CALGARY at LETHBRIDGE: The first half of the home-and-home between the Dinos and Pronghorns went down at Nicholas Sheran Ice Centre with Calgary visiting Lethbridge. Both teams needed wins desperately to keep pace and surpass teams above them. Both teams started 2017 with a jump in their steps, but it was the Pronghorns who had some great chances in the opening frame with a few early power-plays. Calgary netminder Sarah Murray turned the Pronghorns aside, though, and the teams would go scoreless in the opening twenty minutes despite Lethbridge leading in shots 18-5.
The Dinos began to shift the play in their favor in the second period, and a penalty to Lethbridge's Aislinn Kooistra for bodychecking was the break the Dinos needed. Delaney Frey took a feed from Madison Turk, and her low shot on the glove-side beat Alicia Anderson at the 10:00 mark for the 1-0 lead. 2:39 later, Frey would make it 2-0 when a strange bounce off the end-boards ended up on Frey's stick with Anderson caught out of position and Frey made no mistake in burying the puck. Calgary righted the shots-on-net in the second frame as they outshot the Pronghorns 14-4 while carrying the 2-0 lead into the intermission.
At 6:09 of the third period, the Pronghorns cut into the lead as Chelsea Kasprick set up Brett Campbell on a two-on-one that was saved by Murray, but Campbell chipped the rebound past Murray on the blocker side to make it a 2-1 game. The teams traded chances throughout the period, but the Pronghorns really poured on the pressure late in the game with Anderson on the bench. However, like she had done a number of times in the game, Sarah Murray held the fort for Calgary as the final horn sounded on Calgary's first regulation win of the season in the 2-1 victory. Murray stopped 30 shots in the win while Anderson made 26 saves in the loss.
CALGARY at LETHBRIDGE: With Lethbridge holding a slim two-point lead over Calgary and the weekend series shifting to Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary, both teams were needing the three points on Saturday. Things started a little more tentatively in this game compared to the previous night, but it would Lethbridge who struck first. Tricia Van Vaerenbergh found some room out of the corner to the slot where her initial shot was stopped by Calgary's Sarah Murray, but she made no mistake on the rebound as she slid the puck past the far post where Murray couldn't reach it for the 1-0 lead at 8:32. Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson was busy as she made 11 stops to keep it a one-goal lead through the remainder of the period.
Calgary came out with a push in the second period, and they were rewarded for their aggressive play. On a three-on-two, Sage Desjardins found Tori Stebnitsky wide-open in front of the net, and Stebnitsky one-timed the feed past Anderson for her first CIS goal and the 1-1 tie at 4:06. Calgary kept pressing in the middle frame, but it was Anderson who stood tall in stopping 16 shots to keep this game deadlocked.
The third period was a little more back-and-forth, but it would be late penalty trouble that caused the Dinos a headache. With Megan Grenon and Sage Desjardins sent to the sin bin within 32 seconds of each other with less than five minutes remaining, Lethbridge had a two-man advantage for 1:28 and made it count. Mattie Apperson fed Amber Yuha who skated the puck in and zipped a shot off that went bar-down on Murray for the power-play goal and the 2-1 lead at 16:47. From there, it was all about the wall known as Alicia Anderson as she stopped everything Calgary threw at her in a late flurry to preserve the 2-1 win and kill the nine-game losing streak! Anderson stopped 34 shots in the win while Murray made 23 stops in the loss.
SASKATCHEWAN at MOUNT ROYAL: Both teams needed points this weekend as Mount Royal looked to solidify their playoff spot while Saskatchewan looked to make up ground on Regina, Alberta, and Manitoba as they visited Mount Royal at Flames Community Arenas. Both teams seemed to enjoy the holidya break as they came out and played a sloppy period with passes off the mark, shots fired wide, and players looking a little slower than normal, leading to a scoreless tie through the opening period with Mount Royal leading 7-5 in shots.
The second period saw the play improve, and chances were had at both ends of the ice. Mount Royal would finally break the stalemate when Gabrielle Seper put forth an incredible individual effort. Seper made a move around a defender to get the initial shot off that Saskatchewan's Cassidy Hendricks stopped, but Seper went after the rebound as she sneaked between the two Huskies defenders to flip the puck under Hendricks' arm for the 1-0 lead at 9:31!
From there, it was the Emma Pincott show as the Cougars netminder stole the show. She stoned Lauren Zary on what looked like a sure goal, she made several sprawling saves to keep the puck from finding twine, and she withstood the Saskatchewan attack for the final thirty minutes. She only needed the one goal on this night as Pincott tossed the first shutout of 2017 as the Mount Royal Cougars downed the Saskatchewan Huskies by a 1-0 final. Pincott stopped all 20 shots for the victory while Hendricks took the loss despite making 29 saves on the night.
