Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Hockey Show - Episode 220

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns to the trusty airwaves of 101.5 FM, the UMFM app, and the UMFM website tonight. Yes, we'll probably end up leading the show off with holiday-themed music because it's that time of year and we're two-and-a-half weeks away from the day of presents. I know that a lot of people are tiring of holiday music already since some stores and commercials have been playing it since Halloween, but The Hockey Show will do its part by playing a little Canadian-themed holiday music to kick off the show tonight!

Joining us on the program tonight are the three ladies seen to the left in previous teams' jerseys. That's Karissa Kirkup with the Maine Black Bears, Rachel Dyck with Team Manitoba, and Alana Serhan with the Melville Prairie Fire! All three are now, of course, Manitoba Bisons and have helped the team to a second-place standing after the first-half of the season, so we'll get their takes on what happened against Mount Royal in the final weekend, and their focus for the second-half and kicking off the schedule in Regina and at home against the top team in the nation in UBC. The ladies are also involved in a number of charitable and cool events this holiday season, so we'll get information on their whereabouts for the next few weeks. As for the hockey chatter, we'll talk concussion protocols and how it affected Connor McDavid, the complete buffoonery of the Las Vegas NHL franchise's trademark being rejected, an extremely cool honour for one of the women joining us tonight, and anything else we can squeeze in prior to the Jets and Rangers squaring off at MTS Centre!

Something else that should be at the top of your list when this holiday season is the Holiday Hamper food drive! The Bisons women's hockey team is putting together a pile of hampers for the less fortunate this holiday season, and they want your help! The team is looking for non-perishable food donations or monetary donations that will go to making up baskets of food for Manitoba families!

You can contact Bisons forward Karissa Kirkup to arrange for a pickup! Karissa can be reached at 204-851-4886 or by email at kirkupk3@myumanitoba.ca. This is an excellent cause, and it's one that TJ and I, as the voice of the Bisons, have supported already with a big donation! We'd encourage any and all people, businesses, and organizations to match UMFM's donation of $100 cash and/or our donations of $100 in non-perishable food to the Holiday Hamper drive! Thanks to all who donate, and to the Bisons women's hockey team for helping those that need a little help this holiday season!

Also, if you're a proud owner of an iDevice or Android device and want to listen to The Hockey Show, you can easily listen to the show by downloading the UMFM app! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show! Give the gift of great, free music by downloading the UMFM app today!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

We welcome three ladies who are practically co-hosts at this point back to The Hockey Show tonight where we talk hockey, holidays, headaches, and more on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

From Bozak to WHOA!-zak

Now that's a helluva goal! Tyler Bozak scored his sixth goal of the season with that fantastic move around Matt Dumba. It's hard to be negative towards a guy who seems to be having a career year without Phil Kessel beside him, but the Leafs centerman is looking like he might be coming into his own as an NHL scoring threat.

As a 30 year-old and the longest-serving Maple Leaf currently, he's certainly one of the "graybeards" on a youthful Leafs squad this season. The former University of Denver product enters his eighth full season this year, and he knows he has a leadership role to play with the kids in the room.

"I always want to be a leader and it was the same last year, especially near the end of the season," Bozak told Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun earlier this year. "They make me feel old sometimes, but it's fun, the energy they bring, and always have a smile on their face at the rink. There is no bad days with the young guys, so they are fun to be around."

It appears that youthful exuberance is paying off for Bozak as he turned back the clock with that goal, looking every bit the part of a flashy 20 year-old rookie! If he does have a career year this season, it might be time for Toronto to look at what they do with him next season when his contract expires. He's doing everything that the coaching staff asks of him, he's scoring goals, and he's mentoring the next wave of great Maple Leafs stars. While some may say his current contract was too high, he's living up to those expectations this season.

Sometimes, it takes some major changes for a younger player to mature. With the tear-down and youth infusion on the Leafs, Tyler Bozak suddenly found himself in a different role on a team where he was once surrounded by veteran NHL players. From the way he's been carrying himself this season, it looks like a lot of the lessons passed on to him from those veteran players are beginning to bubble to the surface as Bozak leads the Matthews and Marners into the brave, new NHL world!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

An Easy Point?

