Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY - Two power play and two shorthanded goals was the main factor in the rubber match between the Mount Royal Cougars and UBC Thunderbirds Saturday afternoon as the Cougars return the favour and redeemed an early-season sweep of the 'Birds with a 5-1 scoreline.
There were four different MRU goal scorers one of which was Jamal Watson who scored twice on the power play. He commented on the importance of the team's potential when playing well up or down a man, "We had a big struggle on special teams in the first half and are starting to find our mojo… getting those kinds of results will win us games every time."
MRU leapfrogs the T-Birds in the standings and improves to 9-5-4 while UBC drops to 10-7-0.
"We know we lost both to them in their barn so we knew we had to get those points back," Watson explained.
Contrary to the night previous, UBC turned on the heat early in the period and tested the MRU backline that included a three-on-two break that had Carter Popoff ring his shot off the post.
The Cougars' special team units were also forced to be on guard early in the game, finding themselves down a man twice in the first five minutes but went on to brush off a lackluster UBC power-play unit that continued its struggles from last night. The T-Birds not being able to score on their last nine chances on the man-advantage.
MRU however, began to turn their own gears and controlled much of the tempo inside the first period. Managing to find gaps in the UBC defence that lead to multiple threatening chances for the Cougars that had been denied by rookie goalie Patrick Dea.
His highlight save of the period came on the T-Birds' third power play of the period. Connor Rankin nicked a cross-ice pass and sprung himself on a breakaway but his backhanded attempt was denied by the sprawling UBC goaltender.
Dea went on to stop 25 pucks in the game.
A little later on the same penalty kill, the Cougars broke the deadlock thanks to a veteran's contribution.
Zack Henry turned the jets on moments after the Rankin chance and found himself two-on-one with fellow fifth-year veteran David Stephens. Electing to hold until the final moment, he unleashed a perfectly placed snapshot up and over the blocker of Dea at 18:40 for his second goal on the season along with the Cougars' fifth short-handed goal of the season.
Henry's marker late in the period was the only goal on the board after the first 20 minutes.
The Cougars kept the pressure on, mounting momentum before finding the back of the net but having the goal immediately waved off.
Later on however, Watson redeemed himself by scoring on two power plays. First, sliding a rebound attempt in on the first power play of the game to double the Cougar advantage for his fifth of the season.
He then found the back of the net for the second time, two power plays later, rotating the blade of his stick upwards to deflect a Rankin shot on net for his sixth on the season.
Minutes later, the Cougars found the back of the net for the third time in the second period and the second time shorthanded in the game. Jesse Lees carried the puck and elected to keep the puck on a three-on-one break before rifling it in.
MRU's fifth and first even-strength goal of the game came from the Cougars' fifth-year in Stephens who finished off a give-and-go with Connor Chartier in the UBC zone for his fourth of the season at 7:41.
With one tick on the clock remaining, rookie Colton Kroeker found the back of the net for MRU's sixth goal.
Cougar net-minder Riley Morris had his shutout bid cut short at 9:19 of the third courtesy of 'Birds captain Jarret Smith who wired a shot through a crowd of bodies, off the post and past Morris.
Morris stopped every other of the 25 shots thrown his way for his sixth win of the season.
"We're just in control as long as we stay ahead of the teams we need to be, we can hold that home-ice position," Watson concluded after the game.
Next weekend MRU travels to Manitoba for a series against the Bisons while UBC head home to host the defending Canada West and U SPORT title holders Alberta Golden Bears.