Friday, 20 February 2015

Herbivores Take Game One

The Canada West women's hockey playoffs began tonight, and the Manitoba Bisons faced off against the Regina Cougars in one of two series that will determine the next round's match-ups. The Bisons finished third in the conference with 54 points while the Cougars ended up sixth with 38 points. In five games this season, Manitoba went 4-1 against the Cougars, losing their October 4 meeting by a 3-2 score. The two teams played a few close games, so this one should be a closer game than what their respective records may indicate. Like the Rondy Marji image above, I expect this best-of-three series to be a battle with some good physical play while both teams look for the knockout punch!

The Bisons will have to be aware of Regina's Kylie Gavelin. Gavelin led the Cougars in goals and points with 13 and 21, respectively, with five goals coming on the power-play. Gavelin makes up a large portion of the offence as she also leads the team in shots-on-goal with 112 - 26 shots more than both Emma Waldenberger and Bailey Braden. Carleen Meszaros brings some offence from the blue line as she has six goals and 12 points on the season, ranking third in scoring for the Cougars. If the Bisons are going to win, they need to contain these two players.

Toni Ross was the starting goaltender for the majority of the season, but Regina seemed to split games down the stretch as Jennifer Schmidt saw more action. Ross was 7-7-1 this season with a 2.33 GAA and a .922 save percentage. The Cougars, though, seemed to play better in front of Schmidt as she went 8-4-1, but had a 2.35 GAA and only a .915 save percentage. The Bisons are 2-0 against Ross and 1-1 against Schmidt in regular season play, but they may carry the psychological advantage into Game One as they bombed Schmidt for five goals in a 6-1 win on January 17.

The game started rough as the two teams set the tone early with physical play. Regina's Brooklyn Moskowy was whistled for roughing at the 3:40 mark, and it seemed to draw the line in terms of how much physical play would be tolerated by the officials. The two teams would trade chances, but the first goal would be a result of some physical play yet again.

With Regina's Caitlin Dempsey in the sin bin for boarding at the 16:14 mark, the Manitoba power-play went to work very quickly. Alana Serhan found Maggie Litchfield-Medd off the face-off, and Litchfield-Medd fed it Michelle Pawluk whose shot found the back of the net behind Toni Ross, and Manitoba had the 1-0 lead at the 16:23 mark of the first period.

Manitoba would carry that lead into the second period, but it wouldn't last long. The aforementioned Kylie Gavelin found herself in behind the Manitoba defence, and she broke in alone and buried a shot past Rachel Dyck at 3:36 to equal the score at 1-1. The two teams would battle hard for the next 16 minutes, but they would remain deadlocked as the second period came to a close.

The third period would be another tight-checking affair, but Carleen Meszaros took things a little too far as she was whistled for body-checking at 6:29. Manitoba went back to the power-play and they would strike again. After a couple of failed attempts, Erica Rieder's point shot was redirected by Maggie Litchfield-Medd in front of Toni Ross, and Ross could not track the deflection as it dented the twine behind her as the power-play expired at 7:29! Regina needed to open up the game a little, and they got caught at 17:48 when Courtlyn Oswald made it a 3-1 Manitoba lead. 1:11 later, Lauren Keen would ice the game with her goal as Manitoba would skate to the 4-1 victory!

With smiles on their faces and a win in their pocket, Bisons head coach Jon Rempel seemed to like what he saw from his squad despite the close score through most of the game. "I think we got back to playing really tough defensively and our puck possession was really good, I think we got in the cycle and wore them down as the game went on," Rempel told John Gaudes of

Game Two goes tomorrow night at Wayne Fleming Arena at 7:00pm. As a bonus, you can catch the game on the radio and via the internet on UMFM! If you're in the Winnipeg region, set your radio to 101.5 MHz for game action tonight. If you're outside Winnipeg, hit up the UMFM website! Chris Zuk and I will have the call for all the action tomorrow night!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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