After Mother Nature unloaded a pile of snow upon us last night and throughout the day, I finally was able to clear most of it from my steps and sidewalks before Mother Nature starts the whole thing over again tonight. I will admit that I missed the first two periods of action between the Jets and Red Wings tonight because of my snow clearing efforts, but I was able to catch the third period, overtime, and the shootout. In watching the skills competition at the end, it became increasingly apparent that some teams are good at the breakaway challenge while other teams struggle. Part of this could be due to the players selected, but when you think about it there shouldn't really be a problem throwing anyone over the boards to collect a free point if you're in the NHL.

I don't expect that teams will throw a fourth-liner over the board to try and score a big goal in the first three shooters, but you have to expect that some fourth-line players have the skill to end a shootout in the later rounds. With a free point up for grabs, it would seem like there would a major impetus on coaching staffs and players to really work on and hone their shootout skills and tactics so that getting a free point in the standings doesn't require some Herculean effort. Instead, the Jets showed tonight exactly why practicing the shootout should be mandatory for every team.

As you may know, the pressure in the shootout falls mainly on the goaltenders. A one-on-one showdown usually favors the player carrying the puck and has forward momentum, so a goaltender needs to read and react quickly to any moves, dekes, or shots that the player may fake or take. Connor Hellebuyck, to his credit, has had some AHL experience where shootouts happen, but the Red Wings made him look like he'd never played the position before. Frans Nielsen beat Hellebuyck, but rang the puck off the crossbar. Gustav Nyquist didn't score, but Thomas Vanek did. Henrik Zetterberg scored the winner for the Red Wings, as seen above, while the Jets' lone goal of the shootout came off the stick of Patrik Laine. The other Jets shooters? Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, and Drew Stafford.

That's not say that the European players are any better than North American players, but there used to be a rumor circulating within the NHL ranks that European players practiced their shootout moves growing up, giving them an advantage over their North American counterparts. Since 2012, the leaders in shootout percentage for players taking ten-or-more shots during that time are as follows:
  • TJ Oshie - 60.6% (20/33)
  • Jakob Silfverberg - 58.1% (18/31)
  • Thomas Vanek - 56.3% (9/16)
  • Brandon Pirri - 55.6% (10/18)
  • Derek Stepan - 54.5% (6/11)
As we look at this list, there are two Europeans, but the remainder of the top-20 shootout shooters sees only two additional Europeans in the remaining fifteen players. And Alexander Steen doesn't count since he grew up in North America. Therefore, we can put the belief to rest that this is because European players practice the shootout and breakaways. It's clear that a number of North American players have the ability to score when sent in alone.

Perhaps this is a team-shooting issue? In looking at team shootout stats since 2012, there are certainly some teams shooting below 33.3% (one goal in three attempts) which means there are certainly times where they score no goals in a shootout. If you can't score in a shootout, you can't earn the additional point and half the league - 15 teams! - shoot below that threshold historically. Both Winnipeg and Detroit fall below that threshold, but there should be no surprise that the teams who have the better shootout players generally rank higher on the team shooting percentage list. What did surprise me, however, is that the vast majority of teams have a .500 win percentage when it came to the shootout.

There are some anomalies. New Jersey is 11-34 (.244) in shootouts while St. Louis is 29-13 (.667). For the majority of teams, though, they fall between .400 and .600 in terms of shootout winning percentage. If there is this much parity in the shootout, there has to be another factor that contributes to the ups and downs of teams in the shootout. That factor is goaltending. Stopping opposing shooters is just as important as scoring goals, and some teams have been destroyed when it comes to earning extra points thanks to goaltending.

New Jersey is one of those teams as they have had a whopping .594 save percentage over the last four years. That's very bad, and it explains their absurdly low winning percentage. Tampa Bay, who has the 26th-best shooting percentage over the last four season, is buoyed by their netminding which registered at a .713 save percentage, leading the team to a somewhat-respectable .486 winning percentage in the shootout (17/35).

