Cougars draw first blood in Crowchild Classic

Cougars draw first blood in Crowchild Classic

Arron Lai; Dinos Communications

CALGARY - In the first hockey installment of the Crowchild Classic series between the University of Calgary Dinos and the Mount Royal University Cougars, an early third period goal by Jamal Watson sealed the win for the Cougars.

With the game tied 2-2 after 40 minutes of play in a stalemate between the cross-town rivals, second year forward Jamal Watson played hero for the Cougars to help his team draw first blood against the Dinos.

"It always feels good to score against these guys no matter what," explained Watson. "Especially on a nice play from Kord [Pankewicz] like that, just putting the puck away and having a game-winner is good. It is nice to get a win against these guys."

Watson's remarks only prove how important this rivalry is to both teams. After the Dinos won last year's Crowchild Classic matchup at the Scotiabank Saddledome in double overtime, the Cougars were looking for redemption.

"We wanted to come out with a chip on our shoulder and take it to these guys," said Watson.

Despite the loss, the Dinos showed resiliency and grit, after finding themselves in a deficit to start the first and second periods.

The Cougars opened the scoring 10:09 into the opening frame with a crafty wrist shot from Morgan Zulinick. However, It was especially important for the Dinos to find the equalizer as three of the Dinos' four losses on the season have come from trailing after the opening period. With two and a half minutes remaining in the first period, rookie defenseman Ryan Gagnon scored his first career goal as a Dino to tie the game at one.

Fourth year Dino Cain Franson explains, "Anytime you can bounce back right away after they score it is huge, and helps even the momentum in a game." 

The second period saw the Cougars press the action as Dinos goaltender Matt Greenfield, named to last year's Canada West All-Rookie team, faced 13 shots. The Cougars were able to take the lead early in the second frame, despite a fantastic initial pad save from Greenfield who slid across his crease to rob the Cougars of an open net. After Greenfield's save, the Cougars swarmed the front of the Dinos' net and captain Jamie King was able to jam the puck in to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.

A familiar feeling after falling behind early in the first period, the Dinos continued to fight back in search of an equalizer. 

The Dinos found the equalizer courtesy of their powerplay unit, which ranks fifth in the country, operating at 25.6%. After a pass from Dylan Busenius, Cain Franson scored his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at two.

"It is always nice when they are going in for you," explains Franson. However, Franson remains focused on team accolades rather than individual accolades. "It is definitely a positive but at the end of the night, we did not win so it does not mean a whole lot. I want to help my team where I can but we got to pull together here and string some wins together."

After Jamal Watson put the Cougars ahead 3-2, the Dinos were unable to find the equalizer, while only registering five shots in the third frame.

In assessing the game, Dinos head coach Mark Howell explains: "They played fast, played hard, wanted the puck. We played slow, and got beaten and did not support the puck very well. We did not play very fast tonight."

Cain Franson echoed his coach's sentiments, praising Mount Royal. "You got to give credit to MRU, they are a fast, hard-working team. We knew what we had to do before the game but we just did not execute on enough points in the game. We made a push at the end but that is not good enough."

The Dinos and Cougars will face off again in a rematch tomorrow night at Mount Royal's home arena, Flames Community Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

"We got a lot of game film to watch tomorrow morning, that is for sure," says Franson. "We got to readjust and see what we did wrong and put our best foot forward tomorrow night."