Bisons lose wild one to visiting T-Birds

The Manitoba Bisons men’s hockey team fell to the visiting UBC Thunderbirds on Sunday at Wayne Fleming Arena with a final score of 8-6 after taking their first game 3-1.

“It’s disappointing to not get any points out of tonight,” said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant.

“At times we played very well to our identity, but a lot of times we didn’t. If we’re supposed to be a team that’s hard to play against defensively, we can’t expect to win if we’re giving up 43 shots on goal.”

Aaron Lewadniuk led Manitoba with one goal and two assists, while Chad Robinson had a two-goal game and Shaquille Merasty and Justin Augert each had two assists on the afternoon.

Cole Wilson had a hat-trick on the afternoon for the visiting Thunderbirds, and UBC’s Manraj Hayer had three points, while Anthony Bardaro and Greg Fraser each had two points. UBC outshot Manitoba 43-29 after three periods of play, and scored on their only powerplay opportunity.

UBC controlled the puck for most of the first period and were rewarded with an early goal after Jessi Hilton found the back of the net with a shot through traffic off a pass from Dillon Wagner at the 2:52 mark of the first period.

Manitoba looked to even things up on the power play, but UBC did an excellent job of killing the penalty. After the Bisons power play was over, Thunderbirds forward Joe Antilla jumped out of the box and used his fresh legs to cut through the Manitoba defence and buried another goal to extend the UBC’s lead to 2-0 with help from Fraser and Ben Schmidt at 9:34 in the first.

The Thunderbirds added another goal on the power play after Bardaro found a streaking Hayer in front of the net at the 14:34 mark. Manitoba finally got on the board late in the first frame after Brett Dudar finished off a juicy rebound with help from Jory Coates and Augert at 16:52 in the first, but UBC quickly answered with an unassisted breakaway goal from Wilson at 17:17.

Manitoba scored again in the final minute of the first period to cut the deficit to 4-2 after a goal from Darren Bestland with assists from Augert and Dudar at the 19:37 mark of the first period. After 20 minutes, the Thunderbirds outshot the Bisons 14-7.

The Bisons started the second period with freshman Byron Spriggs between the pipes after Deven Dubyk let in four goals off 14 shots. Manitoba cut the lead to 4-3 early in the second after Robinson buried a shot top corner against a sprawling Matt Hewitt with help from Lewadniuk and Merasty.

The Bisons tied the game at 6:57 in the second after Lewadniuk shook off a defender buried one on his backhand with an assist from Josh Elmes. Robinson scored his second of the night to give the Bisons their first lead of the night at 9:59 in the second with help from Lewadniuk and Merasty. After letting in his fifth goal of the afternoon, UBC pulled Hewitt to put in their own freshman goaltender, Eric Williams.

Manitoba’s lead was short-lived as Nate Fleming put a puck past the freshman Spriggs off a Luke Lockhart assist. The score remained tied for the rest of the second period, but the Thunderbirds still outshot the Bisons 30-15 after 40 minutes of play.

Both teams came out of the gate flying in the final frame eager to break the tie. Manitoba’s Dudar had a chance to take the lead for Manitoba after a bouncing pass gave him a breakaway, but his shot rung off the top right post.

UBC retook the lead off an unassisted goal by Wilson, who had a free run at the net for his second goal of the afternoon after Manitoba was caught out of position, but Manitoba tied the game again on their first powerplay goal of the night. Jordan DePape put one past Williams with help from Channing Bresciani and Brock Sutherland to tie the game at six goals apiece.

The Bisons defence was caught out of position again and Wilson made them pay to complete the hat-trick off passes from Bardaro and Hayer to retake a one-goal lead at the 14:14 mark of the final frame. Greg Fraser tacked on an empty net goal for UBC to make the final score 8-6 for the visiting Thunderbirds.

“On a positive side, we scored some goals. We showed a lot of resiliency coming back from a 4-1 deficit,” said Sirant. “But at the same time, we can’t be putting ourselves in that position.”

With the loss, the Bisons drop to 9-11-0 on the season, and will host Lethbridge at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 9 at Wayne Fleming Arena.

— REYNOLD BENIZA, Bison Sports

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