Augustana splits with Portage
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings goalie Curtis Skip eyes the puck and Portage College Voyageurs forward Max Robitaille during Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference hockey action in Camrose, Alta. on Saturday October 28, 2017. Portage College won 4-3. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian/Postmedia Network
If the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings men’s hockey team find themselves in another dogfight for a first-round playoff bye this season, they will be kicking themselves over this past weekend.
The Vikings were shocked with a weekend split with the Portage College Voyageurs who were winless through the first two weeks of the season. Augustana won Friday’s contest in Lac La Biche 4-3, but then lost by the same score in Camrose on Saturday night.
“That’s college/university hockey, you can’t take a night off,” said Vikings head coach Blaine Gusdal. “You’re going to lose your share of games in the battles where it’s maybe a 50-50, but this was a game we had to have … and we faltered.”
The top two spots in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference hockey are arguably more important than a bye in any other league. According to league archives that go back to the 1995-96 season, the last team to win the league title without a bye was the Concordia Thunder in 2003, while the only other time was the Mount Royal College Cougars in 1999.
While there is often times a run away for the No. 1 seed in the conference, there is usually a horse race for the second seed.
Making it even more surprising was the Vikings were coming off a two-game sweep of the SAIT Trojans the previous week and had the opportunity to at least be sitting in first place in the ACAC heading into their bye week.
“Hats off to the guys for how hard we worked in practice, but we didn’t work that hard in the games on the weekend, in either game,” said Gusdal. “(Portage) had one tie in their first six games and (Voyageurs head coach Nate Bedford) challenged his players to be prepared to work harder.”
Carter Danczak led the Vikings with a hat trick on Friday while Brett Ponich scored their other goal and Zach deGraves stopped 35 of 38 shots for the win. On Saturday, Cody Young, Logan Sproule and Dillan McCombie scored for Augustana and Curtis Skip stopped 28 of 32 shots.
The Vikings had a chance to tie the game in the final 90 seconds but Travis Mayan was robbed by a sprawling Olivier Charest in net, who made 39 saves on the night for the victory.
The Vikings are off this weekend but return to action on Nov. 10 with a road trip to Caronport, Sask., to play the Briercrest College Clippers.
• The Vikings women’s volleyball team earned a split in their weekend road trip to Grande Prairie Regional College, losing 3-0 (27-25, 28-18, 25-18) on Friday and winning 3-2 (18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 18-25, 15-13) on Saturday.
It was a tough trip for the men who lost 3-0 (31-29, 25-18, 25-16) on Friday and 3-2 (21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 15-13) on Saturday.
The Vikings take on The King’s University this weekend, playing in Edmonton on Friday and hosting on Saturday with the women going at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m.