Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — A three-goal second period made the difference on Saturday afternoon at Wayne Fleming Arena, as the Manitoba Bisons topped the Lethbridge Pronghorns 5-1.
The line of alternate captain Nick Zajac, captain Brett Stovin, and Colton Veloso had a particularly impactful night for the hosts, combining for nine points.
"They were really good tonight," Bisons head coach Mike Sirant said of the trio postgame.
"It's been a really challenging year for [Stovin] and all the injuries he's faced, so it was good to have him back in the line-up playing regular shifts. He makes such a difference for us and it's just a really good fit with Colton and Zajac. They have all the ingredients of a great line."
The first period featured over ten minutes in infractions, so it was both team's penalty killing that took centre stage.
First, the Pronghorns were able to kill off a four-minute double minor less than 30 seconds into the game. Then, Manitoba killed a five-on-three for Lethbridge seven minutes in and also got a few quality chances shorthanded.
The host's best chance with a man down came on an excellent centring pass from defender Adam Henry to Veloso, however Lethbridge goalie Garrett Hughson somehow made the stop diving spread eagle across his crease.
Henry — who had a big tally in last night's game — kept his momentum rolling with seven minutes to go, beating Hughson with a snap shot off the post and in for the lone goal of the opening 20 minutes.
The Pronghorns' best chance came on a two-on-two break with five minutes to play, as forward Sam McKechnie got his stick on a puck down low near the crease, but Manitoba goalie Byron Spriggs flashed his right pad for the stop.
The floodgates opened in the second period, as Manitoba scored three goals within the first eight minutes of play to take a 4-0 lead into the second intermission.
Stovin made the score 2-0 following a rebound off a Zajac tip. Jonah Wasylak would add to the lead less than a minute later, as he loaded up near the point and beat Hughson with a wrist shot.
The Bisons would cap their scoring at 7:54 thanks to Veloso, who potted a rebound on the power play. It was his first goal as a Bison after coming to the team in the second half of the year from Jacksonville of the ECHL.
The Pronghorns had trouble gaining much sustained momentum, as they spent a decent chunk of the middle frame in the sin bin, including a few skirmishes after the play. Overall, there were ten penalties called in the second.
Their best chance to crack the scoreboard came shorthanded five minutes in, as McKechnie had Spriggs down and scrambling in front of his net, however the fifth-year somehow managed to make a diving save.
Lethbridge came out with energy in the third and managed to break Spriggs' bid for a shutout with 9:44 to go on the power play. Russ Maxwell was able to find a loose puck in front and made no mistake.
The visitors would pull their goalie with three minutes to play, but were unable to get any closer. Stovin capped the scoring with an empty net goal in the final ten seconds.
With the win, the Bisons advance to 5-17-2 and are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt. They will travel to UBC next weekend to battle the Thunderbirds. Lethbridge falls to 8-14-2 and will hope to secure their trip to the post-season next weekend against Alberta.