Well, Saturday's semi-finals went pretty well as I expected, with the top teams out of the AUS and Canada West advancing to today's final for the University Cup.
The Manitoba Bisons were a game squad, but the Saint Mary's Huskies executed their game plan exactly as they wanted, with their strong forecheck pressuring the Bisons all game long. Sniper Cody Thorton got SMU on the scoreboard midway through the first period with a power play marker, but the back breaker was probably when All-Canadian defenceman Andrew Hotham was all alone in front of the Bisons net and able to pick a rebound puck off Steve Christie's pad and deposit it in the net to make 3-0 31 seconds into the second period. Speaking about the 5-0 loss after the game Manitoba coach Mike Sirant pointed out that this week was a learning experience for his team. He said first-time teams don't usually win, and it is no coincidence that SMU, Alberta and Lakehead were at Nationals last year and in the final four this year. The positive for him and his players is now they have a better idea of what it takes to win at this level, and they are confident they can play with those teams.
The much anticipated evening battle between Lakehead and Alberta started well for the home team. In a sign of how the game would go, local product Ryan Baird scored just under three minutes in on the power play. Lakehead had a great first ten minutes, outshooting the Golden Bears 9-1. For the second game in a row Alberta had a slow start, but they picked up their play and got a power play goal later in the period. After 20 minutes the shots were 11-9 in favour of the Golden Bears. The two teams exchanged power play goals in the second period, but the turning point was the Kyle Fecho power play goal with 7 seconds to go in the period. The Golden Bears looked pretty much in control of the the game in the third period when the two teams were even strength. Brock MacPherson made it interesting for the local fans when he got his second power play goal at 15:13 of the third, but Alberta was able to cruise to the 5-3 finish. Overall in the game it didn't look like Lakehead had the team speed to hang with the Golden Bears, and they were completely dependent on their power play for offence.
So this evening we get Alberta looking for their 14th University Cup while Saint Mary's tries for their first. SMU was last in the championship game in 1973 when they lost 3-2 to Toronto; Alberta of course last won 3-2 over UNB in 2008.
Huskies down Manitoba, advance to national final (CIS)
Huskies blank Bisons (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)
Power play propels No. 1 Bears to U Cup final (CIS)
Bear of a powerplay (Reuben Villagracia, The Chronicle Journal)
Alberta rolls over Lakehead (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)
The scene is set: SMU vs. Alberta (Evan Daum, South Campus Sports)
Huskies, Bears in hockey title tilt (Glenn MacDonald, Chronicle-Herald)