Basically, anyone can tell you that a high shooting percentage plus a high save percentage will usually result in a high win percentage. This isn't rocket science, I admit, so I took a look at how those numbers relate to each other and the results might be surprising when it comes to trends.
  • The trends show that any team who shoots between 21-27% and has a save percentage below 70% have winning percentages below .400. Five teams have given away a lot of points over the last four years: New Jersey (.244), Philly (.295), Nashville (.359), Carolina (.367), and Detroit (.370).
  • Teams who shoot between 21-27% and have save percentages between 70-79% have winning percentages between .400 and .500. Two teams have done this over the last four seasons: Boston (.436) and Tampa Bay (.486).
  • Teams who shoot between 27-30% and have save percentages below 70% have winning percentages between .400 and .500. One team fits this trend exactly: Toronto (.465).
  • EXCEPTION: If we use Toronto's stats as the yard marker here, the Los Angeles Kings (.395) are lower in both shooting percentage and save percentage than the Leafs. This is why they fall just short of the projection.
  • EXCEPTION: Using the Maple Leafs' stats once more, the Buffalo Sabres (.510) are 2.5% better in save percentage than the Leafs and won five more shootouts than the Leafs. As a result, the Sabres exceed the projection.
  • Teams that shoot between 27-30% and have save percentages between 70-79% have winning percentages between .450 and .550. Two teams fit into this trend: Edmonton (.485) and Vancouver (.545).
  • Teams that shoot between 30-33% and have save percentages lower than 70% have winning percentages between .450 and .550. Six teams have done this: Arizona/Phoenix (.474), New York Rangers (.500), Ottawa (.520), Dallas (.522), Winnipeg (.525), and Calgary (.536).
  • Teams that shoot between 30-33% and have save percentages between 70-79% should, in theory, have winning percentages between .500 and .600. I say "theoretically" because there are none in the NHL over the last four seasons.
  • Teams that shoot between 34-37% and have save percentages lower than 70% have winning percentages between .500 and .600. Six teams have done this: Minnesota (.528), Washington (.537), New York Islanders (.542), Chicago (.558), Florida (.560), and Pittsburgh (.588).
  • Teams that shoot between 34-37% and have save percentages between 70-79% have winning percentages between .550 and .650. Teams that have done this include: San Jose (.565), Montreal (.611).
  • EXCEPTION: Columbus (.667) fits into this trend, but the Blue Jackets have an incredible .765 save percentage - highest in the NHL by nearly 5%. As a result, Columbus' winning percentage is increased by this anomaly.
  • Teams that shoot between 38-41% and have save percentages lower than 70% should have winning percentages between .550 and .650. However, no NHL team falls into this trend.
  • EXCEPTION: The Anaheim Ducks (.513) have the 27th-worst save percentage in the NHL at .640. This anomaly pushes them outside the projection.
  • Teams that shoot between 38-41% and have save percentages between 70-79% should have winning percentages between .600 and .700. One team fits this trend: St. Louis (.690).
  • Teams that shoot between 41-44% and have save percentages lower than 70% should have winning percentages between .600 and .700. One team has accomplished this: Colorado (.656).
The one trend that seems to be a common factor in all the anomalies? Save percentage. Remember how I said the pressure falls mainly on the goaltenders in a shootout? Well, it seems that they have the most influence on which teams are most successful in earning the extra points. As long as your shooters are scoring at a 1-in-3 rate (33.3% shooting percentage) or better in the shootout, the extra point falls upon the goaltender. Now that's pressure!

I guess the question needs to be asked as to whether this is fair for the netminders or not. On one hand, it's not like the netminders can practice breakaway saves without having his or her team working on that aspect in practice, and a goaltender will eventually learn the nuances and trends that his or her teammates use. On the other hand, it seems to be a vital skill in today's day and age of hockey when it comes to free points in the standings. Since netminders need players to shoot, this might be beneficial on both sides of the coin!

If save percentages go up, it seems this is the biggest factor in changing the fortunes of teams who desperately need some charity points. With half the teams at or above the 1-for-3 mark, there could be ways to increase shooting percentage, nut getting a save percentage above 70% seems to be the best way to guarantee a better-than-good chance of earning the extra point. Six teams shoot above the 1-for-3 average yet have save percentages below 70%. Not surprisingly, every team this season whose save percentage is above 70% is currently in or within two points of a playoff spot except one: the Vancouver Canucks who are four points back.

These are free points that the NHL wants to give out, and it seems a number of NHL teams simply don't care enough to practice the shootout. And it's not the shooters that need the practice, although one could arguably make the case that a number of players could work on their moves (hint: Winnipeg Jets). If one wants to earn some free points every season, find a goaltender who is good at stopping breakaways. It's arguably the most important piece of the puzzle when looking at the shootouts.

