Saturday, 2 March 2019

“Rat Line” pulls Golden Bears even with Huskies in Canada West Championship series

The Golden Bears celebrate a goal from captain Riley Kieser.
    Needing a win to stay alive in the Canada West Championship series, the “Rat Line” hit top gear for the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team.
    U of A’s forward unit centred by captain Riley Kieser flanked by Cole Sanford at right wing and Trevor Cox at left wing played like three Theo Fleurys on the ice. They brought agitation and skill knocking the University of Saskatchewan Huskies off their game on Saturday and accounted for the Golden Bears first two goals.
    When the dust settled at Merlis Belsher Place, the Golden Bears skated away with a 3-0 victory over the Huskies in Game 2 of the best-of-three Canada West final before a packed crowd of 2,643 spectators. The win by the Golden Bears evens the series at 1-1 and forces a series deciding Game 3 on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Merlis.
Riley Kieser had a goal and an assist for the Golden Bears.
    The Huskies claimed Game 1 by a 4-2 score on Friday at Merlis.
    Following Saturday’s game, Kieser said the Golden Bears entered Game 2 with the goal of coming out with a better work ethic, more intensity and were trying to avoid getting too pretty in the skill department.
    “We won one-on-one battles,” said Kieser. “We got pucks in deep and made them work in their defensive zone. It was a lot more fun game to play.”
    Kieser’s line seemed to be in the centre of all sorts of little skirmishes in the opening frame. It appeared that unit in particular had a different sort of high intensity to their game playing at their “pest best.”
    After a scoreless first period, Kieser opened the game’s scoring 19 seconds into the second period, when he ripped home a goal from the top of the left faceoff circle. Sanford picked up an assist on the tally.
Cole Sanford had a pair of assists for the Golden Bears.
    “It is always helpful to get that first goal,” said Kieser. “It definitely gives you confidence.
    “We weren’t able to get that yesterday, but we got it today and just rolled with it.”
    At the 13:46 mark of the second period, the “Rat Line” struck again to put the Golden Bears up 2-0. Kieser had the puck behind the Huskies net and slipped a beauty centring pass to Cox in front of the U of S goal.
    Cox fired home the insurance marker with Sanford picking up an assist on the play as well.
    The trio also has all sorts of playoff experience coming in both the WHL and U Sports.
    Kieser helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the WHL and Memorial Cup championships in his final season of major junior hockey in 2013-14. Upon joining the Golden Bears, he helped U of A win the David Johnston University Cup as U Sports national champions in his first campaign with the team in 2014-15 and last season.
Trevor Cox had a goal for the Golden Bears.
    Cox and Sanford helped the Medicine Hat Tigers advance to the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series in 2013-14 and were key players helping the Golden Bears win the Canada West Conference and U Sports national titles last season.
    “It is great to play with those two guys,” said Kieser. “They definitely bring a lot to the game.
    “They play with a lot of intensity and a lot of work ethic. I think all four of our lines came out hard tonight, but we were fortunate on a couple of goals, so that definitely set tone.”
    Grayson Pawlenchuk, who was the Canada West rookie of the year, capped the Golden Bears victory scoring a power-play goal from a bad angle at the 9:11 mark of the third period.
Trevor Cox (#36) and Riley Kieser (#14) agitated the Huskies.
    Zach Sawchenko stopped 20 shots to pick up the shutout win for the Golden Bears. Taran Kozun made 27 saves to the setback in goal for the Huskies.
    Saturday’s clash, which was the 510th overall meeting between the two sides, was very much a rivalry game that included both teams delivering a lot of extra shots after whistles. The officials would attend to a scrum at one end of the ice, and something underhanded would happen at the other end of the ice.
    Huskie sophomore defenceman Sam Ruopp was slammed hard on a couple of occasions including being the victim of a hard hit from behind by Cox in the first period and being nailed by another U of A player in the third period.
Saturday’s game was filled with lots of rough stuff.
    Near the end of the contest, the Huskies became totally unraveled.
    With 2:11 remaining in the third, Huskies sophomore forward Alex Forsberg tackled Cox and was given a tripping minor, a roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct. Huskies captain Jesse Forsberg, who is Alex’s older brother, also received a 10-minute misconduct at that point in the game.
    At the 19:22 mark of the third, Huskies left-winger and agitator Jaimen Yakubowski was given a roughing major, while centre Wyatt Johnson and right-winger Carter Folk were given 10-minute misconducts during the same stoppage.
Golden Bears RW Brandon Magee and Huskies D Jesse Forsberg get tied up.
    Folk actually gave a love tap cross check to a linesman, which resulted in his misconduct.
    The Huskies finished the game with 58 minutes in penalties, while the Golden Bears had 12 minutes of infraction accessed against them.
    “It is always a good feeling to know that they are getting frustrated,” said Kieser. “You just want to keep playing your game, play the right way and you will get rewarded, and that is what we did today.”
    When the puck drops for Sunday’s series deciding Game 3 between these “forever rivals,” Kieser believes the Huskies will be over their frustrations and his side has to be ready for a most focused push back from the U of S side.
The Golden Bears celebrate their win on Saturday night.
    “It is do or die again,” said Kieser. “We came out battling for our lives today, and we’re going to do the same tomorrow.
    “It is going to be a great game.”

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