After a 25-3 win-loss season that earned the Huskies men’s hockey team top seed in the Canada West standings, it was off to playoffs. The team swept the Mount Royal Cougars in the semifinals, bringing them face to face with the Alberta Golden Bears for a fourth consecutive championship title fight.
The Huskies started strong by taking the first win against the Golden Bears, but they couldn’t conquer the second night, ushering a tie-breaker game that ended in a loss for the dogs.
Merlis Belsher Place saw a record-breaking crowd of fans out to watch the Huskies take on the Golden Bears on March 1. Jaimen Yakubowski opened the scoring during the first period of game one. Parker Thomas, Wyatt Johnson and Carter Folk also found the back of the net, making the overall score in night one 4-2 for the Huskies.
Huskies men’s coach David Adolph spoke about the tension that night.
“They won the national championship last year, and they are ranked number one in the country. I do not think they are going to be going away very easy. We need a much better effort tomorrow night,” Adolph said.
He also commented on performance that night, saying that “the whole game was pretty uptight” before sharing his thoughts on the ice surface.
“The ice wasn’t very good. I thought with this brand new facility things would be a little bit better. The puck was bouncing everywhere on both teams. We were not the only ones hurting,” Adolph said. “We scored the first goal, and that might have given the difference in tonight’s game. I think if they would have scored we might have been a little bit more nervous. Jaimen Yakubowski’s score just calmed us a little bit.”
Despite voicing concern over ice quality, coach Adolph expresses his opinion about coaching the Huskies for the inaugural season of Merlis Belsher Place.
“The Huskies have been my whole life. I played here for five years, I was an assistant coach for six, and I have been here as the head coach for 26 years. I do not know much else other than Rutherford Rink,” Adolph said. “When we moved over here [on] Oct. 1, I have never been back. I really like this new place.”
David Adolph’s commitment and hard work have earned him the Canada West Coach of the Year award.
The Huskies’ steady play and cool heads did not hold into the second game on March 2. Golden Bears forward Riley Kieser scored 19 seconds into the second period, and Trevor Cox made it 0-2 by the end of the period. Goal three by Grayson Pawlenchuk in the third sealed a 3-0 win over the Huskies.
Although they lost game two, the Huskies fought — literally — to the end. They racked up 58 minutes of penalty time with 46 of those obtained in the last five minutes of play after four ten-minute misconducts were called on players Jesse Forsburg, Alex Forsburg, Carter Folk and Wyatt Johnson for multiple brawls with the Bears on the ice.
Huskies forward Collin Shirley spoke about the match and its implications for the final game.
“I don’t think they were any better than us in game one as they were tonight. I think it is even and comes down to who wants it more tomorrow. We need all 20 guys playing the full 60 minutes, and I’m sure they are going to be the same,” Shirley said. “It would be nice to be done tonight, but one-one against University of Alberta in the Canada West finals is not a bad place to be.”
Game three blew the intensity of the first two nights out of the water. Both teams fought tooth and stick until the harrowing 0-1 defeat came for the Huskies.
First period saw two power plays for each side, with the Huskies and the Golden Bears each getting five-on-three opportunities that neither team was able to use. Huskies goalie Taran Kozun was on fire, making several stupendous saves during the first 20 minutes of play.
The match continued neck and neck through the second period until Sam Ruopp took a hooking penalty — setting the Golden Bears on a power play that led to Luke Philp finding the back of the Huskies net for a 0-1 score.
The fight was not over as the Huskies stormed into third period desperate to score. With 1.1 seconds on the scoreboard and a faceoff in enemy territory, Huskie Donovan Neuls won the face off flicking the puck back to Gordie Ballhorn who took a final heart-stopping shot. The puck soared over goalie Zach Sawchenko’s shoulder to connect with the crossbar in a hard miss as the horn went off.
What could have been, and still was, an unlikely and disappointing ending brought the championships to a quiet and joyless close for the Huskies.
Photo: David Hartman