The University of Calgary men's hockey team's season ended in heartbreak on March 11. In a three-game series against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the third and final game ended at 6:33 in the third overtime.
With the U of C winning the first game 2-1 on Friday and the U of S winning the second 4-1 on Saturday, the Canada West final boiled down to one goal. In an evenly matched series, the winning team also gained a berth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship in Fredericton. Mark Howell, the Dinos head coach, said the game was especially critical because Canada West only had one spot for nationals.
"It's hard when you're in game three in a deciding game for a league trophy and a chance to go to the national championship," said Howell. "That next shot is so critical and every play is so critical that it is just a very intense, emotional game. I mean, it's everything you want from a championship series. We just ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard."
The team finished the season 15-11-2 in regular play and ranked fourth in the league. In the Canada West playoffs, they made it through the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba to earn a spot in the finals against the U of S.
Both teams played neck-in-neck in the series -- the final result could have gone either way.
"It was a great series," Howell explained. "Going into triple overtime in game three -- it was heartbreaking for everyone to watch the goal go in because we had lots of opportunities to score."
Two out of the three games finished in overtime. During the first game, the Dinos were able to capitalize 6:16 into overtime. Luke Egener shot the puck past the U of S net from the blue line.
In the second game, the U of S got on the scoreboard early and never gave up the lead.
"The rink was great, it was loud. The atmosphere was great. They had home ice, but we have played there enough that the guys were comfortable," Howell said.
The third game stands as the longest in the 83-year history of the Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon and is the longest game in the history of the Dinos program.
Howell said the final game was packed and both teams had tremendous scoring opportunities.
"We played really well and had lots of opportunities to score," said Howell. "Their goaltender made some really good saves, as did [Dustin] Butler."
The last time the Dinos won a championship was in 1996, and Howell said that, although many key players will be leaving the team, they will continue to recruit in order to put themselves in a position to win the championship. This year, captain Reid Jorgensen and defencemen Teigan Zahn and Joel Eisenkirch will be among the players finishing with the team.
"It's always hard to lose those guys, they have been such a big part of our program for so long," said Howell. "They are really proud [to be] a Dino and losing those key pieces is always hard, but that's part of the process. You have to continue to recruit to fill those pieces -- that's just the evolution of the program every year."