Cougars stay hot heading into break, Rankin goes off

Cougars stay hot heading into break, Rankin goes off

Tanner Michalenko, Mount Royal Sports Information


CALGARY - The Mount Royal Cougars make it four in a row to keep pace for first place in the Canada West standings heading into the holiday break. The Cougars completed the weekend sweep of the Bisons here at Flames Community Arena, by a final score of 5-1.


In somewhat of a surprise, it was Wyatt Hoflin getting his first ever start in net for the Cougars after Colin Cooper's 4-3 victory in net last night. The first year goalie looked to make his first start a win to make it four in a row for the Cougars.


Saturday afternoon's contest between these two teams started off much more physical than last night's contest as the Bisons came out much more prepared compared to the last nights start. 


The Cougars committed the game's first penalty early on, giving the Bisons a chance to take their first lead of the weekend series at the Flames Community Arena. However, Mount Royal's penalty kill was impressive, much alike last nights effort. 


As the penalty wound down, a bad turnover in the Bisons zone gave Mount Royal's Jamie King a wide open opportunity in front of Bisons goalie Byron Spriggs. King outwaited Spriggs as he put the puck up and over the sprawling Bison goalie, giving Mount Royal the early 1-0 lead. King's patience gave the third year forward an unassisted short handed goal. 


The Bisons outshot the Cougars 9-5 in the first frame, but Hoflin looked very solid in his first career U Sports start. Hoflin did not let a puck get by him despite three Bison power play opportunities.


To start the second period, Manitoba seemed to be out hustling the Cougars early on. However, despite controlling the pace through the majority of the first ten minutes of the second period, the Bisons couldn't solve Wyatt Hoflin as the Cougar goalie continued to impress.


As frustration built, the Bisons started to hurt themselves after a slew of costly penalties. The Cougars drew back to back Bison penalties after Jonah Wasylak and Shaq Merasty were charged with charging and boarding respectively, just 22 seconds apart. After Merasty made his way towards the penalty box, the Bison players and coaches had a lot to say to tonight's referees, earning them an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was charged to their bench.


The Cougars took full advantage of their lengthy 2-man power play opportunity. Their power play units looked impressive as Connor Rankin started it off with a snapshot that zipped by the helpless Byron Spriggs. Due to the unsportsmanlike misconduct on the Bison bench, Mount Royal still held a 2-man advantage after Rankin made no mistake on the first opportunity. Once again, Rankin capped off an impressive power play run for the Cougars, getting his second goal of the game to make it 3-0 for Mount Royal. 


Rankin wasn't done there. The second year forward was having himself his best game of the season, completing the natural hat trick in the second period alone! Cam MacLise assisted on all three of Rankin's goals, which only spanned a little over five minutes. Rankin's third of the night and eleventh of the year made it 4-0 for Mount Royal heading into the third period. 


Mount Royal would seal the deal in the third period, as Matthew Brown tapped in his third goal of the weekend with Brett Zarazun picking up a nice assist. Hoflin's bid for a shutout in his first career start came up short, as the Cougars gave up a goal to Jordan DePape with a few minutes remaining. The Cougars would win by a score of 5-1.


Mount Royal completes the weekend sweep and makes it four in a row in the process, with their record improving to 11-5. Manitoba dropped another one, falling to 3-8.


Both of these teams will head into their Christmas break after this one. After the break, Manitoba will be at home to play the University of Regina Cougars on Friday, January 6th. Mount Royal's next game will be in Saskatoon as they face off against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday December 6th as well.