The 2017 Crowchild Classic
By Dan Khavkin and Sydney Fritz, Staff Writers
The ‘crosstown smackdown’ or the Crowchild Classic as it’s officially known, took place at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 3, and it certainly lived up to the hype. This year the Mount Royal Cougars and Calgary Dinos brought in 11,902 spectators for the men’s evening game while the women’s game saw 5,000 attendees.
While the Cougars women’s team clinched the last playoff spot prior to this game, the Dinos sat near the bottom of the conference and it showed on the ice as Mount Royal was all over the Dinos, winning the game 3-1.
The Cougars, who proved too fast for the Dinos, dominated the first period. Both goals in the first period were powerplay goals scored by Nicollette Sepper and Shawni Rodeback, who both finished off very similar passing plays to tap the puck over goalie Kelsey Roberts on the far side. The second period showed more Cougar dominance, as MRU players kept Roberts busy with shots 25-10 in favour of MRU heading into the third period. Team defence was the story as the Dinos mustered a measly 15 shots on Cougar goalie Emma Pincott who, despite only facing a handful of shots a period, made the big saves when needed.
The Cougars closed out the third easily, taking the first game of the evening 3-1. Coming into the second contest, the boys in blue representing MRU (15-8-1) were snake bitten by the Golden Bears two games prior. The Dinos (14-9-1) had only won two of their past six games prior to the Classic. Captain Cougar Matt Brown made sure he left a mark on his final Classic game when he drew first blood, jumping on a loose puck before slotting it between veteran Steven Stanford’s legs, helping raise the roof for MRU supporters in the Saddledome.
Goalie Colin Cooper only faced five pucks in the first frame, but one snuck past him on a screened shot from Jared Hauf to tie the game. Not too long after, Jamal Watson deflected Jesse Lees’ point shot on the powerplay to restore the Cougars lead heading into the second frame.
David Stephens gave his team some breathing room when he blew by the Dino defense and managed to tuck the puck in on the far side of Stanford in a highlight reel fashion to restore a two-goal Cougar lead. But as we’ve come to know, the 3-1 lead is dangerous (looking at you Oakland and Cleveland).
The Dinos started pushing more and more and while they only had 12 shots by the end of the second, they made their last couple count.
Dylan Walchuk scored on a cross crease feed from Dylan Busenius, who had three assists on the night. Walchuk chipped the puck into the side of the net in the last minute of the second period. Adam Kembeitz then tipped a floppy shot on net past Cooper to tie the game heading into the third period.
The Cougars kept hurting their own cause when they gave their rivals more than a minute of five-on-three powerplay time, giving time for veteran Elgin Pearce, who finished off a passing play from the bottom of the faceoff dot, to give the Dinos a lead with five minutes remaining. But the fighting Cougars kept clawing away with less than two minutes left.
Ex-Hitmen, and no stranger to the Saddledome, Connor Ranking one-timed a puck with just getting enough power behind it to get it over a sprawling Stanford, setting up an overtime for the ages. Mount Royal came alive after the tying goal but Stanford stood his ground and helped force a second overtime frame, where he stole the show and broke Cougar hearts.
Devin Gannon, the 2014 hero, picked up the puck from the high slot early in overtime and fired it into Stanford’s glove, absolutely robbing him in Miika Kipprusouff like fashion.
Moments later Jesse Lees’ stick broke, resulting in the most brutal and disorganized two-on-one anyone can think of as the tired MRU forwards hustled back to cover.
Cam Maclise managed to block a shot that went past Cooper, but fortune was with the Dinos that night as Danny Gayle swatted a backhand past all the bodies to give the Dinos the win.
The Saddledome is no stranger to cheering fans, fun mascots and good hockey. The hopeful Cougars fans and family members found their seats and wasted no time showing support.
Whether painting their chests blue, sporting school colours or just screaming in the crowd, everyone was excited. “Being here makes you feel like you’re part of something really cool,
I just want to yell ‘Go Cougars!’ every time I see blue,” says Cassidy, a 22-year-old nursing student.
She wasn’t the only one ready to show her school spirit. You couldn’t walk fifteen feet without hearing someone yell, ‘Go Cougars!’ “We may be a smaller school with less students but you couldn’t tell,” says Devin, a 19-year-old MRU criminal justice major.
“We are way louder than the U of C.” This was especially noticeable during the Girls game. While Cougars fans may have been outnumbered, you couldn’t tell from the thunderous cheering heard from all corners of the dome.
“This is my first time here [and] it’s crazy! Everyone is lit! It’s wicked!” says 18-year-old social work major, Leanna.
Although the men’s team didn’t end the game as joyfully as the women, it didn’t stop Cougars fans from showing support.
“Yeah I want our boys to win but I am blue win or lose. Go Cougars!” says Spencer, a 20-year-old athletic therapy. student.