EDMONTON – Sophomore forward Jayden Hart ripped a bar down beauty early in the third period to stake the No.6 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears to a 2-1 win over the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
The win bumps Alberta to a 17-7-1 record, but more importantly keeps them in second place in the Canada West standings with 35 points. They remain two points ahead of the surging Calgary Dinos, who have now won three straight, and three points ahead of the Mount Royal Cougars, who were in second place two weeks ago, but have gone 0-3-1 since then to fall into fourth place.
Lethbridge, meanwhile, sits in sixth place at 10-12-3, good enough for 23 points and the final playoff spot for now. They trail the fifth place Manitoba Bisons by three points, and only sit two points up on the 9-13-2 UBC Thunderbirds.
If the Horns can hold off UBC, they’ll face another Alberta team in the opening round of the playoffs, either Calgary or Mount Royal, while the Golden Bears are trying to remain in the second spot so they can earn a first round ‘bye’, as well as home ice in the semi-final series.
On Friday night, the Evergreen and Gold got off to a sluggish start, skating for 10 minutes without registering a shot on the Lethbridge goal. Rookie Horns goalie Garret Hughson ended up making seven saves in the opening frame, but was beat by Bears rookie Cole Linaker at 18:25, which gave Alberta the 1-0 lead.
Slowly, Alberta began to find their skating legs, and after being out-shot 8-7 in the first, they managed 13 in the second, four more than the visitors, but couldn’t solve Hughson. Lethbridge, however, looked to have caught a break when Alberta starting goalie Brendan Burke had to leave the game after 20 minutes when he fell ill between periods. With Hughson giving up no ground behind them, and Alberta forced to play back-up goalie Kenny Cameron, the game seemed like it could tilt in the favour of the Pronghorns.
Hart, however, put a dagger in the hopes of Lethbridge at 4:10 of the third, when he walked off the half wall, and snapped a perfect shot over Hughson’s shoulder and into the top short-side corner of the goal for the 2-0 lead.
Just over five minutes later, Ryon Moser clawed the deficit back to one goal for the visitors when he beat Cameron while Lethbridge skated with the man-advantage. It would be the last goal of the game, however, as even with Hughson on the bench, Cameron and the Bears were able to stymie Lethbridge enough to pick up the win.
Cameron earned the win, his second of the season, by stopping 16 of 17 shots in relief of Burke.
The two teams will square off again on Saturday, February 4 at 6:00 p.m. MST.
The game was played in front over 1,400 fans at Clare Drake Arena, including members of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPLCI) from the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton, who were invited as part of 'ATB Financial's Military Appreciation Night', as well as several hundred University of Alberta international students who were experiencing their first ever live hockey game...The Golden Bears wore camouflage warm-up sweaters as well