Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – The University of Alberta Golden Bears concluded their calendar year by picking up a timely victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies by a score of 4-2 in front of a crowd of 2,245 at Merlis Belsher Place.
Luke Philp and Cole Sanford led the way for the Golden Bears, as the pair of dynamic forwards each picked up a goal and an assist in the win. Curtis Miske and Steven Owre each potted their fifth goals of the season. Jason Fram, Riley Kieser, Jayden Hart, Tyson Baillie, Ryan Rehill and Stephan Legault also added helpers for the visitors.
Levi Cable got the Huskies on the board late in the first period, while Collin Shirley provided the other goal for home side. Tanner Lischynsky, Kohl Bauml, Logan McVeigh and Carson Stadnyk added assists in the loss.
Zach Sawchenko picked up the victory with a 22 save performance which improved his 2018 record to 8-2-1.
Taran Kozun did his best to keep his team in the game as he turned aside 37 of 41 shots in the loss for the Huskies. The netminder's record falls to 11-2 with the loss.
Alberta claws their way back into the race for first place in the Canada West with the victory, as they now only trail Saskatchewan by three points in the standings. The Golden Bears sit with a 12-3-1 record, while the Huskies fall to 14-2.
Early in the first period, Saskatchewan turned it over in their own end and the puck caromed in front of the net, which resulted in two glorious Alberta scoring opportunities. However, Kozun shut the door on both chances from the slot to keep the game scoreless.
Moments later the play went the other way and Parker Thomas entered the zone on a one-on-one and ripped a wrister past Sawchenko, but the puck rattled off the post.
The Golden Bears opened the scoring at 12:10 of the first period. The visitors utilized the man advantage, and Sanford sauced a cross-seam pass across to Philp, and the team's leading scorer did the rest as he rocketed a one-timer past Kozun.
On an ensuing Alberta powerplay, the visitors were looking to continue to build on their opening frame momentum, as Sanford stepped into a wrister from the circle, but the puck rang off iron.
However, the Golden Bears continued to bring pressure in waves, and after the Huskies got caught chasing the big hit, Kieser was able to spot an unmarked Miske in front of the cage, and the rookie winger was able to out-wait Kozun and tuck a backhander past the goaltenders outstretched pad to extend the visitors lead to two.
With just two minutes remaining in the opening frame, Saskatchewan got one back. The puck ricocheted out in to the slot and Cable was able to put it home to bring the home team within one.
Kozun stood on his head throughout the entirety of the first period and he did his best to keep the Huskies in the game, as he turned aside 20 of 22 shots fired his way in the game's opening 20 minutes.
Just under six minutes into the second period, the puck took a strange bounce which allowed Jordan Tkatch, to break in all-alone, but Sawchenko stood tall and stopped the third-year forward's grade-A scoring opportunity.
But just moments later, the visitors increased their lead. Baillie set up a wide-open Owre, who found the back of the net and did his best Bobby Orr impression as he soared through the air and the celebrated his second goal of the weekend to restore Alberta's three-goal lead.
Later in the frame the Huskies got stuck trapped within their own zone and the Golden Bears made them pay. Philp spotted Sanford in front, and this time he made no mistake as he went high blocker over the shoulder of Kozun to make it 4-1 for the visitors.
The Huskies responded with a stronger second period, despite being outshot 11-10 in the frame. However, they came out with nothing to show for it, as they went to the locker room at the intermission trailing by three.
Shirley attempted to kick-start a Huskies comeback with 13:58 remaining in the third period, as he rifled home a one-timer to make the score 4-2.
After a turnover in their own zone, Kozun did his best to keep his club within striking distance, as he bailed out his blueliners by making two timely point-planks saves on Lukas Nickles.
Late in the third period, Sawchenko was able to slide across and make a fantastic save on Carson Stadnyk, who was looking to cut the deficit to one.
The Huskies responded with a sense of urgency in the late moments of the third period, but the Golden Bears were able to use their early lead to their advantage, as they kept the home side at bay.
Saskatchewan will begin the next calendar year in Calgary, as they travel west to tangle with the Dinos at Father David Bauer Arena. Meanwhile, Alberta will play host to the Manitoba Bisons at Clare Drake Arena.