Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - Sophomore University of Alberta Golden Bears forward Luke Philp continued to torch Canada West, recording his first hat trick of the season, leading the Bears to a dominate 7-2 win Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
The WHL Graduate of the Month for October, Philp added three goals to his existing 12 points, giving the second-year Bear 16 points in just nine games, second only to Saskatchewan's Logan McVeigh, who has 17. The Golden Bears also improved to 9-0-0 in conference play, while the Pronghorns slip to 1-7-1 this season.
Graeme Craig, Brandon Magee, Stephane Legault, and Steven Owre also scored for Alberta. Trevor Cox added four assists in the win, along with three from Cole Sanford. Rookie goalie Zach Sawchenko was also solid, stopping 28 of the 30 Lethbridge shots he faced, as his record improves to 6-0-0.
Jay Merkley and Justin Valentino found the net for the visitors on Friday, while goalie Garret Hughson suffered his fourth loss of the season after allowing seven goals on 53 shots.
This is the first time since 2013-14 the Golden Bears have started the Canada West season with nine-straight wins. The 2013-14 Bears won their first 12 conference games, en route to matching Canada West and national championship titles.
The Bears showed they may be just as good as the 13-14 team, owning Lethbridge from the second the puck dropped on Friday night. Alberta fired 20 shots in the opening frame, breaking the game open with three goals in the first 11 minutes. Philp scored two of his three in the first period, while Craig added his fourth of the season in the first.
Both teams had great chances in the second, with the two programs exchanging a pair of goals each. However, every time Lethbridge scored, Alberta would answer right back. Merkley's goal was followed by Philp's hat trick goal, and Valentino's tally was answered by a Magee breakaway goal in the final minute.
The Magee tally was the back-breaker for Lethbridge, who allowed another pair of goals in the third in the lopsided loss.
The series rubber match will get underway at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow night, following the University's Clare Drake celebration, in honour of the former Bears coach's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Both the game, as well as the full pre-game ceremony, will be broadcast live on Canada West TV.