With the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference playoffs just around the corner, the University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team knows that every game is crucial for determining playoff positions.
The Dinos waged war against one of their inner-city rivals, the SAIT Trojans, this past weekend. Each team won one, and the Dinos grabbed a much-needed two points.
Road woes continued to plague the team as they lost another game away from home ice, losing 4-2 to SAIT Fri., Jan. 19. The Trojans were looking to sneak into the Olympic Oval and leave with another 'W' the next night, but there were no wooden horse shenanigans this time around, as the Dinos battled tooth and claw to take the 2-1 victory in what turned out to be a highly emotional and physical game.
"You could feel the emotion in the dressing room before the game," said Dinos head coach Dean Holden. "It was a playoff atmosphere."
Both teams came out of the gate equally, matching each other stride for stride with offensive zone puck control. However, the Trojans got on the board first, converting on their first powerplay of the game, a shot that took an odd deflection past Dinos goalie Katie Urness and into the net. The powerplay was the first of seven on the night for SAIT, while the Dinos ended up with eight chances.
The lead held up through the rest of the first and for all of the second as the Trojans used their big-body presence to block shots in front of the net and to control the boards, holding the Dinos' offensive chances to a minimum. Special teams became crucial, as both teams were unable to capitalize on numerous powerplay opportunities in the period, including a mid-period five-on-three for the U of C.
But all that changed at the start of the third. Going into the game, the Dinos looked almost certain to lose another heartbreaker, but that wasn't the case Saturday. Making use of another five-on-three, the Dinos scored 35 seconds into the period as forward and former Trojan Chelsey Morrill put the rebound puck home at the side of the net.
With new life and momentum back on their side, the Dinos let loose a mighty roar and went after their opponents, sparking the most exciting and passionate hockey of the season as both teams gave it their all, refusing to give up any ground. The intensity could be felt radiating throughout the arena. Scoring chances were exchanged, but overtime was needed to decide a winner.
The Dinos started overtime a skater short, having to kill off more than a minute and a half of penalty time, but Urness continued her strong play, keeping her team in it with two huge saves.
"I stayed big in the net and the D played great in front of me," said Urness, who stopped 20 out of 21 shots, her best game since recently returning from an injury. "I saw the puck well, making it easy to stop."
With an even number of skaters and a hungry appetite for victory, the Dinos made one ferocious attack and were finally rewarded for it. After an aggressive push in the offensive zone by the Dinos, the Trojans attempted a clear, which was stopped inches short of going offside by an amazing speed burst from the neutral zone and a stretched-out stick from defender Sarah Clowes. Clowes then deked a Trojan defender and passed the puck to Morrill, who used the open space to skate in on former Dino goaltender Natalie Gertsmarb. She put the puck perfectly in the blocker-side top corner, completing the comeback and topping off the Dinos' biggest win of the season.
"The coaches got us motivated between periods," said Morrill. "We knew what we had to do and capitalized on it. We kept the momentum going into OT and we scored."
"We played hard tonight again, but we played consistently," added Holden. "It was a very focused game."