Vikings fall to Ooks in ACAC hockey semifinal
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings Lukas Biensch is hauled down by NAIT Ooks Wyatt Noskey during Game 2 semifinal ACAC action in Camrose on March 11. NAIT won 4-1. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
The University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings have some soul searching to do following their elimination from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men’s hockey playoffs on the weekend.
The Vikings lost 3-1 in Game 3 of the best-of-three semifinal in Edmonton to NAIT on Sunday. They had won Game 1 3-2 in overtime but lost Game 2 4-1 in Camrose, thanks to a bad opening frame in which they fell behind 3-0.
Head coach Blaine Gusdal made it clear that missing the podium for the first time in seven years was not something that was acceptable.
“I truly believe one period of hockey — the first period of Game 2 — cost us a shot at a gold medal and that’s a tough one to swallow right now,” said Gusdal.
Carter Danczak was the overtime hero in Game 1, scoring with 3:43 left in the extra frame. Dylan Coupal and Mitch McMullen also scored for the Vikings while Curtis Skip made 47 saves for the win. Nelson Gadoury and Jordan Abt replied for the Ooks while Brendan Jensen made 51 saves.
Game 2 was dominated by the Vikings but they were their own worst enemy in the first period. The Ooks capitalized on a sloppy first period to build a 3-0 lead. Jarid Hauptman opened the scoring at 6:43, stealing the puck deep in the Augustana end and then deking Skip. Hauptman made it 2-0 at 14:56, finishing off a pretty passing play with Dylan Massie and Gadoury with Owen Sobchak in the penalty box for taking a penalty well behind the play. Brayden Harris made it a three-goal lead at 18:01 as he buried a rebound in close.
The Vikings took over the game in the second period, but were unable to put a puck past Jensen until a shorthanded marker at 5:39 by Jimmy Sheehan. Tanner Dunkle, however, iced the game with an empty-netter for the Ooks.
The third game featured another early melt down they were unable to dig out of as the Ooks scored three goals in the first 26:22 of the game with Dunkle, Gadoury and Tyler Kunz doing the damage. The Vikings did not get on the board until 12:02 of the third period when Jeff Lorenz finally beat Jensen.
“Both teams played three games in three nights, I’m not going to say we ran out of gas, that’s taking the easy way out. NAIT just outplayed us (in Game 3),” said Gusdal.
The Vikings head into the off-season now with having to replace seven top players, including Ryan Porcyshyn, Scott Swiston, Connor McLaughlin, Beau Taylor, Jeff Lorenz, Boyd Wakelin and Coupal.
“Those seven guys have been real key pieces to our puzzle and definitely a real key component of our core leadership group that we graduate and we’re going to miss them,” said Gusdal.
The Ooks have now eliminated the Vikings in three straight years, including in the 2016 final. They will try to win their third straight gold this weekend against the MacEwan University Griffins.