Sunday, 15 March 2015

Bears And Mustangs Claim Victory

I'll be honest when I say that I spent more time today watching CIS hockey than any other hockey. The Western Mustangs and the McGill Martlets met in the CIS Women's Championship while the Alberta Golden Bears and University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds tangled in the Men's Championship. Both finals featured the top-two teams in the country as McGill and Alberta were the top seeds entering the tournament weekend. Would they finish as #1? Two exciting finals later, and we had our answers.

The Women's Championship featured a dominating performance that started earlier in the tournament for Western goaltender Kelly Campbell. Campbell, who is a pilot when she's not on the ice, was outstanding for her team in the tournament and, in particular, the championship game as she stifled the potent Martlets attack again and again. She allowed just one goal on 94 shots through the CIS Championship tournament, shutting out the top-ranked Martlets in the final.

"There's no way to describe this feeling. We worked so hard as a team over the past year," the fourth-year netminder told reporters. "The shots weren't too bad, my team was blocking a few and keeping them wide. Overall, I wasn't too worried about it. We've been working our way up, confidence all the way."

Western's Anthea Lasis shocked the Martlets when her wrist shot on the power play through traffic beat Taylor Hough on Western's second shot of the game, and the Mustangs carried the 1-0 lead into the intermission despite being outshot 17-4 in the opening frame. McGill continued to pour on the pressure in the second period, but it was Western who broke the game wide open with three goals on seven shots as Ally Galloway, Stacey Scott, and Kendra Broad struck before the period was ten minutes old. Hough's night would be over after Scott's goal, but Brittany Smrke couldn't stop the bleeding for the Martlets as they found themselves down 4-0 after 40 minutes despite outshooting Western 31-11.

McGill would once again win the battle for shots on goal in the third period, but Western would add one more goal late in the game as Casey Rosen's power play marker with 58 seconds to play would seal the deal for the Mustangs! If one was looking for mistakes by the Mustangs, they were hard to find despite being outshot in a big way, but they did make one mistake. While dancing on skates to Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk, the Mustangs dropped the CIS Championship Trophy!

Congratulations to the Western Mustangs, the 2015 CIS Women's Hockey Champions!

In the Men's Championship, the Alberta Golden Bears were looking to cap off another outstanding season with their second consecutive CIS Championship as they met the UNB Varsity Reds for the biggest prize in men's university hockey. On paper, these two teams looked fairly evenly-matched. Having seen the Golden Bears play this season in Canada West hockey, I know how quickly they can turn on the offence while shutting down the opposition, so despite the fact they are enemies throughout the season of the Manitoba Bisons I found myself pulling for the Golden Bears in this game.

While the two teams seemed to feel one another out early on, it was Alberta who capitalized on a few chances in the first period. Colin Archer's cross-ice pass to Stephan Legault was fired high by Legault past David Shantz for the 1-0 lead, and they would head to the dressing up 2-0 after the always-dangerous Jordan Hickmott found some room through traffic in front of Shantz on the power play. A 2-0 lead for the Bears proved deadly in Canada West for most teams, but would it be enough to knock off the second-seeded UNB Varsity Reds?

Dylan Willick cut the lead in half when he converted a gorgeous pass from behind the net by Matt Boudens that caught Alberta netminder Kurtis Mucha unready, and it was 2-1. It appeared that the two teams would battle it out in the one-goal game in the third period, but Alberta's Johnny Lazo chipped home a Levko Koper setup with just 3.6 seconds remaining and Alberta had their two-goal cushion once more as the period ended.

The third period proved to be a high-scoring affair as UNB pushed to equal Alberta. UNB's Phillippe Maillet deflected a point shot from Dana Fraser to make it 3-2 for Alberta with 12:05 to play. A too-many-men penalty called on UNB would prove to be disastrous as Alberta captain Kruise Reddick fired a shot through a crowd in front of Shantz to restore the two-goal lead. UNB wasn't done, though, as Adrian Robertson's point shot was stopped by Mucha, but it flipped high into the air and landed behind Mucha in the net to make it a 4-3 game. The game would be iced with 2:36 to play, though, when Levko Koper finished off a two-on-none shorthanded rush to put Alberta up 5-3. Jordan Rowley would pot the empty-net goal for the 6-3 victory for the Alberta Golden Bears!

It seemed that Alberta captain Kruise Reddick wasn't all that enthused by the way Alberta played despite the victory. "To be honest, this is probably the ugliest win of the year, but good teams find a way to win," he told reporters following the game.

Alberta head coach Ian Herbers echoed the captain's sentiments. "That wasn't our best game I will say that for sure," he said during the on-ice celebration. “We scored some timely goals and our penalty kill was fantastic. A very good power play that we held off the scoreboard. We would kind of come down, score a goal and get back that two-goal cushion. It wasn't our prettiest one, but we will take it, that's for sure."

In the end, nobody asks how. They just ask how many, and Alberta had enough on this day to be crowned the CIS Men's Hockey Champions! Congratulations to them on another successful season and back-to-back championships!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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