For the fourth straight game, including a pair of playoff wins this weekend, Kurtis Mucha was impenetrable. The fourth-year goalie from Sherwood Park, Alta. staked the No.2 ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears’ hockey team to a 2-0 win over the No.10 ranked University of Calgary Dinos on Saturday night in game two of their best-of-three semi-final series at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.
Mucha, who last conceded a goal on January 26th, 2013, a string of 264 minutes of 20 seconds, stopped 29 shots on Saturday to blank the Dinos for the second straight evening. On Friday he stopped 26 Calgary shots as the Bears rolled up a 4-0 game one victory. In the series clinching win, he got offensive support from forwards Drew Nichol and fifth-year team captain Greg Gardner, as they each scored a goal on Saturday, while fourth-year defenceman Ian Barteaux also played a hand, literally, in preserving the shutout victory.
Barteaux likely stopped a sure goal late in the third period when Mucha was down and out and the Dinos were buzzing. Pressing hard for their first goal, and some life in the series, Calgary hemmed the Bears in their own zone over the span of a minute and generated more than a couple of chances, and a lot of shots. None better than when a cross-ice one-timer from the face-off circle flew past a diving Mucha, hit the post and bounced right in front of the goal for an easy tap-in, but a kneeling Barteaux, playing the role of goalie to perfection, swatted the rebound attempt away just before it crossed the line to keep the goose egg from breaking.
The rugged defenceman, who is known more for his booming shot and penchant for physical play, also factored into Alberta’s game winning goal when his blue-line blast was tipped by Nichol at 18:44 of the first period. Calgary’s goalie, fifth-year Dustin Butler, was solid in the first period as he kept his teammates in the game while they were finding their way.
After outshooting Calgary 12-4 in the first, and out-scoring them 1-0, the Dinos owned the second period as they took it to their hosts in an effort to beat Mucha and tie the series. Calgary picked up a 9-1 shot advantage through the opening 10 minutes of the middle frame, but Alberta’s crease protector stopped every one of them. After a lackluster opening to the period, the Bears started to pick their play up, and at 12:04 Gardner scored an absolute highlight reel goal as he split the Dinos’ defence with an inside-out, between-the-legs dangle, and then went forehand-backhand to beat Butler five-hole for the 2-0 lead.
The Dinos continued to push in the third period, and at one point were outshooting Alberta which only a couple of teams have accomplished this season. Calgary even received a full two minute 5-on-3 power-play opportunity early in the third as both Johnny Lazo and Ben Lindemulder were simultaneously called for roughing infractions. The Southern Alberta squad spent most of those two minutes inside Alberta’s blue-line, and recorded a few shots, but couldn’t beat Mucha, or the Bears’ penalty kill.
Shortly after Barteaux’s save, Calgary upped the pressure when they pulled Butler for the extra attacker. Although they spent the final seconds of the game with possession and pressure, once again Mucha came up solid, turning aside every Dinos’ chance for the series win.
The Golden Bears will now host the Canada West championship next weekend against either the No.6 ranked Saskatchewan Huskies, or the No.7 ranked Manitoba Bisons. The semi-final series between those teams is tied 1-1 in Saskatoon. If Saskatchewan advances, both the Bears and University Cup host Huskies will advance to the CIS championship tournament, March 14-17, but if Manitoba wins, only the Canada West champion will move on to Saskatoon for the national tournament.