In front of the first ever sold-out crowd in Merlis Belsher Place on Saturday night, every Huskies player was dialled in and left it all out on the ice. There was no question that the dogs were going to do whatever it took to bring the Dr. W.G. Hardy Trophy home.
They certainly did not disappoint the 2,667 fans who attended the game, successfully sweeping the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in two games to earn the first Canada West Championship in the new barn.
It was a remarkable night, especially for the quartet of graduating Huskies who won the last championship in the rusty Rutherford Rink in 2016, and now in the new Merlis Belsher Place.
“The atmosphere in this rink was amazing to get the first win here at Merlis, the first championship, it was incredible,” said fifth-year forward Logan McVeigh. “The crowd came out and cheered us on, it was awesome.”
While everyone is expecting another Alberta-Saskatchewan match up, the UBC Thunderbirds shocked the hockey world as they upset the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the semi-finals.
The Thunderbirds prevailed over the Alberta Golden Bears in a best of three series, preventing the arch-nemesis of the Huskies from appearing in the CW finals for the ninth year in a row.
For the past 24 years, the top prize in Canada West has been lifted by only two provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan. The UBC men’s hockey team was seeking to change this as the program has not advanced to the CW championship since 1978, and is still chasing their first championship title.
The Friday night faceoff ended with a 3-2 Huskies victory over the Thunderbirds, thanks to the tallies of Jordan Tkatch, Carson Stadnyk and Layne Young.
Young, who is one of the few non-WHL graduates on the team, scored his first post-season goal for the Huskies.
UBC rallied with a goal in the dying seconds of the third period, bringing them one point away from the Huskies’ lead, but were unable to complete their comeback.
On the Saturday night clash, the Dogs broke out with an early 2-0 lead in the first period, with tallies from Levi Cable and leading scorer Carson Stadnyk.
Canada West rookie of the year Jared Dymytriw maintained his season-long powerful performance, notching his second assist of the weekend on Stadnyk’s goal.
The Thunderbirds pushed back hard in the second period, with a gritty and physical frame. The Huskies adapted and shifted to a more defensive game, as the players blocked shots left and right, stopping multiple offensive rushes with hard backchecks.
The emotional cracks started to show in UBC’s front, taking 30 minutes of penalties in the second period alone. The team finished the night with 56 penalty minutes, including three 10-minute misconducts.
Cooler-heads prevailed on the Huskies’ end of the ice, with the Dogs maintaining their composure. They demonstrated the class of a frequent championship contender.
Huskie forward Jeff Faith’s goal was called back with three minutes and 31 seconds left in the second, but rallied back and 54 seconds later found the back of the net once again.
Levi Cable scored his second goal of the game, giving him a three-point weekend to finish the Canada West season with 28 points.
The dynamic fifth-year forward also earned the UBC Hockey Alumni Trophy for sportsmanship and ability, having only 18 penalty minutes in his five years with the Huskies.
The third period was heated, with a brawl in front of the UBC net with four minutes left in the game.
The Thunderbirds scored their lone goal of the game on the resulting power play with three minutes and 16 seconds left in the third period. Thunderbirds forward Jake Kryski, who scored in the Friday night contest as well, was given the goal after the puck deflected off Huskies defenceman Sam Ruopp’s stick.
The crowd went wild as the final seconds ticked away. The Huskies held on tight to win the game 3-1 and took home the Dr. W.G. Hardy Trophy, crowning the University of Saskatchewan the king of west for the 11th time.
Kohl Bauml credits the slow start that the team faced at the beginning of the season for pushing the team.
“It’s good to face a bit of adversity,” the fifth-year hometown hero said. “We had to pick it up, and from that third weekend on, I wouldn’t say we let off the gas for one game.”
“For us to end up with the trophy and these medals around our neck shows the resiliency of our team and dedication to character of all the guys in the room and coaching staff.”
The Huskies now look to the east in their quest to claim the national title at the University Cup in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which runs from March 12-15.
“We get a week off, we get back into it,” said Hudson Bay product, Levi Cable. “We still got a bigger goal in mind and I’d like to end my five years winning a national championship.”
Photos: Heywood Yu