Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY- The Mount Royal University Cougars drop their first game of 2018 and have their season-high five game win streak snapped at the hands of the Manitoba Bison who returned the favour Saturday afternoon and held on to a 1-0 win. The man of the night was Bison net-minder Byron Spriggs who got a 36 save shutout.
Spriggs commented post-game, "We bought into a team game tonight, everybody was contributing in every way and that shows it with the zero on the scoreboard. Playing a consistent 60 minutes was a huge difference from last night."
Manitoba also snap a three-game losing skid.
MRU pushed the pace early in the first, playing opposite to the Bison style of play from the night prior by using speed and finesse to skate around them and create high-percentage plays while holding Manitoba back.
Zach Henry forced Spriggs to give his full effort when the fourth-year forward had the goaltender down and out in front of the net, but Spriggs stuck out his blocker high and kept MRU's best chance of the period out of the net.
Manitoba started to get their gears going late in the period, forcing the Cougars to chase down the physically built players in their own zone got into late penalty trouble.
They only registered their first shot on net after seven minutes of play.
Cam Lanigan, starting in his 14th straight game, had a clutch moment of his own during the late Bison push when he was forced to glove the puck while performing the splits to keep the game scoreless heading into the first break.
He stopped 28 on the night in a valiant effort.
The Bisons had their second two-man advantage of the game early on but again did not capitalize. the Bisons were kept together thanks to Spriggs throughout the duration of the period, stopping 16 Cougar chances including Luke Simpson's two sure goals.
The second-year forward was open at the bottom of the circle. On a cross-crease one-timed shot, Spriggs shuffled across in time to fling his body spread-eagle to keep his side up. His next shift, he was denied on a similar play on Spriggs' blocker side on a last second push from post-to-post.
Spriggs picked up 36 saves on the day for his first shutout of the season.
It was a cat-and-mouse second period with quality chances going both ways, but it was visiting Manitoba who opened the scoring on Michael St. Croix's eighth goal of the year.
Manitoba caught a break after an icing call brought the play back into MRU's end. Off the ensuing face-off, the ex-Oil King launched a wrist shot over the glove of Lanigan to give his side a 1-0 lead heading into the final break.
The Bisons played a perfect 'road' period and stopped any hopes of MRU crawling back to the game.
Manitoba regained their three-point gap on MRU and host bottom Regina at home while MRU has the Crowchild Classic at the Scotiabank Saddledome Thursday night against the Calgary Dinos.