THUNDERWOLVES KNOCK OUT GOLDEN BEARS

THUNDER BAY, Ont. - The defending national champion Alberta Golden Bears couldn't muster enough offence Friday night against the No.6-Lakehead Thunderwolves and were eliminated from gold-medal contention despite a 2-1 victory in the second Pool-A duel of the 2009 CIS men's hockey championship, at Fort William Gardens.

The top-seeded Golden Bears, who last year added to their own all-time record capturing a 13th CIS title, needed a lopsided win against Lakehead to keep their University Cup hopes alive following a 6-3 loss to No.4 UNB on Thursday.

The tournament host Thunderwolves (0-1) need a decisive victory of their own Saturday at 7 p.m. (Rogers Sportsnet / SSN Canada) when they face UNB (1-0) in the final Pool-A round-robin match. Lakehead needs to win by at least two goals to stay alive.

Cavendish University Cup website: www.cisport.ca/e/championships/m_hockey/2009

Forward Ben Kilgour of Leduc, Alta., scored on the power play to give the Bears a 1-0 lead 14:46 into the contest. Playing in his final university game, the fifth-year senior blasted a high shot past goaltender Chris Whitley of Oshawa, Ont.

Kilgour's goal stood as the only marker of the night until second-team all-Canadian Chad Klassen of Saskatoon made it 2-0 midway through the third frame with his second of the championship. Klassen also beat Whitley upstairs after he accepted a perfect pass from sophomore Derek Ryan of Spokane, Wash., at the end of a three-on-two rush.

Klassen (2-1-3) and Ryan (2-2-4) combined for seven points in the two Alberta outings.

Desperate for a better goal differential that might have extended his team's season, CIS coach of the year Eric Thurston pulled netminder Aaron Sorochan with 27 seconds left in regulation but the strategy backfired as forward Shandor Alphonso of Orangeville, Ont., scored Lakehead's lone goal in the empty net 11 seconds later.

Despite losing his shutout bid, Sorochan, a first-team all-Canadian from Edmonton, earned U of A player-of-the-game honours after he stopped all 32 shots he faced. The fourth-year senior, who led the nation in goals against average (1.66) and save percentage (.937) in conference play, rebounded from a tough opening-day outing during which he was abandoned by his defence and gave up five first-period goals on 12 shots.

Whitley was named the Wolves game MVP following a superb 35-save effort.

"I think we had 37 shots tonight but we must have had another 37 that went wide. We had a lot of opportunities and when you look back on it it's that lack of finish that killed us," Thurston said. "Coming into the game we knew we needed to win by a certain amount and when we didn't get the bounces early, you could see the frustration level rising in the guys."

"The line is so thin when you compete at this championship, you can't afford to miss any opportunities you earn."

Second-year Lakehead bench boss Don McKee remained optimistic despite the challenges that lay ahead.

"I haven't seen the game statistics yet but there were a great number of chances on both sides. When you have a 30-day layoff like we did, the part of your game that's bound to suffer the most is your offensive touch, and I thought we didn't have our touch around the net," said McKee, whose team hadn't played since losing to Laurier on March 1 in the second round of the OUA playoffs.

"Saint Mary's beat UNB 5-1 on the road in the last game of the AUS final and I made sure the guys understand that if Saint Mary's beat them by four in their own rink, we certainly can beat them by four in our rink," added McKee.

The solid play of Sorochan and Whitley combined with missed opportunities were the story of the game.

The Golden Bears couldn't convert on a three-on-one in the opening minute of the contest, and failed to score on a two-man advantage midway through the first period.

At the other end of the ice, Sorochan made back-to-back great saves on Wolves captain Andrew Brown of Bancroft, Ont., and Scott Drobben of Drayton, Ont., during a late-period penalty kill.

With six minutes left in the second stanza, Tobias Whelan of Orillia, Ont., skated all alone on Sorochan but lost control of the puck before he could pull the trigger.

The Bears could have built a three or four-goal lead early in the third if not for Whitley's brilliant play.

Whitley stoned Jesse Gimblett of Newtonville, Ont., with a blocker save twenty seconds in, stuck his right pad out to rob Brian Woolger of Edmonton two minutes later during an Alberta power play, and stopped back-to-back point-blank shots by Lee Zalasky of Lloydminster, Alta., midway through the final frame.

