It was an ending that nobody expected.
The Alberta Golden Bears scored three goals in a span of 2 minutes and 16 seconds and went on to beat the University of Saskatchewan 6-3 and win the Canada West hockey title.
“I thought we were in control of the game but we lost some confidence and then that happened,” said Huskies head coach Dave Adolph.
Things started out well for Saskatchewan as Carson Stadnyk put the home side up with the lone goal of the first period. The first year forward took the puck on a bounce off the back boards and beat Bears goalie Brendan Burke.
The second period saw special teams take over, a part of the game silenced heading in. Neither side had scored a powerplay goal in the series.
Saskatchewan’s woes with the man advantage sunk to a new low when Alberta’s Luke Philp took a loose puck down the ice and beat Jordon Cooke low blocker side.
That meltdown temporarily ignited the Huskies, who took the game to Alberta and made them pay for a goaltender interference call. Connor Gay snuck into the slot and buried a stray puck past Burke and gave the Huskies another lead.
After scoring twice in the regular season, Gay scored three goals in the final series. All but one of Saskatchewan’s goals were scored by bottom-six forwards.
“Your best players have to be your best players,” said Adolph. “Good for Connor and our other first years played well but our veterans have to be better in a national championship scenario.”
Gay’s power play marker was the first for either team in the series. Alberta would get in on the act as Cole Sanford ended the second period with a game-tying goal on the man advantage.
Initially, the Bears goal didn’t sway the momentum in their favour in the third. The Huskies opened the period with the energy and generated some chances that Bears goalie Burke — son of former NHL goalie Sean Burke — was able to kick out.
All that Saskatchewan momentum would break in one fell swoop, rather three.
Alberta leading goal scorer Jamie Crooks gave the Bears their first lead of the game. Two minutes later Taylor Cooper potted his second of the series. Nine seconds after that, Crooks walked into the Huskies zone and silenced the sold-out crowd in Saskatoon with a slapshot that dumbfounded Cooke and gave the Huskies a mountain to climb in the final period.
“It’s tough to respond,” said Adolph. “Lights out.”
Saskatchewan would make a game of it though. Jordan Tkatch had the last touch in a mad scramble that made it a two-goal game.
Crooks would complete the hat-trick with an empty netter and seal the win for Alberta, their 26th Canada West Title.
The Huskies can take some solace in knowing the season isn’t over. Both finalists qualify for the University Cup, the U Sports national championship.
“I think we can learn from it,” said Huskies captain Kendall McFaull “We know the mistakes we made but we get to go to nationals and work on that.”
With the loss, the Huskies lose their seeding as the number two team in the country, which may set up a more difficult schedule when the tournament begins Mar. 16 in Fredericton, NB.