Anyone taking on the University of Calgary men's hockeysaurs should be cowering in fear, as the boys are pushing hard to the playoffs. The Dinos played host to the University of Manitoba Bisons and came away with yet another sweep over the Feb. 8-9 weekend. Friday night's game saw the Dinos fight their way through penalty trouble to hold on for a 4-3 win. The series closer was also a tight one, but the Dinos managed to edge the Bisons by a score of 3-2. But who would be satisfied with two wins in one weekend? The Dinos made it a 3-0 weekend as they finished off their make-up series against the University of Alberta Golden Bears with a 2-1 victory.
Coming into the weekend series, the Dinos had just completed a sweep of the University of Regina Cougars in front of fans at Father David Bauer Arena. They did so with a couple of 4-3 wins and looked to continue their winning ways as they welcomed the Bisons. The Dinos had great success against their eastern rivals already sweeping the Bisons this season back in Nov. The hockeysaurs still had their work cut out for them, as the Bisons were also making a charge for their playoff lives. They were carrying momentum from salvaging a series split against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns the previous weekend and were looking to add to their success.
"There are no bad teams in this league," commented Dino captain Ryan Annesley. "We're expected to beat everyone now. We and everyone else has high expectations of our team."
The Dinos managed to find themselves back on their heels in the first minute of play of Fri. night's physical game. With Dino Brett O'Malley in the box for goaltender interference, Bison Kyle Howarth opened the scoring with a slap shot past hockeysaur netminder Jeff Weber. Annesley quickly brought his team even, by putting the puck top-shelf behind the Bisons' Krister Toews. The Dinos took the lead, which they never relinquished, on a Torrie Wheat powerplay goal in the last five minutes of the opening frame.
The Bisons knew they had to step it up, but the Dinos were bringing the pressure in the early second period. O'Malley created a bit of a cushion for his team, boosting their lead to 3-1 halfway through the period. That was all the Bisons needed to find that extra step and get themselves back in the game. Rick Wood slipped a Mike Hellyer pass past Weber and the Dinos were now clinging to a one-point lead.
In their desperation, the Dinos made a few questionable decisions. Weber, for one, came charging out of the net to challenge Bison forward Chris Faloon on the breakaway, but was subsequently called for a trip. A penalty shot ensued, but Faloon was not able to convert. The Dinos managed to dodge a bullet, but had to start playing smarter if they wanted to keep adding to the win column.
The Bisons made one final push with an unassisted goal by Chris Benias at the halfway point of the final frame, but the Bisons were not able to capitalize on two-man advantages at the end of the game. Annesley nearly upped the score to 5-3, but connected with the post on an empty-net shot with just seconds left in the game. The Dinos had another scare in the third period, when Annesley took a hard shot to the face. His quick exit to the dressing room was no cause for concern, as the captain made it back out to the ice for the final minutes of the game. The home team skated off with their third straight win and looked to extend their streak the following night.
"Everyone wants to keep winning [and] we like this feeling of winning almost every night," described Annesley. "We expect nothing less from ourselves and everyone's chipping in to make it happen."
Saturday night began in a similar fashion with the Dinos in penalty trouble. The hockeysaurs held off the Bisons and found the back of the net first. Dino Aaron Richards tipped a Dan Ehrman feed past Toews on the power play, and Dino scoring machine Jared Aulin added to the lead minutes later with an even-strength goal. In doing so, Aulin extended his point streak to 14 games and continued to make his offensive presence felt on the ice. Annesley also recorded an assist.
The game was again a physical one, with each team trying to gain dominance over the other. In the second period, the Bisons found their way around Dino netminder Jordan Mclaughlin, cutting the hockeysaurs' lead to one. O'Malley tallied his 14th goal of the season as he converted on his game-winning shot.
Despite a final push from the Bisons after they managed to score their second goal of the night, the Dinos were able to hold them off with Toews pulled. In doing so, the Dinos picked up their sixth sweep of the season, extending that winning feeling.
The Dinos' weekend didn't end with their sweep of the Bisons. They still had some business to take care of with the University of Alberta Golden Bears, who were in town for the second game being made up from November's mumps postponement. The Bears had already taken the first game in front of their home crowd and the Dinos looked to continue that streak in front of their own fans at Centennial Arena on Sun. night. The Golden Bears were well-rested from their weekend off, but the Dinos had momentum on their side from their success earlier in the weekend.
Wheat had a huge game for the Dinos, as he opened the scoring on a powerplay goal halfway through the first period. Aaron Richards, who recorded an assist on Wheat's score, tallied the game-winning goal midway through the second period. The Bears tried to make a game of it five minutes later, as Brian Woolger found the net behind Weber.
Although the Bears lost in the end, they put pressure on the Dinos throughout the game. There were many loose pucks that took a Bear bounce, but Weber and the Dinos were able to hold them off. The powerplay was the major difference for the teams. Although the Dinos and Bears each had six chances, the Dinos were able to step up defensively and hold the Bears to five shots and no goals.
With Sun. night's win, the Dinos clinch third place in the Canada West Conference and improve their record to 15-7-4, 15-2 since the addition of Weber and Aulin to the lineup. More importantly, they secured quarterfinals home-ice advantage for the weekend of Feb. 22-24 at Father David Bauer. The Dinos will have an advantage not only because of their fan support, but the ice they play on.
"Any team will tell you that it's a different game when you play in Calgary," explained Annelsey. "The ice is bigger than most other rinks, so we have an advantage in that we're used to it and its effects on the game."