Mount Royal finds offensive spark in successful night against University of Manitoba

The Mount Royal Cougars men’s hockey team impressed in their first home game of the season on Friday Oct. 16, with a convincing 6-1 victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons.  

The Cougars were able to bounce back after their disappointing season opening weekend, which saw them drop both games to the University of British Columbia, by finals of 4-3 and 2-1.

“We needed this game,” said Cougars head coach, Bert Gilling. “We wanted to break loose, we were super excited to get on our home ice and even last weekend, we started our season in UBC, we thought we played well, didn’t necessarily get rewarded for it.”

Mount Royal started with a fast pace, hemming the Bisons in their own zone for the majority of the first period. Hampered by the Cougars’ fierce forecheck, the Bisons had trouble retrieving the puck from their zone to create any sort of breakout. 

Forward Zack Henry explained that the style of play allowed for success in limiting the opportunities Manitoba received to set up plays.

“We just played aggressive, straight-line pressure on them and that just causes turnovers and we just stayed in their zone — that’s where it all starts.” 

It didn’t take long for the Cougars to light the lamp. With the Cougars on the power play, forward Tyler Fiddler found team captain Matt Brown, who was able to beat the Bisons’ goaltender in the slot at 5:58 of the first period. 

Halfway through the first period the Cougars added another courtesy of an even-strength goal from Jarid Hauptman at 10:54. The Cougars were rewarded for the pressure and cycle they established in Manitoba’s zone and from that point on the Cougars didn’t look back.

Mount Royal began to dominate all parts of the game. They maintained their aggressive style even on the power play, which resulted in a shorthanded goal by Tyler Fiddler at 19:59 of the first period. 

The aggressive style of play the Cougars implemented made for a quiet period in the crease for goaltender Colin Cooper. Manitoba could muster just six shots in the first period, with most coming from the outside perimeters.

Competitive Bisons make for an even second period

The second period was less eventful. As Manitoba anchored down on the defense, the Bisons made adjustments to limit quality scoring chances that hurt them immensely in the first period. However, Mount Royal was able to break through once in the middle frame, when Cody Cartier tallied on the power play at 17:41, assisted by Fiddler and Brett Zarazun

Mount Royal entered the final frame with a shutdown mentality to close out the game. Manitoba continued to take penalties and the Cougars continued to capitalize on them. Grant Baker capped off a successful night on the power play, as he was able to finish a play assisted by Cartier and MacKenzie Johnston. Brown put up Mount Royal’s last goal of the night when he scored his second of the game at 5:51, assisted by Fiddler and Johnston.

“We just played aggressive, straight-line pressure on them and that just causes turnovers and we just stayed in their zone — that’s where it all starts.”                                                  – Zack Henry, Mount Royal Cougars forward

Mount Royal goaltender, Colin Cooper lost his shutout bid late in the game when Liam Bilton was able to squeeze Manitoba’s first goal by him.

An excited Coach Gilling mentioned that he was extremely proud with the way his team performed. Gilling explained that the key to the offensive success was lots of energy and credited the speed of his squad.

“We want to push the pace and we have increased the skill, we like to think that one through four lines can make plays at full speed,” said Gilling. “I think that with the University of Manitoba, it’s a long trip out here, we wanted to get on them early and score the first goal and just keep it on them and I thought that we did a good job of that.”

Captain Matt Brown felt that the depth and work ethic of the team gave them the opportunity to put up the offensive numbers.

“We just focused on getting line after line in there and continuing pressure,” Brown said. “I think that really helped our line and the other lines put up numbers, so it was really awesome all the way through.”

The key to success

Mount Royal found success with their power play against Manitoba, as they finished the game with three power play goals on four attempts. Brown said it was thanks to their hard work and preparation that they were able to make the most of their advantages.

“I think that we showed a little more composure. Last week we struggled a bit and we worked on it in practice. So we were just focusing on getting pucks to the net, getting to the dirty areas and really trying to bear down on putting the pucks in the net.”         

The team showed much more energy when they had the man advantage, something he said was important to bring after the results last weekend in British Columbia. “It was our main point of emphasis this week in practice, again if you looked at our game against UBC last weekend, you’re on the road, you’re playing well, it’s tight, it’s a tight game both nights, we need your power play to deliver, you need to win the special teams,” said coach Gilling.

“I just thought that we got a little disjointed, I thought that our body language wasn’t great on the power play, so we switched things up this week, we worked on it for a couple of days and again we had early success.”

The Cougars will have little rest as they play back-to-back games against the same Manitoba team. Mount Royal struggled with the short rest last year and this year they are looking to overcome some of the challenges of back-to-back games to achieve more success this year.

“We struggled with this a little last year on some of these short turn arounds,” said Gilling. “One of the toughest things to do at the college/university level hockey is sweep.”

Mount Royal was able to put another winning effort on the ice in the second game against the Bisons on Saturday Oct. 17, defeating the University of Manitoba once again, by a final of 3-1. Matt Brown, Tyler Fiddler and Tanner Olstad scored for the Cougars, while it was Justin Augert who scored Manitoba’s lone goal.

agrant@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Jesse Buchholz, jbuchholz@cjournal.ca