Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
SASKATOON – The Saskatchewan Huskies place atop Canada West men's hockey will live another day.
After dropping Game 1 of the best-of-three Canada West Men's Hockey Final Friday night, the reigning conference champions answered back Saturday with an inspired 2-0 win in Game 2 of the best-of-three series at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon.
Led by two-time Canada West Goaltender of the Year Jordon Cooke's shutout and a pair of goals from Jaimen Yakubowski, the Huskies shutdown the Bears, outshooting their longtime rivals 42-26, including by a 20-8 margin in the first period.
The Huskies strong start stood in stark contrast to their opening frame Friday, in which Alberta raced out to a 10-0 lead on the shot clock and 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
"You have two teams that want to play fast," Huskies head coach Dave Adolph said after the win. "In order to play fast you have to have puck possession and we had that (tonight) – we didn't last night."
"Alberta had puck possession for probably the first 30 minutes (of Game 1) and that was their game."
Despite not being able to translate their excellent start Saturday into a first period lead, Saskatchewan kept up the pressure early in the middle frame. The home side eventually broke through three minutes into the period when Yakubowski shoveled home a rebound past Alberta's Brendan Burke.
The former Moose Jaw Warrior's first goal of the post-season marked Saskatchewan's initial lead of the series – an advantage the home side would never relinquish.
"It was really important," said Yakubowski – who scored 67 career goals in the Western Hockey League – of playing with the lead. "We had a really good first period there and came out hard in the second, so we needed to pot one."
"(Jesse) Forsberg took that puck to the net hard and it popped right open there for me."
Playing with the lead for the first time in the series, the Huskies kept up the heat, as they continued to pepper Burke with quality scoring chances. The rookie netminder stood tall, stopping 11 of the 12 shots he faced in the middle frame to keep the deficit at just one.
Unlike Friday when the Huskies failed to score consecutive goals in their comeback bid, Saskatchewan found their elusive back-to-back goal 8:59 into the third when Yakubowski potted his second of the night.
The second-year forward's insurance marker proved to be more than enough for the reigning conference champs, who made the most of Cooke's second career playoff shutout.
"Both teams are wide open and your goaltender has to keep you in and give you a chance," said Adolph.
Cooke did just that, in a game where both netminders provided their teams with an opportunity to win.
Now, the two storied Canada West programs will face off in Game 3 of the Canada West Final for a sixth time. Saskatchewan owns a 3-2 advantage in the previous five series that went three, including a victory in the most recent meeting that went the distance back in 2013 in Edmonton.
The finale of the Canada West Men's Hockey Final is set for Sunday at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen live on CanadaWest.tv.
NOTES: The Golden Bears went 0-for-3 on the man advantage in Game 2, while the Huskies were 0-for-4. Neither team has made good on their 14 combined power play chances…Alberta heads into Sunday looking for their 53rd conference title, while the Huskies are aiming for their 17th conference crown…Both teams are headed to the U SPORTS University Cup March 16-19 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This year's national tournament marks the 13th time the University Cup has been hosted in Atlantic Canada. Canada West teams have won four titles in the Maritimes (1977-78 Alberta in Moncton, 1982-83 Saskatchewan in Moncton, 2007-08 Alberta in Moncton, 2014-15 Alberta in Halifax).