Alyssa Etsell, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG— Despite a valiant effort from the Manitoba Bisons in one of their final games of the season, the No. 3 ranked Saskatchewan Huskies came out on top in a 3-2 win Friday night (Feb. 8) at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
Manitoba left everything on the ice in their second-last game, putting forth a strong defensive effort. Saskatchewan came to the game battling for the two points to maintain their first place standing in the hopes of snatching home ice advantage in post-season play.
"That's probably the most uptight I've seen our team play in like, a long time," said Huskies head coach Dave Adolph.
"I really appreciated the way Manitoba played tonight, you know, there's nothing on the line for them and they played a good, gritty hockey game that was fun to watch."
Saskatchewan's game-winning goal came just over 15 minutes into the final period. After a scramble in front of the net, a high rebound came out and Sam Ruopp hucked the puck deep into the Bisons' back pocket. Evan Fiala and Carson Stadnyk got the apples on the winner. In the last minutes of play, strong defensive play coupled with multiple strong glove saves from Dasan Sydora kept Manitoba within reach of sending the game to OT.
Sydora stopped 39 shots while Taran Kozun saved 23. Saskatchewan extends their win streak to nine in a row and gives them two crucial points while they vie to keep their top spot.
"You could see that these guys, they really want to finish the season the right way. There's still a lot to play for," said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.
"The game has been good to all of us and every time you put on the jersey, you respect the game by going out there and performing your best and those are the things we talked about before the game. We did a really good job tonight."
In the second, the only goal came from an epic breakaway off a pass from Keaton Jameson, Zach Franko busted down Kozun's defense and completed a perfect breakaway to tie the game at two.
Two back-to-back penalties for Saskatchewan left Manitoba with a crucial five-on-three opportunity late in the second, but they couldn't get the puck to the net to break the tie.
The Huskies opened the game's scoreboard with a wraparound goal for the books from Collin Shirley almost seven minutes into the game. The assist went to Stadnyk. The Bisons wasted no time chipping one back. Brett Stovin ripped a goal off a feed from Nick Zajac just 21 seconds later, tying the game at one.
After a scuffle in front of the Herd's net that involved some flying fists, the game turned to a five-on-three for Saskatchewan. The Bisons fought back hard on the penalty kill, effectively sending the puck down the ice several times and pushing back against strong offensive play from the Huskies.
They couldn't hold off the number three team for long, however, and after another penalty for the home team, Jesse Forsberg netted a power play goal with help from Alex Forsberg and Collin Shirley. The goal sent the visitors to the lead heading into the second period.
Huskies' Adolph says securing home ice advantage isn't the most important thing to them.
"Well, I just told our guys, if you can get to the final, we'll play in Grenfell [Saskatchewan] at an open-air ice rink, like why are we worried? The most important thing is going into playoffs on a high note," he said.
Both teams will face off again tomorrow at 2 p.m. CST at Wayne Fleming Arena in Manitoba's final game of the season. You can catch the game live online at CanadaWest.TV.