Simply put, it was a war. And when the clock hit zero and the air cleared, the good guys walked away from the first round victorious.
The first round of the Canada West playoffs offered high intensity hockey, good goaltending, and a slough of powerplay goals; one for every girl with missing teeth cheering for the Pronghorns in the stands.
Hygenics aside, both teams came into the three game series very prepared for what their opponent would throw at them. It was obvious early in game one that it was not going to be a cakewalk for the Dinos, when only 1:55 into the game the Pronghorns struck their stunned opposition with a powerplay goal to take the early lead.
The Dinos, however, stuck to the game plan and didn't get rattled. With just over five minutes remaining in the first they were rewarded. Captain Ken McKay grinded out a shorthanded chance on which Sean Robertson chipped in a rebound to draw the game even. Both teams had great opportunities to take the lead after that, but were denied until mid-way through the third period. That's when Ryan Geremia lifted a shot over a helpless Pronghorn netminder. That sliced the tension in the building, and propelled the Dinos to the 2-1 opening game victory.
The Pronghorns threw a curveball in game two when they decided to start Andrew Houtheys in net, even though game one goalie Kirby Millar had performed admirably. Whatever hunch the Lethbridge coach was playing definitely seemed to work--the Dinos came out flat and found themselves behind a 4-0 wall. It wasn't until goals halfway through the third frame, by Mike Muzechka and Craig Strain, that the team woke up from their game-long slumber. But despite the comeback attempt, it was too little too late as they found themselves on the short end of a 5-2 score.
However, the momentum from late in the second game seemed to carry straight into the deciding game as the home squad jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead on the strength of goals from Ken McKay, Jason Boyd, and Trevor Segstro.
When Sean Robertson scored his first of the night early in the second period, it looked as if the Dinos would be able to cruise into the next round. The Pronghorns seemed to swing the momentum though, scoring only minutes later. That goal turned the tide of the game and Lethbridge scored three unanswered goals, the last of which tied the game at four apeice 30 seconds into the third period.
Things went from bad to worse later in the third when a Dinos powerplay goal was disallowed because the net was ajar. That was followed by Dino goalie Aaron Baker getting ran by a Pronghorn player, which forced Baker to leave the game.
Tyler Nilsson stepped in, and the team stepped up. Robertson played hero and wired a shot on the powerplay that found mesh giving Calgary the lead again.
The Dinos held off the Pronghorn attack giving Nilsson plenty of help, and with under a minute left in the game, Robertson found the empty net to ensure the victory, the series win, and the hat-trick.
After sneaking through the first round, the team will have to collect itself for a much tougher opponent. The Dinos travel to Edmonton to face the top ranked U of A Golden Bears and although the Dinos did struggle against their northern rivals during the regular season, the Mountain Division Finals will give the team a chance at redemption, and revenge. Game one of the best of three starts Friday Feb. 28. Games start at 7:30 p.m.