Home proved to be the advantage as the University of Calgary men's hockeysaurs and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns engaged in the other Battle of Alberta with a home-and-home series Sep. 28 and 29.
Lethbridge took the opener in a hard-fought 3-2 victory Friday night over the visiting Dinos, but the hockeysaurs returned the favour by defeating the 'Horns with the same score the following night in front of fans at Father David Bauer Arena.
In the first period, both teams were feeling the nerves that accompany season-opener action, but soon settled down and got to business. The 'Horns found the back of the net first, with captain and Calgary native Shaun Norrie sliding one past Dino's net-minder Scott Talbot while on the powerplay. The Dinos managed to even the score before the end of the opening period, with captain Ryan Annesley getting the best of 'Horns' goalie Scott Bowles off of Dino Barry Horman's pass.
"The guys knew they had to settle down," explained Dinos head coach Scott Atkinson. "We had to stay patient and wait for our chances; [we know the Pronghorns] are a really hard team to beat."
The 'Horns fed off of the Dinos' late-period success as Pronghorn Steve Zmudczynski put his team up on the Dinos only 20 seconds into the second frame. Although each team had impressive scoring chances during the remainder of the period, neither was able to capitalize and the Dinos' found themselves heading into the final period desperately needing a goal.
Zmudczynski put an end to such hopes four minutes into the third period, scoring the game-winning goal shorthanded and giving his team a 3-1 lead. The goal was a result of a misplay by the Dinos' defence in the neutral zone, leaving Zmudczynski alone to put the puck top-shelf behind Talbot. Dino freshman Reid Jorgensen, a Vancouver, B.C. native, was able to bring his team within one with a goal at the end of a man-advantage, but the Dinos would stop there.
"Reid's a quality player," explained Atkinson. "He's going to have a huge impact on the team; he's one of the top recruits from the junior [leagues] this season."
The Dinos headed into Saturday night's game hoping that a little home-crowd lovin' could turn the score back in their favour. Once again, Norrie drew first blood by beating Dino goalie Jordan McLaughlin in his debut between the pipes. Dino Torrie Wheat put the biscuit in the net only three minutes later to tie things up at a goal apiece and Horman found the back of the net for his first regular season powerplay goal to put the Dinos up 2-1 with six minutes remaining in the first period.
Penalties ran aplenty during the contest, but both goalies remained sharp and focused to keep things from getting out of hand. McLaughlin made 31 saves on the night, showing no signs of rust that could have evolved from not playing with the Dinos since 2006.
"It feels really good to get the first one out of the way," explained McLaughlin. "We were just trying to do the little things we needed to get the win."
The second period saw Dino Aaron Richards, who had amazing offensive success last season, score the game-winning goal five minutes in. The 'Horns tried to catch up in the third period, and Pronghorn Andrew Switzer made things interesting by scoring an even-strength goal with six minutes to go in the game. In the end, the 'Horns would fall just short in their 2-3 defeat and the Dinos skated off the ice with their first regular season win. Though proud of his team's victory, Atkinson noted there are still some kinks to work out.
"Tonight wasn't a good representation of what we are capable of," he said. "We're a hard-working group, and we just have to get better."