Exhibition games are like kissing your sister; you don't really lose anything, but you can't really brag about scoring either.
Featuring the Dinos, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, the SAIT Trojans and the Mount Royal College Cougars, last week's 1999 SAIT Eye Opener Tournament provided a handful of fans a preview of what promises to be an exciting year for the men's side.
Saturday's game featured the Dinos taking on Pronghorns--a team they beat handily in the first round of last year's Canada West playoffs.
The Dinos allowed Lethbridge to take the lead early, but responded with four quick goals (including a short-handed effort by Eric Schneider) to close out the second. However, Lethbridge regained their composure and turned the Dinos' incessant forechecking against them, forcing several odd-man rushes. Pronghorn Ray Guze started the Lethbridge comeback with a goal that was quickly followed by a shot that Dino goalie Scott Rideout could have easily stopped. The 'Horns tied the game late in the third on another weak goal. After making the initial save, Rideout dropped it and Dan Tall poked it home to knot the score at four.
Calgary head coach Tim Bothwell blamed the Lethbridge rally on defensive lapses.
"[Rideout] was good in net and gave us the saves when we needed them," he said. "He gave us a chance to win but we didn't help him."
Lethbridge's momentum continued in overtime, as Derek Robinson put in another weak goal and the Dinos were relegated to the bronze medal game.
Inexperience, coupled with a lack of effort, preparation, and will to win can be blamed for the loss, said Bothwell.
"We gave Lethbridge the win," he said. "Rideout gave us a chance, but we showed no life and no energy in the third period."
Schneider showed flashes of the form that last year netted him Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union Freshman-of-the-Year, while the Dinos' penalty killing and forechecking provided reasons for optimism concerning the upcoming season. Bothwell also cited the play of Colin Embley, Sheldon Nedjelski, Ron Grimard and Scott Ganes as positive.
The Dinos fared much better in the consolation final against the Mount Royal Cougars, last year's tournament champions.
Led again by veteran Embley and featuring solid (if unspectacular) goaltending courtesy of Tyler Nilsson, the Dinos redoubled their forechecking against the Cougars. In the second period, the Dinos' unstoppable hitting was rewarded as they rattled off five goals (mostly on MRC defensive turnovers) en route to a 7-1 final Good efforts were turned in by ex-Hitman Ryan Geremia, Judd Casper (two goals), and Ganes. Embley played an outstanding physical game and added two goals and two assists for a deserved first star.
"The defence as a group played better on Sunday than Saturday," said Bothwell. "Of the six periods we played, we played five good ones."
The Dinos much improved effort was only marred by the occasional breakdown in discipline--three unsportsmanlike penalties in the final alone as well as a slew of other unnecessary penalties.
"On the whole, not a bad effort for the weekend," concluded Bothwell.
Fans will remember that last year the Dinos lost a physical second round playoff series with the heavily-favoured University of Alberta Golden Bears. This season's returning stalwarts such as Eric Schneider and Judd Casper, and a solid assortment of veterans and rookies are eager to propel the Dinos further in this year's playoffs.