It was a weekend of splits out west, as the conference's first and second place squads only managed one of a possible two wins.
#8 Manitoba @ Regina
With Saskatchewan idle this weekend, the Manitoba Bisons had an opportunity to give themselves some breathing room in the conference standings, as they looked to extend their hold on second place with a trip to the Queen City to take on the Regina Cougars. Friday night saw an upset, as the Cougars managed to get goals from four different players, including power play markers from Craig Cuthbert and Ryan Sawka, en route to a 4-0 victory. Brant Hilton picked up his first shutout of the season in goal for the Cougars.
In the second game of the two game series, despite out shooting the Herd 40-27, Regina had trouble beating the Canada West's top goaltender Steve Christie who made 38 saves in a 3-2 victory. Manitoba got goals from three different players, as they weathered the storm and rode Christie's stellar performance to a weekend split.
The Bisons now sit three points up on third place Saskatchewan, with four games remaining, while the Huskies still have six contests to play. Manitoba has a bye next weekend before heading to Saskatoon in two weeks time to take on the Huskies in what will in all likelihood determine second place in the conference. Regina heads to Lethbridge next weekend, just holding onto any playoff aspirations as they sit six points back of fourth place Calgary with six games left on their schedule.
Lethbridge @ #2 Alberta
In what was a sloppy game for both sides, the Golden Bears managed to find a way to win Friday night at home against the Lethbridge Pronghorns in an 8-6 affair. Neither side looked exceptionally polished, but thanks to a three power-play goal performance, Alberta was able to get the win. A pair of mid season additions were sensational for Lethbridge, as former Prince George Cougar Brian Matte had a hat-trick and an assist, to go along with linemate and Alaska-Anchorage transfer Winston Day Chief's four assist night. The combination of Matte, Day Chief and veteran Jason Roberts was far and away the best trio Friday night.
Saturday night saw another feisty performance from Lethbridge, in what was a far better played hockey game. Heading into the third period with the game deadlocked at 3-3, the Pronghorns opened the third period scoring with a pair of goals to take a 5-3 lead with just under 10 minutes left to go. With a two-goal lead, the 'Horns employed a 1-2-2 forecheck to slow down the Bears, as Lethbridge looked to hold onto the lead. They did just that until the 17:02 mark when Chad Klassen scored his league-leading 18th goal of the season to cut the lead to one. Lethbridge though would weather the final 2:58, to skate away with a crucial 5-4 win.
Alberta, with the Manitoba loss Friday had already clinched first place before their 8-6 win Friday night, as the Bears will have home-ice through out the Canada West playoffs. Lethbridge with the split now sits only two points back of fourth place Calgary with both squads having four games left to play. Alberta hosts UBC next weekend in their final regular season home date, while Lethbridge heads back to the Chinook City to take on Regina.