HALIFAX - In the dog fight for bronze, the Saint Mary's Huskies skated to a 5-2 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies in the 2016 University Cup Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Centre.
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"To win the last game of the year - although it wasn't the colour [medal] we wanted - is a great feeling," Saint Mary's forward Stephen MacAulay said.
"We came out a little flat in our last game; it was so emotional, but we were able to focus today and come out to play for our program and school, especially our seniors."
Less than two minutes into the game, Saint Mary's garnered the first quality scoring chance, when forward Kyle Pereira made a move around a couple Saskatchewan defenders, but he slid a backhander through the crease and wide of the net.
Shortly after, Saint Mary's forward Anthony Repaci broke in alone on CIS goaltender of the year Jordon Cooke, who made a nifty blocker save on a hard wrist shot.
At 3:06 of the first period, Cooke - also the Canada West MVP - entered the CIS University Cup record book, having logged the most minutes in tournament history, surpassing former UNB Varsity Red's net-minder Ken Carroll.
Just more than one minute later, Saint Mary's got on the board, when Repaci was sent in alone with a lead pass, before moving to the backhand and sliding a shot five-hole under Cooke.
Only 21 seconds later, off the ensuing face-off, Saskatchewan garnered the equalizer, when Jesse Ross led a 2-on-1 into the Saint Mary's zone. He elected to shoot, wiring a hard blast top-shelf - blocker side - behind goaltender Cole Cheveldave. Parker Thomas and David Stumborg notched the helpers.
Just more than six minutes in, Saskatchewan had an opportunity to take their first lead, when Zak Stebner took a wrist shot from the point, through traffic, but Cheveldave butterflied to make the pad save.
Saint Mary's tried to take the lead a short time later, when MacAulay, a second-team AUS all-star, from the edge of the crease - re-directed a centering pass from Bradley Greene, but Cooke made the save.
Close to midway through the opening stanza, Taylor Burke's wrap-around shot for Saint Mary's rang off the goal post.
Seconds later, Mitchell Maynard connected with Calder Brooks, who was darting to the front of the Saskatchewan net, but Cooke made saves on the initial shot and rebound attempt.
Burke later drove down the wing and passed to line-mate Francis Menard, who could not solve Cooke with the tip-in chance.
On a partial break-away, Saskatchewan forward Sean Aschim snapped a shot over the Saint Mary's net.
In the final few minutes of the first period, on the power play, Pereira found MacAulay in the slot, but Cooke made the stop with his stick, before gobbling up the rebound.
Saint Mary's outshot Saskatchewan 13-6 in the opening 20 minutes.
In the second period, at the 31-second mark, Josh Roach got between two Saint Mary's defenders and raced into the offensive zone to pick up a loose puck. From there, he beat Cheveldave with a quick shot. Connor Cox and Jaimen Yakubowski chipped in assists.
Just under eight minutes into the middle frame, Saskatchewan almost doubled their advantage, but Cameron Blair rang a shot off the goal post.
At 11:33, Saint Mary's knotted the affair 2-2. After a high point-shot from Pereira handcuffed Cooke, Brooks picked up the loose puck at the side of the net, before making no mistake with a quick wrap-around. MacAulay collected the other assist.
Less than two minutes later, at 13:27, Gerrad Grant put Saint Mary's in front. After taking a feed from Francis Menard, he deked a Saskatchewan defender before placing a back-hander under the cross bar behind Cooke.
Saint Mary's garnered nine shots in the second period, while Saskatchewan collected six.
In the third period, Saint Mary's had an early chance, with the man-advantage, but Saskatchewan showed its prowess on the penalty kill, highlighted by a great shot block from Josh Roach.
On a delayed penalty call against Saskatchewan, Saint Mary's went ahead 4-2, at the 5:02 mark, when MacAulay went top shelf, blocker side over Cooke, after taking a cross-ice pass from Burke. Repaci notched the other helper.
In the back half of the third period, Saskatchewan battled to trim the two-goal deficit, but Cheveldave thwarted Matthew Spafford on a wrist shot from the deep slot.
On the counter-attack, Saint Mary's broke away two-on-one, with Ben Duffy connecting with Brooks, who roofed a shot over Cooke's blocker. The second of the contest for Brooks came at the 13:39 mark.
On a later power play, Saskatchewan could not carve into the 5-2 Saint Mary's advantage, with Cheveldave making a pair of stops, including one with the glove hand.
In the final period, the Saint Mary's outshot Saskatchewan 9-7.
"They can't take these medals away from us," veteran Saint Mary's head coach Trevor Steinburg said, when asked about the difficulty, if any, of getting up for a bronze medal game.
He added he knew his players would be prepared.
His counterpart, Saskatchewan's Dave Adolph, still questioned the need for playing the third-place match-up. Nevertheless, he credited both teams for a "well played, clean game."
"I am proud of Saint Mary's and our guys, but I still don't see the point [for the bronze medal game]," he added.
Cheveldave made 17 saves for the win, while Cooke turned aside 26 shots in the loss.
Ross was named player of the game for Saskatchewan, while Brooks earned the honour for the Saint Mary's.
With the Saint Mary's bronze-medal effort, the AUS is assured of a medal sweep in the tournament.
The UNB Varsity Reds will face-off against the AUS rival StFX X-Men, in a re-match of the AUS championship series, for gold Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ADT.
The championship match-up will be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports 2.