Sheri Lamb, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG – Adam Henry had two assists and the Manitoba Bisons overcame a two-goal deficit to split their Canada West men's hockey opening series against the UBC Thunderbirds at the Wayne Fleming Arena on Sunday, Oct. 8 with a 3-2 home victory.
After losing their season, and home, opener 6-4 against the T-Birds on Saturday night the Bisons showed resilience in overcoming an early 2-0 deficit for the 3-2 win less than 24 hours later. Both teams now hold a 1-1-0
Bisons' head coach Mike Sirant credited his team's persistence, all-around team effort and willingness to adapt its physicality to earn the series split.
"It was a team win. Everybody made a contribution and invested themselves in the game," said Sirant, the 22 year head coach. "It was like a playoff game. We want to be a playoff-ready team, which means we have to play playoff-style hockey now and build on it throughout the year. Today, I thought we did play a style that will be effective in the playoffs."
Henry, a third year defenceman and one of the alternate captains with the Bisons, had to spend a couple nervous minutes in the penalty box watching as his teammates killed off his interference penalty late in the third as the Thunderbirds attempted to find the equalizer.
Manitoba tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period as Liam Bilton carried the puck out of his zone, down the right-side boards, drawing the attention and commitment of Toth before sliding the puck across the ice to Brett Brooks' stick who put it in the open net on the two-on-one play.
The Bisons took their first lead of the game midway through the third period when captain Brett Stovin redirected defenceman Henry's point shot past Toth for the 3-2 lead. Nick Zajac also drew an assist on the power-play goal.
Sirant said every player sacrificed for the team win, including Stovin who overcame a broken nose to score the game winner, Quintin Lisoway who got a cut on his eye and Kamerin Nault who scored the Bisons' first goal after being checked hard into the boards.
"That was an outstanding game there were so many examples of sacrifice on our team," said Sirant. "Overall everybody on our team invested in the game and made the sacrifice.
"We have to be a team that works very hard and out competes our opponents and we did that tonight," he added. "We were physical, though at times in the first period we crossed the line in terms of physicality that led to penalties. We corrected that in the second period and still played physical, but more controlled we were effective."
Earlier in the game, the home side came out flying in the first 10 minutes of the rematch with the T-Birds, keeping the puck deep inside their opponents' end and outshooting their west coast rivals 8-1. But the Bisons were unable to beat Rylan Toth as the rookie goaltender from Saskatoon made his Canada West regular season debut.
Bison second year Shawn Bowles had a strong period. About two minutes into the game he held the puck in at the UBC' blueline, which led to more than a minute of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. The Bisons were awarded the first power play of the game but were unable to capitalize.
UBC found its legs after killing off the minor and they turned the game into a 200-foot game. The rough play from the opening game Saturday night soon returned and the Bisons found themselves short two men for 39 seconds.
After sustained pressure and a nice toe save off of the UBC defender by Bisons goalie Byron Spriggs, Austin Vetterl found the top corner on Spriggs' glove side with an unassisted goal for the 1-0 lead. The goal came two seconds after the two-man advantage expired.
Vetterl added a second power-play goal late in the period, assisted by Jerret Smith for the 2-0 lead after one period. The Bisons outshot the Thunderbirds 9-6 in the first period – at one juncture they had a run of eight straight shots and held an 8-1 advantage. UBC was 2-for-4 on the power play.
Sirant said despite trailing in the game he was happy with his team's effort in the period.
"We played really great in the first period, unfortunately we ran into some penalties and they scored a couple power-play goals, but we were doing the right things during the game," said Sirant. "We knew if we stayed with it and kept executing the game plan the way we talked about before the game then eventually we'd get rewarded."
It was a defensive second period by the Thunderbirds as they attempted to protect the two-goal lead. The only two shots UBC put on Spriggs came on their lone power play midway through the frame.
The Bisons were unable to beat Toth until late in the second period on the second of back-to-back power plays. UBC killed off a checking from behind minor penalty against Joe Carvalho – he also received a 10 minute misconduct which carried over to the third period – but were unable to do the same for defenceman Riley Guenther's interference penalty.
Carvalho's penalty came when he hammered Bisons' sophomore Nault into the end boards behind Toth. Nault had the last laugh though. After getting the all-clear from the Bisons' athletic therapist on the bench, Nault broke Toth's bid for a shutout with a point-blank shot from the bottom of the left circle. The power-play goal came with about one minute to play in the period and was assisted by Bisons' forward Michael St. Croix and Henry.
Manitoba outshot UBC 29-16 in the game. The three stars were Stovin with first star, Nault was second star and Vetterl was third.
The Bisons (1-1) head west to Edmonton for a pair of road games Friday and Saturday, October 13 and 14 against the Alberta Golden Bears while UBC host Calgary the same weekend.
Bisons Notes – In a pre-game ceremony Bisons fourth year defenceman Channing Bresciani, a product of the Winnipeg Blues junior hockey system and graduate of Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg, received the annual Wayne Fleming scholarship for dedication to academics and athletics.