Cougars put an exclamation point on the series; will play Alberta in semifinals

Cougars put an exclamation point on the series; will play Alberta in semifinals

Cougars put an exclamation point on the series; will play Alberta in semifinals

Justin McCaffrey, Mount Royal Cougars Sports Information

Calgary, AB – The Mount Royal Cougars survived an early third period scare to get past the UBC Thunderbirds 7-3 on Saturday night. The Cougars also claim the series 2-0 and will play Alberta next weekend for a berth at nationals.

Scott McKay, Connor Rankin (2), Tyler Fiddler, MacKenzie Johnston, Grant Baker and Zack Henry scored for Mount Royal. Jessi Hilton, Anthony Bardaro and Austin Vetterel scored for the Thunderbirds.

Colin Cooper made 25 of 28 saves to record his second career CIS victory. Eric Williams stopped 26 of the 33 shots he faced in the loss.

The Cougars picked up where they left off last night, relentlessly pressuring the Thunderbirds at every turn. UBC continued to play with the edge that saw them draw three misconduct penalties last night.

Mount Royal opened the scoring on a point shot from Scott McKay. Zack Henry won the draw back to McKay who looked to intentionally shoot wide of the net. The puck ricocheted off a UBC defender and into the top corner to give MRU a 1-0 lead.

The Cougars added to their lead when Jamie King curled the net down low and found Connor Rankin driving to the front of the net. King faked one way, then threw the puck back to Rankin who banged in the Cougars' second of the night.

Tyler Fiddler put an exclamation point on the first period with one of the most unconventional goals of his stellar career. Fiddler drove the net and with one hand, shoveled the puck out front. The puck caromed off the defenders' stick and up and over Eric Williams to extend the lead to three.

UBC clawed back in the second period when Jessi Hilton scored to cut the lead to two. Thunderbirds' leading scorer Anthony Bardaro grabbed a lose puck and slid it over to Hilton. Hilton chipped it past an outstretched Colin Cooper and UBC was back in the game.

Minutes later MacKenzie Johnston restored the Cougars' three-goal lead. Captain Matt Brown made a great defensive play at his own blue line. He kicked the puck up to MacKenzie Johnston who broke in two-on-one with Cam Maclise. Johnston looked off Maclise and wired it top corner to give Mount Royal a 4-1 lead heading into the intermission.

Mount Royal looked like they had it sewn up heading into the second period but the Thunderbirds' top line had something to say about that. Anthony Bardaro scored just 13 seconds into the third to give UBC some life. Austin Vetterel brought the T-birds to within one just seconds later after a mad scramble had Colin Cooper down. Vetterel made no mistake and the Cougars' lead was cut to one.

The game tightened up significantly after that and Mount Royal was gripping their sticks a little tight. Tyler Fiddler was able to give the Cougars some breathing room when he set up a streaking Grant Baker to restore the multi-goal lead.

Zack Henry and Connor Rankin added two more goals to seal up the 7-3 victory.  

With the win the Cougars claim the best-of-three series and advance to the Canada West semifinals. The Cougars will match up against the two-time defending national champions, the Alberta Golden Bears. Game one is set for Friday night at 7pm at the Clare Drake Arena.