Men's Hockey vs. NAIT
The Briercrest hockey team hosted the NAIT Ooks this weekend for a pair of games at Barkman Arena. Tyler Esau got the nod in net for Briercrest and was tested early by a NAIT powerplay in the opening minutes. Briercrest would kill it off before giving up a goal shortly after on a neutral zone turnover putting them down 1-0. Esau made a spectacular save off a rebound diving across to take away an empty net shortly afterwards to keep the game tight. Briercrest got some momentum from a couple good shifts from their fourth line, Mitch Lutz taking down two Ooks at once in the defensive zone, and Ryan Regal picking the pocket of a NAIT defenseman and making some nice moves for the best chance Briercrest got in the first period.
Esau would continue to be spectacular coming up with one highlight reel save after another despite suffering an injury early in the second. Schellenberg gave Briercrest some energy with a big hit, and Josh Dufresne would make a smart play on a 3-1 to hold NAIT's lead to one goal. Despite Briercrest’s great defensive efforts, they couldn't seem to get much going offensively, Regel and Murray probably had the best chance of the period on a penalty kill. NAIT would extend their lead to 2-0 late in the second and add two more in the third for a final score of 4-0.
Saturdays game started out looking like a continuation of the night before, despite a fantastic save by Chenard on a cross crease pass to start the game, as NAIT would tally 4 times in the first period. Briercrest would rally late in the first however, netting a tic-tac-toe powerplay marker, Gustafson, to Epp, to Murray. On the following shift Nathan Wiebe delivered a thunderous check right in front of the Briercrest bench, getting a roar not only from his teammates but from the crowd as well.
The second period would see Briercrest come out playing like a team possessed, absolutely dominating the play resulting in Cornelson tipping a Gustafson point shot in for an early goal. Briercrest would not let up, showing a more aggressive style of play with D men pinching more often and generating a lot of chances. Eventually Matt Chenard would pull them to within one on an absolute cannon of a point shot. NAIT would push back however and got two lucky goals, one off a bad bounce and one that would just barely trickle into the net to regain a three goal lead. The last half of the second saw Briercrest with some strong penalty killing getting some big saves from Chenard and multiple blocked shots from Anholt, Lutz and Epp as they killed three penalties in a row.
The third period proved to be just as exciting as the second as Briercrest again took the play to NAIT. Regal was exceptionally strong on the puck, fighting through checks and demonstrating some nifty stick-handling which would eventually result in a goal from Nathan Wiebe. Trailing by two, Briercrest pulled their goalie with 1:20 remaining and got a clutch goal from Josh Gustafson, assists going to Stephanson and Epp, with 46 seconds left on the clock. Briercrest won the ensuing draw and regrouped to make a final push, but the play would be whistled down by the linesman, claiming that Briercrest forward stepped on the ice before the goalie was close enough to the bench, stopping a 3-2 Briercrest rush, and Briercrest wouldn't get another chance. The final score was 6-5 NAIT.