“We needed to win. That was our first goal,” said the Huskies head coach Dave Adolph.
“If we went out there and said ‘We’ve got to score seven goals tonight,’ we’d pretty much unravel and get away from what gives us success,” added Saskatchewan captain Kyle Ross. “We just said go out and play our best game, do the little things that give us success and, who knows, we have had games where we’ve won by six.”
McGill, who had downed Moncton 6-3 in their round-robin matchup, was guaranteed a spot in the final if they beat Saskatchewan or lost by two goals or less.
Moncton needed the Huskies to win by three, four or five goals to beat out both McGill and the Huskies for a chance at hoisting the University Cup.
Adolph said that his players were highly motivated to spoil McGill’s berth into the final, especially after Saskatchewan pulled ahead of the Redmen 4-3 late in the third period and it was obvious that the Huskies could not win by six goals.
“When we scored the go-ahead goal, our whole bench was giving me the nudge to pull our goalie to try and get McGill out of tournament,” he said regarding the prospect of throwing an extra skater on the ice to help Saskatchewan separate the margin of victory.
“I was too chicken.”
The Huskies got on the board first against McGill after Kyle Bortis scored midway through the first period on a Saskatchewan powerplay.
The Redmen answered right back only four minutes later, however, with an Evan Vossen goal. The squads would then exchange goals several times throughout the game, with Saskatchewan gaining and losing the lead three times.
Cody Smuk helped the Huskies pull ahead 2-1 early in the second period after burying a wrap around past Redmen netminder Hubert Morin.
A slap shot from the high slot by Francis Verreault-Paul 4:12 into the third period with Saskatchewan defenceman Garrett Thiessen and Brett Ward both in the penalty box, however, tied the game up once again.
The Huskies would respond two minutes later after Bortis beat a McGill defender on the outside and cut hard towards the Redmen net with the puck. While he couldn’t force the puck through Morin, Derek Hulak was there to bang in the rebound and give Saskatchewan its third lead of the game.
27 seconds later McGill answered back.
Saskatchewan was finally able to earn a lead they could hold after Ross, sitting at the top of the faceoff circle inside the Redmen zone, received a pass from Bortis and one-timed the puck past a frozen Morin with just over five minutes to play.
Morin stopped 26 of the 30 shots he faced while Saskatchewan netminder Ryan Holfeld turned away 40 of McGill’s 43 shots.
“Right now it’s a little bittersweet but I think looking back I’ll be happy with the fact that I got the game winner in my last game in a Huskie jersey,” said Ross, who completed his five years of CIS eligibility this season.
“I’m just really proud of all the guys in the dressing room and to be a part of this group,” he added. There are “a lot of good feelings but, at the same time, to be so close [to playing in the national championship is] tough to swallow.”
Adolph said that the Huskies, who host the University Cup in 2013 and 2014, will not have to make too many changes to their squad next year.
“We’re going to look for some heavier players in a couple of positions — both on defence and forward — but our goaltending is strong and I think that we have lots of depth,” he said, adding that the team’s goal again next year will be to win the Canada West final.
“More than anything else, our first plan is… to win Canada West again. We don’t want to go in as a bridesmaid into something we are hosting.”[box type=”info”]McGill will meet either the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds or the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in the University Cup final. UNB and Western play at 4:30 atlantic daylight time today.[/box]