Hope springs eternal for all teams before the start of a new season and the Dinos were no exception heading into their season opening series against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sept. 26-27.
Despite the 10-1 rout on Saturday, head coach Scott Atkinson felt that his team's 4-3 losing performance a day earlier could have garnered a win as well.
"I was disappointed we didn't get two wins," he said.
With an excellent mix of speed, grit, offence, and leadership, the Dinos entered play on Friday night ranked as the seventh best team in the country and third best in Canada West, behind the University of Alberta Golden Bears and University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Looking to start the campaign off on the right foot, head coach Scott Atkinson tabbed super sophomore Jeff Weber to man the pipes in front of a solid crowd of over 300 at Father David Bauer arena.
The Thunderbirds opened the scoring at 3:55 of the first when-- with Dino Adam Redmond off for hooking-- third-year T-Bird Jeff Lynch ripped a shot that eluded Weber and found the back of the net for the early 1-0 advantage. The goal seemed to spark the Dinos, who began mounting an offensive barrage against UBC, with only the sparkling play of fourth-year T-Bird Gerry Festa maintaining the lead. Festa-- formerly of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels-- repelled several quality chances with excellent positioning.
The Dinos would launch 13 shots on net in the first period, but it was not enough as they found themselves down 3-0 thanks to goals by T-Birds Craig Lineker and Clayton Bauer.
"We ran into a hot goalie and gave up a few weak goals," said Atkinson.
The second period would see more of the same from the Dinos, as Atkinson called for strong puck movement in their own zone and more shots.
Calgary was eventually rewarded for their play, when key offensive cog Torrie Wheat bulged the twine off a rebound on the power play at 18:42. Seconds later, new Dino Brock Nixon would bring Calgary within one with his first Canadian Interuniversity Sport goal, taking a pass from Adam Redmond.
The Dinos again carried the play in the third, peppering Festa with 17 shots, but Calgary's undoing came when Kevin Voytechek accepted a cross-crease pass from Jeff Lynch and made no mistake in beating a hapless Weber, giving UBC a 4-2 lead.
"It goes to show how much being behind changes your confidence," said Atkinson.
Torrie Wheat would bring the Dinos within one with his second goal of the evening, but the score would settle 4-3 in favour of the Thunderbirds.
Wheat's performances over the weekend earned him Canadian Interuniversity Sport male athlete of the week and Dinos male athlete of the week honours.
Atkinson said that Wheat stood out among the rest of the team.
"That's a significant performance," he said.
Despite the loss the Dinos had a solid foundation to build upon for the next game. They outshot the T-Birds 42-19 and controlled the play for most of the evening. They were four for nine on the powerplay.
The Dinos came roaring out of the gate on Saturday, skating their way to a 10-1 beat down on the Thunderbirds in front of 280 thrilled fans.
"I thought the games were very similar," said Atkinson. "We can't give up three goals in the fashion we gave them."
Led by the dynamic offensive trio of Wheat, Aaron Richards and Reid Jorgensen, the Dinos controlled the play during the first period.
The offensive onslaught began early in the third period with U of C leading 4-1. Teegan Moore put away his first goal of the season on the power play at 1:37 and the floodgates opened up on the Thunderbird net. Wheat notched his third of the season just 26 seconds later and the rout was on.
UBC head coach Milan Dragicevic lifted Festa in favour of rookie Joe Rodwell who valiantly attempted to stop the bleeding, but to no avail. By the time the final buzzer went, Wheat had notched his sixth goal of the season, giving him the early Canada West scoring lead.
"I thought the game and result was a snapshot of how good this team can be," said Atkinson.
The win improves Calgary's record to 1-1 and sets them up for their return to conference play on Oct. 10 against the defending CIS Champions, the University of Alberta Golden Bears, in a home-and-home set that finishes in Calgary Oct. 11.
In the interim, the Dinos will travel across town to play in the non-conference SAIT Eyeopener tournament next weekend.