Brett Ward doesn’t always score goals, but when he does he makes sure they are game winners in triple overtime.
Ward’s shot from the point in the sixth period of the third and deciding game of the Canada West final March 11 at Rutherford Rink found its way through screened University of Calgary Dinos netminder Dustin Butler’s pads and pushed the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to a 2-1 win and their first conference title since 2007.
“I definitely just threw it at the net and didn’t know where it was going,” said a breathless Ward after the 106-minute and 33-second affair — the longest in Canada West history.
“Thank God it went in.”
The third-year Huskies defenceman only scored one goal throughout the entire regular season but has already tripled that amount in this year’s playoffs.
He said that, as a defenceman, he was more focused on preventing the sudden-death winner than he was on scoring it and that being the hero was just a bonus.
“I definitely haven’t scored the winner in a game like this before,” said Ward.
The goal and the 2-1 series win over the Dinos lands Saskatchewan a spot at the University Cup March 22-25 in Fredericton, N.B. It’s the Huskies’ first appearance at the national championship since 2008.
“We have nine or 10 days here, so we’ll definitely celebrate a bit,” said Huskies goaltender Ryan Holfeld. “Then we’ll get back on track before we head out east.”
Holfeld, who stopped 38 of 39 shots in the game, matched Butler save-for-save in the overtime periods and, ultimately, got the best of the Calgary netminder.
While Holfeld highlighted the extra frames with his quick pads, no save was more important than his slide across the crease with only five minutes remaining in the fifth period.
Calgary’s Dylan Hood beat Huskies captain Kyle Ross to the corner of the ice after a Dino player dumped the puck deep into Saskatchewan’s zone. Hood emerged with the puck and fed it to a wide-open Teegan Moore, who was streaking in from the blue line and fired the puck at the gaping cage. Holfeld lunged across the crease and caught the puck in his mid-section, keeping the game notched at one.
“Obviously you don’t want to be the guy to let in the last goal,” said Holfeld, praising Butler’s performance at the other end of the ice.
“Butler made a lot of big saves. Hats off to him. He kept them in it for a lot of the game.”
Butler’s performance, which saw him turn away 40 of the 42 shots he faced, was highlighted by a diving save early in the second overtime period.After the Huskies’ Kyle Bortis muscled his way out of the corner, he back-handed a shot from just above the goal line off Butler’s pad. The puck bounced across the slot and onto the back of Canada West regular season scoring leader Derek Hulak’s stick. Hulak swept the puck towards the empty goal but Butler managed to leap across the crease and knock the puck down just before it crossed the line.
Calgary, who jumped off to a phenomenal start that held the Huskies without a shot for the first 10 minutes of the game, opened the scoring only 1:56 into the first period after the Dinos line of Tyler Fiddler, Walker Wintoneak and Kevin King capitalized on a botched Saskatchewan breakout attempt.
The trio fired a series of shots towards Holfeld before Fiddler finally banged in one of the many rebounds.
The Huskies’ Chris Durand and Matthew Spafford, who were on the ice for Calgary’s first goal, made up for Saskatchewan’s turnover midway through the second period.
With only seven seconds remaining on a Saskatchewan power play, Durand carried the puck down the side boards and into the Dinos’ zone. He fired a long back-hand pass across the slot to Spafford, who had cut in from the opposite side of the ice. The rookie Spafford held the puck for only a second before firing a shot from his back-hand just over top of Butler’s right pad.
It was Spafford’s third goal of the post-season.
Photo: Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics &
Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf