It took extra time both nights, and when things were all said and done in Winnipeg this weekend the Manitoba Bisons and Calgary Dinos had split their top 10 series in the tightest of fashion. In other action both Alberta and Saskatchewan picked up sweeps on the road over Regina and UBC respectively.
Bisons-Dinos go the distance – Both nights required shootouts in the Manitoba capital in a tight series between two top 10 teams, with the end result being a win a side, and three point weekend for both the number-five ranked Manitoba Bisons and number-10 Calgary Dinos.
Despite firing nearly 39 shots on goal Friday night, Manitoba was only able to get one of those shots past Calgary's Dustin Butler, while at the other end Steve Christie was also beaten only once on 22 shots. Tyler Dittmer scored the lone Manitoba goal of the game, while Cory Pritz notched Calgary's only regulation marker in a 1-1 deadlock that was eventually decided by Brock Nixon's shootout winner, with Butler stymieing all three Bisons shooters in the skills competition.
Saturday again would again be a 2-1 result in a shootout, with Butler once again big in net for Calgary making 34 stops. Reid Jorgenson was another bright spot for the Red and White with his conference leading 11th of the season, and a shootout goal, but that wouldn't be enough for Calgary.
Greg Beller would net the shootout winner in the sixth round of the shootout to lift Manitoba to the victory, and a series split in nail biting fashion.
With a pair of 2-1 shootout results, it's clear these two sides are virtual equals at this stage of the season. They sit tied in the standings with 14 points a piece, although Manitoba has two games in hand on the Dinos. Things are starting to shake down standing-wise the way many had expected – Alberta, Manitoba, Calgary and Saskatchewan in the upper echelon of the conference.
Huskies separate from the pack – Coming into the weekend in a tie with both the Regina Cougars and UBC Thunderbirds for fourth in the conference with eight points, Saskatchewan's two wins broke that standings deadlock, with the Huskies now in sole possession of fourth place.
Friday night needed overtime after UBC's Tyler Ruel scored with a mere 31 seconds remaining in the third to even the score at 4-4. Despite letting the regulation win slip through their fingers, Saskatchewan would get the winner in OT off the stick of Brennan Bosch, whose second goal of the night lifted the Huskies to the 5-4 win.
In the second game of the weekend, Saskatchewan netminder David Reekie was the story for the Huskies, standing tall to make 36 saves on 37 shots in an eventual 3-1 Huskies win. After Dustin Kimber opened the scoring for UBC 6:13 into the game, the T-Birds were unable to slip another one past Reekie who now sits with a conference leading SV% of .940 and GAA of 1.75 which is second to only Steve Christie's 1.63 mark.
The eight combined goals scored by Saskatchewan against UBC is the second highest weekend total of the season for the Sled Dogs – their high came week two when they scored 10 goals, but nine of those markers came in a single contest against Regina. The wins might not have been the most complete victories from the Huskies after just escaping Friday with the win, and being outshot 37-29 Saturday, but the sweep was a much needed one for Saskatchewan as they gear up for a big series in Edmonton this coming weekend.
Bears roll after bye – There were no post bye week speed bumps for Alberta this weekend in Regina where Friday's convincing 5-0 result in favour of the number-one ranked team in the nation dispelled any fears of another lethargic effort after a week off.
Alberta used goals from five different players, including their first three markers of the game coming on the powerplay, to earn the shutout win over Regina. Kurtis Mucha made 29 saves to earn his first career Canada West shutout, while Sean Ringrose led the offensive charge with a goal and three assists.
Saturday night saw the two sides combine for four powerplay goals, with Regina going 2/3 with the man advantage. Those two goals on the powerplay would be all the Cougars could muster; however, with the conference's top two point getters Chad Klassen and Derek Ryan both picking up a goal and two assists to lift Alberta to a 4-2 win. Klassen now sits atop the conference scoring race with 23 points, while Ryan is second with 22.
The Bears are now four points clear of both Manitoba and Calgary in the standings. Friday night's win was an important one for Alberta given the fact their lone loss of the season thus far had come after their first bye week, when the Green and Gold came out with a lacklustre performance against UBC.
On the Regina side of the coin, after coming out and splitting their first four series, the Cougars have now been swept the last two weekends. Head coach Blaine Sautner will look to get his team back on the winning path next weekend in Lethbridge.