Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY- In their first meeting since the quarter-finals last season, the Mount Royal Cougars won 6-1 against the Manitoba Bisons to snap a four-game losing skid at the Flames Community Arenas on Friday night.
The sticks came alive for the home-side Cougars as six different scorers found the goal column.
Colin Cooper stopped 22 of 23 on route to his first win on the season in his fifth consecutive start, having his shutout bid snapped in the final minute.
He said, "It's been close the last few weeks with the one-goal games so it was nice to get this kind of win with that kind of defensive effort from the guys in front,"
"When you have that offensive help it gets the guys rolling and makes my life easier."
A pedestrian start for both teams saw a scoreless first period with neither side being able to efficiently break down the other.
MRU controlled most of the play early on but couldn't capitalize on the threatening chances they did create. Bisons net-minder Byron Spriggs got peppered with 16 shots in the opening frame while Manitoba didn't create any real dangerous chances, throwing floaters towards Cooper's way. Spriggs stopped a total of 35 of 41 Cougar attempts.
The Cougars continued their heavy press in the second and kickstarted their familiar potent offense.
Three goals in just under 11 minutes effectively secured MRU their much needed two points.
Gaining momentum from a solid penalty kill, the Cougar offense got its spark.
Manitoba coughed up the puck deep in their end after intense pressure from Mitch Lipon who stripped and set the puck across to a streaking Hunter Zandee who snapped the puck five-hole on Spriggs to give his Cougar side a 1-0 lead just 3:01 into the frame.
Minutes on, Connor Rankin tallied his first goal on the season in his first game back.
His presence was definitely missed early on the season and contributed to a lacklustre power play that came into the fourth weekend being under 11 per cent. Catching the puck on his off-hand, he glided across the crease and roofed his backhanded attempt just under the crossbar double the MRU lead at 4:02.
Jamal Watson concluded the outbreak also with his first of the season. Breaking in three-on-two, Connor Chartier chipped a lobbed puck through the Bison defense where Watson slid in and slapped the puck to give his MRU side the 3-0 lead heading into the final break.
"It was a good team effort with everyone contributing, everyone was on top of the ball straight from puck drop," Watson commented after the game.
A fourth and final 'first' for MRU came from Chris Gerrie's jammed in effort. Brad Kennedy's scorching slapshot and a nifty finish from Colton Kroeker rounded out the 6-1 win for the Cougars.
Jeremy Leipsic tapped in a two-on-one late in the final minute to end the Cougar shutout bid.
"Toughest thing to do in university hockey is to sweep the weekend… we know how important the four points are to separate each other from the standings," Watson concludes.
The rematch is set for Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. back at the Flames Community Arenas.