Cougars clinch playoff spot with win in Winnipeg

Photo: Trevor Hagan
Photo: Trevor Hagan

WINNIPEG — A two-goal second period helped lift the Mount Royal Cougars to a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday afternoon at Wayne Fleming Arena. The win also secured a playoff spot for the visitors.

The first period was a wild back-and-forth affair that featured a little bit of everything, from big hits, to huge stops and a single goal courtesy of the hosts. 

The lone tally of the contest for Manitoba came off the stick of forward Liam Bilton at 3:46, as he picked up a loose puck in the Cougars zone and zipped it off the post and in. 

The Bisons had a few other quality chances — thanks in large part to their speed — which resulted in a few odd man rushes, including a Nick Zajactwo-on-one with Matt Leblanc. Mount Royal goalie Riley Morris was up to the task though, making a stellar stop sliding from his left to right. 

The visitors had plenty of chances as well, including a goal six minutes in by Austin Adamson that was waved off after a lengthy discussion, as Bisons goalie Byron Spriggs had been taken down and had no chance to make the save. 

Mount Royal's second best-chance to score came on an odd-man rush as they caught the Bisons on a change. Manitoba native and the Cougars leading scorer Ryley Lindgren lifted a puck up to teammate Connor Rankin, whose shot beat Spriggs, but not the crossbar. 

Manitoba's netminder had an eclectic first period, which was due to more than just the shots he faced. Multiple players crashed into him during the opening 20 minutes, including an upper body shot that kept him down for a little while, however he demonstrated his toughness by staying in the game. 

Spriggs' grit was critical, as he continued to come up clutch in the first, including a huge stop on forward Bradley Kennedy on a two-on-one. 

Both teams generated early pressure to start the second period, with a strange bounce resulting in a Mount Royal goal at 6:04. The puck was cleared into the Manitoba zone and somehow ended up right in front of Spriggs, He was able to stop the first shot from David Stephens but not the second from Connor Chartier.

The Bisons had a good look a few minutes later, when Bilton was left wide open near the slot, however his shot sailed just over the net. 

The visitors would then take the lead with just 2:29 left, as forward Austin Adamson was sprung on a partial breakaway. He made no mistake, going five-hole on Spriggs to give Mount Royal a one-goal leading heading into the final 20 minutes of play.

The Bisons ran into penalty trouble in the third, taking three infractions six minutes apart and the Cougars made them pay on their second man advantage for an insurance marker. Forward Christopher Gerrie was able to deflect a shot in front and pass Spriggs with seven minutes to go. 

Mount Royal had an excellent chance to add to their lead a minute later on their third power play of the final 20 minutes, however Spriggs made another stellar save sliding to his right to deny Lindgren. 

The Bisons pulled their goalie with a minute left, but David Stephens was able to outrace the Bisons defence, adding a late marker to cap off the three-goal win. 

With the win, the Cougars advance to 11-5-4, while Manitoba falls to 3-15-2.

Next up for the Bisons is a road tile against the Regina Cougars, while Mount Royal will head to Alberta to face the Golden Bears.