By Crystal Wong
A little less than half of this year’s Dinos men’s hockey roster will be rookies. However, they all have a strong hockey background. Many have played in the Western Hockey League–arguably the most well-rounded league when it comes to major junior hockey. Also, with 18 returnees from 2004-2005, the Dinos have the potential to do very well this season.
When it was announced that former Calgary Hitmen Brett O’Malley and Tyrel Lucas would be joining the Dinos, their Head Coach Scott Atkinson openly expressed his delight and joy. Who could really blame him? O’Malley spent five years in the WHL, and was an important part of Calgary’s Hitmen for the last two years. As for Lucas, he recorded nine points in 12 games during the Hitmen’s playoff run last year–very impressive, to say the least.
Then there are Danny LaPointe and Jarret Lukin. Both players are well-known former WHLers. LaPointe played in more than 230 games during his career and has plenty of skills to offer. Last season, Lukin scored four goals in 13 games in the playoffs for the Medicine Hat Tigers.
As for the rest of the rookies, if I were to discuss them all, you’d still be reading this tomorrow morning. They will all have to work hard if they want playing minutes.
The Dinos’ top two scorers from last season, Ryan Annesley and Wes Reid, remain on the team. They both averaged almost a point per game last season and bring more than just their offensive skills to the team. And with five defensemen and all three goaltenders returning, the Dinos’ defense is tighter (and better) than ever.
The first test came with the 17th Annual Eyeopener Tournament held by SAIT, where the team showed off their skills. They won both of their games, defeating the Mount Royal College Cougars Thu., Sept. 15 and the SAIT Trojans Sat., Sept. 17.
After scoring the lone goal in a slow game against the Cougars, the Dinos prepared to face the tournament’s host team, SAIT. The Trojans defeated the Dinos 4-2 in last year’s tournament, but the Dinos players weren’t going to let that happen again.
Things started slowly for the Dinos, and the game as a whole, with a total of 15 penalties called–some well-deserved and some questionable. Thanks to great defensive plays–including some spectacular saves by starting goalie J.F. Martel–and hard-working penalty-killers, the Dinos managed to kill a Trojan two-man advantage.
However, at 13:11, the Trojans took advantage of their fifth powerplay of the period. Clayton Bastura scored an unassisted goal to put our opponents ahead.
Although the Dinos out-shot the Trojans 10-6 in the first period, they went into the second period down 1-0. But, the tempo picked up, and there was an apparent increase in the intensity level of the game. The Dinos managed to get four shots during their first powerplay of the period, but their first goal of the game didn’t come until 6:49–an even strength goal, scored by LaPointe and assisted by Lukin and Brett Thurston.
That was the turning point of the game. The Dinos gained momentum and utilised it the way any great team would. Later on in the period, after a scramble in front of the Trojans’ net, Annesley and Brent Gibson managed to get the puck to Ryley Layden, who put the puck through the goalie’s five-hole and gave the Dinos their first lead of the game.
Shortly after this second goal, Dinos Head Coach Scott Atkinson made a goalie change and put Mike Lencucha in goal. As the Trojans’ offense picked up, Lencucha made save after save.
Unfortunately, after making three dazzling saves in the span of a minute, the Trojans’ got the puck past him and into the net at 16:46. The game was once again deadlocked, and it was up to the Dinos to keep it from slipping away.
It didn’t take the Dinos very long to prove to everyone that they are for real–even though this was only a pre-season game. Trevor Galan scored a powerplay goal, assisted by Gable Gross and Lucas, only 17 seconds into the third period. At this point, the Dinos were out-shooting the Trojans 30-12.
Both teams continued to be aggressive, leading to a fight between Layden and Trojan Cale Louden. The fight was on its feet for about five seconds, and continued after the players hit the ice. Both of them received a fighting major and a game misconduct.
With a couple of minutes left in the game, the Trojans were on the powerplay and elected to pull their goalie for a two-man advantage. The Dinos tightened up their defense and put forth their best effort to maintain the lead. The Trojans kept the offense up as time was running out, but were a little too late. Lencucha made a pad save as the horn sounded.
Final shots on goal were 43-20 for the Dinos, and the Trojans were held to six shots in each of the first two periods. Nine different players were involved in the three Dinos goals.
They were undefeated and share the championship with the (also undefeated) University of Lethbridge. Most importantly, the Dinos proved to everyone that they have the skills and depth to compete with other teams.