Competition for CW men's hockey playoff spots is going to be tight down the stretch with six teams vying for just four spots. The Dinos are one step closer after sweeping the Manitoba Bisons this weekend, picking up some all-important points in the process.
The Dinos went into the weekend series ranked fourth behind the third-place Bisons. They are now ranked third in CW with five games remaining in the season.
"It's important that you continue to beat teams in front of you that are in the playoff race," said men's hockey head coach Mark Howell. "You want to build confidence by winning important games. Our guys have had a pretty good three week stretch here. We've beat Alberta and Manitoba and got eight of 12 points."
Calgary came out strong during Friday's game with defenseman Cory Pritz scoring one minute into the game. The Dinos would add another goal with under a minute remaining in the first period to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
"Any time you get a quick lead in a game just statistically you've got a better chance to win," said Howell. "I think it gives you confidence moving forward to generate quickly and gives your team a chance to play with comfort and not panic. You can relax and just simply play the game."
Manitoba drew first blood in the second period when captain Mike Hellyer scored to make it 2-1. The Dinos would regain their two point lead three minutes later when forward Aaron Richards scored with assists from forward Walker Wintoneak and Reid Jorgensen. The Bisons would draw within one again with a power play goal by forward Blair Macaulay to make it 3-2.
"We were playing fine," said Howell. "They had too many power plays and eventually they're going to get the opportunities. Our guys were extremely confident on the bench and continued to move forward."
Power plays would then prove to be kind to the Dinos. They closed out the second period with a power play goal from Jorgensen and opened the third period in similar fashion. Forward Teegan Moore would add a last power play goal 16:45 into the third to give the Dinos a decisive 6-2 win.
"Manitoba -- they're a team that attacks quickly after turnovers so we wanted to make sure we kept it simple and didn't turnover the puck, kept it deep in their zone, generated opportunities through our work ethic and where we were putting the puck," said Howell. "I thought we did a good job of that."
Despite the Dinos greater scoring, both teams were even in shots on goal at 25 overall. Manitoba took 11 penalties in the game with the Dinos scoring on three. In comparison, the Dinos took six penalties allowing one power play goal.
"Our penalty kill was exceptional and power play managed to be really good as well," said Howell. "We scored the three power play goals that helped separate us when it was a close game. We took advantage of some bad penalties by them and managed to score."
Saturday's game would prove to be lower scoring, but the Dinos would still carry another important win.
The Dinos had plenty of chances in the first period, outshooting the Bisons 17-7, but were unable to score until the Dinos found themselves short-handed. Wintoneak and forward Torrie Wheat broke off on a two-on-one at 17:05 and Wheat put it in the net. A goal by Moore at 6:53 in the second doubled the Dinos lead.
"We ended up with a bunch of power plays to start the game and took advantage of it," said Howell. "We didn't score, but we generated lots of opportunities. I think when you do that you wear the other team down. It came right after our power play, they got a power play. Their defensemen were tired and made a mistake and our forwards took advantage of it and created an odd man rush and managed to make a nice play. Torrie Wheat one timed it into the back of the net."
The Dinos then fell into penalty trouble. Manitoba scored two power play goals in quick succession to even the game up at 2-2. However, the Dinos kept their cool and were unphased by the comeback. Forward Colton Grant beat Bisons goalie Steven Christie with a wrist shot at 12:15 in the third. This lead would hold and the Dinos would go on to win it 3-2.
"They came out in the third and played with lots of speed and lots of momentum and we got caught standing around a bit," said Howell. "Took some penalties and lost momentum. After they made it 2-2 we relaxed and calmed down and started to play. From that point on we controlled the rest of the period and managed to find the game winning goal part way through."