Sunday, 3 March 2019

The Rundown - Final

The battle for the Canada West Championship banner came down to the top-two teams in Canada West as the Alberta Pandas hosted the Manitoba Bisons in a best-of-three series. Both teams had already booked their tickets to Charlottetown for the U SPORTS National Championship, but there was still some business to be decided out west. Who would claim the championship and likely the first seed at the National Championship? Let's find out on this week's edition of The Rundown!

We found out in the build-up to this weekend's games that both Alberta's Autumn MacDougall and Manitoba's Alexandra Anderson would be sidelined with shoulder injuries, so both teams were missing big pieces of their teams. How would it affect their respective teams? We were about to find out as Lauren Taraschuk took the crease for the visitors while Kirsten Chamberlin stood in the Alberta net!

Alberta came out just as they always do at Clare Drake Arena as they carried the play early on. They would open the scoring just a few minutes into this game when Alex Gowie's slapshot from the right-wing half-boards somehow found the five-hole on Taraschuk at 6:16, and the Pandas jumped out to the 1-0 lead! Alberta kept coming, but if not for the goaltending of Taraschuk after that goal it could have been a much bigger Pandas lead. After one period, the Pandas led 1-0 and were outshooting the Bisons 11-4.

The second period was more of the same, although the Bisons did show some life in this frame as they tested Chamberlin seven times. With the Bisons pressing late in the period, the Pandas broke through again when Alex Poznikoff poked home a loose puck in the crease after Taraschuk made the initial save at 17:25 following an excellent stretch of offensive zone time for Alberta, and the Pandas took a 2-0 lead into the third period after outshooting the Bisons 9-7.

In the third period, the Pandas hammered in the final nail to put this game to rest when Jaslin Sawatzky's burst of speed allowed her to get around a Bisons defender before she wired a shot past Taraschuk at 12:28, and that was more than enough offence for the Pandas on this night as they skated to the 3-0 victory in Game One. Kirsten Chamberlin earned the win and shutout in stopping 17 shots while Taraschuk made 25 saves in a losing effort.

Highlights are below!

Saturday was do-or-die for the Bisons, but they were in the same situation one year ago when Alberta won Game One in Winnipeg in the semifinal. Could the Bisons bounce back again and force a Game Three in this year's Canada West Final? Lauren Taraschuk would get the nod for Manitoba once again while Kirsten Chamberlin took her familiar spot in the net for Alberta.

Just as they did one night earlier, Alberta came out of the gates and absolutely dominated the first period. If it weren't for Taraschuk making a couple of key saves, this game may have been out of reach early. However, the Bisons survived the 11-2 edge in shots that Alberta had as they made it to the intermission still tied 0-0.

The Bisons had the early chance in the second period when Courtlyn Oswald's one-timer from the slot was turned aside by Chamberlin, and that seemed to spark the Pandas as they came back and caved the roof in on the Bisons. Alex Poznikoff found the back of the net with a shot over the pad of Taraschuk at 3:22, and Kennedy Ganser would make it 2-0 when she banged home an Amy Boucher rebound just 2:33 later. With the Pandas in control, they continued to press as they kept Manitoba down on the mat, and Amy Boucher would score a gorgeous unassisted goal at 15:37 to put the Pandas up 3-0, a score they'd take into the second intermission.

With the Pandas just needing to close out the final 20 minutes in Game Two, they added a fourth goal when Lisa Lloyd's shot found room between the wickets of Taraschuk at 4:30. Minutes later, Chamberlin's shutout streak would come to an end in the playoffs at 131:21 when it appeared that Natasha Kostenko deflected the Megan Neduzak shot from the point past Chamberlin while on the power-play, but Neduzak was given credit for the goal at 7:36 to make it 4-1. From that point on, Alberta's defence stifled any further offence from the Bisons as the Alberta Pandas swept the Bisons with a 4-1 win in Game Two to win the Canada West Championship! Kirsten Chamberlin made 16 saves for the win while Lauren Taraschuk stopped 21 shots in the loss.

Highlights are below!

There's only one team left standing, so these standings are all about the winners! Congratulations go out to the Alberta Pandas, the 2018-19 Canada West Champions!

The Last Word

Alberta likely locked up the top seed at the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship with their win tonight, and that means that Manitoba will be ranked either sixth or seventh in Charlottetown as U SPORTS prevents teams from the same conference from meeting in the quarterfinals or semifinals.

If you're a Pandas fan, you have to be happy as they are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now - a similar trajectory to how Manitoba peaked at the right time last season on their way to a national championship. I'm not going to foreshadow that for the Pandas just yet as there are still three tough games to be played in Charlottetown, but they looked impressive in this series in absolutely dominating the highest-scoring team in Canada West.

If you're a Bisons fan, you want to see your team respond in a big way in Charlottetown. You know that the ladies won't be happy with this result, so the hard work starts at practice this week in getting themselves ready for a championship defence on Prince Edward Island. There are concerns that I have about this team, but I'll talk more about those on The Hockey Show this week. Let's just say that the Bisons may be trending in the wrong direction.

Once more, congratulations go out to the Alberta Pandas, the 2018-19 Canada West Champions, and the next installment of The Rundown will come to you from Charlottetown on March 14!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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