Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Rundown - Week 12

With races tightening for playoff spots all over Canada West, there was bound to be some exciting games this week. Would the Bisons and Thunderbirds continue to flip-flop for first-place? Would Alberta or Saskatchewan find some space between one another while closing the gap on the top-two teams? Would we see Mount Royal, Regina, and Calgary swap positions once again? Would Lethbridge throw a few hurdles in front of teams and get themselves back in the playoff picture? With eight games to play, let's take a look at this week's action on The Rundown!

ALBERTA at REGINA: There's no doubt that Alberta rolled into Regina on a high after blanking the Dinos in consecutive games last weekend. The Cougars had less success against the Thunderbirds, but they seemed fairly confident after putting a scare into the T-Birds. The problem? The Pandas like doughnuts.

Alex Poznikoff had a pair of power-play goals in the first period that saw Autumn MacDougall and Lindsey Weech assist on both, and Poznikoff returned the favor in the third period when she set up MacDougall at 9:56. That was more than enough offence for Dayna Owen on this night as she turned in her third clean sheet of the season in the 3-0 victory. Owen stopped all 23 shots she faced for the win while Morgan Baker stopped 23 of 26 shots in the loss.

ALBERTA at REGINA: Saturday's game was more of the same from the Pandas as they are on some kind of streak at the moment. Deanna Morin scored the first two goals of the game at the 48-second mark and at 9:17, prompting head coach Sarah Hodges to pull starter Jane Kish in favor of Morgan Baker. 26 seconds after Morin's second goal, though, Alex Poznikoff made it 3-0 for the Pandas. And at 14:06, Deanna Morin capped off the hat trick with her third goal of the first period as Baker surrendered the goal!

Jaslin Sawatzky added her first of the season at 9:36 of the third period, but it was fairly clear that the game was over at that point. Kish was put back between the pipes at the start of the second period, but she couldn't do much when her team couldn't solve Kirtsen Chamberlin. At the final horn, Alberta secured the 5-0 win. Chamberlin made 17 stops for her third shutout of the season while Jane Kish recorded the loss in 48:59 of work while making 17 stops on 21 shot attempts. For the record, Morgan Bake stopped three of four shots in her 10:17 of work. And if you're keeping score at home, the Pandas haven't allowed a goal in 300:27 since Manitoba's Caitlin Fyten scored at 8:22 of the first period on January 6!

MOUNT ROYAL at MANITOBA: The surging Mount royal Cougars took their five-game win streak into Manitoba on Friday night for a date with the second-ranked team in the nation in the Manitoba Bisons. As we've come to expect over the years, Mount Royal always seems to bring their best for dates with Manitoba, and Friday was no different. Despite opportunities for both teams in the opening frame, both Mount Royal's Zoe DeBeauville and Manitoba's Lauren Taraschuk were perfect through the first twenty minutes.

That perfection continued in the second period despite Manitoba throwing everything they had at Mount Royal. In periods of intense pressure, the Bisons peppered DeBeauville and the Cougars with shot after shot, but the Cougars withstood the barrage. After being outshot 19-5 in the second period, we'd move to the third period with an inexplicable scoreless tie despite the fact that Manitoba held a 26-9 advantage in shots!

The third period opened up with Manitoba carrying the play, and it would the Bisons would finally snap the goalless game. Jenai Buchanan's point shot was stopped by DeBeauville, but Erica Rieder, who had led the rush, found herself standing in front with the rebound, and she shoveled the puck home by pushing the puck under DeBeauville's pad just 37 seconds into the period for the 1-0 Manitoba lead! After that, it was back to the status quo as both DeBeauville and Taraschuk shut the doors again. When the final horn sounded, the 1-0 score was still intact, giving Manitoba the victory! Taraschuk made 14 saves for her fourth shutout of the season while DeBeauville was outstanding in the loss, making 31 saves on 32 shot attempts.

MOUNT ROYAL at MANITOBA: With Mount Royal's five-game winning streak coming to an end, could they start a new one against the Bisons? The Bisons, meanwhile, wanted to continue their winning ways and keep pace with the teams around them. Luckily, this one saw the scoring get started a little earlier than in Friday night's game! Just 1:10 into this one, Natasha Kostenko spotted Sheridan Oswald cruising into the slot, hit Oswald with a quick pass from behind the net, and Oswald buried it past Emily Severson for the 1-0 Manitoba lead! Manitoba's Rachel Dyck saw just a single puck in the opening period, so Mount Royal would need a bigger effort after the Bisons took that one-goal lead into the intermission.

The second period was certainly more even in terms of the shots, but Manitoba played a significant amount of time in Mount Royal's end. That pressure paid off late in the period when Lauren Warkentin's shot hit Kostenko who was parked in front of Severson, and Kostenko whacked a backhander that just got past Severson's blocker inside the far post to give Manitoba a 2-0 lead at 16:56!

