Hockeysaurs battle Thunderbirds! Yeah!

The barbecues were alight and the claws sharpened Jan. 5-6, with the University of Calgary hockeysaurs ready to take their first victim of the new year. After suffering an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the University of Alberta Golden Bears during the final week of play before the holiday break, the Dinos looked to turn their fortunes around against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. But all the hockeysaurs could manage was a split, suffering a 4-1 defeat Saturday night after pulling off a nail-biting 3-2 victory the previous evening.

The series opener saw the Dinos come charging out of the box, firing 13 shots at T-bird netminder Gerry Festa in the first period alone. Dino Tyrel Lucas put his team on the board early, scoring the opening goal after only two minutes of play. The rest of the period, and the first half of the second, were heavily dominated by stifling Dino defence and high-speed offence, leaving the T-birds in a 3-0 hole.

Dino Ryan Annesley, who tallied three points in the series, scored the eventual game-winner in the early seconds of the second period. Strong defensive pressure and effective hits allowed the Dinos to silence the T-birds sticks, but they did manage to get on the board before the end of the second period with a powerplay goal.

Though some may have dismissed the T-bird goal as a small blemish on the Dinos’ impeccable game, the third period saw the Vancouverites racing up and down the ice with new energy and determination.

The final period, and specifically the final minute, left Dino fans on the edge of their seats. Down 3-1, the T-birds pulled their goalie and with 10 seconds left, managed to put the puck behind Dino netkeeper Scott Talbot. The goal came off of a sloppy Calgary pass in the neutral zone, and the Dinos suddenly found themselves scrambling to shut down the T-birds in the final seconds.

“We knew we didn’t have to do anything too different to put the game away, we just had a momentary lapse in focus,” described Adam Redmond, third-year kinesiology. “So we just had to do what we were doing the last 59 minutes.”

Thankfully, Talbot stayed sharp and the defence stepped up to prevent the upset, and the Dinos skated away with their first victory of 2007. But the hockeysaurs knew they couldn’t let the T-birds hang around again, and came out the next night ready to finish off the ‘Birds.

Saturday’s contest was a display of two evenly matched teams, with the Dinos generating 24 shots to UBC’s 25. The difference, however, lay in the goaltending. The T-birds drew first blood, with a powerplay goal in the early first period. Dinos Ryan Annesley and Aaron Richards, who remain key players in the Dinos offence, fed Wade Davis’ powerplay goal.

“We just didn’t play with the same intensity from the start of the game, and we missed a lot of opportunities, had a lot of breakdowns in our own zone,” explained Redmond.

The second period Calgary goal was the only one that the Dinos could generate on the night, and the T-birds were able to feed off of Festa’s stellar play between the pipes. T-bird Mitch Bartley scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second period, and the T-birds were able to put some distance between themselves and the Dinos in the final period.

Festa faced 12 shots in the third period alone, as the Dinos desperately tried to find an answer to his skilled saves. But Festa was able to turn away whatever the Dinos threw at him, and the hockeysaurs skated off the ice in defeat.

“Festa played a little bit better than Talbot, and being from Calgary [Festa] was able to feed off of that support in front of friends and family,” described Redmond. “Talbot was still great, as he has been all season, but he just didn’t have as good a game.”

The Dinos did an excellent job of staying out of the penalty box during the series, collecting only 15 penalties, which is significantly less than what the hockeysaurs have been tagged with throughout the first half of the season. Their defence has smartened up, with well-placed hits and effective backchecks. The Dinos’ offensive output during Saturday’s game was also promising, as common knowledge states that if you take enough shots, eventually, one will find the back of the net.

The Dinos will have some time to fine-tune their game, as they head into a bye week. Their season will resume Jan.19-20 in Regina, as they take on the University of Regina Cougars. The Dinos swept the Cougars in their first meeting of the season in November during their seven-game winning streak.

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