Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE — Tallying three goals from the sticks of three different players, including the game-winner, in the span of 6:03 between the first and second periods Mount Royal drew first blood in a weekend home-and-home series with a 5-2 victory in Canada West men's hockey action.
Pronghorn goaltender Garret Hughson allowed 4 goals on 20 shots in the loss, before being replaced by Taz Burman, who stopped 10 of 11 shots he faced. Mount Royal's netminder Riley Morris turned aside 24 of 26 shots against to earn the win.
Both teams traded shots early on in the first period, exchanging opportunities on the rush at either end. The 'Horns would get the first quality chance of the game seven-and-a-half minutes in, where Logan Mick would receive a drop pass in an excellent spot, wristing a hard shot off the crossbar behind Cougars netminder Riley Morris.
It would be Mount Royal, however, who would be the first to mark the goal column, with Connor Chartie feeding Mitchel Lipon on the right side of Lethbridge goalie Garret Hughson, who would defer to Hunter Zandee on Hughson's left for an easy-tap in to put the Cougars up 1-0.
Lethbridge would press the Cougars defence for an answer, which they had less than five minutes later. Justin Valentino's hard pass on the zone entry was deflected by Torrin White, his fifth goal of the season, to beat a sliding Morris on the blocker side.
The visiting side would prove that they weren't going to head into the intermission upon giving up the lead. With the Pronghorns hemmed in their own zone, Mount Royal would press hard on the forecheck; Zandee would cycle the puck behind Hughson's net to Lipon, who would feed a net-front Chartie, who would tip the puck past Hughson for his fourth goal of the season.
Mount Royal would bury another biscuit with 36 seconds left in the frame, with Hughson unable to recover after following a streaking Riley Lindgren outside of his crease. The puck would find its way to an open Connor Rankin behind the Lethbridge goal line, and he would feed Jamal Watson in front of the empty net to score an easy second goal of the season.
The pair of Cougars goals would increase Mount Royal's lead to two goals, 3-1 after 20 minutes of play.
Despite a relatively uneventful opening to the next frame, period two would begin how period one ended – with a Cougars goal.
While shorthanded, Chartier would find an opening in the Pronghorns defence, skating with speed on the outside and forcing the puck into Hughson's crease. Hughson was unable to cover the puck, and a crashing Jesse Lees would push the puck behind Hughson, to get Mount Royal's third goal in just over six minutes.
This fourth tally for the Cougars would see the end of Hughson's night; Taz Burman would mind the Lethbridge net in relief.
The momentum would begin to shift in favour of the Pronghorns on a power play, with Lethbridge keeping play in the attacking zone for all but six seconds of the man advantage. Mount Royal would successfully kill off the penalty, keeping Lethbridge from scoring a second goal.
Lethbridge would continue pressuring the Cougars net, creating multiple chances on quality shot attempts, but Morris would stand tall and turn aside the Pronghorns opportunities in the five-shot barrage.
Mount Royal would find themselves with forwards behind the home-side defenders multiple times in the final minute of the frame. The best chance would come with Lindgren ringing a hard wrist-shot off the crossbar behind Burman with less than 20-seconds left in the frame. With that, the score remained 4-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
The third period would see the momentum swing back in favour of the Cougars, who forced Lethbridge into their own zone for a majority of the first six minutes of play. The momentum continued their way, as a slashing penalty would send Horns player Evan Wardley to the box.
Mount Royal would see another one of its shooters miss their mark. Lees would find solid iron on the blocker side of Burman off of a one-time slap shot short-side, instead of the twine for a second goal.
With about six-and-a-half minutes remaining, Lees would carry the puck coast-to-coast past three Lethbridge defenders to score a nifty goal on Burman for his second goal of the game. Assists were given to David Stephen, who won the faceoff to the right of the Mount Royal net, and Allan MacPherson.
Lethbridge would find an answer to the Cougars fifth tally with a late goal from Dalton Sward, who would rip one from the far point that beat Morris on the low blocker side to cut Mount Royal's lead to three.
Sward's late marker would be the last goal of the game, with the Cougars taking game one by a score of 5-2.
With the win, Mount Royal adds two points to their fifth place buffer in the Canada West standings (5-5-3), as they now sit four points up on the Lethbridge Pronghorns (4-8-1).
The Pronghorns will travel to Calgary to take on the Cougars in game two of the weekend series on Saturday, puck drops at Flames Community Arena at 6:00 p.m., catch all the action on www.canadawest.tv.