Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON - The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's hockey team punched their ticket to the Canada West Championship and University Cup with a 7-3 win over the Mount Royal Cougars to sweep their semifinal series on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Merlis Belsher Place.
"It's been a pretty magical year at Merlis Belsher Place," said Huskies head coach Dave Adolph. "The guys play well here, and I think Alberta will embrace the challenge of coming here. When the Bears and Huskies play, it's an absolute war. I'm looking forward to it."
The Huskies, who finished the regular season with a 25-3 record, marched through Mount Royal with back-to-back victories allowing them to play host to the Alberta Golden Bears in next weekend's Canada West Championship, while also clinching a berth to the University Cup in Lethbridge, Alta.
"We have an experienced group, and we know what it takes to win," said Huskies forward Andrew Johnson. "It was rocking in here tonight, it's a pretty sweet arena and in its first year of existence to be able to host the final is pretty cool."
Meanwhile, Mount Royal's season comes to an end as they weren't able to best the Huskies after they went on the road to defeat the UBC Thunderbirds in three games to advance to the semifinals.
Levi Cable led the Huskies with the hat-trick, as the fourth-year forward now has five goals in his last two games. Carson Stadnyk tallied two goals on the night, while Collin Shirley and Jesse Forsberg each registered two assists in the win. Alex Forsberg scored his third goal in the past two games with his second-period tally, while Andrew Johnson, who had zero goals during the regular season, found the back of the net with his shorthanded marker in the first period. Colby Harmsworth, Parker Thomas, Logan McVeigh, and Kohl Baumlalso added helpers for Saskatchewan.
Zack Henry found the back of the net twice for Mount Royal, while Ryley Lindgren added his third point of the post-season with his first-period goal. David Stephens registered his sixth point of the post-season with an assist on Lindgren's goal, while Brad Kennedy, who had the lone Cougars goal in game one, tacked on a helper in the loss.
2018-19 Canada West first-team all-star Taran Kozun recorded the win with 12 saves for Saskatchewan.
Riley Morris did all he could to keep Mount Royal in the affair, as the rookie netminder stopped 27 of 33 shots in the final game of his rookie season.
After Saskatchewan dominated the entirety of game one on Friday night, Mount Royal stunned the crowd just 1:29 into the first period.
Bauml turned the puck over inside his own zone, which allowed Henry to walk in alone on Kozun and the forward went backhand top-shelf to give the visitors the early lead.
The visitors continued to dial-up the pressure. Mount Royal silenced the Saskatchewan faithful by scoring on their first powerplay of the night, as Stephens set up Lindgren who scored his third goal of the post-season.
The Huskies got right back into the game however, as Cable's wrap-around attempt was stopped, but the fourth-year forward stuck with the play and banged home his third goal of the post-season to bring his team back within one.
The first-period offensive explosion continued after Bauml won a critical faceoff back to Cable, who sniped his second goal of the night to mark back-to-back two-goal games for the Hudson Bay, SK native.
Andrew Johnson added a goal late in the frame to erase the early deficit and send the Huskies into the first intermission up 3-2.
Mount Royal came out of the dressing room ready to go as they wasted little time to get back in the game, after a beautiful feed from Kennedy from behind the net set up Henry who fired home his second goal of the game.
The Huskies scored their first powerplay goal of the night after beautiful puck movement left Jesse Forsberg with the wide-open net, but the fifth-year blueliner was unable to tuck it home. However, luckily for Saskatchewan, Stadnyk was there to finish what he started as the forward who had 13 goals during the regular season, jammed home his first goal of the post-season to give Saskatchewan back the lead.
The Huskies kept the pressure coming when Alex Forsberg, who was fresh off a four-point game one, scored Saskatchewan's second goal in just over two minutes. The second-year forward ripped a wrister past Morris to pick up his fifth point of the playoffs with the powerplay tally to make it 5-3.
After the Cougars goal 2:53 into the second period, the Huskies were able to control play. Saskatchewan outshot the visitors 11-4 in the frame.
In the third period Stadnyk scored his second goal of the night when he broke in on a two-on-one with Wyatt Johnson and elected to keep the puck himself, and he snuck his shot past Morris to give the Huskies a three-goal lead.
Cable tacked on his third goal of the night with the empty-netter late in the third period, which all but sealed the win for the home side.
Saskatchewan will welcome the defending Canada West and National Champion Alberta Golden Bears to town next weekend in a best-of-three series. The Bears will look to spoil the Huskies dream season inside their new arena.