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.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
43 60 25
31 49 26
30 38 25
29 42 37
27 33 30
Mount Royal
17 26 40
10 24 55
5 23 57

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!

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