CALGARY (March 22, 2014) – The SAIT Trojans men’s hockey team are once again the kings of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
The Trojans defeated the NAIT Ooks 3-2 Saturday night to sweep the ACAC best-of-three championship final 2-0. In Game 1 on Friday night in Edmonton, SAIT won 7-5 to take a stranglehold on the series heading into Game 2.
Amongst the new National Champions are 12 AJHL alumni:
- Brayden Hopfe, Goaltender
- Matthew Weisensel, Defence
- Mike Puddifant, Defence
- JD Watt, Forward
- Ryan Matthews, Forward
- Brad Drobot, Forward
- David Watt, Defence
- Mitchell Board, Forward
- Joe Babey, Defence
- Craig Gans, Defence
- Clay Howe, Defence
- Jacob Edwards, Goaltender
24 of 25 players on the Trojans roster are alumni of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL).
“I just saw what makes me coach,” said Trojans head coach, Ken Babey, after watching his team lift the ACAC trophy. “Right now, to see the look on their faces after they battled right until the end. That’s amazing; they’ll never forget it.”
The title is the first for the Trojans since the 2009-10 season, while the Ooks had their bid for a second-straight title pulled from their grasp. NAIT won on SAIT’s ice last season, so gaining redemption on home ice, in front of the home fans, was huge for the Trojans.
“So great to come home and win this here for the team and the fans and the friends and family and the school,” said Babey, who captured his ninth ACAC title. “SAIT has a great spirit, and this is just awesome.”
The teams went into the first intermission scoreless, but each had their share of good scoring chances. NAIT’s Jordan Wood had more than half an empty net to score the game’s first goal towards an empty net, but SAIT goalie Brayden Hopfe (2nd year, Didsbury, Alta., Geomatic Engineering Technology) did all he could to kick his right leg out to get a piece of the shot and elicit a round of ‘Oooohs’ from the crowd.
Minutes later, SAIT got their best chance when Riley Paterson (2nd year, Calgary, Business Administration) faked a shot and held onto the puck. He looked primed to score, but was tripped up the play, but still almost scored while in mid-air.
The second period, unlike the first, was filled with action. The teams combined for three goals – three of which went for the Trojans. And two of those came from Clayton Cumiskey (3rd year, Chilliwack, B.C., Information Technology).
“We knew we were going to have to come out hard, and that they were a desperate team,” Cumiskey said. “As a whole, we just stayed together, stuck to the game plan and it worked out well for us.”
Cumiskey’s first came when Craig Gans (2nd year, Olds, Alta., Business Administration) lofted the puck out of his zone for a breakaway. Cumiskey didn’t miss, going five-hole on Birch to open the scoring.
“Honestly, it was just kind of lucky read,” Cumiskey said, smiling. “It went to (Gans) in our zone and he saw me breaking and just threw it up to me. I did the ol’ backhand five-hole, that’s my move, only one I got, but it worked that time, and I couldn’t be happier.”
NAIT tied the game when SAIT showed signs of frustration and took two penalties resulting in a 5-on-3 for the Ooks, who possessed the league’s best power play during the regular season.
With two seconds left in the two-man advantage, Michael Piluso finally solved Hopfe on a one-timer from the left of the SAIT netminder.
SAIT added two more when Cumiskey scored his second, tipping in a Corey Tyrell (3rd year, Airdrie, Alta., Bachelor of Applied Petroleum Engineering Technology) pass from the boards.
Tyrell was rewarded for his unselfish play 32 seconds later when he finished off a 3-on-1 play with an easy goal into a wide open net to round out the second-period scoring.
NAIT cut the lead to one halfway through third when defenceman Sam Waterfield scored his fourth of the series on the power play.
The Ooks pushed hard in the final minutes, and nearly tied the game several times on a myriad of deflections and shots thrown Hopfe’s way, but tie the contest they could not.
“The guys were blocking shots in front of me, and they were selling out,” said Hopfe. “It was a great team effort tonight. Unbelievable.”
In the end, Hopfe stopped 41 of 43 shots to secure his team the ACAC title. The second-year netminder faced 84 shots in the two games, stopping 77 of them.
“Hopfe was outstanding and I haven’t seen a performance like that from a goaltender in a while,” said Babey. “He was the difference this series.”
Birch stopped 22 shots to get tagged with the loss – his second in as many nights and just his second in 24 games played this season – 20 regular season and four post-season.
One of the happiest players to lift the trophy after the game was fourth-year defenceman Joe Babey (4th year, Calgary, Business Administration). The son of head coach Ken, Joe waited four years to win his first ACAC title after losing in two previous trips to the championship final.
“I can’t even put it into words right now,” said Joe, who finally joins brother T.J. as Babey boys who have won ACAC titles under Ken. “It’s been four years, we were close last year, and it feels that much better now. I’m still kind of in shock, but it’s amazing.”
Joe didn’t play in Game 1 due to an ailing knee, but when a teammate got hurt late in Friday’s contest, he gladly drew back into the lineup.
“They called me and said, ‘Is your knee ready to go?’” Joe said. “I said I think it’s good enough and I battled through it. Today, playing in the game and being in my jersey when we won it was absolutely phenomenal.”