Monday, 22 February 2016

When Games Cross Days

Playoff hockey, as you know, feels like a different sport altogether. The tension is high, the excitement for both players and fans is through the roof, and there's anticipation that every shift might just a player's last if he or she isn't successful. Playoff hockey is also unique in that there is no shootout - teams play until a winner is found, and time becomes nothing more than a tool for comparison when games run long. Despite the fatigue players may experience, the game must go on until a winner is found. When games cross into second days, you know it's an epic night of hockey.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan just rewrote some CIS history in their epic battle.

The Bisons met the Huskies in their CWUAA quarterfinal match-up over the weekend, and Game Three of the best-of-three series spilled into Monday morning thanks to a five-overtime battle waged between the two teams. Saskatchewan took Game One by a 3-0 score before Manitoba won on Saturday in a 5-1 victory that set up the rubber match between the two squads. I'm not sure that anyone would have guessed that the game would end on Monday morning, but it was 12:01am before we had a winner crowned in the deciding game.
Finnish Olympian and Manitoba Bisons forward Venla Hovi redirected a shot past Cassidy Hendricks in the eighth period of play, and we'd have a decision after 139:02 of action. The previous longest game record in Canada West women's hockey action happened with Saskatchewan involved as well. The Regina Cougars downed the Huskies 2-1 in Game Two in 2014 after 122:30 of play. The CIS women's hockey record - and is the longest game played by either the men or women - is held by Queen's and Guelph. Those two teams battled for an impressive 167:14 in Game 1 of the OUA women’s hockey final before Queen's notched the 2-1 winner. The Manitoba-Saskatchewan game now ranks second-overall in length for either the men or women.

"I'd go on the ice maybe 15-20 seconds, get off and just collapse on the bench," Bisons defenseman Erica Rieder told Russ Hobson of Global News. "All of us were just drained by the end of it and so when that puck finally went in, it was just a very exciting moment."

Amanda Schubert was the busiest of the Bisons on the night. The netminder made 66 stops in the victory with her only blemish coming on a third period goal by Lauren Zary. The vivacious goaltender couldn't hold back the smiles as she met with reporters earlier today.

"I was very relieved," said Schubert. "I didn't quite make it to the celebration. I collapsed on the ice. I was a little exhausted."

Hovi's goal came 88:24 after Zary tied the game at 10:38. It was a full 138:51 between Manitoba goals as Lauren Keen scored just 11 seconds into Game Three. Hovi's line, which has been Manitoba's best line for the last couple of weeks, is really clicking as she, Lauren Keen, and Amanda Sharman have found some great chemistry. Hovi spoke about the overtime winner.

"It felt pretty good to end the game, in the first place, and it was great to score the goal but our line did great work before that and I just happened to tip it into an empty net," Hovi told Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. And what about the record-setting game? "That was great and it was great that we won, too. It was pretty exhausting but we definitely worked hard to deserve the win."

The only problem with an outstanding game like this one is that there has to be a loser. Saskatchewan certainly played well enough to win the game and series, but they ran into a hot goaltender in Schubert and a team that just wouldn't be put away. Cassidy Hendricks made 40 saves in the loss Sunday night/Monday morning, and this game will undoubtedly sting for a few weeks if not months with the young ladies of the Huskies squad. None of the ladies should hang their heads, though. They were competitors all season long.

The Bisons, on the strength of their victory, will now travel to Edmonton next week to tangle with the top-seed in the Alberta Pandas in one of the CWUAA semifinal series. This one definitely favors the home side if regular season statistics are to be believed. Alberta was 3-1 against Manitoba with three shutouts, but there are a ton of similarities between the two teams if you look past the head-to-head win-loss record. This series will undoubtedly come down to goaltending where Lindsey Post has been the best netminder in western Canada for the last few seasons, but she's shown some vulnerabilities this season with some faces in the lineup. Manitoba will have to exploit the chances they get to win this series!

I've been saying it all year, folks. Get out and see CIS women's hockey. It's amazing!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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