Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Rundown - Week 11

Last week's games saw a few surprises as the Mount Royal Cougars moved within striking distance of both the Calgary Dinos and the Regina Cougars who sit in sixth- and fifth-place, respectively. Manitoba has UBC, Saskatchewan, and Alberta breathing down its neck, so every point mattered this week for the top-four teams. And Lethbridge, despite being in a bit of a losing streak, still have a shot at catching and passing the bottom-four teams if they can find the win column. Every game had importance this week in Canada West women's hockey, so let's take a look at what happened on this week's edition of The Rundown!

MOUNT ROYAL at LETHBRIDGE: Mount Royal entered the weekend just two points out of a playoff spot while Lethbridge trailed Calgary by five points. Both teams needed big efforts if they were to leap-frog the Dinos while holding each other back! The Pronghorns would start this game off right just eight minutes in when freshman Kyra Greig found her own rebound and beat Mount Royal's Zoe DeBeauville at 8:47 for the 1-0 lead.

That lead would last for seven minutes as Rachel Piitz made a nice move coming out of the corner and getting a shot off. Her shot would be stopped by Alicia Anderson, but Piitz picked up her own rebound and beat Anderson at 15:57 to make it 1-1. Lethbridge, though, would score late in the period when Brett Campbell took a pass in the slot and slipped a backhander past DeBeauville at 19:49 to put the Pronghorns up 2-1 going into the intermission!

The second period was rolling along nicely with chances at both ends before Anna Purschke finished off a two-on-one at 10:57 to tie the game at 2-2! 2:01 after that, Piitz picked up her second goal of the game when she deflected home a Mairi Sorensen shot past Anderson on the power-play, and the Cougars led 3-2! DeBeauville took care of the final seven minutes by keeping that one-goal lead intact, and we'd head to the third period with Mount Royal leading!

Despite Lethbridge bringing all sorts of heat in the Mount Royal zone in the third period, DeBeauville was outstanding in turning aside all 14 shots she faced in the frame, including several of the spectacular variety. Without denting twine, though, the Pronghorns couldn't find the equalizer in this 3-2 Mount Royal victory! DeBeauville stopped 24 shots in the win while Anderson suffered the loss in the 23-save effort.

LETHBRIDGE at MOUNT ROYAL: The second half of the home-and-home series went in Calgary as the Cougars welcomed the Pronghorns to Flames Community Arena. Lethbridge really needed a win to keep pace with the Cougars and the Dinos while Mount Royal was looking to win five games in a row for the first time since being promoted to the U SPORTS level! The Cougars got themselves rolling when Nicolette Seper found the puck on her stick off a Reanna Arnold point shot, and Seper fired home the game's opening goal at 13:48 for the 1-0 lead! After a quick stop at the bench to catch her breath, Seper found the puck behind the net, walked out in front, and beat Jessica Lohues through the five-hole at 15:58 to make it 2-0! Lethbridge found themselves in a bit of a hole through one period of play.

Like the previous night, the Cougars and Pronghorns traded chances in the second period that tested both Lohues and Zoe DeBeauville, but it would be the Pronghorns who finally found daylight late in the frame. Alli Borrow's initial shot was stopped by DeBeauville on the power-play, but Borrow grabbed the rebound and slipped it by DeBeauville at 17:50 to make it a 2-1 game!

Once again, Zoe DeBeauville stood tall in the third period in denying all ten shots fired towards her - including one absolutely fantastic save that required the splits and possible chiropractic appointment - as she backstopped the Cougars to another one-goal win in this 2-1 victory! DeBeauville stopped 30 shots in total in the win while Lohues made 29 saves in the loss.

ALBERTA at CALGARY: Alberta was looking to move up from their fourth-place standing as they opened the weekend in Calgary against the Dinos while the home squad needed some points to try and catch Regina for fifth-place. The problem with this setup, though, is that Alberta is firing on all cylinders and they look unstoppable. Lisa Lloyd scored at 10:46 and Autumn MacDougall added a power-play goal at 14:40 in the second period, and Dayna Owen really didn't have a lot to worry about as the Pandas skated to a 2-0 victory. Owen made just eight stops in the game for her second shutout of the season while Kelsey Roberts made 29 stops in the loss.

CALGARY at ALBERTA: I'd love to say things got better as this series moved to Edmonton, but the Pandas simply are in a different class than the Dinos. Hannah Olenyk opened the scoring 48 seconds in, Autumn MacDougall made it 2-0 at 12:33, and Amy Boucher made it 3-0 at 13:24 as the Pandas were off and running as Calgary pulled Kelsey Roberts and replaced her with Kira Wasylak.

