Justin McCaffrey, Mount Royal Sports Information
CALGARY – Connor Rankin recorded his first career postseason hat trick as Mount Royal took the first game of the Canada West quarterfinal series 6-1 on Friday night at Flames Community Arenas.
In the midst of a hard-fought fourth line shift, Mount Royal scored the first goal of the series at the 5:18 mark. Bill Marshall got the puck to Colton Waltz at the point who blasted a shot on goal. The puck hit Marshall before it got to the net and fell down in the high slot. Luke Simpson grabbed the puck, spun and fired, ripping it top corner past Byron Spriggs.
Cam Maclise then added to the Cougars' lead less than a minute later on a great individual effort. Maclise stripped the puck from the Bisons defender and walked in alone on Spriggs. Maclise looked high then slid it hard along the ice through the goaltender's legs to make it 2-0 Mount Royal.
Bill Marshall collected his second assist of the game on Connor Rankin's first of the postseason. With 1:20 left in the period, Marshall got the puck to Rankin at the side of the net. The league's leading scorer got two whacks at the puck before burying it for Mount Royal's third goal of the period.
After a scoreless second period Luke Simpson scored his second of the game on the power play just 50 seconds into the period. Grant Baker took the puck at the blue line and fed a wide-open Simpson at the side of the net. Simpson delayed, then fired the puck around Spriggs to extend the Cougars' lead to four.
Less than three minutes later, the Cougars chased Spriggs from the Bisons' net when Connor Rankin scored his second of the game. On a delayed penalty, Rankin picked up the puck in the slot and placed it neatly under the glove hand of Spriggs. That would spell the end for the Manitoba goaltender as Justin Paulic was forced to come in, in relief.
The Bisons' broke Cam Lanigan's shutout bid with a power play goal at 13:37. Rene Hunter corralled the puck at the blue and directed a shot on goal. The puck hit Jesse Lees' stick in front and flipped over the shoulder of Lanigan to get Manitoba on the board.
Connor Rankin completed the hat trick shorthanded to restore the five-goal lead. Maclise and Rankin broke in two-on-one and Maclise wisely found Rankin with a slick saucer pass. Rankin went forehand, backhand making no mistake for his third of the game.
The Cougars now lead the series 1-0 and can advance to the Canada West semifinals with one more victory. The second game of this Canada West best-of-three quarterfinal series goes tomorrow night at 7:00pm at Flames Community Arenas.