Crowchild Classic 2023 splits between teams

Roller-coaster games thrill fans from both sides

Michelle BodnarMount Royal University | Posted: January 30, 2023

Check out the scenes from the 2023 Crowchild Classic.

After a two-year hiatus, the annual Crowchild Classic hockey doubleheader, AKA the “Crosstown Smackdown,” returned to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 27. For nine years, Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary ― separated by less than 10 kilometres of the major city thoroughfare Crowchild Trail ― have held an unofficial season-long tournament pitting each of their women’s and men’s soccer, volleyball, basketball and hockey teams against each other.

The men’s and women’s hockey showdown at the Scotiabank Saddledome is easily the Classic’s most popular event, setting an all-time U SPORTS attendance record in 2016 of 12,859. This year, 11,083 attended to make up a raucous and rowdy crowd, with each side representing in their team’s colours.

Notably before the games, the Cougars’ women’s hockey team had gone undefeated against the Dinos, while the men each had two wins. However, the MRU women were on a four-game losing streak while the Dinos had gone five games undefeated.

The Dinos men were on a major high, heading in with a first-place seed in Canada West and an incredible 17-game winning streak (19-3-0).

Calgary’s mayor Jyoti Gondek, UCalgary president and vice-chancellor Ed McCauley, and MRU president and vice-chancellor Tim Rahilly performed the ceremonial puck drop for the women’s game, who played first.

Rahilly said, "We are so excited to be back in the Scotiabank Saddledome for the Crowchild Classic. This is an incredible celebration of varsity sport played in front of the largest gathering of university students in the city, and the rivalry is very real, very audible, and I love to see the sea of red and blue. Many thanks to the Calgary Flames, the Flames Foundation and the University of Calgary for helping make this happen.”

Women’s game results

MRU held the upper hand in the standings before face off, with a 14-5-3 record and a third-place spot in Canada West against the Dinos’ record of 11-8-3 and a fifth-place seed. Cougars captain Tatum Amy has had an incredible year, leading the conference with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points.

The Cougars came out roaring with the hope of redeeming themselves from their 4-1 loss in 2020.

Mount Royal outshot UCalgary in the first period 5-1, but it proved tough to get the puck past Calgary netminder Gabriella Durante, who leads U SPORTS in saves.

The Cougars women currently sit in third place in Canada West. 

A tense second period also went scoreless.

Play picked up in the third, with MRU continuing to pepper UCalgary’s net, causing Durante to have to stop 20 shots to UCalgary’s seven by halfway through the period. But, despite a concerted effort by MRU, the Jumbotron still showed 0-0 when the clock stopped ticking, even though MRU had come up with 29 shots on net compared to 18 for UCalgary.

After two five-minute overtime periods, it was time for a shootout. Cougars forward Aliya Jomha led off, putting her shot past Durante for the first and only point of the game, scoring the win for the Cougars.

Afterwards, head coach Scott Rivett said, “There were no passengers today. We had 20 players who all played super well. We certainly generated our chances, their goaltender played great and made the saves she needed to make and pushed it to the end, but we found a way,” noting that the standout player for the night was MRU goalie Kaitlyn Ross.

“Obviously we want to win in regulation. Getting into a one-on-one shootout is very stressful, but we did well,” said Ross, and that the added pressure tends to improve her playing. “I thought it was a very solid effort all throughout the game, all 60 minutes. I thought we got lots of shots through and did a great job in the O-zone.”

The Cougars women were the victors after a scoreless game in regulation, two overtime periods and a shootout. 

She finished with saying it feels good to have another win under their belts heading into the playoffs.

Read the game wrap-up from the Cougars.

Men’s game results

MRU were the victors in 2020 after a nail-biting double-overtime win to come up with a 5-4 result. The previous year it was the Dinos who came back, putting two goals in the back of the net in the third period for a 2-1 victory. With each team boasting four victories under the ‘Dome before 2023, it has always been back-and-forth for these two teams.

Although the Dinos had notched 17 wins in succession, MRU was on its own mini winning streak, having putting up four “Ws” in a row before Friday. They were also the last team to beat UCalgary (7-2) before they began their tear.

Standout players for the Cougars this year have been forward Riley Sawchuk, who leads Canada West in both goals and assists, making his way to an impressive 43 points before Friday, and captain Nolan Yaremko close behind with 38 points. The pair make up the top two point-getters in Canada West.

The first period started up fast and furious, with play quickly moving back-and-forth between ends. Yaremko had the first best chance for the Cougars at seven minutes in, but was denied by an exceptional blocker save by UCalgary netminder Carl Tetachuk. Ultimately it was Sawchuk who put the first point up with less than three minutes left, making it 1-0 for the Cougars.

Cougars forward Riley Sawchuk (number 13) currently leads Canada West in goals and assists. 

Early on in the second, the Dinos brought the score back to even with a goal by forward Jake Gricius, which was very quickly answered back by a blistering shot by Cougars forward Josh Tarzwell to put the blue side up again. That lead did not last long, however, as thirty seconds later Colson Gengenbach of the Dinos tied it up once more to make it three goals scored in the first five and a half minutes.

Although the rest of the period was played with plenty of emotion and the Cougars kept the pressure on, the period ended in a 2-2 tie.

And it was UCalgary’s Gengenbach again in the third to take the Dinos ahead for the first time with a score of 3-2. MRU kept the pressure up, outshooting UCalgary 48-33 for the game, but the Dinos valiantly held on.

The UCalgary Dinos men's team made Canada West history on Friday by notching 18 wins in a row ― a new record. 

The game ended with Gengenbach getting himself a hat trick by scoring an empty-netter to finish the match at 4-2. With 18 wins in a row, the Dinos have made their mark in Canada West history. Mount Royal remains third in the conference with a 16-4-3 record.

Read the game wrap-up from the Cougars.

Taking home tuition for the year

As is the tradition, during the men’s game two representatives from both MRU and UCalgary played a game of Peer Pong for a chance to win their tuition (worth $5,000) for the 2023/2024 school year. Third-year biology student Paige Appelhof took home the prize after a spirited contest.

Paige Appelhof took home the prize.

It was Applehof’s first Crowchild Classic, and she said she had a great time.

“The first two were cancelled, so I finally got to come and I am so excited,” she said. Winning tuition is “huge,” she said, and that it would allow her to quit her job and concentrate fully on her studies.

Follow your MRU Cougars as they continue to take on the Dinos and other varsity teams throughout the season. Go Cougars!