Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Rundown - Week 14

There were a few teams who could officially punch their tickets to the postseason this week depending on results. The hopes of two teams may be fading away if they don't find a way to win in regulation over the next four weeks of action while everyone in the middle is still jockeying for positions when it comes to home playoff dates. It's another big week in Canada West women's hockey, so let's get to it!

CALGARY at ALBERTA: I figured I might as well start with these two teams because this is really a tale of teams moving in opposite directions. Autumn MacDougall at 9:47, Kennedy Ganser at 15:21 on the power-play, and Alex Poznikoff at 17:27 put the Alberta Pandas up 3-0 after the first period. It looked like this game might be a blowout with how the first frame went, but there was only one goal in the remaining 40 minutes as MacDougall picked up her second of the game at 5:43 of the third period. It was not a good game by any means for the Dinos as they managed just eight shots on Lindsey Post in the 4-0 loss. Post, as stated, made eight stops for the shutout victory while Kelsey Roberts stopped 33 shots in the loss.

ALBERTA at CALGARY: The second-half of the home-and-home went even worse for the Dinos. Alex Poznikoff scored just 1:05 in for the Pandas, but the Dinos evened the score at 9:59 when Kate Lumley's shot beat Dayna Owen. For the next 50 minutes, it was a mauling by the Pandas. Deanna Morin scored at 13:37 and Poznikoff had her second of the game at 17:58 to make it 3-1 for Alberta through one period.

Lindsey Weech would score on the power-play at 3:06 of the second, and then the floodgates opened in the third period as Autumn MacDougall scored 18 seconds into the third period, Kennedy Ganser added another power-play goal at 15:30, and Poznikoff capped off the hat trick with a power-play marker at 17:27 to give the Alberta Pandas the 7-1 win. Dayna Owen made 15 stops in the win while Sarah Murray stopped 32 shots and remained in for the full game in the loss.

LETHBRIDGE at MANITOBA: Again, this series appeared to be a story of two teams going in opposite directions, but I want to tag that with an asterisk. I'll explain more below, but let's get into this game. Manitoba opened the scoring when Alex Anderson followed her shot to the net from the half-boards, found the loose puck in the scrum, and slid the puck under Alicia Anderson at 17:33 to go up 1-0.

Lethbridge took advantage of a somewhat lackadaisical Manitoba penalty kill early in the middle frame. Tricia Van Vaerenbergh made a move around Alex Anderson, skated in on the two-on-one, and fired a rising wrist shot over Rachel Dyck's glove to make it 1-1 just 47 seconds into the second period. That goal seemed to awaken the sleeping giant, though, as Manitoba literally took over the game from that point. Manitoba owned the possession stats for the next 19 minutes as Sheridan Oswald scored twice in 10:33 and Venla Hovi scored her eighth of the season at 17:39 to put Manitoba up 4-1. An Erica Rieder power-play goal at 6:37 of the final frame was more than enough for the Bisons after sleepwalking through the first 21 minutes of this game as they win 5-1. Rachel Dyck records the 15-save victory while Alicia Anderson takes a loss despite making 29 saves.

LETHBRIDGE at MANITOBA: Saturday's game had much of the same feel as the previous night's game as Lehtbridge kept pace with a seemingly quiet Manitoba team through the opening period. The second period would see Manitoba slant the ice in their favor as whatever coach Jon Rempel said between the periods seem to wake the Bisons from their slumber. Venla Hovi opened the scoring at 4:45 by going high glove-side on Anderson, Sheridan Oswald scored at 12:15, and Hovi added a second goal on the power-play at 14:30 to give the Bisons a 3-0 lead through two periods of play.

Alannna Sharman got in on the action before the water was even frozen in the third period as she scored 37 seconds into the final frame. Erica Rieder would strike on the power-play once again as she found the twine at 6:49 to Manitoba up 5-0. Lethbridge would call a time-out and swap goalies as Anderson was relieved by Jessica Lohues for the final 13:11, but neither team would add any more ink to the scoresheet in the 5-0 Manitoba win. Amanda Schubert had a relatively quiet night in stopping ten shots for the shutout win while Anderson suffered the loss in making 16 saves in 46:49 of work. For the record, Lohues made ten stops in her 13:11 of action.

