One could not have written a better script for what turned out to be a thrilling ending to a hard-fought Canada West semifinal. The Dinos men's hockey team were victorious in a decisive game three against the University Manitoba Bisons on Sunday, Mar. 3. A goal from defence Alex Dzielski in overtime gave the team a 2–1 victory to advance to the CW final against their arch-rival, the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Neither team disappointed as both teams came out playing physical and tight defensive hockey, refusing to give up much room. The Dinos were able to open the scoring and break the deadlock as forward Ryan Harrison capitalized by going to the net and pouncing on a rebound from Walter Wintoneak's shot on the power play. Harrison said that playing a defensive team like Manitoba was difficult.
"Manitoba plays great defence. All year we were used to scoring lots of goals, so we had to adjust the way we played and it definitely worked out well," said Harrison. "It was a hard-fought battle."
After a significant delay to replace a pane of shattered glass with a piece of plywood, the Bisons equalized as Brendan Rowinski was able to find the back of the net, beating Dinos netminder Jacob DeSerres at the 15:15 mark of the opening frame. Dinos head coach Mark Howell thought that the delay took the winds out of his team’s sails.
"We started really well but when the glass broke we just lost our wind," said Howell. "After that we never really got it back until halfway through the third period, and I thought we skated really well halfway through the third until the game winner."
The second period was a parade to the penalty box for both teams, but neither side could capitalize on their power-play opportunities. Both teams played a cautious game in the second, and this continued into the third period as it became apparent one mistake could lead to the end of the road.
"I think you do get a little bit apprehensive," said Howell, acknowledging there were some frantic moments. "Both teams had really good chances. They had one on the goal line with a minute to go."
Overtime provided excitement, and ultimately the home crowd went home cheering. As Harrison was entering the zone, he found overtime hero Dzielski open.
"I saw that Manitoba was backing up and they all collapsed towards the net," said Harrison. "I found Alex and luckily it went in."
Dzielski was more than thrilled to have scored the overtime marker. "Our goalie coach told us to keep it away from [Bison goalie Joe Caliguiri's] glove all game," said Dzielski. "I just saw the opportunity and stepped in and shot, and it went off a couple things on the way in. It felt good."
The CW finals against the U of A Golden Bears will start Friday, Mar. 7 at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.