Bisons split series with Spartans

Spartans complicate Bisons’ dwindling playoff hopes

Men’s hockey

On Friday, Jan. 27, the U of M men’s hockey team suffered a humiliating 7-1 loss to the Trinity Western University (TWU) Spartans. A team that, as Bisons head coach Mike Sirant stated, “[relishes] playing the role of spoilers.”

The pain of the loss was heightened, as TWU currently sits at the bottom of the Canada West Conference (CanWest) standings, eliminated from playoff contention.

The Bisons, on the other hand, are in a desperate battle with two other schools — the University of Regina and MacEwan University — for the sixth and final playoff spot in CanWest.

Sirant acknowledges that the Bisons’ “goal from the beginning of the season was to make playoffs.” Despite the loss, he believes “we still control our own destiny.”

The previous night’s ignominious loss meant that on Saturday, Jan. 28, the Bisons needed to show up to keep their playoff hopes alive. And, in a wild game featuring 13 goals scored, the herd prevailed 7-6.

In the win, the Bisons had some big performances from forwards Hayden Ostir and Brett Davis. Ostir pocketed two power-play goals, while CanWest ninth leading scorer, Davis, contributed one goal and one assist. Both looked fluid and dangerous at all times when the pair were on the ice.

Last weekend’s series against TWU was also Davis’s first games back with the Bisons after recently winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the FISU World University Games, in which he led the tournament in goals with seven, and finished second in scoring with 12 points.

When asked about Davis, Sirant described him as a, “very smart player [who] really understands the game.”

“He can make tremendous set ups for his teammates, and he can score himself,” he added.

Sirant thinks Davis’s international success is also “making the players in our program better with his drive and determination.” But Sirant was also quick to praise Davis’s individual accomplishment, saying, “we’re extremely proud of Brett and how well he represented the Bisons […] to win a gold medal, it’s every hockey player’s dream.”

As the season winds down, Saturday’s win will keep the herd in the playoff race. Although, it will play two very difficult series against the first place University of Calgary Dinos (U of C) and the second place University of Alberta Golden Bears in the coming weeks. The team must win at least one game against either university to qualify for the playoffs.

The Bisons are now 8-15-2-1 on the season after the series against Trinity. The team is trenched in seventh place, one point behind Regina for the last playoff spot.

“I believe our team is better than our record indicates,” Sirant said. “We faced some adversity this year, mostly being long term injuries to key players, but that happens in the game of hockey. Teams get injuries, we don’t use it as an excuse, and we have a ‘next man up’ mentality.”

In Sirant’s final year behind the Bisons’ bench, he admits, “the Bisons are used to being in the playoffs. It’s been very, very, very few times where they haven’t made the playoffs. So, for me, it’s an expectation.”

Nevertheless, to get to the playoffs, he believes the team must play “for each other and with desperation.”

Women’s hockey

The women’s hockey team also faced Trinity this weekend, playing in Langley, B.C. The team competed hard, playing two extremely tight games, both of which ended in overtime.

On Friday, Jan. 27, the herd lost a heartbreaker 2-1 in overtime. The team rebounded on Saturday, Jan. 28, however, paying the Spartans back with a 3-2 overtime win of their own.

Bison forward Ashley Keller scored the winning goal, cutting into the middle of the ice and snapping a shot past the blocker of Trinity’s goalie.

Collecting a sole win, the herd stayed in seventh place in the CanWest standings, trailing Trinity for the final playoff spot by three points.

The herd does have two games in hand on Trinity, however. Down the stretch, it looks as if these two teams will duke it out for the final playoff spot.

Assistant coach Jordy Zacharias, a U of M alumna and former captain of the women’s hockey team, said, “every game from here on out […] something’s going to be on the line.”

In fact, Zacharias acknowledged that things certainly haven’t come easy for the team this season.

“This year we’ve had to fight and claw for every game and every win,” she said.

The women’s hockey team started the season with a difficult matchup against the first place University of British Columbia Thunder Birds, but Zacharias feels “like we’ve been growing ever since.”

The team is aiming to get the majority of points over the next two weekends to build momentum before the playoffs. With four games left in the season, three points out of a playoff spot, the Bisons’ chances of making it are still favourable.

“I would be really proud if our girls were able to get in and just play their hearts out,” Zacharias said.


The University of Manitoba men’s hockey team will play a series against the Dinos in Calgary this weekend, while the women’s team will host the U of C at Wayne Fleming Arena.