Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Rundown - Week 1

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another magical season of Canada West women's hockey! Having watched a number of preseason games and keeping up with the teams via social media, I can tell you that this season might be the closest its ever been regarding the level of talent spread across all eight teams. Legitimately, any of the eight teams could win the Canada West banner, but I feel the usual suspects will congregate at the top of the standings as the season presses on. Make no mistake that there are zero "easy" games this season as anyone can beat anyone else on any given night. Canada West women's hockey will be a battle until the final whistle this season, so let's embark on this look at the season with Week One's action on The Rundown!

REGINA at SASKATCHEWAN: The opening game of the Canada West season belonged to the battle of Saskatchewan as the Regina Cougars traveled to Saskatoon for a game with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Both teams had busy preseason schedules, so I expected this game to be up-tempo. And this game got off to a quick start as Chloe Smith notched her first goal of the season just 1:19 into the game to put the Huskies up quickly.

Regina would respond at the midway point of the period when Emma Waldenberger dented the twine on the power-play off a pass from behind the net from Martina Maskova at 9:06 to even the game, and rookie Shaelynn Vallotton would collect her first regular season Canada West goal when she beat Casey Book on a cross-crease pass from Jordan Kulbida at 11:02 to put the Huskies up 2-1!

Saskatchewan again used a quick goal in the second period to get things rolling. Bailee Bourassa intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, skated into the Cougars' zone on the right side, and wired home a shot that Jane Kish couldn't stop at 2:58 to even the score at 2-2! The two teams would trade chance until later in the period. With Saskatchewan on the power-play, the puck missed its intended target on the point off a pass, and Regina's Bailey Braden showed some incredible wheels to beat the Saskatchewan players to the puck in front of Book. Her quick wrister eluded Book, and the shorthanded marker put the Cougars up 3-2 at 16:14!

From there, it was the Jane Kish show as she went unbeatable on 14 shots in the third period to hold that 3-2 lead and turn it into a victory in stopping 42 of 44 shots she faced! Casey Book had a much more quiet night in stopping 15 of 18 shots, but it was the Cougars drawing first blood in Canada West action with the 3-2 win!

SASKATCHEWAN at REGINA: In the second half of the home-and-home series to start the season, the Cougars looked to double their win total on home ice while the Huskies hoped to deliver some road vengeance at The Co-operators Centre. And just as they did the night before, the Huskies were on the board before the game was five minutes old!

Bailee Bourassa picked up her second goal of the season when she skated out of the corner relatively unscathed and beat Morgan Baker high on the short side with a great shot to give Saskatchewan a 1-0 lead just 4:58 in! Unlike Friday's game, though, there would be no additional scoring in the opening frame.

The second period saw Saskatchewan double the score on the power-play. Emily Upgang found the puck behind the net and found room under Baker on a wraparound at 2:21 to make it a 2-0 lead for the Huskies. Regina, though, would begin to pick up their play, and they would be rewarded just past the midpoint of the period. Jaycee Magwood found Jordan Kulbida with a pass, and Kulbida went shelf on rookie Chloe Marshall at 11:58 to bring the Cougars within a goal. But Upgang would strike again on a late power-play at 18:20 to restore the two-goal lead and send the teams to the dressing rooms with Saskatchewan leading 3-1.

Kaitlin Willoughby would make it a 4-1 game for the Huskies when she found room over Baker's shoulder at 12:41, and it seemed like Saskatchewan had this game wrapped up. However, appearances can be deceiving, and the Cougars decided to pour on the pressure late. Jaycee Magwood made a nice move around Marshall at 17:32 to make it a 4-2 game, and Emma Waldenberger would add her second goal of the weekend on a wrist shot to the top shelf at 19:53. Saskatchewan, though, would hold off Regina in the final seven seconds to hold on to the 4-3 victory. Marshall stopped 29 of 32 shots in the win while Morgan Baker made 29 stops on 33 shots in the loss.

CALGARY at LETHBRIDGE: It's always refreshing to see a goaltending battle early in the season. Most times, goaltenders don't get enough credit for the work they put in at the U SPORTS level, but we saw what a good goalie can do in Alberta's run to the U Sports National Championship last season. In their very first game, though, Sarah Murray of the Calgary Dinos and Alicia Anderson of the Lethbridge Pronghorns went save-for-save on Friday night.

