Fredericton, N.B. – The University of Alberta Golden Bears erased another two goal deficit, defeating the St. FX X-Men 4-2 in the 2018 University Cup Final, to win their 16th National Championship in program history.
This is the third University Cup title for Alberta in five years, after winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. Their 16 overall national championships are the most in Canadian University history, six more than the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
The tournament itself began with 67 WHL Alumni competing in the tournament, part of a record 382 who accessed their WHL Scholarship during the 2017-18 Academic Year. WHL Alumni were present on all positions in the podium at the tournament. Four WHL Alumni were are part of St. Francis Xavier University X-Men squad that won silver. Three WHL Alumni won bronze earlier in the day with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
“I’ve raised this trophy once as a player and it’s now three times as a coach and my first time as a head coach,” said an emotional Serge Lajoie, head coach of the Golden Bears. “I told the guys between the second and third period that Clare Drake would be very proud of us.”
Fourth-year Golden Bear Stephane Legault recorded a tournament-leading seven points, including the Bears first goal in the championship final on Sunday, earning tournament MVP honours. Luke Philp, Wil Tomchuk and Jamie Crooks also scored for the Bears. Rookie goalie Zach Sawchenko stopped 24 of the 26 shot he faced.
After trailing by two goals early in the first, the Golden Bears battled back to level the game at two, with Tomchuk scoring the eventual game-winner early in the second period.
“The coaches gave me an opportunity, and I was the lucky one to score,” said Tomchuk on the winner. “There’s 26 other guys that got us here. Without them, I wouldn’t have scored that goal. It was just hard work. I kind of blacked out. I just remember being out in front and hammering it home, and the boys pulled through for the rest of the game.”
Daniel Robertson opened the scoring just five minutes into the first period, stripping Bears forward Tyson Baillie of the puck, before beating Sawchenko blocker side on a breakaway. Michael Clarke doubled the ‘FX lead just three minutes later, ripping a powerplay point shot past a screened Sawchenko.
Just as they did against Saskatchewan in the semifinal, Alberta was able to erase the early 2-0 deficit. Legault opened the scoring for the Bears, hammering in rebound off a Clayton Kirichenko point shot. Philp, who also scored a key goal in the semifinal win, levelled the game at two just 43 seconds later, beating St. FX starter Chase Marchand with a quick wrist shot from the slot.
Alberta opened the second period with serious momentum, with Tomchuk’s goal giving them the first lead of the game. Off a Marchand save and a scramble in front, Tomchuk tapped in a cross-ice feed from Taylor Cooper for his first goal of the season.
Arguably the best chance for St. FX to even the game came in the third, when they had over four continuous minutes of powerplay time, including an extended five-on-three. However, the Golden Bears penalty kill managed to escape the threat, holding onto a 3-2 lead after 40.
The X-Men continued to pressure for the equalizer in the third, but Sawchenko stopped all nine shots he faced in the period, including a pair of pads saves from in tight. Crooks sealed the Alberta win with an empty netter in the final minute.
“They were pressing hard. They’re a really good team and they showed why they’re number two in the country,” said Sawchenko. “I had to take a few deep breathes and just tried to get through the last five minutes. Nobody wanted this game to go to overtime, and we had guys doing everything they could to hold on tight.”
“Guys really fight for each other and I got to see another side to this team. When push come to shove and they were required to play a different style they did it and took pride in it.” finished Lajoie. “They blocked shots, they made simple plays and for such a highly-skilled team, that speaks to their character. We are very fortunate as a coaching staff to work with these young men.”
ALBERTA GOLDEN BEARS (25 players / 6,523 combined WHL GP / 3,737 combined WHL points)
NAME – POSITION – HOMETOWN – LAST WHL TEAM (TOTAL WHL GP/PTS.)
Brendan Burke – G – Scottsdale, AZ – Calgary Hitmen (170/3)
Clayton Kirichenko– D – Sherwood Park, AB – Medicine Hat Tigers (249/125)
Jason Fram – D – Delta, BC – Spokane Chiefs (346/201)
Graeme Craig – D – Red Deer, AB – Prince Albert Raiders (336/71)
Sawyer Lange – D – Prince Albert, SK – Prince Albert (260/119)
Ryan Rehill – D – Edmonton, AB – Kamloops Blazers (265/87)
Stephane Legault – F – Edmonton, AB – Edmonton Oil Kings (228/144)
Jamie Crooks – F – Vermillion, AB – Victoria Royals (314/214)
Taylor Cooper – F – Sherwood Park, AB – Regina Pats (230/132)
Luke Philp – F – Canmore, AB – Red Deer Rebels (309/292)
Steven Owre – F – Rocklin, CA – Medicine Hat Tigers (322/245)
Riley Kieser – F – Sherwood Park, AB – Edmonton Oil Kings (186/82)
Jayden Hart – F – Spruce Grove, AB – Prince Albert Raiders (247/160)
Tyson Baillie – F – Ft. Saskatchewan, AB – Kelowna Rockets (393/373)
Brandon Magee – F – Edmonton, AB – Victoria Royals (345/293)
Ben Carroll – D – Sherwood Park, AB – Edmonton Oil Kings (203/85)
Wil Tomchuk – D – Fort McMurray, AB – Prince George Cougars (132/11)
Cole Sanford – F – Coldstream, BC – Regina Pats (308/303)
Dylan Bredo – D – Edmonton, AB – Medicine Hat Tigers (400/160)
Kenny Cameron – G – Edmonton, AB – Medicine Hat Tigers (14/0)
Zach Sawchenko – G – Calgary, AB – Moose Jaw Warrriors (194/2)
Trevor Cox – F – Surrey, BC – Vancouver Giants (365/341)
Lucas Nickles – F – Salmon Arm, BC – Tri-City Americans (290/115)
Cole Linaker – F – Edmonton, AB – Kelowna Rockets (315/147)
Nick Charif – D – Edmonton, AB – Spokane Chiefs (102/32)
About Canada West:
Canada West (CW) is the leading university athletic conference in the country and is home to champion student-athletes that excel in the classroom and their communities. Canada West and our 17 members from across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba collectively carry on a legacy of competitive excellence, as our champions proudly go on to represent the conference at U SPORTS national championships.
Canada West – training leaders, building champions
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 350 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.