In their last series before the holiday break, the Dinos were in the spirit of the season as they generously gave the University of Lethbridge a shiny new pair of losses to add to their already impressive collection.
The Dinos, who have really gelled of late, were simply too much for the outmatched Pronghorns. The early weekend started with a 3-2 win in Lethbridge Thu., Nov. 27, followed by a 3-1 home victory for good measure Fri., Nov. 28.
"There's a big rivalry between us," said fifth-year blueliner Sheldon Nedjelski about being up to the challenge of playing against U of L. "We know if we're not at the top of our game, they're going to beat us."
For a team which has endured more than its share of inconsistency early in the season, the Dinos have really answered the call.
"Our work ethic seems to improve every practice," said Nedjelski. "It has begun to show in our play."
A 6-1-1 record in their past eight games is a testament to the team's commitment to their defensive system, as well as consistent and timely goal scoring. The latter has been spearheaded by the offensive resurgence of forward Ken McKay, who's dominant performance in the Lethbridge series earned him his second Canada West men's hockey player of the week award of the year.
McKay had a hand in each of Thursday's three goals, as well as adding an assist Friday. Finishing the weekend with a goal and three assists vaulted McKay into the team lead in goals and into a tie for sixth place in Canada West scoring.
Not to be outdone Thursday were McKay's linemates Sean Robertson--who registered a goal and an assist for his sixth multiple point game of the year--and rookie standout Richard Mueller, who rounded out the scoring. It was another offensively dominant performance for the trio, who are quickly becoming regarded as one of the top lines in Canada West.
In the back end of the home-and-home Friday, neither side was let down as they came prepared for another fierce battle. The game's intensity level was consistent for the duration and, a couple of undisciplined penalties aside, the game had great flow. Although the Dinos played a technically sound game, the game was quick and exciting--which is more than can be said about the hockey played by Calgary's professional team.
Friday's was a character win for the Dinos, as they received goal scoring from other than the top line, and a solid effort from the entire team. Nedjelski opened the scoring with his first of the year, which, combined with his 12 assists, makes him the top scoring defenceman in the conference.
"I've always tried to add an offensive presence, but this year it seems to be coming a lot easier for me," said Nedjelski. "It helps having plenty of offensive guys around."
Wes Reid also continued his impressive campaign, notching his sixth marker, while Lonnie Tetley scored a goal late in the second frame to put the game out of reach.
With the victories, Calgary has snuggled into second place in the Mountain Division, seven points ahead of Lethbridge, but still well back of the powerhouse University of Alberta Golden Bears. A well-known fact around campus is the Dinos haven't beaten the Bears in 33 tries, something they will need to change if they are to be labeled as legitimate contenders.
"I don't necessarily think we have to beat U of A to be considered a contender. It sure would be nice, but we have beaten other strong teams in the past," Nedjelski pointed out. "We have played them close already this year, and I think we are as strong of a team as they are, but right now it's just mental for us. We have to prove to ourselves that we are able to beat them."
After the long Christmas layoff, the Dinos will have the chance to make their wish of knocking off the Golden Bears come true, as they face off in another home-and-home series.Â
But first, the team will be loosening up a bit after a hectic three months, and preparing for the Thunder Bay Tournament, held during the holiday break.