Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Rundown - Week 12

The battles for playoff spots and seedings within Canada West are already being contested, and this week's slate of games would only further the narratives being written for each of the eight Canada West teams. If you're wondering why this is a Tuesday edition of The Rundown, the Mount Royal Cougars and Calgary Dinos met tonight in the Crowchild Classic, and those results needed to be added in! As it stands, Manitoba and Alberta are locked in a battle for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. UBC and Saskatchewan are battling for third- and fourth-place while trying to track down Alberta and Manitoba. Mount Royal and Regina are jockeying for fifth- and sixth-place while trying to hold off Lethbridge's late surge this season. Calgary isn't mathematically out of the race, but they've embraced the spoiler role. Those stories continue this week as we check the action and results on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: The first-place Manitoba Bisons headed west to southern Alberta as they met the Lethbridge Pronghorns for a two-game set. The Bisons held a slim one-point lead over Alberta for first-place in the conference while the Pronghorns trailed Mount Royal by four points for the final playoff spot. Manitoba would send Lauren Taraschuk to the crease and the Pronghorns gave Alicia Anderson the assignment on Friday.

After the dismissal of Lethbridge head coach Michelle Janus earlier in the week, there was some concern that the Pronghorns may come out flat. They put those concerns to rest right away as the Pronghorns were far more aggressive compared to how they've played in the past. This benefited them greatly as they seemed to keep Manitoba on their heels for the majority of the opening frame while getting a number of chances on Taraschuk. However, the big Manitoba goalie was equal to the task, and the two teams would head to the second period still 0-0.

The second period belonged to Anderson as she stymied the Bisons power-play units early on after they had chances. A Manitoba power-play saw the Pronghorns fail to find room to get to Taraschuk as the Bisons penalty-killing units were on their games. It wasn't until late in the period that Manitoba would finally be able to put it all together. After Anderson stopped a two-on-one, Mekaela Fisher would find the back of the net when she beat Anderson at 17:28 to Manitoba up 1-0. Before the ink had dried on the scoresheet, the Bisons doubled their lead just ten seconds later when the Bisons won the face-off, fired a puck in on Anderson, and Karissa Kirkup poked home the puck in the scramble as Anderson couldn't cover the puck for the 2-0 lead! Manitoba would take that two-goal lead on the strength of a 24-12 advantage in shots into the third period.

Whatever was said in the room during the intermission seemed to light a fire under the Pronghorns as they weren't content to simply fold their tents. The aggressiveness of the Horns would pay off midway through the period on the power-play.
Kyra Greig's power-play tally - one that I'd assume Taraschuk wants back - made it a 2-1 game at 8:03 of the third period, and this game suddenly took on a new feeling as the momentum began to swell behind the Pronghorns. Manitoba looked to pop that balloon of momentum, and they would strike back just two minutes later when Fisher did all of the work coming off the half-boards and wiring a shot that Anderson stopped, but Courtlyn Oswald would deposit the rebound behind Anderson at 10:19 to make it a 3-1 contest!

Again, the Pronghorns just refused to die this weekend when it came to their play, and they would pull Anderson late for the extra attacker. After calling a time-out, the Pronghorns came out of the pause with some fire in their skates again, and Alli Borrow would make this a one-goal game when her shot found twine behind Taraschuk at 18:23 to make it 3-2! However, 35 seconds later saw Nastasha Kostenko hit the empty net with a goal, and that would do it for the scoring on this night as the Bisons skated to the 4-2 victory! Lauren Taraschuk earned her 14th win of the season with a 15-save performance while Alicia Anderson suffered loss despite making 30 stops.

SATURDAY: There was a new bench boss behind the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Saturday as they introduced Parry Shockey as the man who will guide the team through the remainder of the season. Lethbridge needed points against Manitoba of any type to try and close the gap between them and both Cougars teams, so they went back to Alicia Anderson as their netminder. Manitoba loooked to add more points to their total this season, so they came back with Lauren Taraschuk in her 21st appearance this season.

While Manitoba looked to control the pace of this game, it would be the Pronghorns who took control on the shot counter as they looked to pepper Taraschuk with shots from everywhere on the ice. While the Pronghorns would end the period with a 16-8 edge in shots, the two netminders were content to keep this game tied at 0-0 through the first 20 minutes.

The two teams would trade power-play chances early in the second period with no successes seen, but a power-play midway through the period would warrant our first goal. Alexandra Anderson's blast got through traffic and past Alicia Anderson at the 10:00 mark, and the Bisons went up 1-0 with the power-play marker. That seemed to give the Bisons life for the second half of the period as they took control away from the Pronghorns. However, no other goals would be seen as Manitoba went into the third period up 1-0 but trailing 26-24 in shots.

