Hockeysaurs ride T-Birds to semis

It was time for the Dinos men’s hockey team to bring their A-game as their playoff run began Feb. 25-26. They could not allow the results of the previous weekend–a win and tie against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, along with the loss of goaltender Donald Choukalos to a suspension–affect their play.


The game plan was simple. The Dinos knew what to expect and by sticking to their game, they knew they would come out on top. That meant not responding to the dirty and overly physical play of the T-Birds. It meant remaining disciplined and focused, knowing that their season hung in the balance.


The Dinos rose admirably to the challenge. Friday night ended in a 6-0 blowout, which sent a clear and chilling message to the T-Birds. Unlike the two previous games in which UBC got 46 and 29 shots on goal, the Dinos held them to a mere 18. Scott Talbot handled these easily, getting the big shutout while his team annihilated UBC at the other end of the ice.


However, the game started somewhat slowly with Alex Lalonde breaking the scoreless tie at 17:54 of the first. But the Dinos heated up their game in the second when Colin McRae scored to make it 2-0. Less than three minutes later Lalonde chipped in with his second of the evening and Wade Davis continued the trend to make it 4-0. Davis’ goal spelled the end for UBC net-minder Doug Groenstege, who was pulled at 11:04 of the middle frame.


To ice the cake, Drew Campbell and Brent Gibson each struck during the third period, giving Calgary a convincing 6-0 win. They had stuck to their plan and remained far more disciplined than the previous weekend. According to Adam Redmond, the reffing had also improved; meaning that UBC got away with a lot less dirty tricks.


Both teams headed into the second game of the best-of-three contest on Saturday with the same mind set: Win at all costs. Calgary had no desire to see the series stretch to a full three games, while UBC fought to keep their season alive.


“They had a sense of urgency, their backs against the wall. That’s when you find out what your team can do,” Davis commented.


The T-Birds certainly demonstrated their resilience and took the game to the Dinos in the first. Though it remained a scoreless draw for most of the period, UBC finally solved Scott Talbot at the 17:18 mark, giving them the lead heading into the second.


Whatever happened in the dressing room during the intermission certainly had an effect on the Dinos, who came out with renewed vigor and greater focus. Reid evened the score 1:17 into the second. Exceptional goaltending at both ends of the ice prevented either team from breaking the draw through the first 40 minutes.


For UBC, their season had come down to one final period. Knowing that their opponent would fight hard in order to live to play another day, the Dinos also had to dig deeper and concentrate on the task at hand.


For the first while, the teams traded fairly even chances and both goalies continued to shine. But Lalonde got through the defenses of Groenstege at 4:50, netting his third goal of the series and putting his team up by one. Captain Bracken Kearns added to that just before the midway point in the period, giving Calgary an insurance goal that they ended up needing. Less than five minutes later, UBC came within one as Kyle Bruce scored to make it 3-2.


Despite their best efforts, UBC could not get the tying goal. The Dinos tightened their defense, Talbot remained steady and outstanding in net and the final buzzer went with the Dinos still leading by one. They survived the late onslaught from the T-Birds, who had pulled their goalie to no avail.


“They came out a lot harder [in the second game]. Maybe we were thinking that they would roll over,” Kearns said after the match. “We’ve got to give UBC a lot of credit.”


“We didn’t come out with our A-game,” Redmond admitted. “We can’t play like that against the [University of Alberta Golden Bears].”


Calgary earned the right to move on to face the Bears Mar. 4-6. The winner will vie for the Canada West title Mar. 11-13.


Once again, the Dinos are confident that if they play their own game, things will turn out in their favour.


“We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box,” Davis said. “That will be a major, major key in the whole series.”


The potent powerplay of the Bears has caused Calgary a lot of grief in the past, but the Dinos see no reason to be frightened of the upcoming match. In fact, it will be a chance for them to extend their winning streak over the U of A.


“We’re building on the 6-2 [Feb. 5] victory,” said Kearns–a veteran on the team who was thrilled to see the end of the infamous streak.


Heading into the series, the Dinos will play with a lot more confidence than they’ve had in the past. In the last few years, the Dinos have seen their season end at the hands of Bears. They are determined to put an end to that streak as well.


“We come to practice upbeat,” Redmond said of the Dinos’ preparation to face the number one ranked team in Canada. “They haven’t played in two weeks, so hopefully they will be a little slow. We need to come out of the gate ready to play our game.”


It will be a hard-fought battle anyway, so keep your fingers crossed.

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