Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - For the 327th time in program history the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies, earning a 4-1 win in their 500th all-time meeting, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
The win for the Bears (21-3-1) gives them a secure grip on the No. 1 overall seed in Canada West, and a six-point lead on Saskatchewan (18-6-1). The Huskies would need to win out, coupled with the Bears dropping their final three conference games to enter the conference tie-breaker system with Alberta. The Bears are the only team who have already clinched a top two seed in the conference and a first round playoff 'bye'. Saskatchewan needs just two points over their final three games to do the same.
Tyson Baillie, Luke Philp, Trevor Cox, and Riley Kieser all scored for Alberta in the win, while starting goalie Brendan Burke stopped 24 of the 25 Huskie shots in the win. Alex Forsberg scored the lone Huskie goal, his ninth in defeat.
In what was hyped as one biggest games on the Canada West calendar, the Bears and Huskies did not disappoint early in Friday nights tilt. The teams combined for 29 shots and 49 penalty minutes in a feisty and energetic first frame. The back-and-forth period was eventually taken over by Alberta, thanks to two late goals off deflections in the first. Baillie opened the scoring with a bank shot in off a Huskie defender and past Jordon Cooke, before Philp doubled the Bears lead with a shot deflected past Cooke one minute later.
The Huskies found the perfect start to the second period, as Forsberg cut the Alberta lead in half just 57 seconds in. Saskatchewan, however, couldn't build on their momentum, firing just five more shots towards Burke in the period. Cox restored the Bears two-goal lead with his sixth of the season in the final minutes.
Alberta continued to rely on their trademarked aggressive forecheck in the third, holding on to a majority of the puck possession. What chances Saskatchewan did have, were turned aside by Burke, who earned his 10th win of the season.
Kieser sealed the Alberta win with a shorthanded early in the third period.
The Golden Bears can clinch first in Canada West tomorrow night, as they host the Saskatchewan Huskies at 500 p.m. in the series finale at Clare Drake Arena.