Manitoba looked to close out the one-goal game by starting the period playing uptempo hockey. Anderson was equal to the task, though, as she turned away a number of chances. The Pronghorns would see a few chances in the Manitoba zone, but it seemed that they simply couldn't match Manitoba's firepower. Once again, Lethbridge pulled Anderson for the extra attacker late in the game, and this move would prove fortuitous!
Alli Borrow would find room through Taraschuk for the second game in a row, and this goal with 24 seconds remaining helped push the game into overtime tied 1-1! Free hockey for all!

The four-on-four overtime period was played as wide-open as any I've seen in my time watching this game. Chances and shots were had at both ends of the ice, but neither Taraschuk nor Anderson would allow a puck to pass them. The three-on-three overtime period was just as crazy as Manitoba was awarded a power-play, but Anderson was once again stellar in keeping the Bisons from victory. After ten minutes of overtime in which Manitoba outshot Lethbridge 18-7, we'd need a shootout to determine a winner!

Alli Borrow would shoot first after being the late-game heroine, but she was stopped by Taraschuk. Jordy Zacharias stepped up for Manitoba with their first shot, and she was automatic as she beat Anderson to put Manitoba ahead. Both Mikaela Reay and Alanna Sharman were stopped in Round Two which left Kyra Greig one chance to keep this game going.
Taraschuk outwaits Greig to force her to miss the net, and the Manitoba Bisons claim victory in the shootout by a 2-1 score! Lauren Taraschuk stopped 40 shots for her conference-leading 15th win of the season while Alicia Anderson deserved a better fate on this night after stopping 55 shots in the loss.

FRIDAY: Alberta began the weekend one point back of Manitoba in the race for first-place, and seven points up on UBC. Regina was one point up on Mount Royal and five points up on Lethbridge, so they needed points to maintain their hold on fifth-place despite going into a place where the visiting club rarely wins in Clare Drake Arena. Alberta started Kirsten Chamberlin while Regina started Morgan Baker.

This recap doesn't need a lot of words because there wasn't a lot happening for one of the two teams. Alberta saw Kelsey Tangjerd redirect a shot past Baker at 9:30, and Abby benning teed up a shot low blocker-side on Baker at 14:36 to make it 2-0 for Alberta through one period of play. The second period was more of the same as Autumn MacDougall ripped a backhander over Baker's shoulder at 10:36, Kennedy Ganser lasered a wrist shot past Baker on the power-play at 13:31, and Ganser added another at 16:18 to end Baker's night as Jane Kish came in to stop the bleeding.

The good news? Kish didn't allow any additional goals. The bad news? Regina couldn't solve Chamberlin on a night where Alberta dominated from puck-drop to the final horn. Alberta wins easily in a 5-0 victory. Kirsten Chamberlin made 17 stops for her eighth win and fifth shutout of the season while Morgan Baker suffered the loss, making 19 saves in 36:18 of work. For the record, Kish stopped all 12 shots she faced in the 23:42 she played.

Highlights are below!

SATURDAY: After a rather listless Friday night, there was hope the Regina Cougars were saving themselves for a big Saturday. Alberta was looking for a sweep as they continued their hunt for a top-two finish and a first-round bye. Halle Oswald got the call for the Pandas while Jane Kish was given the start for the Cougars after closing out Friday's game strong.

The only problem for Kish? She didn't get much help. The Pandas came out and dominated the game in the opening frame once again, but Regina did their best to skate with the Pandas. However, penalties would haunt the Cougars in the first period, and the Pandas would eventually strike with the extra player on the ice. Alex Poznikoff opened the scoring at 12:54 on the power-play after Autumn MacDougall's shot was redirected to her, but that would be the only goal of the frame as the Pandas took a 1-0 lead and a 7-5 advantage in shots to the dressing rooms.

The second period saw the two teams clean up their physical play, but that gave Alberta the edge with their speed and skill. Kish was outstanding in turning away the Pandas time and again, but an offensive zone draw that saw MacDougall win the draw directly to Poznikoff who wired a shot past Kish made it 2-0 for the Pandas at 6:43! It would be the only goal of the middle stanza, but Alberta controlled the play as they outshot the Cougars 12-3 in the period and 19-8 overall.

Regina's penalty-killing units would be called upon twice in the third period, but they'd escaped unscathed only once as the Pandas struck on the first opportunity. Regan Wright would convert on the power-play at 6:24 to make it 3-0 for the Pandas. Regina would use a power-play of their own to finally break the shutout streak that Alberta held over them - a total of 234:39 this season - when Nikki Watters-Mathes' blast got past Oswald at 14:39 to make it 3-1. However, Alex Poznikoff would cash in the hat trick goal when she hit the empty net at 19:18 as Alberta swept the season series with the 4-1 win on Saturday. Halle Oswald made 13 saves for her seventh win of the season while Jane Kish was on the losing end of a 26-save effort.