Two minutes after Klassen gave the Bears a 2-0 lead, Whitley robbed Ryan with a spectacular glove save during another U of A 5-on-4.

Sorochan's best stop of the third stanza was a pad save on five-foot-seven speedster Mark Soares of Burnaby, B.C., with seven minutes remaining.

GAME NOTES: 2008 University Cup MVP Ian McDonald, a third-year centre from Edmonton, was back in the Alberta lineup after sitting Thursday night game against UNB with a concussion… Skating at the University Cup for the 12th time in 13 years, the Golden Bears haven't gone 0-2 at the CIS championship since 2001… Alberta is now 4-0 all-time against Lakehead at the University Cup… The two teams had met for the last time at the CIS tournament in the 2006 final with the Bears prevailing 3-2 at home in Edmonton.

SCORING SUMMARY

No. 1 Alberta 2, No. 6 Lakehead 1

FIRST PERIOD
SCORING:

1. ALB Ben Kilgour (1) (Shaden Moore, Jason Fransoo), 14:46 PP
PENALTIES:
Shaden Moore (ALB) roughing, 6:24;
Shandor Alphonso (LAK) interference, 10:50;
Matt Maisonneuve (LAK) hooking, 10:59;
Kris Hogg (LAK) kneeing, 13:42;
Aaron Sorochan (ALB) (served by Brian Woolger) interference, 15:24;
Shandor Alphonso (LAK) tripping, 17:49.

SECOND PERIOD
SCORING:

No scoring.
PENALTIES:
Brian Woolger (ALB) hooking, 1:09;
Mitch Maunu (LAK) interference, 14:29;
Dale Mahovsky (ALB) holding, 17:06;
ALB bench minor (served by J.P. Szaszkiewicz), 20:00;
LAK bench minor (served by Matt Maisonneuve), 20:00.

THIRD PERIOD
SCORING:

2. ALB Chad Klassen (2) (Derek Ryan) 10:19
3. LAK Shandor Alphonso (1) (Aaron Alphonso, Tobias Whelan) 19:44 EN
PENALTIES:
Scott Dobben (LAK) hooking, 0:23;
Kalvin Sagert (LAK) high-sticking, 6:53;
Ryan Baird (LAK) high-sticking, 11:20;
Jason Fransoo (ALB) tripping, 17:57;
ALB bench minor, 20:00;
LAK bench minor, 20:00.

GOALS (by period)
ALB: 1-0-1:2
LAK: 0-0-1:1

SHOTS ON GOAL (by period)
ALB: 15-8-14:37
LAK: 11-8-14:33

POWER PLAY:
ALB: 1-8
LAK: 1-5

GOALTENDERS
ALB – Aaron Sorochan (W, 1-1, 32 shots, 32 saves, 0 GA, 59:49)
ALB – Empty net (1 shot, 1 GA, 0:11)
LAK – Chris Whitley (L, 0-1, 37 shots, 35 saves, 4 GA, 60:00)

PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
ALB: Aaron Sorochan
LAK: Chris Whitley

REFEREE: Sean Reade

LINESMEN: Trevor Gordon, Matt Daub

ATTENDANCE: 2,746

SCHEDULE & RESULTS (All times Eastern)

Pool A

1. Alberta
4. UNB
6. Lakehead

Pool B
2. Saint Mary's
3. Western Ontario
5. McGill

Thursday, March 26
Pool B #1: Saint Mary's 4, McGill 1
Pool A #1: UNB 6, Alberta 3

Friday, March 27
Pool B #2: McGill 4, Western 3
Pool A #2: Alberta 2, Lakehead 1

Saturday, March 28
14:00 Pool B #3: No. 3 Western vs. No. 2 Saint Mary's (Rogers Sportsnet / SSN Canada webcast)
19:00 Pool A #3: No. 6 Lakehead vs. No. 4 UNB (Rogers Sportsnet / SSN Canada webcast)

Sunday, March 29
14:00 Final (Rogers Sportsnet / SSN Canada webcast)

Source: CIS Communications

Photo Credit: Mike Lavoie
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