Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY - "Tonight we play for them" was the theme of the Nov. 24 matchup between host Mount Royal Cougars and the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies. Cougars captain Jamie King stated, "It was really special for us, it's nice to give back to the military whenever we can. It was a good game for everyone." The Cougars played in their sixth annual MRU Remembers game inside the Flames Community Arenas in Calgary Friday night, dropping the contest 3-2. The last time these two schools clashed heads was in last years Canada West playoffs where the Huskies swept MRU on home-ice.
The first period was a tightly fought affair between the streaking schools, with the Huskies snapping the Alberta Golden Bears' win streak of 11 games, while MRU Cougars are coming off a sweep against the UBC Thunderbirds.Saskatchewan made the first move only seconds into the game. Defenceman Connor Cox found himself open at the top of the slot and fired a low shot on MRU goalie Cam Lanigan who caught the puck landing in a splits position. Lanigan is coming off two back-to-back wins in B.C. during the sweep of the 'Birds one weekend ago and made 31 stops tonight. Mount Royal's first jab of the frame came from second-year Jamal Watson. Watson, who scored in last years MRU Remembers game, got sprung on a breakaway from his end but was denied by goaltender Taran Kozun, who started in his third contest of the year. Visitors Saskatchewan almost found the back of the net during their first of five power plays of the game.
With a mobile Saskatchewan offensive unit working the Cougars, Jesse Forsberg received the puck at the bottom of the right face-off circle but was in an awkward position to pull the trigger: sending it past an open net. Zach Henry cooled off the Saskatchewan momentum when he hit the post in the final minutes, driving to the net but chipping the puck off the iron. Both teams went scoreless heading into the first intermission. MRU hit the post for the second time after a Brad Kennedy effort from a Luke Simpson feed hit the side of the post and out.
Saskatchewan caught another early second-period break when the referees waved off a Cougars goal. Winger Tanner Olstad shot the puck into the glove of Kozun, however, he caught the puck deep in his net which caused confusion. To MRU's dismay, the goal was called off. Jesse Lees, however, gave the Cougars a goal 6:50 into the second period. Hunter Zandee fed a patient Lees on the blue-line. He danced his way past a few Husky players and then snapped the puck bar-down on Kozun for the first marker of the game and his third of the year. The Huskies tied the game at 14:23 taking advantage of their third power play of the frame. Captain Kendall McFaull planted himself in front of the net and slapped in a one-timer to tie the game at 1-1. Saskatchewan went two for five on the man-advantage. "We handed these guys the game, we gave them way too many power plays and that's the reality of it," King notes after the contest. 1-1 was the score heading into the final period.
The third period decided the match. Josh Lawrence was at the right place at the right time 4:52 into the third period to give his side a 2-1 lead. The puck went off the post and off Lanigan to the top of the crease where Lawrence tapped the puck in. A second Huskie power play marker beat a tired penalty kill at 12:04. Forsberg shot the puck past a sprawled Lanigan for Saskatchewan's third unanswered goal of the game. Kennedy pulled one back for the Cougars, slipping a rebound past the wickets of Kozun for his eight on the year but that's all the Cougars could muster in the last minutes of the third. Kozun stopped 27 shots on the way to the Huskies second straight win. The rubber match is set for 6 PM at the FCA Saturday night.