Highlights are below!

FRIDAY: In what might be the most compelling match-up of the weekend, the third-place UBC Thunderbirds played host to the fourth-place Saskatchewan Huskies with one point separating the two teams. Both teams were looking to claim a stranglehold on that third-place standing while trying to track down one or both of Manitoba and Alberta. Tory Micklash was sent out to the crease for UBC while Jessica Vance got the nod for the Huskies.

To say this game was physical would be an understatement. There were penalties called all over the place by the officials as they appeared to want zero contact between players on this night. Nevertheless, a game was to be played as the skirmishes between the teams only served to highlight the importance of the points between these two teams. Neither team would find the back of the net in the first despite the power-play opportunities, so we'd head to the second period with UBC leading 7-3 on the shot counter and Saskatchewan down head coach Steve Kook as he was ejected at 15:24 of the first period!

Saskatchewan didn't put up much of a fight in the second period as UBC came out buzzing, peppering Vance with shots throughout the period. Vance was sharp, though, as she turned aside all shots in the period to keep this game knotted up at 0-0 despite both teams having chances on the power-play yet again. With UBC up 20-9 in shots, we'd move to the third period still tied with goose eggs.

It would be on a power-play against UBC early in the third period that saw the game's first goal recorded, but it would be the penalized team who capitalized!
Ashley McFadden takes the pass from Shay-Lee McConnell as she attracts all the defenders, and McFadden goes high on the glove side past Vance on the shorthanded breakaway to put UBC up 1-0 at 5:18! Penalties throughout the remainder of the period really stifled any comeback that the Huskies tried to mount, and a check-to-the-head penalty late after Vance had gone to the bench for the extra attacker killed any hope of the Huskies tying the game. The UBC Thunderbirds earned the 1-0 victory! Tory Micklash set a new UBC record with her tenth win of the season while posting her fifth shutout of the campaign after stopping all 16 shots she faced while Vance made 26 shots but fell one goal short on this night.

SATURDAY: If Friday was a spirited game between the T-Birds and Huskies, the rematch on Saturday looked like it was going to be another game with all the makings of playoff hockey between these two rivals. Micklash and Vance would stare one another down from 200-feet away as these two teams geared up for another battle!

These two teams started the game by trading chances on each other's netminder before the physicality ramped up. Saskatchewan was whistled for three penalties in the period to UBC's single infraction, but neither team would capitalize on the advantages. At the end of one period, UBC led 11-8 in shots, but the game was deadlocked at 0-0.

The second period was more of the same as the two teams again traded chances with the goaltenders standing tall. Despite trading power-plays in the period, neither team would find a lead by the time the second intermission began. The game was still 0-0 despite UBC holding a 23-13 margin in shots on goal.

The first goal of the game would come off the stick of Ireland Perrott as she picked up the loose puck along the boards, skated to the high slot area, and fired a shot high through traffic and past a screened Vance at 7:37 to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0! One minute later, Danielle Nogier would be whistled for a double-minor for throwing a check to the head, and the Huskies had to kill an extended power-play. The Thunderbirds, however, would find a goal on this opportunity when Hannah Koroll danced around a Saskatchewna defender to find a passing lane into the slot where she went tape to tape with Kenzie Robinson who one-timed the feed past Vance at 10:40 to put the T-Birds up 2-0! From there, the UBC Thunderbirds protected the lead as they swept the series on the strength of a 2-0 win! Tory Micklash made 15 saves for her 11th win and sixth shutout of the season while Jessica Vance made 27 saves in the loss.

FRIDAY: The Mount Royal Cougars could legitimately control their own fate with a couple of wins against the Calgary Dinos this weekend as the six points would vault them ahead of Regina and put some distance between themselves and Lethbridge. Calgary, meanwhile, wasn't mathematically out of the race yet, but they could spoil the Cougars' plans in moving up the standings. Zoe De Beauville was sent to the nets for the Cougars while the Dinos opted for Kelsey Roberts to defend their net as the Crowchild Classic series was set to go.

Both teams came out cautiously as neither side seemed to want to give up scoring chances, but things began to open up as the two teams pressed for offence. Despite exchanging power-plays late in the period, neither team would dent twine as Mount Royal led in shots through one period at 11-7, but the teams were still tied at 0-0.

Mount Royal was the more aggressive team in the second, pressuring the Dinos early on to go along with a power-play chance on which they failed to convert. That being said, defence builds momentum, and the Dinos turned the weathering of the storm into a positive midway through the period.
Holly Reuther fed Priya Sidhu with a pass as she turned out of the corner, and the wide-open Sidhu one-timed the feed past De Beauville to put the Dinos up 1-0 at 11:30! Despite the Cougars turning up the pressure once again, Kelsey Roberts was in the zone as she denied all chances through 40 minutes. Through two periods, Calgary led 1-0 despite being down 24-9 in shots!

