Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Triumvirate Of Stoppers

Most U SPORTS women's hockey programs like to have an insurance policy when it comes to netminding. Normally, you see two goalies who share time in the net with the veteran goaltender often getting the majority of the playing time. Rookie netminders routinely see time in practice in their first year as a redshirt so that they don't burn a year of their eligibility in playing unless they are a blue-chip prospect such as Lauren Taraschuk was for Manitoba and Carmen Lasis was for Western last season. Or, in this case, as Halle Oswald has been for Alberta this season, pushing her way into the mix alongside Dayna Owen and Kirsten Chamberlin in the Alberta Pandas' crease.

Quinn Phillips of Global News Edmonton decided to dig into the three-woman rotation a little in her report on the Pandas' shared goaltending responsibilities, and her report shows how a little friendly competition between three outstanding women has pushed the Pandas to greater heights this season.
Make no mistake in how important Halle Oswald, the Manitoba-born netminder, has been in her rookie season for the Pandas. She's 4-1-0 on the season with a 0.53 GAA and a .966 save percentage to go along with her four shutouts. She was invited to Hockey Canada's Strength and Conditioning Camp while being a standout goaltender with the Pembina Valley Hawks, and she's continued to impress at the Canada West level with her play.

If one is needing a candidate for Canada West Rookie of the Year, Oswald will certainly be in the mix alongside Mount Royal's Breanne Trotter. I don't know if Alberta has ever seen goaltending of this caliber from a rookie netminder, but Oswald is certainly putting the country on notice with her amazing numbers.

The woman who finished last season as the goalie of choice for Howie Draper was Kirsten Chamberlin, and she's been just as good. Chamberlin is 5-0-0 with a 0.44 GAA and a .970 save percentage to compliment her three shutouts. Chamberlin, if you recall, was in the net against Manitoba in the heartbreaking 1-0 loss in Game Three of the Canada West semi-final last season, and she was rather incredible throughout that entire series despite falling one save short of Alberta's goal. If there's a goaltender who understands this push through friendly competition between the netminders, it's Chamberlin after she pushed her way to the starting role with her play last season.

The veteran goaltender who seems to have accepted that there will always be competition in the crease is Dayna Owen, and her season is going rather nicely as well. Owen has compiled a 4-2-0 record with a 0.98 GAA and a .928 save percentage with two shutouts thus far. While Owen was forced to watch a lot of games from the bench behind Lindsey Post, one would have to think that she wants a chance to play more as Phillips reported in her piece. The nice part is that Owen, for the lack of time she has been getting this season, has risen to the challenge of her two younger colleagues and is playing the best hockey of her U SPORTS career.

Alberta's defensive game has been rather impressive as well as they're averaging around 15 shots-against per game. That kind of defensive awareness has been buoyed by an aggressively checking team combined with some outstanding puck possession numbers that have limited their opposition's time in the Pandas' zone as well as keeping shots from getting to Oswald, Chamberlin, and Owen. If and when shots do get through, they're being covered and smothered by the three netminders, reducing rebound chances and second chances for teams as well.

On top of their amazing defensive play is the fact that they do not take penalties. In 16 games thus far, the Pandas have surrendered just 32 power-play attempts to their opponents. They've only given up two power-play goals this season on those 32 times they were shorthanded, so whatever the Pandas are doing in their own zone has been nothing short of remarkable.

If nothing else, the Alberta Pandas may end up rewriting the Canada West history books when it comes to defence and goaltending this season because of how they are defending their own zone. If the old saying of "defence wins championships" is true, the Alberta Pandas should be the favorites to win Canada West this season. And very large part of that defence comes from the three amazing women guarding the nets as the Pandas' last line of defence.

The numbers don't lie - Oswald, Chamberlin, and Owen have been rock-solid!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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