History made at the 2020 Crowchild Classic
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
The ultimate cross-town showdown did not disappoint. This year’s edition of 2020 Crowchild Classic proved to be a classic once again.
The men’s hockey clubs opened the festivities with their 4 p.m. puck drop that drew in a packed lower-bowl at the Scotiabank Saddledome with 6,737 in attendance for what was another game for the books.
Mount Royal broke their four-year losing streak, when they picked up a heroic 5-4 double-overtime victory.
Graduating fifth-year forward and former member of the Calgary Hitmen Connor Rankin was there for all of the one-goal heartbreaks his teams have gone through heading into the 2020 edition.
Finally, he got one.
“To finally breakthrough… I have no words to say, seriously. It feels like we won the Stanley Cup,” Rankin says.
“I wasn’t leaving without a win in the Crowchild Classic.”
His last appearance at the Classic, was one to remember.
“It felt like a 7 p.m. crowd. We can’t thank our students and fans enough for coming out to support us that early. It’s pretty sad that I won’t be able to experience that ever again. I took it in and will never forget it.
“The energy you get from playing that game is something a lot of people don’t experience. To be able to play: in front of so many fans, in a rivalry setting and the implications of the standings, it’s a feeling you will never forget.”
The game itself, was filled with dramatic twists and turns but began at a leisurely pace with both inner-city rivals taking a 0-0 score after the first period on the ice.
The fans however, were only growing louder in support for the navy and white.
Mount Royal caught fire to start the middle frame, a fresh period and its perfect beginning was all it took to propel the Cougars to go on an offensive explosion.
The Cougars came out like a house on fire when, within the opening 20 seconds, two booming hits riled up the blue portions of the Saddledome – which for the record, not only outnumbered their Dino adversaries but were also twice as loud.
MRU eventually earned an early power play after the hot start, setting up the pandemonium to come.
Just 1:57 into the period, fourth-year graduating forward Chris Gerrie caused an eruption out of the MRU end when he buried a rebound after a Jesse Lees shot knocked the stick out of Dino goalie Brodan Salmond’s hand while sprawling, leaving a yawning cage.
The Cougars went onto double the lead at, thanks to a nifty three-way passing play inside the neutral zone that sprung sophomore Hunter Zandee onto a partial breakaway before wiring a shot bar-down for MRU’s second goal inside the opening 10 minutes at 8:41.
MRU didn’t stop there.
Rookie blue-liner and Canada West leading scoring d-man Connor Blake capped off the run on offence with a slap shot that took a deflection halfway through its path that fooled Dino net-minder Salmond at 14:04, raising the lead to 3-0.
All the Cougars had to do is just hold on.
However, they began to shoot their own foot in the latter half of the contest when they began racking up penalty after penalty.
Already killing off five Dino man-advantages, MRU found themselves in the sin-bin with just 42 seconds left in the second period – setting up the break the Dinos desperately needed.
Calgary finally found a pulse of life on the power play that carried over into the third period.
Dino forward Mitch Cook lobbed a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle on a sprawling Morris who’s ambitious stack-pad was beaten 46 seconds in.
Calgary went on to score their second and final power play goal just minutes on at 3:03 to bridge the gap at 3-2.
The Dinos went on to erase MRU’s 3-0 lead in unbelievable fashion.
Dino defenceman Sahvan Kharia got tagged with a five minute game-misconduct for a cross-check to the face behind the play that gave the Cougars the chance to shave five minutes off the clock with 11:55 left on the clock.
2:20 into the long man-advantage, the unbelievable happened.
MRU net-minder Riley Morris went to play a dumped in puck near the corner of the end-boards but to his horror, the puck bounced off his stick-blade and glided straight across towards the yawning cage where Dino forward Coda Gordon kindly slapped the puck to even the Classic at 3-3.
Rankin remarks that, “It’s tough to handle the energy with the fans being so crazy.
“Having a game like that put us through a lot. Giving up the three-goal lead was hard kudos to them but we came back which is a good sign of a championship team.”
The Cougars regained their composure and broke the deadlock just under five minutes later when rookie Sean Richards capitalized on his chance from the bottom of the corner to restore an MRU lead with just 4:25 left in the contest.
But of course, the Dinos were not going down without a fight.
With the goalie pulled, Calgary pounded the Cougars’ crease until first-year Dino and Calgary Hitmen graduate Kaden Elder tied the game with 16.2 showing on the clock.
For the third time in four years, the Crowchild Classic was headed to overtime.
Second-year Cougar d-man and first-time captain Tyson Helgesen comments on leading his team during the crazy affair.
“The atmosphere out there is absolutely unreal. We try to yell from the bench but that really didn’t help much,” he says with a laugh. “The guys were good with staying in the moment.”
The opening 4 on 4 sessions didn’t solve anything until history was finally made.
Mount Royal sophomore Ryley Lindgren came through not only for his Cougars, but his university as well when he and red-shirt rookie Keegan linked up on the historic goal 3:10 into the 3 on 3 session
“It was one of the biggest goals I scored in my life so far for sure,” Lindgren says.
“It was such a good feeling to see the puck go in and finally bring a win back to campus for the students.”
The MRU men were not the only Cougars club to make history last night.
A reported 10,002 official attendance was announced for the evening women’s game, breaking a USPORTS record for the largest crowd at a women’s hockey game.
Like past Crowchild Classic games however, the crowd did dwindle down significantly. Maybe it was due to the drunkenness of college students, the pace of play after the exciting marathon the men put on just minutes prior or maybe it was because of the scoring gap the Dinos grew in the contest.
The Dinos did just that when they hung a 4-1 scoreline over the inner-city rival.
Calgary opened the scoring on the game’s first shot 3:23 into the contest and took a 1-0 lead heading into the first break.
They went on to double their lead 13:29 into the second frame before fourth-year Cougars forward Nicolett Seper cut the lead in half with her third goal of the year.
Seper, just one of four fourth-year members on the team, enjoyed the build up and the eventual change of environment around the glass, playing in the prime-time slot.
“All week it was really exciting,” she says. “Promoting our game on main street and kind of being able to finally say that we have the later game. It was awesome. And I think it’s great that we’re rotating each year,”
That very change in the environment however, did play a factor during the loss.
“The crowd is super loud, so sometimes you feel like you don’t have to be as loud on the bench,” Seper notes.
“We play our best when we’re vocal and when we’re upbeat on the bench and helping each other out. So I think that lack today and hopefully we bring it tomorrow.”
Calgary went onto to restore their two-goal lead late in the game with a power play marker at 16:17 before icing the game with an empty net.
Editor’s note: Story has been updated to amend spelling and grammar 01/31/2020.