Cougars capture hockey title number 13
by Blaine Meller
After a tough-fought season and controversy surrounding dressing an ineligible player during their championship series with SAIT, the Mount Royal Cougars men’s hockey team find themselves ACAC Champions. The Cougars defeated rival SAIT 1-0 in the deciding game of their championship series, giving the cats a 3-2 series win and ending SAIT’s title streak at four.
The win gives the Cougars their 13th ACAC title overall and first since the 2005-06 season. Coincidentally, Mount Royal also defeated SAIT three games to two in that series, and in the final game by a 4-3 score.
“It was an awesome feeling, winning the championship and sharing it with this group of guys,” said Cougars captain Darnell Glass.
“This team showed a lot of pride and determination and competed very, very hard. We knew SAIT was a good team and we knew what we would have to do to beat them,” Glass said. The Cougars captain, speaking while wearing a brace on his left leg after suffering a hyperextended knee, also said the controversy surrounding the game did not detract from the win.
“We won that game. Even if the ACAC overturned the decision, we won that game. We’re getting our championship rings,” Glass said.
After losing the opening game of the series, the Cougars rebounded to capture the next two. SAIT fought back to take Game 4 and tied the series with a 4-3 win in double overtime. In the fifth game, the Cougars took the lead at 9:52 of the first period on an Eric Galbraith power-play goal. From there, Brett Bothwell made 27 saves, 11 in the second period alone, to preserve the shutout and give Mount Royal the win. Bothwell played in place of starter Justin Cote, who was injured early in Game 4.
“You can’t script that,” said Cougars’ head coach Jean Laforest, referring to Bothwell’s performance.
“We were confident that he could get the job done, but he was unbelievable. We had a situation where we had the right guy at the right time. He proved he was up to the task.”
Going into the series, Laforest offered his charges some simple advice: enjoy the situation, enjoy the moment, stay positive and stay the course.
After dispatching Augustana in the semifinals 3-1, they would face SAIT, a team they played closely all year, but lost three of four games during the regular season. Despite that, Laforest was confident the Cougars had the prerequisite tools it would take to upend the Trojans and thwart their quest for a fifth consecutive title.
“I thought we matched up well and played them well all season. If we played our game, we had a really good chance of being successful,” Laforest said.