SASKATCHEWAN at MOUNT ROYAL: Saturday's game saw the other netminders square off as Mount Royal went to Zoe DeBeauville while Saskatchewan started Jasey Rae Book. Unlike Friday's game, passing was crisper and shots fneaound their marks more often. Saskatchewan got things rolling midway through the first period when Kaitlin Willoughby was the recipient of a pass out of the corner by Bailee Bourassa after she forced a turnover, and Willoughby made no mistake in beating DeBeauville for the 1-0 lead at 9:18.
Mount Royal began to mount some pressure, and they were rewarded off another individual effort by a Seper. This time it was Nicollette Seper who took a pass on the wing, cut towards the crease, and used her long reach to slide the puck five-hole on Book at 15:19 to make it a 1-1 game. The Huskies wasted no time in replying as a turnover at the Mount Royal blue line sent Willoughby and Hannah Heisler in on a two-on-one. Willoughby's pass found the tape of Heisler, and she went top-shelf over DeBeauville to make it a 2-1 game just 32 seconds after the Huskies gave up the lead.
A scoreless second period saw the Huskies carry the play as they began to dominate both in shots and possession time, but DeBeauville stood tall to keep all twelve shots from getting past her. After the intermission break, he Cougars rewarded DeBeauville for her keeping them in the game. Tianna Ko was sent in all alone by Channia Alexander, and she wristed a shot off the post past Book to make it a 2-2 game just 26 seconds into the final frame.
The Huskies would respond a short time later. Kaitlin Willoughby, who was the best player on the ice in this game, drove the net hard after the Huskies had pressured the Cougars. DeBeauville made the save, but the rebound wasn't covered and Rachel Johnson jumped on the loose puck and fired it past the prone DeBeauville to make it 3-2 Saskatchewan at 4:15. Despite chances, the Cougars would draw no closer as the Huskies held on for the 3-2 win. Book picked up the win with a 17-save performance while DeBeauville was on the losing end in this one despite making 31 saves.
MANITOBA at REGINA: Two points separate these two teams in the standings as the battle for second-place heats up. The chances were often in this game as both teams knew the stakes, but it would be the home side who struck first. Bailey Braden escaped the penalty box as the puck was poked away from the Bisons defender on the power-play, and that set up a two-on-one with Jaycee Magwood. Braden fed Magwood who was stopped on an excellent save by Bisons goaltender Rachel Dyck, but Braden capitalized on the rebound that couldn't be smothered in the crease for the 1-0 Cougars lead at 14:38.
That score would stand through nearly thirty minutes of play, but the Bisons would find the equalizer early in the third period. A miscommunication between Kish and her defence saw Alanna Sharman take advantage. Kish went to play the puck behind her net, but the netminder passed the puck into harm's way as her defender misread the play. Sharman picked up the gift and banked it in off Kish's pad before she could fully recover to make it 1-1 at the 2:34 mark! With both Kish and Dyck playing extremely well, this game would need extra time to determine a winner!
The first overtime solved nothing, so it went to three-on-three. After seeing the Bisons kill off a penalty, the momentum almost swung as Alex Anderson barely missed a yawning cage with her shot. Regina picked up the missed shot as Kylee Kupper fed Chelsea Hallson up the ice who broke in on a two-on-one with Alexis Larson. It takes real moxie to look off a veteran like Larson, but Hallson opted to keep the puck and wired a shot that beat Rachel Dyck with 46 seconds remaining for the 2-1 double-overtime victory! Jane Kish earned the win with a 33-save effort while Rachel Dyck suffered the loss despite making 39 saves on the night.
MANITOBA at REGINA: With one point now separating the two rivals, Saturday's game would either see Regina leapfrog Manitoba or the Bisons open a four-point spread on the Cougars if things were decided in regulation time. Rookie Jenai Buchanan initiated the first goal as she broke into the Cougars zone and dropped a pass to Karissa Kirkup who had all sorts of room to pick a corner on Jane Kish, and she did just that as she went low on the glove-side at 1:32 of the opening period for the 1-0 Manitoba lead. Regina didn't sit back, though, as they found the equalizer midway through the period. Nikki Watters-Matthes forced a turnover as she pinched in from the blue line, and Emma Waldenberger picked up the puck and threw a low shot on net that eluded Rachel Dyck to make it a 1-1 game at 9:32.
