Nobody likes to be embarrassed, especially not in front of 1,500 people cheering for your demise. That is what happened to the Dinos men's hockey team Friday night in Edmonton as they lost 9-3 to the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The next night showed an entirely different team, with the Dinos tearing up the ice with big hits and great speed. It was not enough, however, to quell the Bears and their incredibly deep lineup--and the Dinos lost a close 3-2.
The Bears scored two goals in the first six minutes of play on Friday, which set the Dinos back on their heels early.
"We wanted to jump on them right away," commented forward Trevor Murray. "For the first couple of shifts the puck was in deep and we were forechecking, but they capitalized on their chances early and just started rolling with it. Before we knew it, the first period was over and it was 5-0."
With the momentum fully shifted on the side of the Golden Bears, the Dinos faced a formidable task of regaining that momentum. That shift never materialized.
"We were kind of waiting to see what they were going to do, instead of being pro-active and going after them," said head coach Tim Bothwell. "Playoffs is a time when you have to give extra effort, and we were just not prepared to compete or pay the price physically."
The Bears' incredible scoring depth forces teams to be very careful about limiting the number of scoring opportunities. The scoring machine that is the Bears was given too many opportunities for goalie Scott Rideout to manage.
"They didn't dominate us in the first period, we let them have the puck too much, we gave them seven or eight really good scoring chances and they cashed in," remarked Bothwell.
Rideout was pulled after the first period. Bothwell was careful to mention that it was not from poor play, but to keep the goalie, who has been on a roll of late, from playing in a situation that Bothwell felt wasn't fair to him.
"It wasn't his fault, and I wasn't going to play him for the rest of the game if the guys weren't going to play in front of him. He doesn't deserve that, that's why we took him out," said the coach.
"By that point no-one had given up, but you're looking at a 5-0 deficit. It's pretty tough to be positive and think that you're going to win," said Murray. "We just didn't go out and execute, bottom line."
"Saturday was a completely different story. We decided that we wanted to compete, we did compete, we played harder, and we were rewarded for it, we were in it right to the end," said Bothwell.
The Dinos rocketed out of the chutes on Saturday, and kept the game close.
"We just weathered the storm for the first five-to-10 minutes and came out even," said Murray. "Everyone was positive, we had [momentum] from the beginning."
Saturday also saw some absolutely abysmal reffing. Referee Chris Savage seemed more concerned with keeping the penalties even than actually calling real penalties.
The Dinos have one more shot to make it to into the national tournament. This weekend, they play host to the Brandon University Bobcats to determine the Canada West conference's wild-card representative in Saskatoon. Bothwell is glad to have the chance, no matter who his team plays.
"It really wouldn't matter if we were playing the [National Hockey League-leading] New Jersey Devils," said Bothwell. "We're still looking forward to it. We worked hard all year. We've improved tremendously. I'm excited about the opportunity."
The Bobcats shouldn't be much of an obstacle for the Dinos in the best-of-three showdown. In the regular season, the Dinos held a 4-0 record against Brandon. Bothwell, however, knows that the playoffs bring out a different side of any team, and won't be expecting easy victories.
"I think our chances are good, no matter who we have to play," he stated. "We know what it takes to win, and we'll go out hard this weekend."
The Dinos and Bobcats will face off in the Father David Bauer Arena on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and if necessary, on Sunday at 7 p.m.