Goodbye Pronghorns, hello Bears

By Darren Friesen

It just hangs there, binded by its wires from the empty rafters of the Father David Bauer Arena. The players look at it constantly and the fans glance at it repeatedly, because for all those in attendance the most intimidating thing about last weekend’s quarterfinal playoff action for the University of Calgary men’s hockey team wasn’t the opposing team, but the score clock.

Last weekend, the Calgary Dinos began their long, arduous journey back to the National Championships. Standing in their way once again were the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. This is the third time these two teams met in first round of the Canada West playoffs with the series tied at one apiece.

After coming off a successful sweep in Brandon two weeks ago, and finishing with a strong 6-1-1 record in the month of February, the Dinos went into the playoffs last weekend with high expectations. After beating Brandon and after the University of Alberta’s defeats over Lethbridge, Calgary was in a position to retain sole position of second place in the West division, and therefore get home ice advantage for last weekend’s quarterfinal action.

This best-of-three series ultimately came down to a matter of minutes and seconds. At times the Dinos were faced with not enough time and at others there was too much. Friday night, the Dinos Sean Robertson opened the scoring early only to have the Pronghorns reply within a matter of seconds. The rest of the first period was dominated by the Pronghorns who eventually took the lead on a short-handed goal, and later on the powerplay. Despite constant pressure from Calgary’s offense, Lethbridge, backed by great goaltending, was able to hang onto the lead and win the series opener 3-1.

"I thought we played better in the second and third," stated Head Coach Tim Bothwell. "But Lethbridges’ goalie played extremely well."

Saturday’s affair was much the same. The Pronghorns set the early tone by scoring first, but the Dinos were able to respond with a powerplay goal by Robertson. Lethbridge continued to pressure in the second period, which paid dividends in the form of two more markers.

With under ten minutes left in the third it appeared as if the Dinos were going to fall two straight. However, during a Calgary powerplay, captain Judd Casper–on the advice of Bothwell–took a chance and called an illegal stick measurement on the Pronghorns.

"I’ve been around the game enough to know what an illegal stick looks like," said Bothwell. "It’s always a gamble, but one we felt we had to take."

On the ensuing five-on-three powerplay, the gamble paid off. Sean Robertson fired a shot from the point, which beat the goalie high and moved the Dinos within one. With the clock ticking towards the two-minute mark, Calgary tied the game with a goal from defenseman Dallas Fallscheer.

The subsequent 10-minute overtime proved to be all the time the Dinos would need. Just 2:18
into the period, Calgary’s Jason Boyd collected his own rebound and captured the win for the Dinos and tied the series 1-1.

Game three on Sunday became the decider. Calgary looked to build on the momentum from their previous night and got the early lead with a breakaway goal by Scott Fukami. In the dying seconds of the first Matt Holmes sent Fukami on a clear break and he shelved one past Lethbridge goalie Andrew Houthhuys with only nine-tenths of a second left in the period.

The following periods proved to be inconsistent at both ends. Calgary’s Trevor Segstro scored in the second to expand the Dinos lead by two, but at the tail end of the middle period Lethbridge replied with a marker of their own.

U of C continued to build on their lead and got the first two goals of the third. However, with more than 10 minutes remaining the Dinos began to unravel. Lethbridge mounted a comeback by scoring two late period goals in only one minute and 29 seconds. The Pronghorns continued to control the play, and tied the game with less than seven minutes to go.

Trevor Segstro took the fate of the Dinos into his own hands by sneaking a late period rebound behind the Lethbridge defender. Calgary held on for the victory, winning the series 2-1. They now head north to Edmonton to face the number-one ranked Golden Bears in a battle for Canada West supremacy.

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