Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - The University of Alberta Golden Bears clinched first place in Canada West for the first time since 2014-15 after sweeping the Saskatchewan Huskies with a 3-1 win, Saturday night at Clare Drake Arena.
With the win, the Golden Bears (22-3-1) will get a 'bye' through the conference quarter-final series, and own home ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Saskatchewan, having lost their last four conference games, fall to 18-7-1, and will need two points next weekend against Mount Royal to clinch second.
First-year Bear Steven Owre scored twice on Saturday, his 15th and 16th goals, which vaults him into a tie with teammate Jamie Crooks for the conference lead. Tyson Baillie also scored for Alberta, while starter Brendan Burke made 28 saves on 29 shots to earn his 11th win of the season.
Parker Thomas scored the lone U of S goal early in the third period, as the Huskies offensive struggles continued, as they have scored just four times in four-straight losses.
Similar to the previous night's result, the Bears withstood a flurry of chances from Saskatchewan, before scoring a pair of goals themselves. Baillie started the scoring early in the first, scoring his second of the weekend just four minutes in. Owre doubled the Bears lead early in the second, capitalizing off a scramble in front of Cooke, flipping in his 15th over a sprawled out Huskie goalie.
The Huskies, desperate for a spark of offence, finally found it early in the third. Thomas cut the Bears lead to just one with his quick shot past Burke three minutes into the final frame.
In what turned into a much scrappier and chippy game than the series opener, the season finale saw a combined 76 minutes, 50 of which from Saskatchewan. Two of those penalties by Saskatchewan cost them in the third, with Owre scoring his second of of the night on the Bears five-on-three powerplay.
The Huskies couldn't manage any significant chances in the final ten minutes, despite 14 shots on net.
Alberta will finish their conference season next weekend, as they travel to Vancouver and take on the 15-10-1 UBC Thunderbirds. Saskatchewan will return home, as they host the 12-12-2 Mount Royal Cougars.