Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY- The Mount Royal Cougars played in their final home game of the 2017 calendar year on Student Night, hosting the first half of a home-and-home against the national leaders, University of Alberta Golden Bears.
The last time these two schools played, MRU had a rude awakening with a 7-1 and 5-0 humbling loss against Alberta on the opening weekend of the Canada West season. The 13-1-0 Golden Bears came into the contest as the first placed national school in U-SPORTS and fresh off a sweep in Vancouver against the Thunderbirds. MRU was looking to bounce back from a gritty weekend against the Saskatchewan Huskies, being swept by them on home ice.
In the first period, Mount Royal kept up with the finesse of Alberta, keeping a quick and mobile Golden Bear offence to the outside while creating openings of their own and having a few shots whiz by netminder Brendan Burke. Alberta broke the deadlock at 1:10 and doubled their lead a mere ten seconds later on a Jamie Crooks double. His 10th and 11th goals were ten seconds apart. Crooks fished the puck from a battle along the boards and then walked from behind the net to the top of Cam Lanigan's crease. With patience, Crooks calmly lifted the puck over the shoulder of the stunned MRU goalie. Lanigan had a strong performance, turning away 35 shots on the night.
On the ensuing face-off, an MRU turnover allowed for Crooks to jam in a rebound in to give the Golden Bears a 2-0 lead heading into the first break. The Cougars caught a break and made the game interesting when Connor Rankin cut the Golden Bear lead in half at 11:08 on a power play marker. A point shot went past a crowd of bodies and past a screened Burke, who stopped 32 shots on his way to his sixth win of the year. A final empty-net marker from Dylan Bredo iced the game for his side as they took a 3-1 win heading back to the Clare Drake Arena for the rematch.
"They're a good hockey team, number one for a reason but we stuck with them really well we just got to take that momentum tomorrow," Rankin said after the game.
"If we play a full 60 minutes and come into tomorrows game with the same work ethic we'll find success."
The rematch takes place in Edmonton with puck drop ready for 6 p.m.