Cougars earn first win of the 2016-17 season

Cougars earn first win of the 2016-17 season

Danielle Doiron, Manitoba Sports Information

WINNIPEG – In a physical game that saw 14 total penalties, a third-period too many men call against the University of Manitoba Bison men's hockey team may have cost the hosts their first game of the season. 

The visiting Mount Royal University Cougars scored on the ensuing power play and eventually took the match 3-1 on Friday night at Wayne Fleming Arena. 

"We took way too many penalties," Bison head coach Mike Sirant said after the game. "It's uncharacteristic of us. Usually, we're a team that plays hard, but we don't take many penalties. Tonight, we took too many penalties, and that was a factor. 

"Our penalty-killers did a good job, but when you're out there that many times, the percentages are against you. To have the game-winner on a too many men, that's inexcusable." 

The Cougars added an empty-net goal late in the game to seal the 3-1 win. Mount Royal is now 1-0 on the young season, while the Bisons are 0-1 and have not won a season opener since the 2011-12 season. 

Forward Justin Augert gave the Bisons an early 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal at 5:52, but penalties dictated the pace of play for most of the game. Manitoba forward Joel Schreyer took a two-minute minor for holding a stick midway through the first. The Bisons killed the penalty but were shorthanded again seconds later when Brad Bowles took a crosschecking minor. Mount Royal's Devin Gannon later took a hooking penalty, but the Bisons couldn't extend their lead on their first power play of the season. 

The penalties kept on coming in the second. Cougars defenseman Grant Baker led things off with a holding minor at 1:33, and Manitoba's Kamerin Nault took an elbowing penalty minutes later. Mount Royal evened the score on the ensuing power play, when Connor Rankin scored at 7:43, assisted by Jamal Watson and Jesse Lees

Manitoba then killed off a Hudson Friesen minor for roughing after the whistle. Mount Royal sent two players – Cam MacLise and Lees – to the box for interference penalties, but the Bisons couldn't score the go-ahead goal on the 5-on-3. Brad Bowles took a minor for tripping Lees at 14:46, and Augert took a disputed roughing penalty after knocking off Mount Royal goaltender's mask at 17:32, but the game stayed tied at 1 heading to the third. 

After Rankin took a high sticking penalty early in the period and Mount Royal's Matt Bellerive was called for interference, the Bisons took the fateful too many men call at 14:59. The Cougars capitalized on the man advantage, scoring their second power-play goal of the night when Lees shot one past Manitoba goaltender Byron Spriggs at 15:27. Matthew Brown picked up the assist. The Cougars added an empty-net goal, scored by MacLise and assisted by Rankin, at 19:41. 

"The power play had some good looks," Sirant noted. "We did the right things, but the puck just wouldn't go in for us tonight. 

"We expect a hard-fought series against Mount Royal. Both of our teams are very similar in style and identity. Both teams can play fast and push the pace. "

The Bisons will look for their first win of the season when they take on the Cougars on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Wayne Fleming Arena. Tickets are available at the door.