Canada West Final: Golden Bear cookie crumbled by Christie
EDMONTON - Canada West first team all-star goaltender Steve Christie made 46 saves as the Manitoba Bisons defeated the No.1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears 4-1 during game one of the conference championship series, Friday night at Clare Drake arena.
The Bisons now lead the best-of-three series 1-0.
The win was Manitoba's first-ever playoff win over the Golden Bears in Edmonton in team history. In fact, the last time the Bisons beat Alberta in the post-season was in the 1971 conference semi-final series in Winnipeg, which Manitoba won 2-0.
No previous series between the two teams has ever gone to three games.
Game two goes Saturday with a puck drop of 7:30 pm.
Christie, a fourth-year puck-stopper from Winnipeg, was sharp all game long, denying the Golden Bears during 5-on-5 play as well as on special teams, where Alberta went 1-8.
"Goaltending can win you games in the playoffs, and that's what we saw tonight," said Manitoba head coach Mike Sirant, who spent the previous three seasons on a leave of absence and coaching in Europe.
"Our special teams did a really good job tonight as well, but it's only one game, it's not the series," added Sirant.
Manitoba opened the scoring 5:34 into the first period when Jared Walker put the puck on target, just the Bisons' second shot of the game, and got a fortuitous bounce off Alberta defenseman Kyle Fecho and past freshman Golden Bear goalie Travis Yonkman.
Shane Lenoski beat Yonkman with a power-play tally just over six minutes later and the Bisons skated into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, despite being outshot 18-4 and giving up four power-play opportunities.
"Christie did a real good job of taking away the bottom half of the net and making our guys beat him with perfect shots," said Alberta head coach Eric Thurston.
"We missed a number of opportunities tonight, especially on the power-play and in the first, when we could have really changed the outcome of the game. The line is so thin that you can't spot a team like Manitoba a lead like that and hope to come back," Thurston continued.
It looked like the Bears, winners of three of the last five University Cup championships, were starting to find their stride in the second period when fourth-year winger Brian Woolger banged home a power-play rebound to cut the deficit in half.
Yet the Bisons restored their two-goal cushion as rookie forward Blair Macaulay beat Yonkman, who was making his third career CIS playoff start, with a screened shot at 15:33 of the second.
"They're a team with so much skill, that we knew we had to get pucks deep and generate chances from in-close," said Christie of the Bison game plan.
Macaulay cemented the win in the third period, beating Yonkman just 1:33 into the third period, killing off any momentum Alberta may have had and quieting the crowd immediately.
Walker took the initial shot, which hit Yonkman in the chest and dropped in front of him, but before the rookie netminder could put his trapper on the puck and force a face-off, Macaulay swooped in and back-handed it past Yonkman for the insurance tally.
Alberta went 0-2 with the man advantage in the third and outshot their guests 12-8 for a final tally of 47-21.
"We don't play pretty, but we had success tonight because we got on top of them early and limited their special teams," said Christie.
"I think the message is to keep pushing," counters Thurston. "I thought we competed pretty hard tonight...I mean 47 shots is a lot and to only come away with one goal says something about the other team's goaltender. Our power-play needs to be better and the guys need to bear down and bury the chances they get, because the line is thin and getting thinner."
University of Alberta Athletics
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