The second period went scoreless before Amy Boucher scored on the power-play at 10:34 and capped off her hat trick at 18:46 of third period as the Pandas closed out the weekend with a 5-0 victory. Kirsten Chamberlin stopped just five shots - only one through the first two periods! - for her second shutout of the season while Kelsey Roberts took the loss in her 13:24 of work while making five saves on eight shots. Wasylak, for the record, stopped 25 of 27 shots she saw on this night.

SASKATCHEWAN at MANITOBA: Sometimes as a broadcaster, you're limited in the information you get prior to games. Saskatchewan came into this game having won three-straight game while Manitoba had split with the Pandas the week before. This should have been a clash between two dangerous teams, but the Bisons came out flat and looked a step slow all night. In saying this, the Huskies opened the scoring just 2:38 into the game when Kayla Kirwan pinched in from the point as Manitoba got caught running around in their own zone, leaving the right side of the ice wide-open where Kirwan found a rebound off Danielle Nogier's shot that she chipped up and over the left shoulder of Rachel Dyck to give Saskatchewan the 1-0 lead!

It took nearly thirty minutes for the Bisons to mount any sort of sustained pressure, but Jessica Vance was in denial mode all night. She turned aside all 15 shots through two periods while Rachel Dyck surrendered just the lone goal in the opening frame. The Huskies took their 1-0 lead into the third period where the teams exchanged chances before the Huskies struck again. Alexandra Anderson turned the puck over in front of the net after she was pressured by the forecheck, and Rachel Lundberg picked up the loose puck at the top of the crease and fired home a shot inside the far post at 12:02 to make it 2-0.

It looked like this one was over, right? Manitoba's Caitlin Fyten threw a puck at the net just two minutes later, and it went off of Lauryn Keen's skate and skipped past Vance into the net at 14:41 to make it 2-1! Manitoba would continue to press for an equalizer, pulling Rachel Dyck with two minutes to play, but Emily Upgang would end all hopes of a comeback when she hit the empty net at 18:48 to give Saskatchewan the 3-1 win over the top-ranked team in the nation! Vance was outstanding as she stopped 22 shots for the win while Dyck stopped 16 shots in the loss.

As I was saying above, we're sometimes limited in the information we're given. Manitoba's apparent lack of effort on this night was due to a rampant flu bug going through their dressing room. More than half the team was affected by the flu in the days prior to the game, and most were just getting over it by Friday. Needless to say, a good night of sleep, some fluids, and some medication might be needed if Manitoba hopes to salvage a split!

SASKATCHEWAN at MANITOBA: After a big win on Friday, Saskatchewan was looking for the sweep while Manitoba needed to find a way to gain three points after dropping the contest the night before. The home squad would get on the board early. The fourth line sustained some excellent possession after losing the puck and recovering, and Caitlin Fyten's shot from the point would be stopped by Jessica Vance only to have the rebound pop out to Nicole Carswell who potted her first of the season at 2:41 for the 1-0 Manitoba lead!

Vance was excellent again on this night as she surrendered just the lone goal to Manitoba as the former third-string Manitoba netminder had an incredible weekend in the Saskatchewan nets in returning to face the team that recruited her, but she had a goaltender at the other end of the ice who was looking to improve on her own stats!

Down the Manitoba end, Lauren Taraschuk was making her first start since December 1, and she was sharp in between the pipes all night. Despite a number of good chances by the Huskies on this night, Taraschuk would allow nothing by her as she lowered her conference-leading goals-against average in the Manitoba 1-0 win! Taraschuk stopped all 26 shots she saw for her third shutout of the season while Vance stopped 19 shots in the one-goal loss.

REGINA at UBC: The Cougars came into Vancouver with two teams hot on their tails, so they needed to find points against one of the nation's best teams. UBC, on the other hand, was trying to hunt down Manitoba, so they needed points as well. On a night where UBC wore gree for Mental Health Awareness and Regina wore green as theuir standard colours, it seems that all the players saw was red. Let me just preface this game by saying that these two teams may have worn out a few pens at the scorekeeper's table in this Friday night game with the amount of time spent in the penalty box. Every goal was scored on special teams in this game, so let's get at it.