Of course, we could always just end in a tie and make that overtime point mean something to a team game. Just spitballin' here. Pay no attention.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 5 December 2016

It Should Be Fun

The NHL may have said it best. I, for one, am all about letting kids celebrate a goal. It's one of the hardest things to do in hockey, and to do it on the big stage on NHL ice should be cause for major celebration. During the intermission at the Capitals and Sabres game, this youth hockey player lit the lamp and went full Ovechkin, perhaps his hero, when it came to his celebration. Well done, young man. HBIC is a major fan of yours.

That's unbridled passion and joy, folks. That's what hockey is supposed to be.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Rundown - Week 9

We're nine weeks into the season in the Canada West Conference and there are a few things that seem to be givens on most nights. The ladies had a week off for Remembrance Day, but 16 games have proven that there is one team who will most likely have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs and one team who will most likely miss the playoffs. The other six teams are jockeying for position, but there are two distinct tiers of teams there as well. With the December break up next, let's run through the final week of play in the first-half of Canada West action!

UBC at CALGARY: I figured we'd start with the two teams that book-end the CWUAA. I won't sugar-coat this one either. UBC got first-period goals from Haneet Parhar at 4:43 and Cassandra Vilgrain with the man-advantage at 17:31, and added second-period goals from Mathea Fischer just 14 seconds into the frame and Stephanie Schaupmeyer on the power-play at 13:16 to make it 4-0 through 40 minutes.

Kelsey Roberts was on the bench to start the third period after playing the previous two periods as Sarah Murray took over in the Dinos' net. Sasha Vafina ripped home a slap shot at 7:36 to break the goose egg, but Shiayli Toni answered back four minutes later for UBC to make it 5-1. Heather Berzins went backhand over Amelia Boughn's glove at 13:08, but Calgary would get no closer as the Thunderbirds wrapped up a 5-2 victory. Boughn stopped 14 shots for the win while Kelsey Roberts stopped 15 shots in her 40 minutes of work. For the record, Sarah Murray stopped eight of nine shots she faced.

UBC at CALGARY: The number-one team in the nation decided that Friday night's strategy worked well, so they'd do it all over again. UBC saw goals from Kelly Murray at 2:23, Mikayla Ogrodniczuk at 10:39, and Shiayli Toni at 12:50 to pace them to a 3-0 lead and chase Sarah Murray early in this game. That score would stand through the horn. They'd add second-period goals from Alexa Ranahan at 10:55 and Stephanie Schaupmeyer on the power-play at 15:33, and the rout was on as the Thunderbirds claimed a 5-0 lead through two periods.

Calgary would end Amelia Boughn's bid for a shutout at 9:12 when Chelsea Court finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play, but Kelly Murray would make it a 6-1 game at 13:38. The final horn would sound with the 6-1 score intact, UBC's 14th-straight win intact, and a rather disappointing first-half of the season for the Calgary Dinos coming to an end. Boughn stopped 23 shots for the victory while Murray stopped just five shots in 12:50 of work for the loss. Kelsey Roberts stopped 25 shots in relief.

MOUNT ROYAL at MANITOBA: We'll jump to the seventh-ranked team in Canada hosting the Mount Royal Cougars in what could turn out to be a first-round playoff match-up depending on how the second-half of the season goes for these two teams. Again, I'm not going to sugar-coat this game - it was all Manitoba despite getting a slow start. Jordyn Zacharias got the home squad on the board at 14:14 when she converted a one-time off a Nicole McGlenen pass for the 1-0 lead.

The second period would see Manitoba double their lead on a power-play when Venla Hovi's cross-ice pass found Erica Rieder for the one-timer at the top of the face-off circle, and her blast went over Emma Pincott's glove for the 2-0 lead at 4:54. Despite both teams having chances in the period, Rachel Dyck continued to shut the door on the Cougars as she preserved the two-goal lead going into the third period.

Power-plays would cost the Cougars again as one Bisons player made her impact. Karissa Kirkup scored 1:57 into the period while on the man-advantage, and she added a second power-play marker at 13:38 to make it a 4-0 game. That would be more than enough for Rachel Dyck on this night as she stared down the Cougars on every shot and allowed none as Manitoba scored the victory. Dyck made just 12 saves on a rather quiet night for her for the shutout while Pincott stopped 21 shots in the loss.