The Cougars just kept coming in the third period, but Roberts was incredible as she kept the one-goal lead intact. However, the waves of Cougars attacks finally paid off late when Mackenzie Butz loaded up a clap-bomb that got through traffic and past Roberts with 56 seconds to play to send this game to overtime!

In the four-on-four overtime, we'd get out game-winner.
Delaney Frey uses the defenders and Chelsea Court as screens as she cuts to the middle and let a wrist shot go that eludes the glove of De Beauville as the Clagary Dinos take this game in overtime by a 2-1 score! Kelsey Roberts made 35 stops for her fourth win of the season while Zoe De Beauville took the loss on an eleven-save night.

TUESDAY: This game is the reason for The Rundown being delayed as the second game in the series as part of the Crowchild Classic went tonight at Flames Community Arena. With points of any kind tonight, Mount Royal could move into fifth-place in Canada West. Calgary, who virtually needs to win every one of their remaining five games, was looking to make things interesting once again as they looked to spoil Mount Royal's party. Zoe De Beauville and Kelsey Roberts would square off once again in the nets.

Just as they did on Friday, Mount Royal came out and looked like the more aggressive team. Roberts made an outstanding save in the first minute off Tianna Ko, and that may have foreshadowed the remainder of the game because Roberts was on fire again this night. Neither team would find twine in the opening period, though, and we'd move to the second period tied 0-0 and with MRU leading 10-5 in shots.

The Dinos decided to shift momentum in the second period by taking the game to the Cougars, and it seemed like they would take the lead when Rachel Paul was hauled down on a breakaway, sending her to center ice for a penalty shot! Paul broke and went high on De Beauville, but it also went over the bar and off the glass, leaving this game tied 0-0. Paul, however, would have her revenge minutes later.
Paul ripped a wrist shot high on De Beauville, and this one would dent twine as the Dinos jumped ahead 1-0 at 15:37! The period would come to a close with that one-goal lead holding for Calgary despite trailing in shots by a 17-10 margin.

Mount Royal would tie the game before the water had frozen on the ice for the third period. Off an offensive face-off zone win by Nicolette Seper, Anna Purschke wired a shot through traffic and past Kelsey Roberts just 28 seconds into the third period to tie the game at 1-1! Calgary wouldn't waste any time in restoring that lead, though, as they came roaring back two minutes later.
Rachel Paul's initial shot off the face-off draw back went wide, but the bounce off the end boards allowed Taylor Beck to chip the puck up and over the pad of De Beauville to put the Dinos back out in front 2-1 at 2:22! From there, Kelsey Roberts went back to work in denying all chances by the Cougars including a couple of odd-man rushes and some excellent chances from in front. When the final horn sounded at the Saddledome, the Dinos had wrestled three points away from the Cougars with the 2-1 win! Kelsey Roberts was exceptional again tonight as she made 26 stops for her fifth win of the season while Zoe De Beauville made 13 stops in the loss.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
53 61 21
53 73 36
vs UBC
British Columbia
46 49 29
39 38 31
Mount Royal
28 34 56
vs SAS
28 40 65
vs CAL
24 29 54
vs ALB
17 29 61
NOTE: Teams in yellow and italicized have clinched a playoff spot.

The Last Word

Four playoff spots have been claimed as UBC used two big wins over Saskatchewan to solidify their hold on third-place while Saskatchewan backed into a playoff spot thanks to Manitoba defeating Lethbridge. With 12 points remaining this season over the next two weeks of games, let's take a look at the scenarios that present themselves this weekend.

First off, both Manitoba and Alberta can claim the top-two spots in the conference if Manitoba wins one of the two games in regulation against UBC or both Alberta and Manitoba claim a total of three of six points in their respective series this weekend. Regardless of the tie-breakers, UBC would not be able to catch either team in the standings.

Calgary, to make the playoffs, has to win out. The only team they hold the tie-breaker over is Mount Royal after this past weekend's games where they claimed five of six points against the Cougars. The series against Regina would make things very interesting if the Dinos sweep this series, but the fact still remains: the Dinos have to win out and get a little help if they hope to make the playoffs this season.

If Mount Royal and/or Regina can collect three of six points this weekend AND Lethbridge loses both games in regulation, both teams will clinch playoff spots while Lethbridge's playoff push would end.

This week is literally do or die for teams looking to make a final push as we near the playoffs. Will we see a shake-up in the standings? We'll find out on Sunday when the dust settles!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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