By David Song, January 30 2019 —
The 2019 Crowchild Classic bucked a recent and incredible trend in the event’s history. For the first time in four years, the men’s edition of the cross-town showdown did not extend to double overtime. Instead, the University of Calgary Dinos were able to close out the match in regulation, downing the Mount Royal University Cougars 2–1 on a last-second power play goal by third-year Riley Sheen.
“It’s a hard game to play because there’s so much energy,” head coach Mark Howell said. “The building’s hot. The ice is slow. But the guys love playing it. It’s an energetic, fun event and good on our guys finding a way to win in the end.”
Both the Dinos and the Cougars came out flying in the first period, feeding off of the raucous crowd. The Dinos generated no less than four odd-man rushes, including a short-handed 2-on-1, while the Cougars forced Calgary netminder Matt Greenfield to make big saves early and often. A period that could have ended 4–3 for either team instead turned out scoreless thanks to a goaltending clinic put on by Greenfield and MRU’s Riley Morris.
“I wanted to give the boys a chance, play my game,” Greenfield said about his mentality throughout the contest. “If [the Cougars] are going to beat me, make them [score] great goals and give the guys in front of me a chance to win.”
“[Greenfield’s] been awesome,” Howell said. “He looks big, strong, confident. At no point in time does he look like he’s not in control of his game.”
Former Calgary Hitmen forward Connor Rankin broke through for the Cougars at 5:34 of the second period, deflecting Tyson Helgesen’s wrist shot past Greenfield to make it 1–0. Consecutive Dinos penalties at 6:07 and 6:36 gifted MRU with a 5-on-3 power play and a chance to take a dominant lead in the game. Calgary’s penalty kill was up to the task, blocking shots and disrupting passing lanes to preserve the one-goal deficit.
“When you take a couple of penalties like that, the belief on the bench is and always has to be, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ ” explained Dinos captain Dylan Busenius. “Let’s block some shots, make some plays, and we’ll create some energy out of that. I thought our guys did a really good job.”
Heavy physical play continued into the third frame, with both teams consistently finishing their checks. The Dinos evened the score at 5:39 as forward Chris Rauckman beat Morris with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Both teams continued to trade scoring chances deep into the period and the game seemed destined for overtime for the fourth consecutive year.
All that changed when the Cougars were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 19:40 of the third. Busenius broke his stick attempting a one-timer on the power play and with three seconds left on the clock, the puck slid over to Sheen. The Dinos’ leading scorer would not be denied, ripping his 16th goal of the season past Morris for the game winner.
“We got a good bounce,” Sheen said after the game. “Our power play’s been a little bit stymied as of late, so it was nice to be in the right spot at the right time and be able to find the back of the net.”
The Dinos improve to 16–6–2 on the year and have already clinched a playoff spot, sitting third in the Canada West standings with 34 points. Their regular season will close out with a weekend series against the visiting University of Regina Cougars, followed by a home-and-away series against the second-place University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Coach Howell stressed the importance of his team adhering to its identity down the stretch.
“We’re a team that defends well, and we check hard, and we put pucks in good areas for us and wear teams down,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to do that to have success.”
“Everybody’s on the same page and everybody has the same goals,” Busenius said. “We have a lot of character guys, and it shows on the ice. The playoffs are all about battle and will. I think our group shows those qualities very well, and I’m excited for what we can do.”