REGINA at MOUNT ROYAL: Like the old days of the CFL, the two teams with identical team names met in Calgary as the Mount Royal Cougars hosted the Regina Cougars. With two wins in regulation, Mount Royal could be tied with Regina, so these were big games for both teams! The opening frame saw chances for both teams, but some swollen posts kept the game knotted up in a scoreless draw. It appeared the second period was going to be duplicate of the first period, but a turnover with 5:41 remaining allowed Kylee Kupper to gain possession and fire a wrist shot that glanced off a defender and past Emma Pincott for the 1-0 Regina lead! That lead would only last 1:26 as Tianna Ko tapped home a bouncing puck on the power-play that Morgan Baker couldn't corral, and these two Cougars teams were tied at 1-1!

Mount Royal came out of the intermission with all sorts of fire as they took the game to Regina. They were rewarded for this effort at 7:33 when Shawni Rodeback's seeing-eye shot found its way past a mob of players standing in front of Baker to dent the twine, and the Mount Royal Cougars took a 2-1 lead! Despite playing some desperate hockey down the stretch, the Regina Cougars simply couldn't get the puck past Pincott as she held the 2-1 score to the final buzzer! Pincott stopped 21 of 22 shots sent her win for the win while Baker made 33 stops in the loss.

REGINA at MOUNT ROYAL: Saturday's game loomed large as the two teams were separated by a mere three points in the standings. It would be the home squad who got things going early. Gabrielle Seper stripped the puck from a Regina player in the neutral, turned her sights towards Morgan Baker, and unleashed a laser of a wrist shot high on Baker's right side that the goalie couldn't handle for the 1-0 Mount Royal lead just 5:22 into the game. Despite some quality chances for both teams through the remaining fifteen minutes, the 1-0 lead would hold through the intermission.

Lilla Carpenter-Boesch used a turnover to get Regina on the board. Just after an MRU penalty had expired, Carpenter-Boesch stole a puck in the slot and deked nicely to get Pincott moving before sliding it under the netminder for the 1-1 tie at 4:27. Mount Royal would use a power-play of their own to jump back on top. With the extra attacker out on another delayed penalty, the six-on-four advantage generated a chance on Baker that hit a player in front of her, but Reanna Arnold was in the right spot to deposit the loose puck into the back of the net at 7:29 for the 2-1 lead. Late in the period, Tianno Ko was tripped up in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one featuring Jaycee Magwood and Kylie Gavelin. The two snipers bore down on Pincott, and Magwood fed Gavelin who converted the pass nicely to make it a 2-2 game at 18:19.

The third period featured no goals, so this game went to overtime. And then a second overtime period. And those two extra periods solved nothing as well, so this game would need a skills competition to determine a winner. Morgan Baker was perfect in the breakaway contest on all three shots she faced while Emma Waldenberger scored on Regina's first shot in the shootout as Regina won this game 3-2! Baker made a 25-save effort for the win while Pincott stopped 29 shots in the loss.

UBC at SASKATCHEWAN: The Huskies were in tough against the nation's top team, but they were looking to do what Alberta and Manitoba did in previous weeks in defeating the UBC Thunderbirds and slowing their momentum. The Huskies started the game off right when they struck first. Kaitlin Willoughby threaded a gorgeous pass through traffic to find the stick of Elizabeth Salyn at the side of the net, and Salyn tucked it past Amelia Boughn's stick for the 1-0 lead at 7:19. Both teams would battle through to the end of the period, but Saskatchewan clung to the one-goal lead.

UBC would tie the game on a power-play late in the second period after both teams traded opportunities up to that point. Mathea Fischer's shot off a rebound found the top of the net as Cassidy Hendricks was down on the ice, and the Thunderbirds drew even at 1-1 at 16:40. That score would hold for the next 23:30 of regulation time as neither team could break the deadlock in the third period. Overtime also solved nothing, so it was off to double-overtime. The three-on-three overtime period proved entertaining as the Huskies just barely missed a winner before Fischer and Nicole Saxvik tore down the ice for UBC on a two-on-one. Fischer zipped a pass over to Saxvik, and the veteran T-Bird does what she does best as she beat Hendricks for the game-winner in the 2-1 double-overtime win! Boughn stopped 27 shots in the game for the win while Hendricks made 23 saves in a losing effort.

