Lethbridge – After weathering an early Lethbridge Pronghorn storm, the U Sports second ranked Saskatchewan Huskies skated to a 4-1 victory over the host Pronghorns.
The loss drops the Pronghorns to 11-12-3 and after a UBC win in Calgary today versus the Mount Royal Cougars, the Pronghorns and Thunderbirds enter the final game of the regular season tied for the final playoff spot.
Having already clinched first place in the conference, the Huskies improve to 20-5-2 and will have home ice throughout the Canada West playoffs.
Entering the weekend the Pronghorns need a single win or a UBC loss to clinch a playoff spot and their play in the opening 20 minutes showed that desperation, outshooting the Huskies 21-8 but they could not solve the reigning CIS goalie of the year Jordan Cooke.
Jay Merkley had the Pronghorns best chance of the opening frame, redirecting a waist high point shot down that looked like it would find its way through Cooke’s legs but he was quick to clamp the hole shut.
For the Huskies Josh Roach had the only dangerous chance in the first, sprinting in on a breakaway but ‘Horns freshman Garret Hughson was equal to the task to keep the game scoreless.
In the second it was Hughson’s turn to shine, making multiple difficult saves in the early going to hold the Huskies attack at bay. However, the Huskies would score the lone goal of the period just past the mid-way mark of the period. Parker Thomas jammed home a rebound in tight for his fifth of the season.
While shorthanded, the Pronghorns had their best chance to bring the game back level but again Cooke made a stellar save. Justin Valentino found a streaking Dalton Sward backdoor on a two-on-one but Cooke just got a piece of it.
After a tentative opening part of the third, David Strumborg’s point shot slipped through Hughson’s pads to give the Huskies a two goal lead on his first of the season.
The two goal lead didn’t last long as the Pronghorns would finally get one past Cooke just over a minute after Strumborg’s goal. Sam McKechnie drove the net, receiving a pass from Ryan Chynoweth, outwaiting Cooke and going post and in.
With just under five minutes to play, Pronghorn Mitch Maxwell came close to tying the score with his shot deflecting off a Huskie defender and looping over Cooke but the puck found the cross bar.
With a late power play, the Huskies made the Pronghorns pay with just under three minutes to play. John Lawrence snuck in back door, taking a cross ice pass from Levi Cable and beating Hughson short side to regain the two goal lead.
The Huskies sealed the victory with an empty net goal from Michael Sofillas at 18:01, his 12th of the season.
Both Hughson and Cooke finished the night with 36 saves.
The task is simple for the Pronghorns tomorrow, win and they are in. Puck drops between the Pronghorns and Huskies at 7:00pm at Nicholas Sheran Arena.