By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
After losing a heart-breaker in a two overtime thriller on Friday night, the University Manitoba Bisons collected themselves and won back-to-back games to book a place in the Canada West semi-finals next weekend.
The Bisons collected their sixth win this season, second in the playoffs, over the rival Mount Royal Cougars, blanking the visitors 2-0 on goals from Luke Cain and Ian Duval. Joe Caligiuri stood tall in the in the Bisons net, stopping all 21 shots he faced in the contest.
Mount Royal stuck a dagger into the hearts of Bisons players and fans on Friday night after Brenden Turnbull struck pay dirt 4:09 into the second overtime period, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“The first game was a tough loss, losing in double overtime, but that happens in sport,” said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.
Sirant’s squad collected themselves after the hard-fought game, with the Bisons came out strong on Saturday night and leveling the series at one apiece courtesy of two goals from former Selkirk Steelers’ star Taylor Dickin.
Dickin’s heroics paved the way for Sunday’s deciding match-up and the Bisons made no mistake, controlling the game on their way to clinching the series and a spot in next weekend’s Canada West semi-final against one of Alberta or Calgary, Canada West’s top two teams respectively.
“Playing Saturday with as much heart and passion as I can recall a Bison team playing, that was a real tough, intense, physical, hard-fought game last night, as hard as I can remember,” Sirant said. “Our will to win last night was unbelievable.
“Today, our first period was as good of a period that we played all year, we were falling our game plan perfectly. The bottom line is, we won like this team needs to win, 1-0, 2-0 games.”
Bisons netminder Joe Caligiuri was equally as pleased with his team’s performance over the last two games.
“The guys showed a lot of resiliency and I thought last night was the best game, from our standpoint, in the series,” said Caligiuri. “It was kind of one of those games where guys were playing hard and caught a couple breaks.”
The prospect of facing an Alberta team, which lost just three games all season, looms over the heads of the Bisons. Yet, if you ask Caligiuri he will tell you it really doesn’t matter who the team plays in the next round.
“They are both really, really good teams (Alberta and Calgary), it’s one of those things where it is going to be a heck of the series and we are going to have to be at our best for either team,” said Caligiuri.