Manitoba Bisons Move On To Semi-Finals

Manitoba Bisons Win Game 3 and Move on to the Semi-Finals —

With their leaders stepping up to the plate, the Manitoba Bisons men’s hockey team took the decisive third game in their best-of-three Canada West quarterfinals series on Sunday, February 23 at the Wayne Fleming Arena (U of M campus), shutting out the Mount Royal Cougars 2-0.

After losing the series opener in the longest playoff game in Manitoba men’s hockey history, the Bisons fought fatigue and a physical Cougars team to win the next two and move on to the Canada West semifinals.

“I thought the first period today was as good as I’ve seen this team play all season,” said Manitoba Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.  “We played a real smart, effective game.  I was impressed with our speed, we moved our feet and made smart decisions with pucks.”


photo by Shawn Coates

Manitoba’s top line came to play on Sunday afternoon, as Aaron Lewadniuk and Ian Duval dictated a quick pace from the opening puck drop.  Lewadniuk had the assist on Duval’s goal, while Luke Cain scored the game-winner midway through the first.

“They’ve been our top offensive line all year and you need your best players to be best in the playoffs, and they stepped up and did that tonight,” said Sirant.

Starting goalie Joe Caliguiri was solid for a third straight game, this time earning the shutout with 24 saves.

Mount Royal struggled with penalties all afternoon, as the Bisons spent 16 minutes with a man advantage.  Starting goalie Dalyn Flette had 32 saves in the loss.

Another aggressive start for Manitoba earned them chances throughout the first period.  At 9:53, they opened the scoring with Cain, who buried a cross-ice pass from Darren Bestland in the crease.  The combination of Duval and Lewadniuk then came in for a pair of 2-on-1 breaks in the next ten minutes, but were unable to finish them cleanly.

After the period break, they would make sure the third time’s the charm.  Receiving a short Lewadniuk pass, Duval would make it 2-0 at the 2:57 mark by jamming it past Flette.  Manitoba continued to dominate zone time and maintain their lead, despite going 0-for-5 on power play opportunities in the first 40 minutes.

The Cougars came out as their hard-checking selves to start the third, but sustained zone time didn’t translate into goals as Manitoba kept their defence tight in the middle.  The Bisons contained Mount Royal throughout the frame, finishing off the game and the series.

Manitoba was without the services of top rookie scorer Jordan DePape, who served a game misconduct for a head check penalty taken in Game 2.

The Herd now looks forward to the Canada West best-of-three semifinals, where they’ll play either top seed Alberta or second seed Calgary starting Friday, February 28, depending on the result of Sunday night’s third game in the UBC/Saskatchewan quarterfinals.

If UBC pulls off the upset, the Manitoba Bisons will go to Calgary.  If Saskatchewan wins, the Bisons travel to Alberta.

With the loss, Mount Royal’s best season in Canada West men’s hockey comes to an end, as they lose their first playoff series in school history.

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