With a two-goal lead and Rachel Dyck playing extremely well, it seemed that the third period may be a tough challenge for the Cougars to try and tie this game up. That being said, Manitoba came out and smothered the Cougars with solid defence once more, and the Cougars only had a couple of scoring chances that Dyck turned aside. In the end, Manitoba recorded its third-straight shutout with a 2-0 victory over Mount Royal. Rachel Dyck made ten saves for her second shutout of the season while Emily Severson made in 18 saves in the loss.

SASKATCHEWAN at CALGARY: The Huskies were looking to move ahead of Alberta and catch both Manitoba and UBC this weekend with a little help while the Dinos needed points to hunt down Regina and Mount Royal and get themselves back into a playoff spot. The first period saw Sasaktchewan's Jessica Vance and Calgary's Kelsey Roberts match each other save for save, albeit with Roberts being far busier, as the two teams failed to dent twine in the opening period.

The second period saw the visitors hit the scoreboard as the Huskies were relentless in their attack. Brooklyn Haubrich's pass from the board found Kayla Kirwan all alone in front of the Calgary net, and the defender's shot was somehow stopped by an outstanding save by Roberts. However, it was all for naught as Kaitlin Willoughby was in the right spot to clean up the rebound to make it 1-0 on her 49th Canada West goal in her career at 11:21. Without question, the Huskies owned this period, but only had a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes of play despite owning a 23-4 advantage in shots.

For as relentless as Saskatchewan seemed in the first two frames, the third period was an absolute shooting gallery for the Huskies. Roberts was simply incredible in only allowing one goal, and Calgary went for the equalizer with six attackers with 1:09 to play. Saskatchewan would score on their 40th shot of the night when Emma Nutter hit the empty net with a second to play, icing the 2-0 victory for the Huskies. Jessica Vance has a relatively quiet night in posting her fifth shutout of the season with a seven-save effort while Kelsey Roberts deserved a better fate in stopping 38 of 39 pucks fired at her.

SASKATCHEWAN at CALGARY: After being dominated on Friday night, Calgary looked for a better response on Saturday. In Saskatchewan's case, generating that many shots should have resulte in a few more goals. Woul we see a similar game on Saturday? Um, yes.

The first two periods saw no scoring as Saskatchewan's Jessica Vance and Calgary's Kelsey Roberts went mano-a-mano in seeing who would flinch first in the nets. Saskatchewan delivered 22 shots compared to Calgary's nine shots, so clearly Roberts was having another outstanding night between the pipes. We wouldn't see any goals, though, until the third period.

Midway through the period, Brooklyn Haubrich poked a puck past a pinching Dino to set up a two-on-one with Kaitlin Willoughby and Emily Upgang. Willoughby opted to shoot, and her shot was kicked aside by Roberts. Unfortunately for the Calgary netminder, she kicked it directly to a spot where Upgang could pounce on it, and pounce on it she did as she buried her seventh of the season at 11:05! With the Dinos mounting very little offence late in this game once more, head coach Danielle Goyette didn't even get the option to pull Roberts in this game as the Dinos fell 1-0 to the Huskies. Vance recorded her sixth shutout and second-straight blank sheet with her 15-save performance on the night while Roberts lost another heartbreaker despite making 38 stops on 39 shots for the second night in a row.

There will be more on the Dinos below in The Final Word, so stay tuned. I have some thoughts on their play.

UBC at LETHBRIDGE: Might we see a series where more than one team scores in a game? On paper, this looked like the biggest mismatch of the weekend with UBC atop the Canada West standings and Lethbridge at the bottom. The results, however, were far from representing those of a mismatch.

UBC jumped out to the lead in this one when Ireland Perrott tore down the right wing and fired a high shot that went glove-side under the bar past Alicia Anderson at 7:03 for the 1-0 lead. Lethbridge, though, wasn't deterred by this goal as they actually outplayed UBC for parts of the opening period. Despite outshooting the T-Birds 6-5, Lethbridge went into the intermission down a single goal.

The second period showed more tight-checking hockey, but Lethbridge would even the score at 12:44 on the power-play when Mackenzie Gal skated to the face-off dot from the half-boards and went high on the blocker side past a screened Tory Micklash to even the game at 1-1.
Lethbridge wasn't done there, though. 5:12 later, Kyra Greig got in behind the UBC defence and was sent in alone from Katie Breitkreuz where she went low on the blocker side past Micklash with her shot and Lethbridge was out in front by a 2-1 score through two periods of play!

Just 1:17 into the final frame, UBC erased the deficit. Mathea Fischer hit Hannah Clayton-Carroll with a pass, and she was wide open in front of the net. Clayton-Carroll did what she always does in front of the net, and she buried her eleventh of the season to tie the game at 2-2. The tight-checking game we saw in the first forty minutes evaporated as UBC launched 16 shots at Anderson while Lethbridge responded with ten shots of their own on Micklash. No other pucks would find the back of either net, though, so it was off to overtime to find a winner!