UBC opened the scoring when Hannah Clayton-Carroll took a feed from Emily Costales in the slot, and wired a shot past Jane Kish on the power-play to put UBC up 1-0 just 5:29 into the game. Costales then got one of her own on the power-play when she backhanded home a shot past Kish at 10:02 to make it 2-0 for the Thunderbirds. The Cougars wouldn't let UBC run away with this one, though, as Jaycee Magwood found a seam on Tory Micklash at 17:39 for a power-play marker to make it a 2-1 game.

The second period is when the sin bins got a solid workout, and the Birds opened up their two-goal lead again. Ta the 5:01 mark, Costales scored her second goal of the night on the power-play when she tipped home a Madison Patrick shot past Kish, and it was 3-1 for UBC.
Patrick really wanted a power-play goal of her own, so she went and got one from a nearly-impossible angle at 15:37 when she somehow beat Kish to make it 4-1 for UBC. Melissa Zerr would get one back for the Cougars in the third period while shorthanded as she was sprung on a breakaway after exiting the box, and she tucked the puck past Micklash on the deke to make it 4-2, but that's as close as the Cougars would get as UBC skated to the 4-2 victory. Micklash was solid in picking up her ninth win on the strength of 19 saves while Kish suffered the loss despite making 29 saves.

As for the pens? There were 28 penalties called on the night, leading the final boxscore to look a little off compared to what is normally seen in women's hockey.
Yes, you're seeing that correctly. That's 25 power-play opportunities on the night between the two teams. UBC's fifteen total power-plays means that they almost played half the game five-on-four or five-on-three! Would we see the same parade to the penalty box on Saturday?

REGINA at UBC: Both teams came out more focused on Saturday as UBC opted for Amelia Boughn in their net while Regina responded with Morgan Baker between their pipes. The first period saw chances at both ends, and it appeared that we'd go scoreless until a late power-play in the opening frame. A Madison Patrick shot from the point was stopped, but the rebound saw all sorts of bodies and traffic end up in front of Baker where Mathea Fischer finally found the loose puck and she went shelf on Baker with 19 seconds to play in the period for the 1-0 UBC lead!

The Cougars would find the equalizer less than six minutes into the second period when Jaycee Magwood's shot handcuffed Boughn as she knuckle-pucked the shot, and the result was a goal for the Regina forward at 5:47 to make it 1-1. The two teams played some tight-checking hockey through the middle frame, but the Thunderbirds would restore the one-goal lead with a goal midway through the period. Cassandra Vilgrain showed off her wheels and her hands when she rushed the puck from her own end up the ice, finishing the rush with a gorgeous bar-down goal at 13:37 to put the T-Birds up 2-1!

Down a goal and needing point this weekend, the Cougars came out of the room into the third period like they were on fire. The final count in the period saw Regina outshoot UBC 15-1, but would the find the goal they needed? In a word, yes! Lilla Carpenter-Boesch tossed a centering pass from below the goal line that found the stick of Emma Waldenberger, and the big Regina forward wired home a shot at 4:24 to make it 2-2! Since Boughn stopped the other fourteen shots and Baker was good on the only third period shot she saw, this game went to overtime!

The four-on-four overtime period solved nothing. The three-on-three period solved... wait a second! With 23 seconds remaining in the period, a scramble around Baker's net saw a Cougars defender close her hand on the puck while in the crease, and that means we'd get a penalty shot! Head coach Graham Thomas selected Vilgrain to take the shot, so let's go to the video!
The head fake and the move to the backhand opened up enough room on Baker's right side for Vilgrain to dent the twine, and the UBC Thunderbirds take the win in a 3-2 double-overtime win! Amelia Boughn picked up the win in a 31-save performance while Baker was saddled with the loss in a 21-save effort.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
42 47 29
41 45 36
vs MRU
38 48 35
37 34 26
Mount Royal
24 33 39
23 32 42
20 17 36
vs SAS
15 22 35
vs UBC

The Final Word

Don't look now, folks, but the Mount Royal Cougars are currently sitting in fifth-place after being at the bottom of the standings in December. Zoe DeBeauville is playing incredible hockey with three shutouts and just three goals-against over those five games, and the Cougars are playing great team defence. They're beating the teams they need to beat - Regina and Lethbridge - to get themselves back into the playoff picture, but they'll face a stiff test when they visit Manitoba next weekend.

There are some outstanding battles happening as Calgary, Regina, and Mount Royal battle for two playoff spots, Saskatchewan and Alberta clash for third- and fourth-place while looking upwards at second- and first-place, and Manitoba and UBC continue to flip-flop for the top spot in the conference. With four weeks and eight games remaining, the race for Canada West playoff spots will only tighten, making for one heckuva finish this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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