Face-Off 2017 is over, and the U of A trumps the NAIT Ooks again in a charity classic game. Having an 11-1-1-1 record in the ACAC, the Ooks are the best the ACAC can offer, but the first place Golden Bears proved to be better beating NAIT 4-0 during the charity hockey contest last Saturday (Dec. 9) at Northlands.
“[U of A] They move the puck really well, they have a lot of depth and a lot of speed, they took it to us hard and we expected that,” said NAIT goaltender Nathan Park, who earned player-of-the-game honours. “They’re one of the best u-sport teams in the country, it was going to be a tough game for sure.”
After plenty of rushes and chances in the first ten minutes, the Golden Bears formula of a tight neutral zone resulted in many oneand-done scoring chances for NAIT. The Ooks relied on their speed coming across the blue line instead of dumping and chasing.
U of A moved the puck consistently on the fast ice, but Park was sharp, even robbing the Golden Bears on a two-on-zero chance after a collision behind the play sent two in alone on the ACAC save percentage leader.
Luke Philp got the first one on the board sneaking one past Park in the second period after the Ooks failed to clear the zone.
The Golden Bears seemed comfortable in the lead, extending shortly after to 2-0 before both teams switched to the backups.
Golden Bears player of the game, Lucas Nickles, squashed any threat of a comeback with the third U of A goal in the third frame. The old WHLer enjoyed his last time on Northlands ice.
“The Oilers played here, Gretzky played here … We don’t know what they’re doing with the rink, so it’s good to get a game in before they tear it down.”
The Golden Bears outshot the Ooks 40-27, as both teams came together after 60 minutes for a group picture on Northland’s ice. U of A head coach coach Serge Lajoie was happy that the Face-Off game was resurrected. “To me there was a lot of memories in this building and it took a couple moments to reflect on it while I was on the bench.”
Lajoie had competed in three of the FaceOff games as a player (’89, ’90 and ’91) for the Golden Bears. The main reason for this game was charity. Face-Off was potentially the last major hockey game in Northlands Coliseum.
The fate of continuing the charity classic depends on a future venue and if poor attendance of the game might make them rethink continuing with Face-Off. This was the first time the Face-Off proceeds went towards the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Previously it was the Ronald McDonald House.
This was the eighth charity classic. The first seven spanned 1985 to 1991 and the Bears now have a 6-2 edge all-time.
– Tre Lopushinsky, Sports Co-Editor