The first overtime period produced no winner. The second overtime period also produced no winner. In order to find a winner, the teams went to the skills competition. The first three rounds saw no goals scored. In Round Four, Mathea Fischer deked out Alicia Anderson to put UBC up 1-0 in the shootout, leaving Brett Campbell needing to score to extend the game. Campbell would be stopped by Micklash to give UBC the 3-2 shootout win! In the victory, Micklash stopped 30 shots in her 70 minutes of action while Anderson made 33 stops in the shootout loss.

UBC at LETHBRIDGE: After one heckuva game on Friday, the Thunderbirds and Pronghorns clashed again on Saturday. Just as they did on Friday, the T-Birds opened the scoring. Cassandra Vilgrain picked up Hannah Clayton-Carroll's rebound and flipped the puck over a sprawling Alicia Anderson to put UBC up 1-0 just 1:20 into the game! Lethbridge looked a little sluggish early on in this game, but they seemed to get back on track by the end of the period as they began to get shots on UBC's Amelia Boughn. However, the score was 1-0 and the shots were 11-8 with both favoring UBC.

The second period saw the Pronghorns build on that first period momentum, and it resulted in Alli Borrow being sent in on a breakaway!
Borrow's goal at 7:44 made it a 1-1 game. Both teams had opportunities in the second to grab the lead, but they'd hit the second intermission still knotted up at 1-1.

The game could have had a completely different final score if it weren't for Boughn and Anderson in the third period. Both teams had excellent chances, but the two netminders kept the puck out of the net on every attempt. Every attempt, that is, until 17:38. On a scramble in front of Anderson, Alexa Ranahan found the puck and pushed it below the mass of humanity that was battling for said puck and across the goal line for the 2-1 UBC lead! With Anderson pulled for the extra attacker, for the final 58 seconds, Lethbridge couldn't solve Boughn for the equalizer as UBC escaped this game with the 2-1 win! Boughn made 24 saves in the win while Anderson was on the wrong side of the score despite making 30 saves.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
47 48 36
British Columbia
47 52 32
44 56 35
vs LET
43 37 26
vs UBC
Mount Royal
24 33 42
23 32 50
vs MAN
20 17 39
vs MRU
16 25 40
Teams in yellow have clinched a playoff spot.

The Final Word

Calgary, who once held a playoff spot at the end of the first-half of the season, now finds itself in a precarious situation where they need to win at least a game or two in their final six games to jump ahead of one of Regina or Mount Royal. The problem is that the Dinos have yet to score in any of their six games in 2018, and they're currently battling a 381:49 scoreless drought. The last time they scored? December 2 at 18:11 of the second period against Lethbridge.

With the quality goaltending they're getting from Kelsey Roberts, they should have won at least two of the six games they've played in this new calendar year. Instead, they have yet to dent twine in the six games they've played. You can't blame this on goaltending or defence as the Dinos have only give up three or more goals in two of those six games.

You might be apt to blame the talent that the Dinos have amassed over the last couple of years, but they have had good players and have solid players this year. Delaney Frey owns Calgary's highest point-per-game total at 0.26 points per game, meaning that she should have scored a point at some point over these last six games. Instead, it's been a long, long time since they've lit a lamp at any point.

It might be time to start looking at the people calling the shots on the bench. Danielle Goyette, since 2014, has seen Calgary's goals-for drop from second-overall to third-overall to seventh-overall to eighth-place of eight teams. In that same time, the Dinos have seen their goals-against go from sixth-overall to eighth-overall to being tied for eighth-overall to being currently seventh-overall by one goal. If you are keeping track at home, that means they've seen their scoring evaporate over the last four years while their prevention of goals has remained pretty abysmal. This, to me, screams that it's the systems the Dinos are playing, and that points directly to the coaching staff.

At some point, Goyette needs to adapt her systems to her team's strengths which is goaltending and team defence. Mount Royal has done a wonderful job in adapting their system to play to their strengths, and it has resulted in annual improvements by the other Calgary-based team. Instead, the goal differential that the Dinos have displayed went from +12 in 2014-15 to -16 the following year to -49 last season to what appears to be an improvement this season as they currently sit at -9, but that speaks louder to the outstanding goaltending they've been getting than anything else.

With Mount Royal and Regina being the next two opponents they face over the next two weekends, Calgary has to win each weekend's series when it comes to points if they hope to make the playoffs. Their final week is against Manitoba and that will be a tough test, but these next four games against the two teams they're chasing are absolutely must-win weekends.

If they continue to serve up doughnuts as they have over the last six games, though, it might be time to take a long, hard look at what's going on behind the bench for the Dinos because the trend they're currently on suggests that the coaching staff and the systems being used by that staff are inadequate for the team they've assembled.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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