UBC at SASKATCHEWAN: From a defensive battle on Friday to a last-goal-wins game on Saturday! Here's how the teams traded goals. It was 2-0 after the first period as Rachel Johnson put Saskatchewan up with a goal stick-side on Boughn at 9:24 while Emily Upgang intercepted a pass in front of Boughn and went shelf on the sprawling netminder at 14:35.

Saskatchewan went up by three goals early in the middle frame. Kori Herner went high on Boughn's right-side for the 3-0 lead at 2:12, but that was reduced back to two goals just 33 seconds later when Kelly Murray's shot from the point deflected off a Huskies defender and past Cassidy Hendricks to make it 3-1. Despite chances at both ends, Saskatchewan took the two-goal lead into the third period.

The third period went a little crazy. Nicole Saxvik was left all alone in front of Hendricks at 7:44, and her snipe to the glove-side found the back of the net to make it 3-2. Bailee Bourassa would restore the two-goal lead at 13:04 when she chipped in a rebound that Boughn couldn't smother for the 4-2 Huskies lead. 57 seconds later, UBC caught Saskatchewan on a terrible line change, and Nicole Saxvik slid the puck past a somewhat-helpless Hendricks to make it 4-3. The T-Birds continued to press, and they would tie the game off a slap shot from Hannah Clayton-Carroll from the top of the circle that Hendricks couldn't stop at 16:07! With the game tied at 4-4, the final horn meant we would go to overtime!

All that was needed, however, was nine seconds. Off the opening draw in the four-on-four period, Lauren Zary won the puck to Kaitlin Willoughby who streaked into the UBC zone and hammered a blast past Boughn top-shelf for the 5-4 Huskies overtime win! Hendricks stopped 17 shots in the overtime win while Boughn suffered loss after making 21 saves.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
52 74 39
vs LET
45 57 31
vs MRU
44 69 35
36 48 43
33 51 51
vs SAS
Mount Royal
29 39 50
14 31 74
11 31 77
vs MAN

I always try to finish The Rundown off with some positives, so let's get a few clerical things out of the way. UBC, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Regina have all punched their tickets to the Canada West postseason. Mount Royal can earn their trip to the promised land with any combination of the Cougars winning in regulation or Lethbridge losing in regulation on Friday. Calgary is officially eliminated from the playoffs with the combination of their losses and Mount Royal's win over Regina this past weekend. Basically, all that's left in Canada West to do is to determine positions and see if the Dinos and Pronghorns can play spoilers for a few weeks.

Now about that asterisk....

Having been able to watch the Bisons and Pronghorns this weekend in-person and on video, you might look at those scores posted by the Bisons and say, "Lethbridge stood no chance." You'd be partially right based on the present info, but the Pronghorns are building something pretty special if head coach Michelle Janus can get some pieces she needs next season. Lethbridge has an extremely good set of goaltenders in Alicia Anderson and Jessica Lohues. They have talent up front in Tricia Van Vaerenbergh, Brett Campbell, Katelyn Breitkreuz, Jordan Doram, Sarah Spence, and Jenae Culp. Defensively, they got overwhelmed, but the likes of Mattie Apperson, Jodi Gentile, Kirana Stocker, and Amber Yuha did all they could to try to neutralize the talented Manitoba lineup.

This team isn't far from running with the top-six in Canada West. They're only eight years into their promotion from the ACAC, but they've certainly found talented players. It's hard to convince players to come and play on a team that will probably earn a maximum of five regulation wins this season, but for those players in Alberta who are reading this, go check out the University of Lethbridge as a hockey school. Yes, I know playing for Howie Draper in Edmonton would be a thrill, but I guarantee you'll see the ice more in Lethbridge and you'll be a part of something big.

The Pronghorns aren't going to win Canada West this year or next year. And let's be honest: not in the next five years either. But what they're building and what they are doing can be seen in the passion these players have the game. They pushed back when Manitoba pushed them. They fought tooth-and-nail to earn their spots on the ice. They should not hang their heads in the two defeats in the Manitoba capital this weekend. They're on the right track.

This is what I am saying when I implore you to check out USports Women's Hockey. It's an amazing game where some 40 women show incredible passion, talent, and drive all while being top-notch students. Yes, the Pronghorns are trying to attract talent, but they can't do that if potential recruits simply look at their win-loss record and dismiss them. Look deeper. See the amazing women who make up this team who are as passionate about hockey as anyone I know.

And for everyone else, get out and see a game or two. It's incredible action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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