Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY- Three points separated the Mount Royal Cougars and Manitoba Bisons in the Canada West standings heading into the Jan. 19 match-up at the Flames Community Arenas in Calgary.
The red-hot Cougars beat Manitoba 4-3 which elongated their season-long win streak that now sits at five games for the first time since the 2015/2016 season.
Cougar netminder Cam Lanigan stated after the game, "We knew this would be our real challenge of the year, they came out hard and it was nice to see our offence rolling, especially from the back end."
The Bisons were looking to recover from a sweep at the hands of the Saskatchewan Huskies one weekend ago.
Visiting Manitoba were the aggressors throughout the duration of the first period, outshooting MRU 12-6 and forced the Cougars to contain their physical style of play.
The Bisons got the first goal of the game at 10:19 on Quintin Lisoway's sixth goal of the season, connecting stick-to-puck on a fast-break following a Warren Callis feed to the front of the net.
Lisoway got in between the Cougar defencemen at the front of the crease and extended his stick to chip Callis' driven pass and into the top corner and past Lanigan.
Moments on at 11:01, Bison forward Brett Brooks got ejected for a hit on defenceman Allan MacPherson after he boarded the Cougar from behind.
MacPherson did not return to the game.
MRU however, could not capitalize on the five-minute power play against a second-placed Bison penalty-kill and only managed to get six pucks on Bison net-minder Byron Spriggs in the period alone.
Manitoba kept up the same intense and physical pace to start the second period.
After an early man-advantage that fatigued the Cougar defence, the Bisons kept the pressure and doubled their lead at 15:08.
Regrouping in their own end, Manitoba caught the whole Cougar five-man unit flatfooted and on a bang-bang breakout, sprung Remi Laurencelle who wristed the puck under the arm of Lanigan to put the Bison up 2-0.
With alarm bells going off, the Cougars started creating pressure of their own and tied the game just 12 seconds apart.
Fifth-year senior Tanner Olstad floated the puck up and over Spriggs from the corner of the blueline at 12:38 and the following face-off, Jamal Watson crashed the net with his stick on the ice to tap in a finessed pass from Kord Pankewicz.
Manitoba responded minutes on of a Brad Bowles slapshot who absolutely teed-up to wire his shot past Lanigan as the third Bison goal was the last goal of an action packed second period that had four goals in a total of 3:49 of hockey.
The third period was all MRU.
Jesse Lees salvaged the Cougars two points to bridge the gap between them and the Bisons to one point heading into the rematch tomorrow.
MRU tied the game early in the third period on Lees' ninth goal of the season and also made Cougar history.
Lees is the first Cougar defenceman with two consecutive 20-point seasons.
His second goal of the period and his 10th of the season with just over two minutes left to play, lifted the Cougars over the Bison with the rematch set for 3 p.m. at the FCA.
"We're on a roll, glad we came back with the right mindset, being an older guy its nice to have it figure out on my last go-around, guys are starting to buy in and its paying off." Lanigan also commented post-game.