Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE – With five different players registering goals, the third ranked and defending U SPORTS Champion University of Alberta Golden Bears took down the Lethbridge Pronghorns by a score of 5-2 in Canada West hockey action Friday night in Lethbridge.
Jaden Hart, Trevor Cox, Luke Philp, Jason Fram and Grayson Pawlenchuk each scored for the Bears, while Russ Maxwell and Dalton Sward replied for the Pronghorns.
Alberta's starting netminder Zack Sawchenko turned aside 34 shots in the win. Pronghorn goaltender Garret Hughson made 38 stops in the loss.
Lethbridge would establish their presence in the game early, capitalizing on an early power play with Alberta's Jayden Hart in the box. Justin Valentino would win the puck from a battle at the half-boards and get it to Torrin White, who would feed Russell Maxwell's third goal of the season.
About five minutes later, the Golden Bears would find an answer to the Pronghorns early marker. With Lethbridge hemmed in their own zone unable to clear, Alberta's Brandon Magee would gather the rebound from a pad save made by Hughson and feed teammate Hart, finding the back of the net by beating a sliding Hughson on his blocker-side. Hart's first goal of the season would tie the game at one.
The Pronghorns wouldn't wait long to get another chance. Artsiom Kalashnikov would be sent on the breakaway nearly six minutes after, but would fall before getting his shot off against Alberta's netminder Zach Sawchenko. Kalashnikov would fall and collide hard with the blocker-side post. Kalashnikov was immediately in visible distress, and would require assistance to return to the 'Horns dressing room; he would not return to the game.
A pair of Golden Bears penalties would put the Pronghorns up on a 47-second five-on-three power play, but Alberta's penalty killers were up to the task, preventing Lethbridge from notching a shot-on-goal on the two-man-shorthand and the subsequent five-on-four penalty kill.
The first half of the second period would bring a defensive brand of hockey from both teams, with neither club accruing any significant scoring chances, apart from an Alberta power play that added a few shots on goal in favour of the Golden Bears. Shots would come from the point and high slot, with a few chances up close on the wrap-around following some dump-and-chase hockey, but none of the combined 16 shots on goal would give either team the advantage at the game's halfway point.
Alberta would go on the power play once again just past the 11-minute mark of the frame, due to a Landon Gross interference penalty. The Pronghorns would hold their opponents to two shots on goal during the penalty-kill.
Both teams would split the momentum until the fifteen minute mark of the period. With 5:10 remaining, the Golden Bears' Trevor Cox would score from a give-and-go play with Cole Sanford, go put Alberta up by one.
Momentum would appear to shift in in the direction of Lethbridge with Riley Keiser kneeing minor giving the Pronghorns a power play. The Pronghorns would maintain possession of the puck in the offensive zone, however as Keiser stepped out of the penalty box, he would strip Valentino of the puck and carry it down the ice, feeding it to an open Luke Philp to beat Hughson glove side. Philp's fourth of the season would put his side up three to one after two periods.
The third frame would start up much more offensively than the second, with both teams exchanging chances at either end, but neither team able to capitalize on their respective chances.
The Golden Bears would build on their lead six minutes into the third, with a goal scored by Fram who trailed a two-on-one rush led by Stephane Legault and Nickles, the latter of whom was credited with the assist from a rebounded shot off of Hughson's left pad.
Things would get increasingly physical leading into the final quarter of the period, with both teams taking coincidental stick infractions and roughing penalties.
Lethbridge would end up on the short-hand with just under six minutes to play, but they would regain some momentum with a shorthanded goal scored by Dalton Sward just eight seconds into the Bears power play.
However, any thoughts of a Lethbridge comeback were dashed when the University of Alberta scored an empty net goal with 1:13 left in the frame, to seal away a 5-2 win for the Golden Bears.
With the win, the Golden Bears improve to 8-3-0, while Lethbridge falls to 4-7 on the season.
The two teams will face off again on Saturday in Lethbridge at 2:00 PM, this time at the Enmax Centre, the venue for the 2019 University Cup hosted by Lethbridge in March, to close off the weekend series.