Connor Hood, Bears and Pandas Athletics
FREDERICTON - Seven different University of Alberta Golden Bears found the scoresheet, including five points from Stephane Legault and four from Riley Kieser, as the Bears advanced to the national semifinals with an 8-6 win over the Acadia Axemen, Friday afternoon at the Aitken University Centre.
Kieser scored a pair, while the Bears also received tallies from Luke Philp, Cole Sanford, Trevor Cox, Jamie Crooks, and Jason Fram, as they avenged last year's quarter-final loss to Acadia with a win this afternoon. Sophomore starter Brendan Burke earned his first career win at the University Cup, stopping 23 of the 29 shots he faced.
"It could be me one night, or any other guys on any other night. It just shows how deep we are as a team." said Legault, who assisted on four of Alberta's eight goals. "We have so much talent throughout our lineup. It's good we all had such a strong game, but I know that if I didn't have the big game today, somebody else would have stepped up."
The second-ranked Golden Bears will now await the result of the No. 3 McGill Redmen vs No. 6 Saskatchewan Huskies quarter-final later today, playing the winner in tomorrow afternoon's national semifinal (4:00 p.m. AST).
Alberta held a lead by as many as six, jumping ahead 8-2 in the third period, before Acadia scored four unanswered goals late to trim the final score to 8-6. Chance Braid, Kyle Farrell, Boston Leier, Geoff Schemitsch, Cristiano Digiacinto, and Remy Giftopoulos scored for Acadia on Friday.
"Not much to say, other than I'm glad we had that lead," said Bears bench boss Serge Lajoie. "Not often you get a win with lessons. We wanted to get past this game, to give our team a chance to show what they are really made of. Never critique a win. (Stephane) Legault, (Jason) Fram, and (Riley) Kieser were a big part of why we got past a strong team in Acadia today."
Alberta couldn't have possibly dreamed of a better start, as Kieser opened the scoring just 13 seconds into the first period, before doubling Alberta's lead with his second 13 minutes later. Acadia cut the Bears lead in half late in the first, as Farrell scored just 16 seconds after Kieser's second goal.
Alberta's powerplay dominated the second period, as they extended their lead to 5-1 thanks to a pair of goals on the man advantage, along with an even-strength marker from Sanford. Philp added the first early in the third on the tail end of a five-minute Bears powerplay, ripping in the loose puck off a rebound kicked out by Robert Steeves. Sanford added to Alberta's lead just two minutes later, beating Steeves far-side from in tight. Legault capped off the flurry with another PP marker four minutes later, tapping in the loose puck in the crease. Acadia added a goal late in the second, cutting the Bears lead to 5-2 after 40.
Cox, Crooks, and Fram added their markers within the first six minutes of the third, seemingly sealing the Bears quarter-final win. However, the Axemen went on an unlikely run to end the game, scoring four unanswered goals, including three in the final minute, making the final result closer than expected.
This marks the first time since 2015 the Bears have advanced to the quarter-final, losing to St. FX in the 2016 quarter-final, and to Acadia in the same game last year in Fredericton.
"It was never about redemption. They are a very good team. The style of play in the AUS is very different than what we are used to in Canada West. I think a credit to the maturity of our players, making sure we capitalized on our chances. And it was a good thing we did capitalize so we get get that big lead."
Both of tomorrow's semifinal games will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360, and Sportsnet NOW.