Connor Hood, Golden Bears Athletics
SASKATOON – The Alberta Golden Bears shutout the Saskatchewan Huskies in Game 3 of the Canada West Final 1-0 to claim their third-straight Canada West Championship, Sunday night at Merlis Belsher Place.
Luke Philp scored the lone Alberta goal, while sophomore Zach Sawchenko made 29 saves for his second straight shutout, as the Bears claimed their 28th Canada West Championship, and 55th total conference title.
“Saskatchewan played well tonight, and they played really well all weekend. We responded really well, and it starts in the net with how well Sawchenko played,” said Bears head coach Ian Herbers. “Our offence and defence is by committee, we rely on everyone to contribute, and they did tonight. We needed all four lines and three D pairs to contribute each night for us to win, and that’s what we got in Games 2 and 3.”
After dropping Game 1 4-2 to Saskatchewan, the Bears bounced back with wins of 3-0 and 1-0 to comeback and claim the conference title, their sixth in the past seven seasons.
“At the end of the day, I might get credit for the shutout, but it’s a team game. Our team was excellent this weekend, we showed a lot of grit and character,” said Sawchenko. “It’s a tough rink to play in here, and we have to give the Huskies full credit, they played well. And to be honest, the difference between all three games was very small. At the end of the day the series could have gone either way.”
Despite a chaotic and entertaining first period, the two teams remained scoreless after one. The teams combined for 20 shots and 30 minutes of penalties, with each team trading high caliber scoring chances.
Sawchenko was sensational early on a Huskie five-on-three penalty, making a handful of fantastic saves on backdoor one-timers.
The Bears seemed to respond with a goal midway through the first, but it was controversially called off by the officials. After Kozun turned the puck over behind his net, Cole Sanford tucked the puck into the empty cage. However, Kozun knocked the back half of the net into the air, before the puck crossed the goal line, and under the lifted half of the cage.
After the no-goal call, the Bears continued to pepper Kozun on their own five-on-three powerplay. However, the Huskies netminder returned the favour with some outrageous stops of his own, including robbing Taylor Cooper on the door step.
The second period saw just as much chaos as the first, which began with more fantastic Sawchenko saves on Huskie chances.
The second period was also delayed for over 20 minutes, after Bears defenceman Sawyer Lange’s skate went through the glass behind their net, shattering it onto the ice.
Philp, the two-time Canada West Player of the Year finally broke the deadlock with his first point of the series, tapping in a great feed from Steven Owre on the powerplay with just over two minutes left in the frame.
The Huskies controlled the puck for a vast majority of the third trailing by one, but struggled to get good shots off from the slot. The chances they did have were turned aside by Sawchenko, who turned in one of his best performances as a Bear.
The Huskies final shot came with less than a second left, beating Sawchenko, but ripping off the crossbar and into the corner.
Both programs will now represent Canada West at the 2019 University Cup, hosted by the University of Lethbridge March 15-17.