Connor Hood, Bears and Pandas Athletics
FREDERICTON - Down 2-0 in the third period to the Saskatchewan Huskies, the University of Alberta Golden Bears scored twice in regulation, before sophomore sniper Trevor Cox scored the winner 3:15 into the first overtime period, giving Alberta a 3-2 win over Saskatchewan in their University Cup Semifinal, Saturday afternoon at the Aitken University Centre.
"We were stressing that no shot is a bad one. So saw a break on the wing, and threw the puck on net, and it just snuck in under his arm," said Cox post-game. "Probably one of the most special moments of my hockey career for sure."
Alberta now advances to the University Cup Final for the first time since last winning in 2015, as they will play the No. 5 seeded St. FX X-Men tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. AST. Sunday's final will mark the first time Alberta and St. FX will meet in the national final.
"I think we found out a little about ourselves today. We knew this group had a high level of resiliency," said Bears head coach Serge Lajoie. "We didn't face a lot of adversity throughout the year, but we still had times when we had to bounce back. I think in the second and third the guys really showed that they wanted it for themselves and their teammates. I know they guys are happy to have the chance to play for a national championship tomorrow."
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, will now battle the host UNB Varsity Reds in the Bronze Medal game.
Luke Philp and Graeme Craig sparked the Bears comeback with goals in the third period, with Craig's game-tying goal coming with just 4:43 left in regulation. Rookie goalie Zach Sawchenko stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced in his first career U Cup game. The win for Alberta is their fifth-straight against their conference foe, after sweeping the Huskies in the 2018 Canada West Final two weeks ago in Edmonton.
Parker Thomas opened the scoring for the Huskies midway through the first, beating Sawchenko off a scramble in the Alberta crease. After scoring eight goals in their quarter-final win over Acadia the previous day, the Bears were held off the scoresheet in the opening 20, managing just six shots on Huskie starter Taran Kozun.
Saskatchewan added to their lead late in the second period, as Forsberg beat Sawchenko from the slot, snapping in a quick shot off a bouncing puck past the Alberta tender. Alberta started to find their offensive rhythm in the second, outshooting the Huskies 14-8, but were still unable to beat Kozun through 40.
Philp finally put the Bears on the board early in the third period, blowing a shot past a screened Kozun from the Huskie slot. As it was in the Canada West Final, penalties started be the undoing of Saskatchewan on Saturday. The Huskies took four minor penalties in the third period alone, as Craig leveled the game with a powerplay marker in the final five minutes.
Having taken complete control of the momentum, the Bears needed only three minutes of overtime to complete the thrilling comeback. Cox snapped a quick wrister far side on Kozun, who let his shot sneak through his arm and into the back of the Huskie cage.
"We didn't come here for silver. We didn't come here for bronze. It's high lofty expectations at the University of Alberta and our guys are excited." said Lajoie. "They're down from their high, I can guarantee you that, and they're focused. We're prepared for the next challenge and the next challenge is St. FX.""
The Bears and X-Men will get the University Cup Final underway tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Atlantic Time, with the game being broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet NOW.
- Alberta is now 3-0 all-time against Saskatchewan in the University Cup. The Bears also defeated Saskatchewan in the 2005 and 2014 National Final
- The Golden Bears are 3-4 against St. FX in the U SPORTS Championship. St. FX defeated Alberta 6-2 in their last meeting (2016 University Cup quarter-final)