The Canada West's two representatives for the national tournament in Thunder Bay are now official, as a familiar squad and a different team will be headed east come the end of the month.
Manitoba @ Saskatchewan
The Manitoba Bisons rode into Saskatoon in search of knocking off the Huskies to claim their first trip to the national tournament since 2005 when they qualified for the national tournament as the third team out of Canada West back when Alberta hosted nationals.
In three games, the Bisons accomplished their goal of a return to nationals, downing the Huskies Saturday and Sunday after losing Friday night to earn their way to the conference championship series next weekend against Alberta who won their best-of-three series against Calgary.
Friday night the Huskies got the better of the Bisons thanks in large part to a pair of goals from Andrew Bailey, en route to a 5-2 victory of the Herd. David Reekie got the start in goal for Saskatchewan, as Saskatchewan head coach Dave Adolph put fifth-year goalie Jeff Harvey on the bench.
In Game 2 Saturday night, Harvey did get the start for the Huskies as they looked to close out the series, but that wouldn't happen as two goals from Jeff Walker sparked the Bisons to a series extending 4-2 win at Rutherford Rink, as the Sled Dogs were handed their first regulation loss of the year at home. Steve Christie was solid in goal for the Bisons, as he stopped 36 shots for the win.
In the third and decisive game, Manitoba forward Blair Macaulay stepped up in a major way for the Herd, as he had a hat-trick performance for the Bisons who went two-for-seven with the man advantage while killing off 10 of Saskatchewan's 11 powerplays to earn a 5-1 win and a spot at nationals.
It was more than a disappointing finish to the season for the Huskies, especially for Harvey who sat and watched his final CIS game on the bench, as Reekie got the start again in goal for the Dogs.
Calgary @ Alberta
Having seen UNB fall just a few days prior to their weekend series with the Calgary Dinos, the Alberta Golden Bears were looking to avoid the fate of the top seed in the AUS, and move on from their first round playoff series, and despite some speed bumps along the way, they did just that.
Friday night's game was a tame affair, aside from a crazy finish. I detailed that crazy finish at South Campus Sports, so I won't go into fine details here, but at the end of it all the Bears skated away with a 5-2 win thanks to a terrific performance from Sean Ringrose who scored a pair of goals.
By the time the dust had settled Friday, Calgary was not only down a game in the series, but also their top two goalies. Dustin Butler started for the Dinos, got hurt in the third, and his replacement Jeff Weber earned a suspension for his part in the shenanigans during Friday's game. That set the scene for third stringer Nathan Deobald to make his first start of the season, with the tough task of giving his team a chance in a must win game.
Deobald did just that Saturday, surrendering only two goals on 28 shots, as he gave the Dinos a real shot at extending the series, but the offensively challenged Dinos just didn't have the firepower to force a Game 3.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the third, Bears captain Tyler Metcalfe broke the deadlock on a tremendous feed from Greg Gardner at the 16:13 mark for the eventual game winner. The Bears would add an empty netter for the 3-1 win.
The Bears started Travis Yonkman both contests, as he is now officially the number-one for the Green and Gold.
The win punches the Bears' return ticket to Thunder Bay, and sets up an Alberta-Manitoba CW final next weekend at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.