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Cougars fall short in Virden, Saskatoon makes Telus final

A day after knocking off the pre-tournament favourites, the Southwest Cougars fell short of a repeat upset Sunday.

The Cougars, still buzzing following a surprising win over the Winnipeg Wild Saturday, dropped a 5-1 decision to the Saskatoon Contacts at the Telus Western Regional Championship game in Virden. Saskatoon now heads to the national midget hockey championship (the Telus Cup) in Leduc, Alta., April 23-29.

Saturday, the Cougars rode an early third-period goal by defenceman Cameron Rowat to beat the Wild by a 3-2 score and gain entry into Sunday's final against Saskatoon. That was an emotional win for the Cougars, as Winnipeg swept Southwest 3-0 in the best-of-five provincial championship earlier this spring.

"You always worry about that as a coach," said Cougars coach Troy Leslie. "You wonder if that win took more out of us than we wanted it to, but I thought our guys for the first period were very focused.

"We gave Saskatoon a little momentum, though, and they took advantage."

As Leslie mentioned, the Cougars -- who are based in Souris -- got off to a great start Sunday, when forward Hudson Morrison put the home side on the board four minutes into the game. Southwest looked to go up 2-0 towards the end of the first when their power play went to work but Saskatoon forward Kolten Olynek put the Contacts back even with a short-handed tally at the 2:20 mark.

"They just seemed to build off that goal," Leslie said. "That's how they played the whole tournament; they start slow and keep coming as the games go on."

Saskatoon brought the heat in the second and were finally rewarded for their efforts when Rourke Chartier snapped a quick shot past goaltender Brian Archibald midway through the period.

Archibald, the tournament all-star selection in the crease, was the victim of bad luck three minutes later when a Carson Standnyk shot deflected off his glove, off the crossbar, and finally off the back of his leg into the net.

Some terrible luck at the worst possible time, the goaltender said.

"It went straight up in the air off my glove," added Archibald, who made 34 saves Sunday. "It was unfortunate and I wish I could have that one back. That made it 3-1. It might have changed the way the rest of the game went."

Chartier and Colby Hainsworth scored late third period goals to seal the win for the Contacts, who had beaten the Cougars 4-1 in round-robin play.

Goaltender Mack Shields faced 30 shots in the Saskatoon net.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

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