MOUNT ROYAL at MANITOBA: We spoke of expecting a different Mount Royal team on Saturday afternoon, and we got exactly that. The Cougars opened the scoring on what can only be described as an incredible bounce. Devonie Deschamps' shot from the point hit the skate of Manitoba's Caitlyn Fyten and deflected straight up into the air. The momentum from the puck carried it over Amanda Schubert, who had come out to the top of the crease to challenge Deschamps, and it landed in the net behind her. No one asks how, only how many, and the Cougars had the early 1-0 lead. Manitoba would rally back, though, as Jordyn Zacharias picked up her second goal of the weekend as she forced a turnover in the Cougars' zone and went forehand-backhand to beat Zoe DeBeauville for the 1-1 equalizer.

There was a single goal added in the second period, and it was a rocket off the stick of Mount Royal's Mairi Sorensen at the 17:07 mark. Sorensen teed it up from the blue line and her shot found its way past the crowd of players in front of Schubert and into the far side of the net as the Cougars took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

The Cougars got another lucky bounce on an early five-on-three in the third period as Sarah Weninger's centering pass banked off a Manitoba defender's skate and ended up behind Schubert for a 3-1 lead just 54 seconds into the period. That unlucky break seemed to spark Manitoba, in particular Venla Hovi. Hovi charged down the right wing, cut into the middle as she gained a step on the defender Shawni Rodeback, and fired a shot past DeBeauville at 3:20 to make it 3-2. Five minutes after that goal, Alexandra Anderson hammered home a power-play goal with a low-shot in the slot at 8:22 to tie the game at 3-3!

With Manitoba pressing, MRU's Gabrielle Seper found the break she needed as she got loose down the right side on a breakaway. Megan Neduzak chased her down and tried to knock her off the puck, but the referee determined Neduzak's effort was interference and pointed to center ice for the penalty shot at 14:22! Seper broke in on Schubert on the left side, deked forehand-backhand, and slid the puck past a prone Schubert after she bit on the first move for the 4-3 lead! Manitoba threw everything they had at DeBeauville after that goal, but the netminder stood tall and gave Tianna Ko an opportunity to ice the game with an empty-netter with nine seconds to play to give Mount Royal the 5-3 victory! DeBeauville made 28 stops to earn the victory while Schubert took the loss in a 14-save performance.

REGINA at LETHBRIDGE: Regina came into the weekend looking to hunt down the Huskies and Pandas while the Pronghorns needed points to catch the Mount Royal Cougars. A scoreless first period didn't help either team, but there were chances and that foreshadowed what happened in the second period.

Jaycee Magwood's slap shot at 14:34 deflected off a Pronghorn defender and got by Alicia Anderson to put Regina up 1-0. 49 seconds later, Kylie Kupper flipped a rebound off a Krista Metz shot over Anderson, and the Cougars were up 2-0. 49 seconds after Kupper's goal, Lethbridge's Tricia Van Vaerenbergh made a gorgeous move to pull the puck across the front of the crease after cutting down the left side of the ice, and she tucked it past Jane Kish to make it a 2-1 game. 2:43 after that goal, Tamara McVannel beat Anderson to make it 3-1 as the scoring barrage ended with 1:05 left in the period and Regina leading 3-1.

Van Vaerenbergh added her second of the game on the power-play when she teed up a one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle that Kish couldn't stop, and Lethbridge was back within a goal at the 6:37 mark. Bailey Braden made it a two-goal game again when she scored a power-play goal of her own when she skated out of the corner and went high glove-side on Anderson at 16:02. The Pronghorns pulled Anderson with over three minutes to play as they needed a pair of goals, but Kupper would ice the game with an empty-net goal at 17:08 for the 5-2 victory. Kish stopped 25 shots for the victory while Anderson stopped 36 shots in a losing effort.

REGINA at LETHBRIDGE: Saturday's game had a different storyline, but the game started the same way with a scoreless first period. Jaycee Magwood would kick off the scoring while on a two-man advantage 5:58 into the second period when she rang a shot off the post that ended up behind Alicia Anderson for the 1-0 lead.

As time wound down, it appeared that the lone goal would be the difference, but a pair of turnovers in the neutral zone gave Emma Waldenberger a pair of goals at 19:01 and 19:45 to propel the Cougars to the 3-0 shutout win. Morgan Baker stopped all 24 shots hse faced for the shutout win while Alicia Anderson took the loss despite stopping 38 shots.

SASKATCHEWAN at ALBERTA: In what might have been the most anticipated games to finish the first-half of the CWUAA schedule, the Huskies and Pandas met with all sorts of implications on the standings awaiting the results. The only problem? Neither team was in a very generous mood when it came to scoring chances.

