EDMONTON - Despite dressing just 16 skaters due to a plethora of injuries, the shorthanded Golden Bears bounced back with a 5-1 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies, Sunday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Following a disappointing 5-2 loss in the season-opener the previous night, the Bears responded with an important win in the series finale. Taylor Cooper scored twice for Alberta, while Sawyer Lange, Steven Owre, and Clayton Kirichenko also found the net. Sophomore goalie Zach Sawchenko stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced for the win, allowing only a Carson Stadnyk goal late in the second.
It was a game that was largely dominated by special teams, particularly for the Bears in the second period. The two rivals combined to go 0-14 on the powerplay, including an 0-8 mark from the visitors. Not only was their man advantage not finding opportunities, they also forfeited a pair of shorthanded goals to Alberta in the second frame.
Lange opened the scoring midway through the first, beating Huskie goalie Taran Kozun from distance with an awkward shot that handcuffed the second-year Huskie stopper. Cooper doubled the Alberta lead late in the first, as he drove wide around the Saskatchewan defence, before pulling the puck around Kozun in tight for the beautiful finish.
The two teams combined for 56 penalty minutes in the second period alone, with the trademark fierceness showing up between the two powerhouse programs. The Huskies had five powerplay opportunities in the second frame alone, but not only managed to come away empty, but saw their deficit increase.
Cooper potted his second of the night shorthanded, beating Kozun five hole off a breakaway created by a turnover at the Bears blueline. Owre gave Alberta a commanding 4-0 lead, beating Kozun with an absolute laser just 25 seconds later, also while the Huskies were on the powerplay.
Kirichenko's tally five minutes later capped off a wild second period for the Bears, ripping in a one-timer off a feed from Cooper on a three-on-one rush.
Standnyk finally put Saskatchewan on the board in the final minutes of the second, beating Sawchenko off a fantastic solo effort from in tight.
The Bears defence held up tremendously well in the third, allowing just three shots from the Huskies in the final frame. Sawchenko stopped all three with ease, giving the Bears their first win of the season.
Both teams will have one week off from conference play, which features a Bears non-conference trip to Colorado, before the teams return to Canada West action the following weekend.