After a scoreless second period that saw both goalies play well to preserve the tie game, the Bisons exploded out of the second intermission with three goals in 3:09! Karissa Kirkup danced between two defenders to break in alone on Kish and went high on the glove-side just 36 seconds into the final frame to make it 2-1. Jordyn Zacharias finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play from Lauren Keen and Alanna Sharman 16 seconds later to make it 3-1, and Nicole Carswell was the recipient of a loose puck thanks to the forecheck of Erin Kucheravy, and Carswell went high on the blocker side to make it a 4-1 game at 3:45! That would be all for Kish on this night as Sarah Hodges sent Morgan Baker out to try and change her team's fortunes. Lilla Carpenter-Boesch would reduce the deficit as she cashed in a goal during a goalmouth scramble in front of Rachel Dyck at 11:30, but the Cougars would get no more as the Bisons took this game by a 4-2 score. Rachel Dyck stopped 23 shots in the victory while Jane Kish made 13 saves as the goalie of record for Regina. Baker stopped all five shots she faced in relief.
ALBERTA at UBC: The Pandas were looking to catch both Regina and Manitoba this weekend, but they'd be in tough to do so against the top-ranked team in the nation in the UBC Thunderbirds who were conveniently on a 14-game winning streak. Layoffs can sometimes upend a streak like that, so let's see which team came out prepared to play! Let me be the first to say this: don't take penalties against the T-Birds.
The game started rather timidly as both teams appeared to be more concerned with not making mistakes rather than capitalizing on chances. UBC had a few extra shots until Alberta's Ashley Morin took a bodychecking penalty, and that's where the T-Birds made the Pandas pay. Nocole Saxvik found a little room down low where she was able to push a puck under Lindsey Post's pad, and the power-play marker put UBC up 1-0 with 26 seconds to play in the period.
Alberta wasted little time in the second period when it came to tying the game. Abby Benning created a turnover on the half-boards, skated the puck into the slot, and teed a shot up that went blocker-side on Amelia Boughn that the UBC netminder could not deflect away in time to make it 1-1 just 34 seconds into the second period. Once again, though, UBC would take the lead with the man-advantage. Alberta's Cayle Dillon was called for holding, but she barely had time to sit down. Eight seconds after the sin bin door closed, Haneet Parhar deflected a Madison Patrick shot past Post at 10:33 for the 2-1 lead. Both teams would finish off the period at a better tempo as they each launched ten shots at the other team's netminder in that period.
The third period saw one goal scored, and it was once again scored on the power-play. Alberta's Kennedy Ganser sat for boarding, and UBC extended their lead. Cassandra Vilgrain converted the Nicole Saxvik feed as she zipped a shot past Post at 10:28, and the T-Birds held a 3-1 lead. Amelia Boughn needed no further help as she held the fort the rest of the way as the Thunderbirds made it 15 wins in a row with the 3-1 victory. Boughn stopped 20 of 21 shots sent her way in the win while Lindsey Post suffered the loss after making 23 saves.
ALBERTA at UBC: This game featured all the scoring in one period, but it was the defensive efforts of one team that really came into play. Nicole Saxvik opened the scoring 1:08 into the second period when she finished off a two-on-one with Logan Boyd to put UBC up 1-0. The Pandas would use the power-play on Saturday to even things up when Hannah Olenyk chipped in a rebound off a Kennedy Ganser shot in tight to Amelia Boughn at 8:12 to make it a 1-1 game.
It would be another power-play that determined the winner. Sasha Lutz jammed in a rebound off an Autumn MacDougall shot that Boughn couldn't corral, and the Pandas took a 2-1 lead. It was Alberta's speed and determination that stood out in the final 40 minutes, though, as they took space and chances away from the Thunderbirds while blocking shots and deflecting pucks away from Dayna Owen in the Pandas net. They allowed just eight shots through the final two periods, and skated to the 2-1 victory to snap UBC's 15-game winning streak! Owen stopped 13 shots for the victory while Boughn made 14 stops in the loss.
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I want to draw some attention to the great work that UBC did on Friday night in honouring former teammate Laura Taylor. Taylor passed away after a lengthy battle with depression on April 7, 2016. Her suicide sent shock waves through the Thunderbirds program as no one really knew of the battle that the medical student was waging within herself.
Friday night's Mental Health Awareness Game saw Taylor's #29 jersey retired and raised to the rafters at Father Bauer Arena. Taylor's parents, Tom and Susan, were on-hand for the pre-game ceremonies where they dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off. A number of mental health awareness organizations were also at the rink, and it's this writer's wish that everyone who feels like the world is closing in on them gets help in some form.
If you want to just chat hockey some time, fire me an email. I'd be happy to chat some puck with you and listen if you just want to talk. As the video shows below, depression isn't always obvious.
Excellent work, UBC, on bringing light to a subject like mental health. Laura would be proud not only of your season thus far, but for helping those who may not know how to speak out.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!