Friday night's game started off as a close-checking affair. Neither the Bisons nor the Pandas were allowing many shots, making the nights for Alberta's Lindsay Post and Manitoba's Amanda Schubert a little easier early on. Alberta did pin the Bisons in their own zone a couple of times, but the Bisons weathered the storm well.
However, a Danielle Vigier penalty at 15:43 of the first period put Alberta on their second powerplay of the period. The first powerplay saw Alberta gain a number of decent chances if not for Schubert, but the second powerplay saw the Pandas find the back of the net. What appeared to be a harmless shot from the right face-off circle from Kayla Lavallee got past the screened Schubert on the blocker side, and the Pandas closed out the first period up 1-0.
The Bisons and Pandas played their chess game in the second period with neither giving the other an inch. No goals were scored, and neither team had clear scoring opportunities. The third period saw the two teams continue their tug-of-war until a questionable holding call was made against Bisons captain Amy Lee. The Pandas went back to work with the man-advantage, and Pandas captain Katie Stewart wired a shot past Schubert to put the Pandas up by a pair.
For the remaining eleven minutes, it was clear that time was the Bisons enemy, and the Pandas made it no easier by clearing their zone at every opportunity. Despite mounting a furious attack late in the game, the Bisons couldn't solve Lindsay Post as she recorded the 2-0 shutout. With the shutout, Lindsay also posted her fifth-straight shutout - a Pandas and Canada West record! Congratulations to Lindsay on making a little history on Friday night, albeit at the expense of the Bisons.
Saturday night saw the rematch take place as this game would close out the first half of the season. Obviously, the Bisons wanted to rebound from the loss the night before and go into the break with a win. Alberta was looking to continue their strong play as they attempted to pick up their tenth win before the break. Both teams had a lot to play for on Saturday!
In a rather surprising move, Amanda Schubert was given the night off for the Bisons. Dée-Ana Marion was given the start against the Pandas, and freshman Rachel Dyck dressed in the back-up role. Lindsay Post got the nod for Alberta again as she looked for her sixth-straight shutout.
The Bisons would have none of that shutout talk tonight, though, as Kyleigh Palmer poked home a loose puck in a goalmouth scramble, and Lindsay Post's shutout streak would end at 351:18! It was the first goal she surrendered since October 26 against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds! Palmer had the Bisons up early, just 6:23 into the game, and the two teams began to settle in again.
If the officiating was questionable last night, the trend continued tonight as Brenley Anderson was whistled for checking despite hitting no one at 1:30 of the second period. She and a Panda were battling for a puck as they moved along the blue line, and the Panda defenceman lost balance and fell heavily into the boards. The young referee's arm shot into the air from the opposite corner, and the call was made despite the protest of Anderson.
This call sent the Pandas to the powerplay again, and Jayden Skoye scored a beauty as she skated across the high slot, pulling the Bisons defenders and goaltender Marion across the ice before wiring a wrist shot back to the open side of the net. With the powerplay marker, the Pandas pulled even just three minutes into the second period.
There was a scary moment late in the second period as Alberta's Jocelyn Zabrick hammered a Bisons player into the boards from behind. I'm not sure how a checking-from-behind penalty wasn't called since it was clear to the majority of the arena that Zabrick caught all numbers on the bump, but thankfully there were no injuries on the play. There was a two-minute boarding call made, though, so that put the Bisons back on the powerplay at 16:01.
It didn't take long for the Bisons to make their mark either. After some great puck movement by the Bisons, Nicole McGlenen found Meagan Vestby coming out of the corner, and she circled to the high shot where she ripped a slapshot past Lindsay Post to put the Bisons back in front at the 16:55 mark. They would carry that 2-1 lead into the dressing room.
The Bisons carried the play in the third period as they produced a number of scoring chances only to be turned away by Post. Alberta seemed to be building some momentum as the game wound down, but their efforts were all for naught when Kayla Lavallee was whistled for interference with 2:05 remaining. The Pandas pulled Post for the extra attacker to go five-on-five, but the Bisons held the fort backed by a strong netminding performance from Dée-Ana Marion.
Speaking of Miss Marion, I noticed something that made her stand out from the other goaltenders on the team. This is from Friday night. Dée-Ana is on the right.
Now some may say that with her on the bench on Friday that she didn't need to wear socks since she wasn't playing. I thought the same thing at first, but here she is on Saturday night during her start.
The Bisons don't make up any ground, unfortunately, with the split as they remain one point back of the Pandas in the Canada West standings, but they do finish the first half of the season 9-5-2 and on a high note. That bodes well for the second half as they open against Saskatchewan who sit in second-place in the Canada West standings at 11-3-2 and are on a four-game winning streak.
The Bisons have a month off for exams and holidays, but I doubt this take this time lightly as they have work ahead of them. They sit just five points back of first-place UBC, and are just a point ahead of the Regina Cougars. The race to the Canada West championship should be a good one down the stretch for the ladies!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!