Posted on March 22, 2012 by Tia Lalani

Will you be at the Edgeworth Centre in Camrose tonight to watch the Vikings clinch their third victory in the best-of-5 ACAC Finals and our first championship win in 36 years?

By Evan Daum,

Augustana's Joel Danyluk during Game 1 of the ACAC men's hockey final March 16. Photograph by: Pro Sport Photography,

The Augustana Vikings men’s hockey team is hoping that goaltender Joel Danyluk has one more big game in him.

After a pair of victories over the NAIT Ooks last weekend, Augustana can wrap up its first Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference title in more than three decades when the teams continue their best-of-five series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Encana Arena in Camrose.

Snipers Torrie Dyck, Matthew Foster and Adam Johnson have been the offensive catalysts during the Vikes’ playoff run, which started with a four-game series win over the SAIT Trojans in the semifinals.

But it’s been the goaltending of Danyluk that has been key to Augustana’s five-game post-season winning streak.

“I think that Game 1 of the playoffs against SAIT when we ended up losing 6-5, I know that he gave up six goals on 24 shots, but realistically, that’s been the only blip on the radar for Joel all season,” said Augustana head coach Blaine Gusdal. “He’s been our backbone since Day 1. We’ve gotten great goaltending from all three of our goalies, but Joel, in particular, has had an exceptional season.”

Danyluk, a conference first-team all-star in his rookie season, led the ACAC in both goals-against average (1.77) and save percentrage (.937). His excellent play has carried over into the post-season, besides his sub-par outing against SAIT to start the playoffs.

The Yorkton, Sask., product earned a reputation as a playoff performer during a four-year career in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He backstopped the La Ronge Ice Wolves to their first league championship in 2010.

“His track record is that he’s a big-game goaltender. Every coach I talked to that either coached him, or coached against him, said that he was the type of guy who, over the course of a long season in junior, would maybe have some ups and downs,” Gusdal said. “He always seemed to play big in the big games.”

Augustana's Joel Danyluk celebrates the Vikings 3-1 Game 1 win of the ACAC men's hockey final March 16 against NAIT. Photograph by: Pro Sport Photography,

With only 28 games in the regular season games, it would seem difficult to have enough games to go around among Danyluk and fellow Augustana goalies Paul Kolida and David Ritz. But allowing Danyluk to play only 14 regular-season games allowed the chemistry student to save his best for the key moments.

“We were able to spread it out with the three goaltenders, so he wasn’t expected to carry us for six or seven nights in a row like a lot of times you have to do in junior,” Gusdal said. “I felt that college hockey would be a perfect fit for Joel. With fewer games, you don’t have to be on for as long or as many nights in a row.

“He’s a really good student,” Gusdal continued. “He’s a really focused individual and college has been a great fit for him. We’re pleasantly surprised by his success, but at the same time, I know recruiting him in here I expected him to be this type of guy for us.”

Gusdal is as close as he’s ever been to winning an ACAC championship with the Vikings.

“For me, it would be very special. I played here from 1986 to 1990 and we hosted nationals in the spring of ’87 and came really close, but I’ve met a lot of the players from that ’74-75 team that won and they’ve been great alumni here with what I’ve been trying to do here and been very supportive,” said Gusdal, who’s in his fourth season as head coach.

“I think right now our guys are focused on just taking care of business, and we’re looking at it right now as trying to win one more hockey game this season and, if we can do that, all the other special things will fall into place.”

Meanwhile, the Ooks find themselves in a familiar spot down 2-0 in games. After dropping the first two games of their semifinal series against the defending champion Mount Royal Cougars, NAIT raced back with a trio of wins to win the series.

“We can draw on their experience, we don’t want to live in the past, but we can draw on the experience of the previous series against Mount Royal and Game 3, they’re looking to win the game and clinch the series and we’re just looking to put our best performance on the ice and, hopefully, that’s enough to get us into Game 4,” NAIT head coach Serge Lajoie said. “We’ll deal with the games as they come.”

Game 4, if necessary, is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at NAIT. If the Ooks can force a fifth and deciding game, that contest will go 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Camrose.

Wear RED, show your team pride and become part of the Vikings Nation this Thursday March 22 as the Vikings head into Game 3 @ 7:30 in the Encana!

Posted in Athletics, Augustana Campus, Hockey, Hockey Alumni. | Permalink

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