Both Anderson and Murray made some big saves at times. Murray stoned Katelyn Breitkreuz on a breakaway while Anderson denied both Delaney Frey and Kira Makuk on the doorstep on the same play! At the end of sixty minutes, we had a 0-0 stalemate, so we'd go to extra time!

In the first overtime period, Morgan Loroff hit the goal post behind Anderson, but the puck stayed out. The four-on-four period solved nothing, so it was off to three-on-three. And that's where Mackenzie Gal decided that this goalie duel would end.
How about that goal? Gal ends the game at 2:55 of the double-overtime period to give the Lethbridge Pronghorns the 1-0 win! Anderson was outstanding in all 31 shots sent her way for the shutout while Murray stopped 22 of 23 shots on the night in the overtime loss.

LETHBRIDGE at CALGARY: After the Dinos thought they deserved a better fate than the loss one night earlier, they had a chance to right the ship on home ice against Lethbridge on Saturday in the home-and-home series. We wouldn't need nearly 68 minutes for a winner in this one, but the opening period saw Alicia Anderson and Kelsey Roberts match one another save-for-save just as the two teams did one night earlier.

In the second period, Paige Michalenko found Kate Lumley streaking through the Lethbridge zone, and her pass was converted on the backhand by Lumley that went up high and fooled Anderson to put Calgary up 1-0 at the 5:23 mark. That would be the only puck to get by either Anderson or Roberts in the second period, so it was down to the final stanza with Calgary leading 1-0.

In the final period, both goalies were outstanding again - Anderson made six saves while Roberts had nine saves - and nothing got back either netminder. That means that the lone goal by Kate Lumley was the winner, and the Calgary Dinos delivered a little just desserts to the Pronghorns with the 1-0 victory. Roberts stopped 31 saves for her first shutout of the season while Anderson stopped 22 of 23 shots sent her way as her record falls to 1-1-0.

ALBERTA at MOUNT ROYAL: The U SPORTS National Champions ventured into Flames Community Arena in Calgary to open their season against the new-look Mount Royal Cougars. And just as they steamrolled through Canada West in the second half of last season's regular season, the Alberta Pandas roughed up the Cougars in the opener.

Regan Wright beat Zoe DeBeauville in the first period. Amy Boucher added a second goal in the second period. Alex Poznikoff found the back of the net on the power-play in the third period, and Deanna Morin deposited the puck into an empty net for the 4-0 Pandas victory. In a game in which the Pandas dominated from start to finish, Dayna Owen picked up the shutout in making 16 stops while DeBeauville stopped 21 of 24 shots she saw in this game.

MOUNT ROYAL at ALBERTA: On a night where the Pandas hung the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship banner, there was excitement and electricity in the building. The Pandas, who hung a 4-0 loss on the Cougars the night before, looked to wrap this one up early in front of their home fans at Clare Drake Arena.

The home fans had a reason to cheer midway through the first period as Amy Boucher set up Deanna Morin for a tap-in goal on the doorstep past Zoe DeBeauville at the 11:07 mark to put the Pandas up 1-0. The Pandas had chances on DeBeauville for the last nine minutes, but the Mount Royal netminder would keep the score intact.

The second period was... odd. Neither team generated very good scoring chances as it seems defence took over, and the period was perhaps one of the quietest I've ever seen in Canada West hockey. No goals, nine shots combined, and we would move to the third period.

The Cougars would break Dayna Owen's five-period shutout with an incredible effort from Megan Carver. Carver forced a turnover in the Pandas' zone and then slid the puck under Owen at 2:57 to tie the game at 1-1. DeBeauville would hold off the Pandas for the remainder of the period as they piled seven more shots on the Cougars, but the score at the end of sixty minutes was still 1-1, forcing this game into overtime!

Four-on-four got us nowhere. Three-on-three still left us deadlocked at 1-1. The only thing that would solve this stalemate would be a shootout! Reanna Arnold put the Cougars up 1-0 in the skills competition after the second round of shooters, but Alex Poznikoff would tie things up on the next shot. DeBeauville stopped Hannah Olenyk, and Tianna Ko would end the game on an impressive move in tight against Owen before sliding the puck through the netminder for the 2-1 shootout win! DeBeauville improves her to 1-1-0 after her 22 save effort while Owen falls to 1-0-1 in her 17-save effort.

