Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Rundown - Week 10

With classes having resumed this past week, the battles in Canada West women's hockey also resumed as teams looked to strengthen positions, overtake opponents in the standings, and secure playoff spots as we inch towards the February conference playoffs. The top-three teams in the nation - Manitoba, Alberta, and UBC, respectively - were looking to hold onto those impressive rankings with strong showings once again, but Manitoba and Alberta met this week with a possible flip-flop of rankings on the line! With school back in, let's see who did a little teaching on the ice this past weekend here on The Rundown!

LETHBRIDGE at SASKATCHEWAN: When we last saw Lethbridge, they had lost their last two games and had fallen out of the sixth-place spot in the conference. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, had split with Regina in a home-and-home series, but sat just two points behind Alberta in the standings. Both teams needed wins, but it would just be one team that put numbers up on the scoreboard. Kayla Kirwan's first-period power-play goal was all that Jessica Vance needed on this night, but Saskatchewan would get an insurance marker in the third period from Chloe Smith. When the final horn sounded, the Huskies had downed the Pronghorns by a 2-0 score. Vance stopped all 18 shots she faced for her fourth shutout of the season while Anderson suffered the loss despite making 29 saves.

The Huskies looked a little different on Friday than they normally do, and that's because they were hosting the Play for a Cure game! Wearing specially-made jerseys for this night's game, the Huskies participated in their 10th annual Play for a Cure game, and they've successfully raised over $25,000 in that time. Well done on charitable efforts, ladies, and those uniforms are gorgeous!

LETHBRIDGE at SASKATCHEWAN: Saturday's game was big for both teams again as the teams they were chasing both lost on Friday. The opening period saw both Saskatchewan's Jessica Vance and Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson showcase some goaltending, in particular Anderson who stopped all 14 shots she saw compared to the six that Vance faced. After one period, there were some big saves, but no goals to be found.

The second period did see goals, and it would be the visitors who struck first. Katelyn Breitkreuz sprung Keely Chalk and Kyra Greig on a two-on-one with a nice stretch pass, and Greig would convert the rush when she beat Vance on the stick side at 8:42 to make it 1-0 for the Pronghorns. That lead lasted for just over seven minutes when Saskatchewan found the equalizer. Brooklyn Haubrich fed Kaitlin Willoughby who zipped a shot past Anderson's glove at 16:24 to make it 1-1.

The third period needed someone to break the deadlock, and it would Huskies rookie Abby Shirley who stepped up to snap the tie. Shirley was parked out front in the perfect spot as the Kori Herner won a battle behind the net and fed her in the slot, and the rookie looked like a savvy veteran beating Anderson over the glove at 3:53 to put the Huskies out in front 2-1. It looked as though Lethbridge's Mattie Apperson was about to tie the game with just under 1:30 to play as she found the puck on her stick and a yawning cage in front of her, but somehow Vance recovered to get just enough of the puck to keep it from denting twine and tying the game. After that monster save, Kaitlin Willoughby iced the game by hitting the empty net to give the Huskies the 3-1 victory. Vance collected her second win of 2018 by stopping 18 shots for the second-straight night while Anderson was on the losing end in a 26-save effort.

REGINA at MOUNT ROYAL: Regina came out of the break having dropped their final game of the first half of the season, and they needed points to stay ahead of the charging Calgary Dinos while trying to factor back into the picture with the four teams above them. Mount Royal needs points - any and all points - if they hope to climb out of the hole they put themselves in over the first-half. Let's just say that this game was not what one expected as the opening game of the second-half of the season.

First period? No scoring.
Second period? No scoring.
Third period? No scoring.
First overtime? No scoring.
Second overtime? No scoring.

When the final horn sounded on regulation time, the two sets of Cougars were still knotted in a scoreless tie and tied with 23 shots apiece, so it was off to the shootout to snap this stalemate of a game!

First shooters? No goals.
Second shooters? No goals.
Third shooters? No goals.
Fourth shooters? No goals.

