After all those gruelling practices, those skull-crushingly boring laps on the treadmill, those thousands of hours of unspeakably banal video and terrifying verbal tirades courtesy of Coach Scott Atkinson, those days upon days upon days upon days of maddening bus trips through bleak, bleak Saskatchewan and God-awful Manitoba, after dozens of failed school assignments and seven or eight withdrawals on each transcript, after wanton alcohol and Sudafed abuse and severely strained relationships with girlfriends, boyfriends and family, after everything the Dinos men's hockey team had to endure this year, their season all came down to one final series, one final weekend, one final chance to make all of their sacrifices worthwhile, one final chance to prove to everyone that they were the best university hockey team in the nation. And they lost.
The Dinos travelled to the University of Saskatchewan to open their Canada West semi-final series with the Huskies on March 1. The Dinos were fresh off a sweep of the University of Lethbridge, while Saskatchewan earned a first-round bye. The Dinos came out flying, shocking the home-town hayseeds. But after going up 1--0 in the first on a Jason Boyd goal, Calgary's offence evaporated and their defence allowed four straight goals to the ravenous Huskies en route to a 4--1 loss. Saskatchewan managed to keep Calgary to a paltry 18 shots on net-roughly half the amount the Dinos averaged per game over the past two months.
Their veins coursing with rage, their season on the line, the Dinos rebounded the following night with a far better effort. Dallas Fallscheer, Boyd and Trevor Murray put the Dinos up 3--1 by the end of the first period. Ian Constable, Ronnie Grimard, Ken McKay and Jordan Walker poured salt into the Huskies' wounds with four unanswered goals in the second. Saskatchewan managed one more goal, but the final score saw the Dinos on the winning side of a 7--2 rout, tying the series at one.
With the best-of-three series down to a best-of-one, the teams met for a matinee March 3 to decide who would play the University of Alberta for the right to represent the West at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships in Kitchener, Ont. Saskatchewan opened the scoring at 1:04 of the first, and added to their lead four minutes later. Calgary's Walker potted his second of the series to cut the Dogs' lead to one. But the U of S responded again and the score was 3--1 Saskatchewan going into the second. Calgary battled hard all period, unloading a torrent of shots on the opposition net. Finally, Dino captain Sean Robertson scored on the powerplay with 30 seconds left in the second to narrow the Huskies' lead to
one. Alas... try as they might, the Dinos couldn't pull even despite ringing a shot off the post in the dying seconds of the third. The Huskies held on for a narrow 3--2 win in the game, a 2--1 series win and a March 8 date with the Golden Bears.
Their season over, the Dinos can go back to concentrating on academics, reuniting with friends and family, and generally enjoying their social lives once again.
The Huskies, on the other hand, face the possibility of several more weeks of exhausting hockey with little more to show for it than a plastic bauble hanging around their necks and a couple of claps on the back. Not to mention the fact that the Dinos will be better-rested come September when the season starts all over again. So think about it, who are the real winners? Clearly, the Dinos. Ha! Take that, Saskatchewan. Take your playoff victory and eat it, if you can.
Next week in the Gauntlet: The Dinos discuss prospects for menial summer employment.