While I usually don't post stats like this, the Cougars began the night with a 1-25 all-time record against Alberta, including a 1-16 conference record against the Pandas. This is the second victory in as many seasons on Clare Drake Arena ice for the Cougars, and that's huge progress for the Mount Royal program as they move forward!

MANITOBA at UBC: We have an early heavyweight tilt between last season's Canada West champions and the Manitoba Bisons who fell just short in their quest for the banner last year. And this game had a number of punches thrown based on the scorecard!

Logan Boyd opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds just 44 seconds in. Megan Neduzak would find the back of the net with a slap shot on the power-play at 4:30 to tie the game at 1-1. And just before the period ended, Lauryn Keen also capitalized on the power-play at 19:23 to send Manitoba to the dressing room with the lead at 2-1.

Emily Costales picked up her first Canada West goal after Ireland Perrott seemingly had the puck on a string before feeding Costales who beat Rachel Dyck. However, Manitoba followed the same script as the first period by scoring the next two goals... and added another. Courtlyn Oswald beat Amelia Boughn at 13:22, Venla Hovi added her first goal 1:03 later, and Alex Anderson hammered home a power-play goal with traffic in front of Boughn at 17:26 to put the Bisons up 5-2 through forty minutes.

Whatever head coach Graham Thomas said during the break seemed to fire up the T-Birds. Tory Micklash took the crease for the final stanza as Boughn was relegated to the bench, and then the captain took over. Celine Tardif wristed a shot on net that eluded traffic and Dyck to find the back of the net at 9:05 to make it 5-3.
And Tardif struck again with Boughn on the bench at 19:50 when she wristed home a goal from in close. The Bisons, however, would kill off the final ten seconds in a rather tense finish to hold on for the 5-4 victory. Dyck stopped 16 shots for the win while Boughn took the loss after stopping 26 shots. Just for the record, Micklash was eight-for-eight in her twenty minutes of work.

MANITOBA at UBC: For everything Friday night was supposed to be with the Canada West banner being raised and Manitoba spoiling the party, UBC responded on Saturday. This was exactly the kind of game that UBC wanted.

Logan Boyd opened the scoring again at 10:10 when she beat Rachel Dyck. The T-Birds would double their lead three minutes later when Ireland Perrott scored a gorgeous power-play goal for her first Canada West goal when she went high on Dyck under the crossbar at 13:20 to make it 2-0. And the Thunderbirds would make it a three-goal cushion late in the period when Jaedon Cooke found room past Dyck on the power-play at 17:45, and the Canada West champions were off and running as Rachel Dyck was pulled in favor of rookie Lauren Taraschuk after stopping just six of nine shots. Taraschuk would weather the storm to get the Bisons off the ice at the first intermission down 3-0, but the damage had been done.

The T-Birds would get to Taraschuk in the second period. Hannah Clayton-Carroll converted a pass from Shay-Lee McConnell to find the back of the net behind Taraschuk while on the power-play to make it 4-0 at 1:23. Manitoba showed some life towards the end of the second period when Erica Rieder beat Tori Micklash at 17:07 while the Bisons enjoyed a two-player advantage, but they'd go into the intermission still down three goals in a 4-1 quagmire.

The two teams would trade chances in the third period, but the 4-1 lead for UBC would hold through to the final horn as UBC claims victory. Micklash had another solid outing in stopping 21 of 22 shots for the win while Rachel Dyck suffered the loss to drop to 1-1-0 after stopping six shots on nine attempts. For the record, Lauren Taraschuk stopped ten of eleven shots that she faced in relief of Dyck.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
4 5 2
4 1 1
vs UBC
British Columbia
3 8 6
3 6 6
vs MRU
3 6 6
3 6 8
vs ALB
2 1 1
vs SAS
Mount Royal
2 2 5

Everybody is on the board already after one week of action, and there are no undefeated teams for the first time in a long time in Canada West. The parity that we see here should start to break up as the season progresses, but there are some early concerns for a few teams. Can Calgary remain near the top despite only scoring one goal this weekend? Does Manitoba have goaltending woes with Rachel Dyck posting some rather unusual numbers early on in this season? Are the Pandas and Thunderbirds deep enough to make another run at national championship medals? The answer to these questions will be seen as The Rundown brings you each week of action in Canada West women's hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: