Five unanswered goals have sent the Saint Mary’s Huskies to the University Cup final.
The squad beat the Waterloo Warriors 5-1 today in their final round-robin match of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s hockey national championships at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon.
After allowing the game’s first goal early, Saint Mary’s picked up their play and, with the help of a few Waterloo penalties, cruised to victory.
The Warriors scored just 25 seconds into the game. Circling Saint Mary’s net, Waterloo rookie Colin Behenna threw the puck blindly in front of the net as he was checked. Justin Larson read the play and swooped in front of the crease, poking the puck through the legs of Saint Mary’s netminder Anthony Peters.
Waterloo had a chance to extend their lead after Lucas Bloodoff, Saint Mary’s leading goal scorer and Atlantic Conference MVP, was assessed a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for checking to the head. Bloodoff was ejected from Saint Mary’s last game for the same infraction; the six-foot-two, 230-pound forward has only played a combined 29 minutes through the first two games of the tournament due to his ejections.
After the game Saint Mary’s coach Trevor Stienburg said he won’t be playing his star player in the championship game.
“Lucas has struck out,” Stienburg said. “At 230 pounds he’s a bit of a freight train. He hasn’t taken those penalties all year, but under the circumstances he was out there trying to create something for us. It didn’t end up the way we wanted it.”
Chris MacKinnon started Saint Mary’s on the scoring track before the end of the first frame. Deflecting a hard cross pass from Stephen Johnston in front of Waterloo’s net, MacKinnon neatly placed the biscuit into the top corner, beating Waterloo goalie Keaton Hartigan.
Saint Mary’s kept battling in the second frame, taking a 2-1 lead after forward Cory Tanaka found himself in the right position to notch the team’s second of the night. The puck bounced off the skate of a Waterloo defender and landed on the blade of Tanaka, who found a hole in Peters’ pads to squeeze it through.
SMU more than doubled the Warriors’ shots after two periods, leading 31-15 in the department.
Saint Mary’s Shawn O’Donnell scored the team’s third goal just over six minutes into the third frame. Racing across the Warriors’ blue-line, O’Donnell sidestepped two defenders and blasted a shot over Hartigan’s blocker. Three minutes later Tanaka iced the game for SMU, posting his second goal of the night.
Tanaka and O’Donnell combined for nine points in the game. O’Donnell picked up two goals and three assists while Tanaka tallied two goals and two helpers.
“I think we came out as a desperate team,” O’Donnell said after the game. “We kept things simple and it was one of those nights that the puck was going in.”
With almost no quality offensive chances in the third period, Waterloo could only add penalty minutes to the game sheet. As a team, Waterloo finished with 37 penalty minutes to Saint Mary’s 19.
“There were a couple of undisciplined [penalties] that I was unhappy with, but that hasn’t been characteristic of our team,” Warriors’ bench boss Brian Bourque said following the game.
“Tonight we got run around a little bit once we were down by two” goals, added third-year Waterloo forward Andy Smith. “They really exposed us on their power play, and obviously it hurt us in the end.”
With the loss, Waterloo is eliminated from cup contention.
The Saint Mary’s Huskies will go to the championship match against the winner of tonight’s game between the University of New Brunswick and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf