CIS university hockey rivals play before record-breaking crowd at YYC crosstown smackdown
Months of anticipation came to its denouement Thursday night in front of a Canadian Interuniversity Sport West record 8,882 screaming fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The third installment of the “Crosstown Smackdown,” which saw over 2,500 more fans than last season’s record-breaking event, once again pinned the Mount Royal University Cougars against their CIS West rival University of Calgary Dinos.
However, not all games were played on ice. Students from both schools, decked out in Dinos red and Cougars blue, came ready to cheer on their squads.
Women’s game: Jess Ross steals the show for Mount Royal
Despite being outshot 31-15, Mount Royal goaltender Jess Ross, playing in her second Crowchild Classic, held down the fort and led the eighth place Cougars to a 3-2 victory over the first place Dinos.
Mount Royal’s Danielle Klein scored her first goal of the year late in the first period and Taralynn Suzuki followed suit early in the second, also scoring her first of the year.
This trend continued. After the Dinos cut the Cougars lead to one, Devonie Deschamps became the third Cougar to rack up her first goal of the year, restoring the two-goal cushion.
Photo by Ryan Rumbolt
That was all the breathing room first star of the game Jess Ross needed to seal the Cougars’ second win over the Dinos this season.
“It was a full team effort,” said Ross after her 29-save performance. “We blocked tons of shots. It’s really about Cougars hockey and that’s what we played today, we sacrificed the body to get the win.”
The Cougars’ spirited play on the ice was matched by the support the team had in the stands during what Ross called the most exciting game of their season.
“Our fans were incredible today, ” said Ross.
Mount Royal head coach Scott Rivett, whose team scored three goals for the first time this season, said that the ‘Dome atmosphere helped his team.
“As the game wore on and more people started to show up, the crowd got into the game,” said Rivett. “You could feel the emotion in the building and the kids rallied behind that.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi attended the event and spoke about how important it was for the women’s teams to be on Calgary’s biggest stage.
“I love that we’re here at the Saddledome for the players today, particularly the female players.” said Nenshi, who was sporting a half Mount Royal half University of Calgary jersey. “It’s an opportunity they might not get again and the fact that the Flames were so generous to let them play in an NHL arena is pretty exciting for them.”
Men’s game: Yes he Cam!
Mount Royal goaltender Cam Lanigan turned away all 19 shots he faced Thursday evening, helping his team defeat the Dinos by a score of 2-0.
Photo by A.J. Mike Smith In the midst of a fierce playoff race, the win helped the Cougars match the Dinos to share second place in the Canada West conference.
After the Cougars killed off a five-on-three power play early in the first period, Matthew Brown scored his tenth of the season igniting the crowd into an early frenzy.
Mount Royal’s Jamie King scored later in the period to make the score 2-0 and a strong defensive performance the rest of the way sealed the deal for first-year CIS head coach Bert Gilling’s squad.
“This was a huge win,” said Gilling, who is no stranger to big games having helped lead the Bemidji State Beavers to an NCAA Frozen Four appearance in 2009. “We were poised, we were in control, we were professional on the bench and kept an even keel the whole time. I’m very proud of our team.”
Mount Royal’s first goal scorer Matthew Brown, who was playing his second Crowchild Classic, felt he was able to use his experience from last year’s contest to help the younger players this go-round.
“Last year was my first event so this year I was ready for it,” said Brown. “It was cool to see how the young guys handled it and I could help them through it like the older guys helped us last year.”
The game within the game
Photo by A.J. Mike Smith With banners hanging around the city for months and after the success of the past two events, the almost 9,000 fans brought the heat and shattered the CIS record of 6,016 fans set at last year’s event.
Divided by a sheet of ice, about 4,500 boisterous fans on each side of the Saddledome chanted and screamed throughout the night to prove why their school spirit was stronger than the 4,500 across enemy lines.
“It was as good of an atmosphere as I’ve seen in collegiate or university hockey,” said Mount Royal’s coach Gilling. “I’ve been in some big crowds but nothing with this many students. It was nice seeing the excitement and the energy in the building.”
Competitions in the stands broke out during TV timeouts and intermissions, including everything from ice cream eating contests and tricycle races to a friendly pickup game of two-on-two in sumo wrestler suits.
Mount Royal student Zachary Blondeau said this just added to the already fierce atmosphere.
“This is just so much fun with all of the stuff going on and everyone around is just so pumped and excited about the game too.”
Even those on the losing end managed to enjoy themselves. University of Calgary student Ryan Pearce wore his Dinos sweater with pride despite the loss.
“The atmosphere is great,” said Pearce. “Everybody is getting rowdy but everyone’s really nice and nobody’s getting too violent so everything is great!”
It’s not over yet
Mount Royal’s two wins Thursday have knotted the year-long multi-sport series between the Dinos and Cougars at six games apiece.
The Dinos have won the long series the past two seasons, but with two hockey games remaining, the result of the 2014-15 edition is still up for grabs.
The prize for winning the season long series, along with city pride and bragging rights for a year, is a 68-kilogram cast iron City of Calgary manhole cover.
The final hockey games go down Friday Jan. 16, with the men playing at the Flames Community Arena at 7 p.m. and the women at the Father David Bauer Arena at 7 p.m. as well.