The Dinos waited a long time to avenge last year's championship defeat but finally finished the job and claimed the top prize in the province this season. The Dinos finished the year with drama on Sunday and lifted the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship trophy with a 1-0 win over the Mount Royal Cougars, wining the series 3-2. The final game was filled emotion and suspense, and saw pivotal action at both ends of the ice determining victory and defeat. At the end of the contest the tears of the Dinos flowed with happiness, and heads were lifted to the sky in awe of the prize, while the Cougars hung their heads low to the ground to shield the display of defeat in their eyes. The Dinos used their physical forecheck and quick offence to wear down the Cougars and win the prize.
"Fuck yeah," said Dinos co-captain Cait O'Hara. "We knew what we had to do. We had to keep the game simple and outwork them. We knew we were the better team."
The Dinos came out strong, controlled play for the opening 10 minutes of the first period and used a ferocious forecheck to constantly keep the puck in the Cougar zone, leading to several scoring opportunities. The Dinos kept up the offensive firepower as Dinos forward Tiara Schoenroth nearly scored early on a partial breakaway, only to be stopped by Mount Royal netminder Sarah Oswald. The period ended with Mount Royal applying the pressure, but both teams left the ice deadlocked at zero.
There were some scary moments in the second period for the Dinos, as they almost let the Cougars take the lead. Midway through the frame the Cougars went in alone on Dinos netminder Katie Urness, but before they could produce a shot, defenceman Melissa Zubick dived and knocked the puck away, sending the Cougar player into the boards headfirst. It was an all-out effort by Zubick, one that showed the Dinos came ready to play and were hungry for the gold.
"We finally finished, last year we didn't and it feels good to finally do it," said Dinos co-captain Beccy Niehaus.
While most of the period was evenly contested, the Dinos committed several turnovers off failed clearing attempts in their defensive zone and, if not for some excellent saves by Urness, the Cougars would have taken the lead. Nothing was decided after 40 minutes and the two teams had 19 shots apiece. There was now 20 minutes left to decide who would win gold and who would walk away with the silver.
Calgary head coach Danielle Goyette made some line changes during the intermission, hoping this would produce a spark to get that all important goal.
Elana Lovell was switched from her usual line with forwards Schoenroth and Shelby Davey to the line of Erin Davidson and Niehaus. Tanya Morgan replaced Lovell on the rookie line.
The Dinos got the boost they needed in the third period from Sinead Tracey, the Dinos' leading scorer in the playoffs. With 4:08 gone, Ali Webb skated hard into the Cougars zone with the puck and forced the defender to chase. Webb then passed the puck to a streaking Tracey who ripped a quick wrist shot over the blocker of Oswald. The Oval erupted as the Dinos section of fans began beating on drums, metal barrels and the bleachers.
"It was a huge weight off our shoulders," said Dinos forward Shannon Davidson. "We waited so long to get that first goal."
In sports, players get a gut feeling about the outcome of games, something inside telling them this is their day. In the gold medal game O'Hara got that feeling once Tracey scored.
"Once Sinead scored we knew we had it," said O'Hara.
Despite the celebrations and gut feelings, the work was not done, and there was still an entire period to finish. Like any great championship, there was drama until the very end. With five minutes left, the Dinos were issued two penalties and the Cougars had a five-on-three power play for a minute and a half. The Dinos mustered all their strength and cleared the puck numerous times, keeping the Cougars from scoring.
"It was terrible," said Shannon Davidson. "There's not much you can do because you only have three girls on the ice. We have a lot of trust so it worked out for us."
With the penalties killed, the Dinos managed the puck well in the final minutes and were rewarded with their first ACAC championship.
"It feels unreal, I don't even know what to say," said Tracey. "Our whole team played unbelievable."
"We deserved this," said Davidson. "We worked hard all year."
The Cougars deserve to be given accolades for trading in their last place finish in the season for a silver medal. They pushed the favoured team to five games and only lost by one goal.
"It was a great series," said Goyette. "I think the two teams showed a great level of hockey. One-nothing who expected that, I think we have to give credit to the players. The [Dinos] worked hard all year and I think they deserved what happened to them today."
The Dinos are poised to leave the ACAC next season, as they are close to confirming their spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport women's hockey league. In this league they will play other universities such as the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan and have the opportunity to compete for a national championship.
"I'm excited to go into CIS now," said Davidson.