Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE — Full penalty boxes and a number of misconducts capped off a one-sided score line in Lethbridge on Friday, as the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies defeated the Lethbridge Pronghorns 6-1 in Canada West men's hockey action.
Saskatchewan netminder Taran Kozun backstopped his team to their 17th win of the season by turning aside 35 of 36 Lethbridge shots in the winning effort. Pronghorns starter Garret Hughson made 28 saves in the loss.
The first moments of the game saw the teams dictate their style of play, as the visiting Huskies kept the Pronghorns' offensive efforts at bay with the dump-and-chase, and the Pronghorns countering with a physical defensive response, keeping any Huskies shots to the high points.
Lethbridge would gift a second first period power play opportunity to their guests. The Huskies would convert on this opportunity, as Alex Forsberg would find an open lane from the near corner to an open Colin Shirley in front of the Lethbridge netminder, which Shirley would find twine above the blocker of Hughson for the game's first goal, 11 minutes into the opening frame.
The roles would reverse shortly after the Huskies power-play marker. However, it would be Saskatchewan with the better chances by their special-team, getting two odd-man chances on the rush against Hughson, who stopped both shots with ease.
After another fruitless opportunity on the power play, the Pronghorns would find themselves back shorthanded. On the ensuing power play, with the puck behind the net, Huskies forward Kohl Bauml would get the puck into the crease behind Hughson, and Logan McVeigh would tuck the puck behind the red line. McVeigh's power-play marker would put the Huskies up by two goals to end the period, and his team would lead the shot-clock 15-8.
Both teams would come out of their dressing rooms hot-headed, with a massive scrum breaking out behind the Huskies net 33 seconds into the frame. As Kozun managed to escape the eye of the storm, Saskatchewan's Jaimen Yakubowski and Lethbridge's Dalton Sward would each get sent off for roughing, and the Huskies' Sam Ruopp would also get sent off for tripping.
The Pronghorns' power play would be negated by a Torrin White hooking penalty, giving fans 32-seconds of four-on-four hockey. Twelve seconds after the Ruopp penalty expired, Ballhorn would get sent to the box, bringing play back to four-on-four, and ultimately another Pronghorns power play opportunity. Despite the open ice available to them, neither team would score.
After tempers began to die down, Saskatchewan would again demonstrate their ability to press their opponents in their own zone and maintain possession of the puck, leading to another power play. Lethbridge would do a much better job this time around, limiting the Huskies to one shot on goal and garnering two odd-man rushes of their own on Kozun, who turned aside the second chance which landed on net after the first was sent wide.
Lethbridge would refuse to let the Huskies maintain control of the game, beginning to take control for themselves in the second half of the period, getting plenty of in-close opportunities on Kozun. Pronghorns forward Landon Gross would cycle the puck to the high to Derek Brown, who would fire a shot towards the Huskies net. The puck would bounce off of Brooks Maxwell and past Kozun to cut the Huskies lead in half with just over five minutes remaining in the second period.
With less than a minute remaining, Jordan Roy would be called for a tripping violation, sending the Pronghorns to the penalty-kill for the sixth time. Shirley would find Forsberg in front of the Pronghorns net, who would hesitate on the wrist shot before firing it high blocker-side on Hughson. Forsberg's second of the night would restore the Huskies' two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Lethbridge's take-over of the momentum in the second-half of the period saw them outshoot the Huskies 19-9 in the frame, but an exchanging of goals left them still down by two goals after 40 minutes of play.
After the second regularly-scheduled rest, the Huskies came out once again with control of the puck and of the momentum. Despite time in both teams' zones being fairly even in the early going of the period, Lethbridge defended well against by the Huskies, forcing plays to the outside areas.
Setting up a play while the visitors' lines are changes, Saskatchewan's Donovan Neuls would dump the puck into the Pronghorns zone behind Hughson, where Carter Folk would follow the play and intercept the puck at the near-side half-boards. He would connect with Colby Harmsworth on a long pass to the far-side point, where he would send a slap-shot past Hughson on the blocker-side. Harmsworth's goal was the first even-strength goal for his team, giving the Huskies a three-goal cushion heading into the final ten minutes of play.
In the second half of the double-minor that had Jordan Roy in the penalty box, Bauml notched Saskatchewan's fifth goal of the game with just over two minutes remaining. The Huskies would score once more on the power play with Gross in the box in the final minute of play, signing off on this emotion-fuelled tilt that saw the Huskies pull away with a 6-1 win. Lethbridge outshot Saskatchewan 36-34.
With the win, the Huskies further cement their place atop the Canada West standings, improving to an 18-3-2 record, while the Pronghorns drop to 7-12-2 on the season.
The second game of this weekend's double-header takes place at 7:00 PM on Saturday, at the Nicholas Sheran Arena.
Photo by: MPP Photography