Valentine’s Day at Clare Drake Arena won’t be for the faint of heart this Friday. All will be fair in love and what will be mostly war as the No.1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears and the No.4 ranked Calgary Dinos renew hostilities in the final weekend of the regular season. At stake, first place in Canada West and home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
The Battle of Alberta is a home-and-home series this weekend, and gets underway on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena. Game two is on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. in Calgary.
The last time these two rivals collided in Edmonton, the end result was an epic, come-from-behind, double-OT thriller, which the Bears won 3-2 before an outstanding Clare Drake Arena crowd of 2,260 fans.
Third-year centre Kruise Reddick ripped a slapshot into the Calgary goal in double-overtime to clinch the comeback win, after Calgary had stunned the Edmonton crowd that night by scoring twice in the span of 25 seconds to buildup a 2-0 first-period lead.
The Dinos remained in front until 19:40 of the third period when Bears defenceman Jordan Rowley sent the game to overtime when he filtered a screened wristshot past Dinos’ goalie Jacob DeSerres with just 19.1 seconds left in the game. After nothing was solved in the first OT, Reddick hammered a shot that deflected off a Dinos’ stick and into the top corner for the game-winner.
Jordan Hickmott had scored Alberta’s first goal of the game in the second period.
One night earlier in Calgary, the Dinos and Bears played 40 minutes of scoreless hockey before Calgary broke the game open with two quick goals in the third to win 2-0.
That weekend’s series, when both teams were undefeated, was the first time since 1990 that Alberta, ranked No.1 and Calgary, ranked No.2, had met in the regular season ranked as the top two programs in CIS.
Fast forward two months later, and the provincial rivals clash again, with first place and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs on the line.
The Golden Bears, defending Canada West champions, enter the final weekend just two points up on the Dinos, an advantage earned thanks to a strong second half in which they’ve won nine of their 10 games. In fact, their only set back was a 4-3 overtime loss to Mount Royal, in which they still earned a point.
During that time, Alberta’s top line of Sean Ringrose, Johnny Lazo, and Torrie Dyck have been tearing it up. Ringrose, the team’s captain, won the January WHL Grad of the Month honours, after scoring 14 points in seven games. Dyck, a fifth-year like Ringrose, has also been on fire in the second half, notching 14 points in 10 games between January and February. Both players have also established career highs for points as a result. Lazo, meanwhile, has 30 points on the year, and is three points shy of a new personal best. He’s got 17 points in his last 10 games, including six points over the last three outings.
Ringrose and Dyck will be playing their final home regular season game this Friday, along with fifth-year defencemen Ian Barteaux, Colin Joe, and Ben Lindemulder.
The Bears enter this weekend on a five-game winning streak, and once again lead CIS in goals. The Bears have lit the lamp 135 times in 26 contests this season. They also lead the country in fewest goals against with just 47.
Goalies Kurtis Mucha and Luke Siemens lead Canada West in most categories, including Mucha’s 1.79 goals against average and Siemen’s .926 save percentage.
Calgary, meanwhile, entered the 2014 calendar year as the No.1 team in the country, but has lost four of their 12 games in the second half to slip to No.4 in the national rankings and second place in the conference standings. They are second in the nation in goal-scoring with 119, and they feature four of the top 10 scorers in Canada West. Rookie Chris Collins, a shoo-in to win the conference rookie of the year award, has 35 points, including a Canada West-best 19 goals.
Since the Dinos have lost a pair of games to Mount Royal, in separate home-and-home series, and were also swept by the suddenly resurgent Saskatchewan Huskies two weeks ago in Saskatoon, they will come into Edmonton with a massive chip on their collective shoulders.
The Golden Bears need just one win this weekend in order to clinch first place, while the Dinos need a victory in Edmonton, where they have a 3-9-1 record going back five seasons, as well as back in Calgary in order usurp first.
One thing is for certain this weekend, with so much on the line between the two rivals; one team will be going home broken-hearted.