Sixth annual Crowchild Classic keeps fans on the edge of their seats
Women’s and men’s teams show Mount Royal pride, determination and focus
“Let’s go Cougars!” was the dominant chant from yet another loud and boisterous crowd at this year’s Crowchild Classic. The sixth annual event saw 10,478 hockey fans perform an impressive Scotiabank Saddledome takeover for back-to-back women’s and men’s games. These two games are legendary in U Sports history, setting an all-time league attendance record in 2016 with 12,859 fans in the seats.
Lesley Brown, Mount Royal’s provost and vice-president Academic, said, “This is my first Crowchild Classic. I’m thrilled! There’s so much energy and enthusiasm in the arena. I’m just so proud to be a part of this. It’s a great part of the Calgary community.”
Heading in to the games the series was close, with the University of Calgary boasting four wins to the Cougars’ three (plus one tie from an early soccer match-up). Both the Cougars’ women’s and men’s hockey teams had one win and one loss against the Dinos before the pucks were dropped.
Since its inception in the 2012/2013 season, MRU women have managed two Classic wins, including an exciting 3–1 defeat of their opponents last year. The men’s team won their first three Classics, but have not managed a victory since 2014/2015.
Battle at the net for the women’s game
The women’s team headed into the night with a strong record in January, notching four straight wins until two tough losses in a row to the talented University of Manitoba Bisons.
In the first period the squad came out strong, with three shots on goal in the first five minutes to the Dinos’ none. It seemed a point was inevitable as the women kept up good pressure, finishing the period outshooting the Dinos by 10 shots to one. But the game remained scoreless after 20 minutes due to an impressive showing by Dinos goalie Kelsey Roberts.
The second period started with an early goal by the Dinos’ Cheyann Newman, which was quickly followed by a couple first-rate chances for the Cougars. Heading into the third at 1-0 for the Dinos, the Cougars continued to pepper the net. The talented first line of captain Devonie Deschamps, Rachel Piitz and Tatum Amy did their best during the Cougars’ second power play of the period, but couldn’t get the puck past Roberts.
The game finished with the Cougars outshooting the Dinos 27 to 12, but still finishing with a disappointing loss of 1-0.
Coach Scott Rivett, who has been with the women’s team for seven seasons, said after the game, “Obviously their goaltender played well. Our goaltender made some big saves too, but their goaltending was the difference for them. She’s been fairly hot for the last little while, so we knew it would be a challenge to get a few past her.
“I think there was a stretch there in the second period where we kind of sat back a little bit, but for the most part I think the girls competed hard, we executed our game plan, but unfortunately just couldn’t find a way to get one past their goalie.”
This was captain Deschamps’s fifth and final Crowchild Classic, who will be graduating with a business degree in the spring. She agrees with her coach, saying the second period was a little slow, which held the team back.
“Overall I think the girls had fun, though, which is the most important part of it.”
For the rest of the season, Deschamps says, “Obviously we’re in a pretty big push right now for the playoffs. That would be huge for our team, and that’s the end goal. The next few weekends are going to be big for us.”
Another nailbiter for the men
The men headed into their contest with five straight wins in 2018 up until a tough loss to the University of Manitoba Bisons.
The men suffered a heartbreaking 4–3 loss in double overtime last year, the second time in a row the men failed to qualify a winner in regulation. The Dinos’ Matt Alfaro notched the first point, followed quickly by a second Dinos goal by Tyler Coulter. Despite a rocky start, the Cougars kept in the action, and re-energized the crowd with a nice point by captain Jamie King to make it 2-1. King was a game day decision to play, having suffered a wrist injury during the first bout of 2018, and his return was welcome. He made his presence on the ice well known. The Cougars ended the period one behind, trailing the Dinos in shots on goal by 11-4.
The pace continued to climb during the second period, with lots of hard skating on both sides. Thirteen minutes in the Cougars’ Hunter Zandee netted the game-tying goal with a nice snapshot, assisted by Jesse Lees.
It was a crazy back and forth third period as it started at 2-2. One minute into the third the Cougars’ David Stephens put one into the back of the net with the help of Tanner Olstad to put Mount Royal in the lead for the first time of the evening. A shorthanded goal by the Dinos’ Ryan Gagnon tied it up, though, and with little more than five minutes left, Drydn Dow of the Dinos shovelled in another goal with the help of Alfaro to put the Dinos ahead once again.
But the Cougars would answer back quickly with decisive point by King with less than four minutes to go, and then another by Olstad to put MRU ahead at 5-4. Unfortunately, Ryan Graham of the Dinos found the back of the net to tie it up one more time at 5-5. Shots on goal at the end of regulation were 26 to 17 for U of C.
A tripping penalty by the Dinos at 1:37 gave the Cougars the best opportunity to win the game during the first overtime, but the five minutes ended with the game not being decided. Thirty seconds in to the second overtime (the third second overtime in a row) the Dinos’ Cain Franson scored the game-winner to make the final decision 6-5 for the U of C.
The #CrowchildClassic lives up to its name! Oh baby! @UCDinos' Franson nets the 2OT winner to sweep the night. 1-0 in WHKY and 6-5 in MHKY. Bravo @MRUCougars for two awesome games. pic.twitter.com/T7eA5AuPBd— Canada West (@CanadaWest) January 26, 2018
Cougars coach Bert Gilling said about the game, “Very simply, they made more plays. And the way it was going, they got the last shot too. I was disappointed in how we played, and I give kudos to Calgary. I thought they were better in the game in terms of execution. I thought we were chasing it from the first period on.
The excitement of playing in the ‘Dome may have played a factor. “It’s just a different atmosphere in here with all the energy. There’s not a lot of structure, pucks are bouncing all over the place. I thought (the Dinos) were a little bit better than us tonight.”
Team captain King had a great night despite the outcome, and said he’s recovering well from his injury. “It felt good to come back, but it was a disappointing loss.”
With regards to playing at the Saddledome, he said, “It’s unbelievable. It’s the game of the year, besides nationals. It’s the talk of the town for a whole day. It always sucks to lose, but the fans, the MRU students, the U of C students, you can’t thank them enough for their support. It’s an amazing event.”
Tuition winner Anton Myers
Following tradition, during the second intermission students faced off to win $5,000 worth of tuition. Second-year MRU student Anton Myers was the best player of the hilarious beer pong volleyball match to take home the prize.
An open studies student at the moment, Myers’ ambition is to enter the Bissett School of Business to major in marketing. He said, “It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to win full tuition. A lot of students know how hard it is to pay for tuition and make ends meet. It really helps me out. Now I can use that money to pay for my next semester, and hopefully reduce my student loans in the future.”
Relive the experience tonight!
Both the Cougars men's and women's sides will face the Dinos again today. The women take on their crosstown rival at the Flames Community Arena and the men head north on Crowchild Trail to Father David Bauer Arena, both at 7 p.m.
The Crowchild Classic is an annual competition between the University of Calgary Dinos and the Mount Royal University Cougars across the sports of basketball, hockey, soccer and volleyball. Each year the Calgary Flames Foundation generously provides the Scotiabank Saddledome as a venue for the uber-popular double header “Classic,” arguably the highlight of the university sports season. The Cougars have not managed to notch a series win as of yet, but did fight hard for a tie in the 2014/2015 season.
Through the Calgary Flames Foundation, the Calgary Flames support post-secondary institutions in Calgary via a $20,000 donation to each school's men's and women's hockey programs. The cheques were presented between games. In addition to their donations, the Flames provide their facilities, time and staff to help make this annual event possible. Thank you Flames Foundation!
Jan. 26, 2018 — Michelle Bodnar