidence to beat Alberta,” added Alex Lalonde. “We had to correct our mistakes, and get some finish.”
Unfortunately, the positives of the second period and the pep talks were not good enough.
They headed into the third period revived and with a renewed sense of purpose. However, for the first ten minutes, the breaks seemed to go both ways and neither team could get past the other’s defense. Then, Ben Kilgour of the Bears got called for interference and the powerplay line went to work, knowing that this was their chance to pull within one.
It took almost the full two minutes before Reid netted his second of the night, assisted by Lalonde and Gable Gross.
For the next few minutes, things were tense as the U of A struggled to hold on to its tenuous one-goal lead and Calgary battled hard for the equalizer. But time was working against the visiting Dinos, and the clock ran out before they managed to tie the game up. Despite the disheartening loss, the Dinos were determined to even the series the next night and force a third and deciding match on Sunday.
“After coming back and scoring those three goals, we came into Saturday’s game pretty confident. We wanted to build off our third period,” Kearns reflected.
But once again, the Dinos came out flat, and it cost them dearly in the first period. After 20 minutes, the Bears once again found themselves with a three-goal lead, one of those coming short-handed.
In the second, Calgary showed signs of a comeback similar to the previous evening when Ryley Layden scored to cut the lead to two. However, from that point on everything went downhill. Layden took a slashing penalty, allowing the deadly U of A powerplay to restore the hosts’ three-goal lead.
Things remained that way until the third period, when the Bears proved why they are the top-ranked team in Canada. With a killer attitude, they were determined not to allow a similar fright that the previous evening had given, and put the game away before the Dinos showed their resilience.
In the span of about 10 minutes, the U of A added three goals to crush the Dinos 7-1. They swept the series 2-0, and secured a berth in the CW championship series.
“It came down to discipline in both games,” said Kearns. “Discipline with penalties really cost us. [In the second game] we let in a couple of soft goals early on, it hurt our confidence and we started taking foolish penalties. Things just snowballed from there.”
“I felt that the team on a whole played well, we just couldn’t capitalize on our chances. We played really well on the penalty-kill,” said Lalonde.
Capitalizing and confidence will play a huge role if the Dinos hope to make it to nationals. They have one more chance against the Bisons to prove that they are one of the elite teams in western Canada. But despite the disappointing end to the series with the Bears, the Dinos are not changing many details about their game.
“We need to go out and play our game. We know we can beat them,” said Kearns. “It’s a do-or-die situation now, and we’re focused on that.”
Lalonde is also totally confident in his team’s abilities, and knows they can defeat the Bisons.
“We’re taking the hard route to nationals,” he said with confidence.
We shall see…
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