LETHBRIDGE - Golden Bears captain Riley Kieser scored the game winning goal, and sophomore goalie Zack Sawchenko recorded his third straight post season shutout against the Saskatchewan Huskies as the #1 ranked Bears advanced to the 2019 University Cup championship game with a 3-0 win Saturday afternoon.
The Bears will now play for their second consecutive national championship banner, as well as their fourth in the last six years and U SPORTS record 17th in team history. They’ll meet the winner of UNB vs St. FX on Sunday at 6:00 pm, and live on Sportsnet Now.
Sawchenko was named Player of the Game after he stopped all 26 shots he faced. He has now recorded three consecutive playoff shutouts against the Huskies, while only allowing two goals against in his last five post-season games this season.
“I obviously get credit for the shutout, but this was a total team effort,” noted Sawchenko post game. “This team is dialled in. We are playing the right way, and the guys in front of me are making it easier for me to make saves. I really like the way we’re playing the team game right now.”
“We know against these guys, they’re always close games”, added head coach Ian Herbers. “We kept playing the right way and finally found the back of the net.”
After two scoreless periods between the bitter rivals, it was Alberta’s captain and fifth-year centre Riley Kieser who broke the deadlock. Fighting off a check by Huskies’ captain Jesse Forsberg, Kieser left Forsberg on the ice in a heap to take a drop pass from fellow fifth-year Stephane Legault. He then wired a low snapshot through a screen to beat Taylor Kozun just 1:38 into the final frame.
“We ended up getting rewarded for all our hard work and getting bodies in front of the net,” said Kieser. “I benefitted from some great work by the other guys on that shift, and was able to be in a position to make a play.”
Luke Philp, the 2019 U SPORTS Player of the Year, made it 2-0 Alberta when Kozun, the 2019 U SPORTS Goalie of the Year, bobbled a puck on a soft dump-in, losing the biscuit to Grayson Pawlenchuk who quickly dished to the top of the crease where Philp easily pumped the puck into the empty net.
Pawlenchuk, named to the national all-rookie team after a stellar debut season, slid home an empty net goal with 35 seconds left to put the cherry on top.
The three goals, however, weren’t the only fireworks in the third period. Forsberg, in his fifth and final season, initiated a fight and brawl at centre ice after Pawlenchuk’s goal. A trio of Huskies were assessed game misconducts and will be suspended for their bronze medal game on Sunday, and although a pair of Bears were also assessed game misconducts, no players from Alberta will be suspended for the gold medal game. Additionally, Chad Folk of the Huskies was given a game misconduct in the first period after hitting Alberta forward Trevor Cox from behind near the boards at the end of the first period.
Alberta ended the game with a 46-26 shot advantage, and have now beaten the Huskies in two straight University Cup semifinals.
Puck drop for the Sunday championship game is 6:00 PM MT, and will be broadcast live on Sportsnet Now.