Mount Royal takes on the University of Calgary at this year's Crowchild Classic game
The second annual Crowchild Classic has left the Mount Royal Cougars men's hockey team celebrating after they defeated the University of Calgary Dinos last Thursday.
The Cougars triumphed over the Dinos in front of a crowd of over 6,000, a new CIS regular season attendance record, at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Dinos are ranked third in Canada, while the Cougars sit at No. 16.
Mount Royal has defeated their inter-city counterparts two years running, and it appears the Cougars, who are currently fighting for their playoff lives, are getting hot at just the right time.
The tremendous rivalry between the two universities played out both on the ice, and in the stands. Although the game had major playoff implications for both teams, perhaps something greater was at stake: the pride of a city and a 68-kilogram medal.
"It's a great rivalry. It doesn't get any more competitive than when our teams play," said Jean Laforest, head coach of the Cougars men's hockey team. "But at the same time, there's a good level of respect towards each other."
Although the Dinos set the tone early in the game, it was the Cougars who paved their way to a 4-3 overtime victory. It was also the Cougar's first win over the Dinos this season.
The Cougars goalie, Dalyn Flette, was forced to make great saves early and often, turning away scoring chance after scoring chance.
Flette's teammates rewarded his efforts late in the first period, with forward Matthew Brown catching Dinos goalie Kris Lazaruk out of position. Brown made no mistake, potting a sweet feed from teammate Devin Gannon for the game's opening marker.
The Dinos momentarily halted the Cougars charge with a goal shortly after, but Mount Royal stole back the momentum with two more goals, both within a minute of each other. That spelled the end of Dinos goalie Lazaruk's night after allowing three goals in just 11 shots.
The score remained unchanged until the third period. With five minutes left in the game, a power play goal brought the Dinos just one goal away from a tied game.
With seven seconds remaining and the Cougars goalie pulled, Dinos player Chris Collins snapped the puck into the Cougars open cage.
While Cougars fans dressed in blue held their breath in the stands, coach Laforest said he never doubted his team for a second.
"The mood was pretty determined. The guys just had fire in their eyes and they wanted to get it done," said Laforest.
Their determination paid off. A quick cross-checking penalty against the Dinos resulted in a four-on-three game. The Dinos did all they could to close the open lanes, leaving the Cougars feverishly passing the puck around the offensive zone for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, a lane opened up. Cougars forward Brown seized the opportunity, and took a shot that deflected off teammate Gannon's foot and into the net, sending the Cougars side of the Saddledome into a frenzy.
The overtime hero, Gannon, finished the game with two goals, two assists and first star honours, but he said he owes his success to his teammates.
"My linemates Cody Cartier and Matt Brown played a wonder of a game," Gannon said. "They make it pretty easy to play well, and I just got rewarded tonight."
The line also received high praise from coach Laforest. He said that not only did they score big goals, but also they were fantastic defensively.
"It was just appropriate that Devin scored the goal that gave us the win," said Laforest.
The players weren't the only ones who gave everything they had that evening. Decked out in full university colours and face paint, the fans absolutely brought the noise.
"The crowd was awesome," said Gannon. "I heard it was a CIS record. We couldn't have asked for more support. Just the way everything was set up, it couldn't have been better."
It seemed almost impossible to find a Mount Royal student who didn't enjoy Thursday night's competition.
"This game was just awesome. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing, and we kicked U of C's butt," said MRU student Taylor Vadopia.
On top of the getting to see the exciting game at no cost, countless numbers of prizes were given away, including a year's paid tuition won by Mario Jean from Mount Royal and Tristan Cote from U of C.
Women: U of C 4 Mount Royal 1
Men: U of C 3 Mount Royal 4
- By BRENDAN STASIEWICH