Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE, Alta — Despite rallying back from a 4-1 deficit in the second period, the Lethbridge Pronghorns could not find the back of the net in the third as they fall to the conference-leading Saskatchewan Huskies for the fourth l time this season, 5-4.
Saskatchewan's win further secures their place at the top of the Canada West Conference with a record of 19-3-1, while the Pronghorns fall to 7-13-2 as they fight off Manitoba for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Huskies starter Taran Kozun stopped 21 of 25 shots he faced, while Pronghorns netminder Garret Hughson made 36 saves in the loss.
After the type of game that played out on Friday night, the Pronghorns came out with a vengeance, fighting hard to win each battle. That determination would pay off early, as starting centreman Mike Grant would take off from the near-side boards in his own zone, going deep into the Huskies zone to fire a quick snapshot above the blocker of Kozun, giving the home side a 1-0 lead, 39-seconds into the game.
Despite the early marker, the momentum was fairly even over the next few minutes of play. However, Lethbridge's Spenser Jensen would interfere with a Saskatchewan player around the Hughson crease, sending the Huskies to their first power play. Fourteen seconds into the man-advantage, the very hot powerplay would strike again, as Logan McVeigh would net a wrist-shot past Hughson to tie the game.
The Huskies would begin to walk away with things from this point on, as they would score three more unanswered goals in the first period. On a power-play, McVeigh notched his second power-play goal of the game, assisted by Levi Cable and Sam Ruopp, giving the Huskies the lead. Assisted by McVeigh, Collin Shirley would score 32-seconds later, and Jesse Forsberg would score with the help of Kohl Bauml and Carter Folk less than two minutes after that.
Saskatchewan would tally four unanswered goals in the frame for a 4-1 lead and doubling Lethbridge on the shot clock 18-9 heading into the first intermission.
Period two would begin once again with the Pronghorns on the offensive, and Torrin White would eventually find himself on an odd-man rush with Ryan Chynoweth. White would opt for the rare mid-slot slapshot, and it would find the back of the net underneath Kozun's glove, to cut the Pronghorns' deficit by one goal.
The momentum would swing again in favour of the Huskies as Pronghorns forward Dalton Sward would take a High-Sticking penalty six minutes into the frame, but despite a very high press from Saskatchewan, the Lethbridge penalty-killers would stand tall and prevent any quality scoring chances on the net.
Lethbridge would see the momentum swing in their favour, as Saskatchewan would take two quick penalties that would give the home side a five-on-three power play. Following a time-out called by Coach Murray Nystrom, the Pronghorns would keep the puck in the zone, as Brooks Maxwell would feed Russ Maxwell to the right of Kozun and would find a lane to Justin Valentino, who pots the team's first power play goal of the weekend.
Less than a minute later, the Pronghorns would find themselves tying up the game off of a beautiful one-time pass at the home bench by Justin Valentino, redirecting Blake Orban's long clear to the slot for Brooks Maxwell, who would deke Kozun out and fire the puck glove-side to tie the game up at four.
A late goal by Michael Sofillas would restore the lead for the Huskies, who would head into the break leading by one goal. Saskatchewan would once again outshoot Lethbridge in the frame, this time more than doubling their opponent by 14-6.
The first half of the final frame would appear to be relatively uneventful on the scoresheet, but both teams would continue to press hard for the next goal. Both Kozun and Hughson would stand tall on a number of odd-man opportunities to keep their respective teams in the hunt for the win.
Both teams would see time on the power-play in the frame. Saskatchewan's Collin Shirley would sit two minutes, but Lethbridge could not capitalize on their chances to tie the game; and Pronghorns forward Jordan Roy would get two minutes as well, but the Pronghorns would fend off the red-hot Huskies power-play for the fourth time this game.
Hughson would head to the bench with just under two minutes remaining in the game, as the Pronghorns would try to force an overtime period. Unfortunately for the home side, a screening Torrin White would be called for roughing in front of the Huskies net, negating any chance of tying the game.
Final shots on goal were 41-25 in favour of the Huskies.
The Pronghorns will head out on the road next weekend in a crucial match up with the Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg. The Pronghorns hold a six point lead on the Bisons for the final playoff spot. The Huskies will return home to host the UBC Thunderbirds.
Photo by: MPP Photography