Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
SASKATOON – A second period goal from Kendall McFaull proved enough, as the Saskatchewan Huskies opened the Canada West Men's Hockey Final with a 4-0 win over the Alberta Golden Bears Friday night in Saskatoon.
The Huskies scored the pivotal Game 1 victory in the best-of-three series much to the delight of over 1,000 fans packed inside Rutherford Rink, who witnessed the Huskies hand Alberta their first road playoff loss since 2000.
"One (win) gives us a chance, that's all," longtime Huskies head coach Dave Adolph said. "Tomorrow is night is huge. It's huge for both teams."
Playing away from Clare Drake Arena in the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, the Golden Bears couldn't beat the conference's top goaltender Jordon Cooke, who stopped all 28 shots he faced in the Saskatchewan goal.
"I thought the first two periods we did a really good job of controlling some of their better players and Cooke had a lot of shots that hit him right in the old Huskie," Adolph said of his second-year netminder.
"The third period it got a little dicey for a bit, but you expect that. They're a good team and they've got tremendous push."
For Alberta head coach Serge Lajoie, Friday night's performance was unquestionably a letdown, as the Bears failed to get traffic in front of Cooke, or generate second chance opportunities.
"We didn't show up," Lajoe said bluntly when asked what the difference was for his team.
"We played a cautious game all the way through. We've got much better."
At the other end of the rink, Alberta netminder Luke Siemens was solid for the two-time defending national champion Golden Bears, but could only survive unscathed for so long.
McFaull's power play goal just shy of six minutes into the second stood up as the game winner, as third period goals from Parker Thomas, Levi Cable – on a penalty shot - and John Lawrence added the insurance markers Saskatchewan needed to earn just their second win in their last 10 meetings with Alberta.
The Golden Bears, who entered the series looking for their 53rd conference banner, are now in the unfamiliar position of looking to bounce back in Game 2 of the series, as they hope to take the series to Sunday.
Saskatchewan, on the other hand, can wrap up their first conference title since 2011-12 with a win in Game 2.
"They're the two-time national champions," Adolph said. "They've got a lot more left in their tank and we had a good night tonight early – scored a goal on the power play and it was just a 50/50 game after that."
"I think you'll probably see them come even harder tomorrow night - they're a quality team."
Game 2 goes Saturday at 7 p.m. CST. All the action can be seen live on Canadawest.tv
NOTES: Alberta's last playoff road loss came back in 2000 against the Huskies in Game 3 of the Canada West Final … Saskatchewan was 1-for-6 on the power play, while Alberta went 0-for-4 with the man advantage…The Huskies are now a win away from the program's 16th conference title.