The perfect season capped off in the perfect way this past weekend as the NAIT Ooks men’s hockey team struck gold to take the ACAC championship for the second year in a row, with a perfect 36-0 season. This is the second time in ACAC history the Ooks have finished with a perfect season; the first time was in 1984-1985. This is the second consecutive title win for the Ooks and a record 16th conference title. The Ooks won the best-of-three series 2-0 against their closest opponent this season, the Augustana Vikings.
Game one was held at a jam-packed NAIT Arena Friday night. After a scoreless opening period, the Ooks were on the power play as ACAC Player of the Year John Dunbar got a nice feed from defensemen Jordan Abt and fired the puck in to get his team on the board. The Ooks carried the 1-0 lead all the way till the third when Ook Riley Sheen pulled some sweet moves to put the puck past the Vikings goalie’s five-hole for a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute after, Augustana’s Jeff Lorenz strikes back to get his team on the scoreboard. With that goal came a second goal from Ook John Dunbar less than 30 seconds after. Both teams played leap frog as Augustana scored two more times to tie the game, with their tying goal coming 19 seconds remaining in the third after a controversial icing call on the Ooks. Regulation time ran out as it the game went to overtime, where the play remained in the Vikings zone. But it didn’t take long for Ook Connor Hoekstra to score and lift his team to the 4-3 win in OT, and a chance to capture the championship on the road in Camrose the next day with a 1-0 series lead.
Vikings fans packed the Encana Arena Saturday evening to see if their team could tie the series; both teams knew what was at stake and brought their A-game. Midway through the first period, Augustana drew first blood to lead 1-0. Shortly after, Ook Tanner Dunkle sniped one in to tie the game. The Ooks scored early to take the lead in the second frame, this time a rocket from defenceman Chris Lijdsman. But that lead didn’t last long as the Vikings scored right away to tie the game once again. It wasn’t until late in the game when Ook Jordan Wood took the puck behind the Vikings net and tried to pass it up front, only to have the Vikings goalie deflect in an own-goal as the Ooks led 3-2 with less than four minutes remaining. The Vikings were desperate to tie the game and the series, and pulled their goalie for the extra man. Ook tendy Ken Cam-eron stood tall on his head to keep the Ooks championship dream alive.
As the clock ticked down, gloves and sticks flew to the air as the Ooks embraced around Cameron and captured the gold medal for the second year in a row with a 3-2 victory. Ken Cameron’s 26 saves performance propelled the Ooks to their championship victory as he finished the play-offs with a 0.943 save percentage. The Ooks also finished with two of the top three scorers in the playoffs (1-Tanner Dunkle, 3- Jordan Wood). The Vikings gave the Ooks a run for their money over the weekend and were well deserving of the silver medal.
ACAC Coach of the Year, Mike Gabinet is the first coach since 2005-2006 to guide his team to an ACAC men’s hockey title in his first year of coaching.
The 2015-2016 Ooks team are the 17th team in ACAC history to go undefeated in the conference playoffs. With the well deserved season finish, the Ooks will now rest until next season approaches.