Bailey Braden would be stopped on the fifth shootout attempt for Regina before Tianna Ko skated to center ice with a chance to end this scoreless battle.
Beauty leg kick, Jane Kish moved the wrong way on the deke, and Ko deposited the puck in the back of the net to secure the 1-0 Mount Royal win! Both netminders would earn a shutout in this game officially, but Zoe DeBeauville picked up the win in the shootout while Kish suffered the loss despite only allowing one goal all evening.

REGINA at MOUNT ROYAL: Would we see another defensive battle in Saturday's game? One of the two teams threw up a wall once again. Nicolette Seper opened the scoring at 19:10 of the first period, Andrea Sanderson doubled the lead at 15:21 of the second period, and Tianna Ko salted this game away with a power-play marker at 8:53 of the third period as Zoe DeBeauville tossed up her third consecutive shutout in blanking the Regina Cougars for the weekend after this 3-0 win. DeBeauville was strong once again as Regina crashed her crease time and again trying to break the goose egg that followed them to Calgary, but the Mount Royal netminder stopped all 26 pucks sent her way for the win while Jane Kish suffered the loss after stopping 22 of 25 shots.

CALGARY at UBC: Calgary rolled into Vancouver on a two-game win streak while UBC split with Manitoba to close out their first-half. Calgary's Kelsey Roberts was one of the best goalies in terms of save percentage and goals-against average while UBC's Tori Micklash was tied for the most wins while also being among the league leaders in save percentage and GAA. Something had to give in this game. And it did as only one goal was seen beating a netminder on the night when Jadeon Cooke's second-period goal at 2:53 went high over Roberts to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0. An empty-netter with 45 seconds to play by Shay-Lee McConnell put this one to bed in a game where Micklash had very little to do thanks to UBC's dominance in a 2-0 win. Micklash recorded her second shutout with eight saves while Roberts stopped 23 shots in the loss.

CALGARY at UBC: The third-ranked team in the nation in the UBC Thunderbirds proved why they're one of the top teams as they were better in every facet on Friday. Would that domination continue Saturday? Well, in a word, yes. Cassandra Vilgrain scored at 8:24 and Hannah Clayton-Carroll scored at 11:02 to pace UBC to a 2-0 lead through the opening frame.

Mathea Fischer made it 3-0 at 15:21 of the second period after some relentless UBC pressure.
Fischer's second goal of the season would be the final goal in this game as Amelia Boughn shut the door just as Tory Micklash did the night before in the 3-0 win over the Dinos on Saturday. Boughn pitched her third shutout of the season on the strength of 19 saves while Roberts took the loss after making 27 saves.

MANITOBA at ALBERTA: The top-ranked team in the nation traveled west to the second-rank team's barn as the Manitoba Bisons visited the Alberta Pandas. Manitoba came off the break having split with UBC while Alberta had split with Mount Royal to end the first-half. This one had all the makings of a classic series as the defence was tight, the goaltending was great, and the scoring was low!

It would be the home squad that struck first when Alex Poznikoff hit a streaking Lisa Lloyd down the right wing. Lloyd's shot to the far side of the net would be kicked out by Manitoba's Rachel Dyck, but Autumn MacDougall was in the right place at the right time to give Alberta the lead!
MacDougall's eighth goal of the season at 6:09 had the Pandas up 1-0.

Manitoba would respond five minutes later when Sheridan Oswald submitted her name for goal-of-the-year candidate!
Oswald blocked a dump-in at center, corralled the puck outside the blue line, put on a burst of speed usually reserved for sprinters and cheetahs, beat the Alberta defender to the net, and then out-waited Kirsten Chamberlin before tucking home her third goal of the season at 13:11 to even the game at 1-1!

The remainder of the first period and the second period rolled by with the two teams playing chess as they matched one another move for move and surrendered very few chances. In fact, we'd need eleven minutes of the third period before we'd see another goal, but Manitoba would find the back of the net once more.
Sheridan Oswald's centering pass found a pinching Erica Rieder from the point, and she found room between the wickets of Chamberlin at the 11:00 mark to put Manitoba up 2-1! From there, it was Rachel Dyck and the Bisons weathering the storm for the final nine minutes as they ran out the clock for the 2-1 win! Dyck stopped 14 shots in the victory while Chamberlin made 12 stops in the loss.

MANITOBA at ALBERTA: With Manitoba taking the first game of the two-game set, Alberta needed points to keep pace with UBC and the Bisons while trying to hold off the Saskatchewan Huskies who were chasing them. Instead, it was Manitoba opening the scoring on Saturday when Alanna Sharman faked the shot and spotted Jordy Zacharias who had a step on her check.
Zacharias' conference-leading tenth goal of the season put Manitoba up 1-0 just 1:01 into the game!

They weren't done there in the first period.
Caitlyn Fyten's second goal of the season came on the power-play after she pinched to capitalize on the rebound at 8:22, and the Bisons held a 2-0 lead through to the end of the first period despite being outshot 12-4!

The Pandas were certainly the far more aggressive team in the second period, and their efforts were thwarted time and again by Rachel Dyck. However, the onslaught of offence finally paid off at 17:13!
Alex Poznikoff's one-timer off the feed from Abby Benning found a seam on Dyck and landed in the back of the net as she cut Manitoba's lead to 2-1 after outshooting the Bisons 25-9 through two periods.

The third period was far more defensive as the Bisons really clamped down on the Alberta offence, alloowing only four shots in the third. The only problem? One of those shots came from Cayle Dillon with 15 seconds to play!
Dillon snatched at least a point from the jaws of defeat with her shot from the point that somehow eluded the traffic in front and got past Rachel Dyck at 19:45 to make it a 2-2 game! With that goal, we were off to overtime for some free hockey between the nation's two best teams!

The first overtime would prove fruitless as neither team found the back of the net, but the second overtime period would bring us a winner!
The three Bisons on the ice got caught deep in the Pandas' zone, and Autumn MacDougall and Regan Wright simply outskated them down the ice where MacDougall fed Wright with the cross-crease pass, and Wright made no mistake as she buried the overtime winner at 3:53 of the second overtime period to give Alberta the 3-2 win! Dayna Owen made just ten stops in the double-overtime win while Rachel Dyck suffered the extra-time loss despite making 30 saves on the afternoon.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
38 43 33
vs SAS
British Columbia
37 40 25
vs REG
34 31 24
32 41 35
22 28 35
20 17 29
vs ALB
Mount Royal
18 28 36
15 19 30
vs MRU

The Final Word

The schedule in the second-half of the season mirrors the first-half, so Manitoba can really do themselves a favor by beating Saskatchewan twice and hoping that Alberta wins twice against Calgary. If that were to happen, Alberta would move ahead of Saskatchewan by four points, and Manitoba only has games versus the bottom-four teams in the conference for the remainder of the season. Getting Alberta to claim that third-place spot means that the Bisons would avoid both the Pandas and Thunderbirds until the Canada West Conference final.

Of course, Manitoba still has to entertain the Mount Royal Cougars who are coming off a shutout of the Pandas in December and their two shutouts over Regina. Nothing will be given to the Bisons as they look to hold onto that top spot in Canada West, so they'll have to go out and earn it. Having the ability to influence who you may play in the playoffs in the second week of January, though, is a nice luxury if one can get it.

Second-place could be out of reach for the Huskies and Pandas depending on results as we move forward, but the T-Birds will play the Huskies on January 26 and 27 in Saskatoon before visiting the Pandas to close out the season on February 9 and 10. To make matters a little more interesting, the Pandas and Huskies meet February 2 and 3 in Saskatoon on the second-last week of the season, so those last three weeks of the season could very well determine places one through four in Canada West depending on what happens down the stretch.

If you're the Bisons, though, you literally control your own fate from this point onward. If they truly are the best team in the nation, winning the next ten games should be the goal with an emphasis on making Saskatchewan's push for third-place as difficult as possible next week. That's a heckuva good position to be in at this point in the season, and the schedule is literally set up for the Bisons to succeed.

The next five weeks of hockey is going to be amazing in the Canada West Conference. Don't miss it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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