Bears continue a nine-season tradition

In the Canada West mountain division finals Mar. 3-4, the Dinos men’s hockey team clashed with the hockey powerhouse up in Edmonton, the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Bears finished their season with a 21-5-2 record, clearly separating themselves from the rest of the pack. While the Dinos went the distance with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the semi-finals, the Bears had the week off, advancing directly to the finals.

“We definitely believe that if we have a good week of preparation and we are disciplined in terms of our systems, we will be successful,” Dino Brett Thurston commented after the series against the T-Birds. “We are very excited and look forward to a great series.”

But the Dinos had a tough task ahead of them. They hadn’t won in Edmonton since Feb. 5, 1999, and the Bears clinched home-ice advantage for all three games of the best-of-three series. Indeed, the Dinos got off to a rocky start right off the bat and never recovered.

Offensively speaking, the Bears dominated the shots on net. While Dinos goalie Scott Talbot kept the game tied at zero for most of the first period, it was only a matter of time until the Bears scored. Dylan Stanley and Jonathan Hobson eventually did just that at 16:43 and 19:05 respectively.

It didn’t stop there, the Bears went on to score, count ’em, six goals in the second while shutting out the Dinos. The Dinos got one back in the third, but that was as close as they got. The team as a whole had a-25 rating and only one powerplay opportunity the entire game. Talbot made 39 saves on 47 shots, while the Bears’ goaltender Aaron Sorochan saved 21 of 22.

Knowing this could be the last game of their season, the Dinos came out with more gas in the tank in game two. They grabbed a 1-2 lead midway through the first, with the Dinos’ goals scored by Colin McRae and Wade Davis. But all it took to erase this lead was a bad bounce. The Bears’ Tim Krymusa tugged the puck under Talbot to tie the game, with the bench stunned that such a weak goal was scored.

That would become the turning point of the contest. The U of A regained their lead before the first intermission on a goal from Joff Kehler. To add to the wound, Dinos forward Brett O’Malley was hurt late in the period by a hipcheck and had to be helped to the dressing room. The teams exchanged goals in the second and the Bears continued to lead, though they weren’t exactly happy about the game.

“Sometimes they don’t call it and sometimes they do,” Bear Justin Wallin commented on the referees. “There’s no consistency at all. It’s a free for all.”

The Dinos were barely hanging on when the Bears scored three straight goals on less than eight shots in the third–a powerplay goal, an even strength marker and a short-handed goal. Although the Dinos gave it their all, having a young team and a lack of experience certainly didn’t help them in this playoff series. Graduating players were put into the game with a few seconds left, playing the last shift of their CIS careers.

Head coach Scott Atkinson wasn’t available for comment following the series. The Dinos were out-scored 15-5–losing 8-1 in game one and 7-4 in game two. From the “big line”–Jarret Lukin, Tyrel Lucas and Ryan Annesley–only Lucas was able to beat Sorochan, scoring two goals in the second game. McRae was the only other Dinos player with multiple goals in the series.

Although the team didn’t go as far as they expected, the younger players are hoping to take their experiences from this year into next season, when they will all play a crucial role on the team. If recent history is any indication, the Dinos will likely make the playoffs without much trouble. However, to make it further than they have in the past decade, the key will be to avoid getting swept by the Bears in the playoffs for a 10th straight time.

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