A battle until the very end went the way of the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team as they defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 3-0 in U SPORTS semifinal action in Lethbridge, AB on March 16.
The loss knocks the Huskies out of contention for their first U SPORTS title since 1983, but the team will still have the chance to play for a national medal for the fourth year in a row when they take part in the bronze medal game tomorrow.
Riley Kieser, Luke Philp and Grayson Pawlenchuk scored for the Golden Bears and Zach Sawchenko made 33 saves for the shutout.
2019 U SPORTS Goaltender of the Year Taran Kozun was strong throughout the game, making 42 saves for the Huskies.
All three of the Golden Bears goals came in the third period as a tight battle between the two Canada West rivals was swung in favour of Alberta.
A scoreless first period wasn’t devoid of offensive opportunities as the Huskies outshot the Golden Bears 16-13 in the opening frame.
Carson Stadnyk had the first real scoring chance of the game after he broke in on Sawchenko, but wasn’t able to put the puck past the Alberta netminder.
Kozun was then spectacular for the next ten minutes, making multiple saves including shutting the door on a Golden Bears two-on-one opportunity.
With six minutes left in the frame, a flurry of Huskies’ pressure saw Saskatchewan get their best scoring chance of the first period but the shot was ripped just wide.
A five-minute major right at the end of the first period put Saskatchewan on the back-foot to start the second.
Colby Harmsworth, Gordie Ballhorn and Jaimen Yakubowski all made huge blocks during the ensuing five minute penalty-kill and their efforts combined with some great saves by Kozun kept the game tied at 0-0.
Saskatchewan nearly opened the scoring on a power play of their own with just eight minutes left in the period when Stadnyk found Collin Shirley at the back-door, but the second-year forward’s shot just barely missed the net.
Alberta controlled much of the second and outshot Saskatchewan 18-5 in the frame, but Kozun once again stood tall to send the game into the third period with the teams all knotted up at zeroes.
The breakthrough for Alberta came just under two minutes into the third period when a wrist shot from Kieser made its way past a screened Kozun to give Alberta the lead.
Saskatchewan’s best chance at tying the game came just seconds later.
Shirley tipped a point shot that Sawchenko stopped and the product of Saskatoon made contact with the ensuing rebound, but the Alberta netminder did just enough to deflect the puck over the net.
With the Huskies pressing for an equalizer, Alberta added a pair of insurance markers late in the frame.
The bronze medal game is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow inside the ENMAX Centre and can be watched online at usports.live