Lindsay Weech scored the lone goal in this game at 12:29 of the first period when her shot from the point eluded Cassidy Hendricks' glove. Alberta's impressive team speed kept the Juskies on their heels all night, and they mustered just 11 shots on Lindsey Post. While Hendricks was good, that one goal was the difference as the Pandas won 1-0 to tie the Huskies in the standings for third-place. Post, as mentioned, picked up her franchise-best 33rd shutout of her career while Hendricks suffered the loss despite making 26 saves.

SASKATCHEWAN at ALBERTA: The Saturday game between these two teams had a considerably different feel as the Huskies and Pandas really skated. Chances were seen at both ends of the ice, but the only goal in the opening frame was scored off a point shot from Alberta's Megan Eady at 7:42 that beat Cassidy Hendricks for the 1-0 lead.

The second period picked up where the first left off as both teams generated opportunities once more, but a turnover would lead to the second goal. Autumn MacDougall generated the turnover at the Huskies' blue line, and she fed Alex Poznikoff with a great pass as Poznikoff chipped the puck past Hendricks at 11:53 for a 2-0 lead for the Pandas.

The Huskies, perhaps playing desperation hockey, seemed to take their game to another level in the third period, and they would finally solve Lindsey Post after 107:38 of shutout hockey. Kaitlin Willoughby went short-side over the glove off a pass from Lauren Zary, and the Huskies were on the board as they trailed 2-1. Despite numerous opportunities down the stretch, Lindsey Post stood tall as she denied the equalizer in helping the Pandas to the 2-1 victory. Post made 21 stops in the win while Hendricks made 23 stops in the loss.

CWUAA WOMEN'S HOCKEY
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
13-1-2-0
43 60 25
W14
JANUARY
Manitoba
8-4-3-1
31 49 26
L1
JANUARY
Alberta
7-3-3-3
30 38 25
W7
JANUARY
Regina
9-6-1-0
29 42 37
W4
JANUARY
Saskatchewan
7-5-2-2
27 33 30
L4
JANUARY
Mount Royal
5-9-0-2
17 26 40
W1
JANUARY
Lethbridge
2-11-1-2
10 24 55
L8
JANUARY
Calgary
0-12-1-3
5 23 57
L11
JANUARY

And with that, we close the book on 2016 in Canada West women's hockey action. UBC is enjoying an amazing run right now, and it seems it will take a nearly-perfect game for someone to beat them. Manitoba dropped a game off a couple of bad bounces, and they saw their lead in second-place diminish to a single point. Alberta has found the winning recipe, Regina seems to be trending in the right direction, and Saskatchewan needs to find a way to snap their losing streak. Mount Royal is on an island on their own right now, Lethbridge is floundering but still alive, and Calgary is... well, Calgary.

"There is still a chance, playoffs are still ahead and we can't back down," Dinos forward Heather Berzins told Max Sturley, Dinos Communications Assistant. "There is still another whole half of the season left and only two teams ahead of us, so we just have to beat two teams ahead in the standings to get into the playoffs. It's not over, so we have to keep our heads high and practice hard over these next two weeks, and come back from Christmas better than ever."

The reality is that Calgary very well could do what they did last season and streak through the second-half of the season to overtake both Lethbridge and Mount Royal. It's going to take a monstrous effort from the Dinos, but they proved it can be done last season. Calgary starts the second-half with a pair of games against Lethbridge, so they could find themselves in seventh-place very quickly with a pair of wins.

Manitoba has two difficult weeks to open the second-half as they are on the road to face the Regina Cougars and then welcome the UBC Thunderbirds to Wayne Fleming Arena. Alberta follows the same difficult path as they kick off the second-half in Vancouver against the Thunderbirds before heading to Regina to play the Cougars. And, obviously, the Cougars play Manitoba and Alberta in the first two weeks. Clearly, nothing will be solved in this conference for a while as these three teams, currently separated by two points, will battle for their lives in those first two weeks of January.

Isn't hockey grand?

You're missing out some incredible hockey action if you're not checking out your local university's women's hockey program. Whether it be the OUA, the RSEQ, the AUS, or the CWUAA, the women's hockey action down at your local university is some of the best hockey seen in North American rinks. Do yourself a favor and get some tickets for January's games this holiday season. You won't regret it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!