Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Rundown - Quarterfinals

There were only four teams in action this week as the Canada West Quarterfinals got underway in Vancouver and Saskatoon! The Regina Cougars headed to the left coast to play the UBC Thunderbirds while the Mount Royal Cougars went east to meet the Saskatchewan Huskies in best-of-three series to determine who would move on to play either Alberta or Manitoba next weekend. Results matter this week as two teams will see their seasons end, so let's get at it on The Rundown!

Friday night's game went in favour of just one team, and it wasn't the team who travelled. Emily Costales got things going for UBC at 5:50 of the first period, and Ashley McFadden made it 2-0 on the power-play at 16:12. The second period saw Madison Patrick make it 3-0 at 2:06, Emily Moore score the fourth UBC goal at 6:59 to end Morgan Baker's night, and Hannah Clayton-Carroll made it a 5-0 game by beating Jane Kish at 10:16. Through 30 minutes of hockey, UBC simply exerted their scoring will on Regina to jump out to a commanding lead.

In a game that featured only one minor penalty through the first 40 minutes of play, UBC was able to capitalize on that advantage. The tables turned in the third period, though, when UBC was assessed two minor infractions, but the T-Birds penalty kill units did their jobs effectively. Regina had a handful of chances in this game, but UBC was relentless in their attack and forechecking pressure, often hemming the Cougars in their own zone for minutes at a time. In the end, they were too much for Regina on this night as UBC took Game One by that 5-0 score. Tory Micklash made 17 stops for the win and shutout while Morgan Baker took the loss after stopping 13 of 17 shots in 26:59 of action. For the record, Jane Kish stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief.

Highlights are below!

After seeing UBC skate up and down the ice the night before, the second game in this series between UBC and Regina had an entirely different look as these two teams filled the penalty boxes all night. However, scoring wasn't limited by the parades to the sin bin.

Adela Juzkova took an early tripping penalty that gave UBC a power-play, and they converted when Mikayla Ogrodniczuk's point shot was tipped by Mathea Fischer past Jane Kish at 2:41, and the T-Birds had the 1-0 lead. They'd double their lead five minutes later when Hannah Clayton-Carroll recovered from a fall into the boards to regain possession of the puck and find Brielle Bellerive out front who went short side on Kish for the 2-0 lead at 7:10!

Regina needed to find some offence after surrendering seven-straight goals to UBC, and they finally cracked the goose egg just past the midway point of the period. While on the power-play, Tamara McVannel's point shot would be stopped by Tory Micklash, but Emma Waldenberger was in the right place to slide the rebound home at 12:11 as Regina cut the lead to 2-1! That score would hold through to the intermission.

The second period started with another Regina penalty, and UBC would make them pay just as they did in the first period. Mathea Fischer wired a shot through a screen in front of Kish for the power-play goal and the 3-1 lead, and that would prompt the Cougars to swap Kish for Morgan Baker. Just 40 seconds after the goal and goalie change, Hannah Koroll would welcome Baker to the game by lighting the lamp behind her, and Madison Patrick would find the twine off a long point shot that found the top of the net as Baker had traffic in front, and it was 5-1 at 5:11.

From there, things kind of went off the rails for Regina as they were whistled ten minor penalties and three game misconducts in the final 35 minutes of play. UBC, for their part, also took part in the penalty celebration with a handful of checks to the head and a roughing call, but the Cougars held a significant advantage when it came to time in the box. We wouldn't see any additional goals scored, but the key stat in this game was the 13 power-plays given to UBC compared to the five given to Regina.

When the dust settled on this one, UBC swept the Cougars in two games with a 5-1 victory. Tory Micklash stopped 14 of 15 shots she faced for her second win in these playoffs while Jane Kish was assessed the loss in stopping just one of the four shots she faced in her 22:19 of work. For the record, Morgan Baker stopped 18 of 20 shots she faced in relief.

Highlights are below!

Third-seeded UBC now advances to play second-seeded Manitoba in Winnipeg next weekend.

The series in Saskatoon showed all sorts of intrigue as these two teams had split the season series 2-2, and Mount Royal held a 14-12 advantage in goals through the four regular season games. Could Mount Royal win their first-ever Canada West playoff game? Could they do the unthinkable and upset the Canada West finalist from a year ago?

Unfortunately, the answers to both questions on Friday was no. Saskatchewan got goals from Morgan Willoughby at 7:12 in the first period, three second period goals that included a power-play goal from Nicole Fry at 7:33, an Emily Upgang marker at 9:15, and a power-play goal from Kayla Kirwan at 13:01, and a third period power-play goal from Bailee Bourassa at 13:57 to skate to the 5-0 win.

Saksatchewan's speed and skill was on display all night as they limited the Cougars to just six shots per period with very few being of the high-danger variety. In the end, Jessica Vance made all 18 saves for the win and shutout while Zoe De Beauville was credited with the loss as she stopped 17 of 21 shots in her 33:02 of work. Emma Pincott relieved De Beauville midway through the second, and she was good on 10 of 11 shots in her 26:58 of action.

Obligatory Huskies GIF? How about Nicole Fry on her first-career Canada West goal!

Game Two on Saturday was a do-or-die for the Mount Royal Cougars as a loss would send them home for another summer while a win would not only extend the series, but be historic in its own right as their first playoff win in Canada West. After being shutout and dominated for long stretches the night before, the pressure was on as the Huskies looked for the sweep!

Whatever head coach Scott Rivett said to his team prior to Game Two, the message was received as the Cougars looked like an entirely different team on this night. They stifled Saskatchewan breakouts and were quick on pucks in the neutral zone as they suffocated the home squad while playing with the last change. Anna Purschke would use the strong defence to pick up a puck in the neutral zone, get a step on a defender, and fire one that went under the bar past Jessica Vance on the glove-side that seemed to surprise the netminder to put the Cougars up 1-0 at 13:22! I might add that Purschke's shot was the first that Vance had seen in the game, so she may have been a little cold on that rocket from Purschke, but it counts all the same!

That same suffocating defensive approach by the Cougars was employed in the second period, but Saksatchewan did have a couple of good chances. However, the goaltending of Zoe De Beauville was solid as she bounced back from her outing one night before where she was pulled in the second period. Through two periods of play, Mount Royal held the 1-0 lead, but found themselves being outshot badly in a 16-7 ratio.

Early in the third period, Daria O'Neill hit Tianna Ko with a pass behind the net, and Ko spotted Breanne Trotter out front where she one-timed the feed from Ko past Vance to put the Cougars up 2-0 at 3:39! The Huskies began taking a few more chances offensively as they trailed by two goals, and they found chances only to be denied entirely by De Beauville. Late in the game, the Cougars would ice the game when O'Neill's blast on the power-play from the point was tipped in front by Jayden Thorpe and past Vance at 18:24, and that would be all Mount Royal needed for their first-ever playoff win and, more importantly, a 3-0 win to even the series at 1-1! Zoe De Beauville stopped all 19 shots she faced for her first-career playoff win and her first-career playoff shutout while Jessica Vance was on the losing end of a nine-save performance.

Here are your highlights!

Who's ready for a little Sunday evening hockey? If you had said either the Mount Royal Cougars or the Saskatchewan Huskies, you'd be right because this series ended in a way only these two evenly-matched teams could play. Hold on for this one, folks - it was an incredible night of puck!

The first period was all about limiting chances as neither side allowed many chances. Both Zoe De Beauville and Jessica Vance stood their ground in keeping the opposition off the board. Mount Royal was called for a penalty, but they would kill that off. At the end of 20 minutes, it was still 0-0 with Saskatchewan leading in shots 8-5.

Early in the second period, the Huskies found the back of the net after controlling the puck in the Mount Royal zone for some time. Emily Upgang and Brooklyn Haubrich won a puck battle in behind the Cougars' net, sending the puck into the slot where Bailee Bourassa wired it home past De Beauville for the 1-0 Huskies lead at 1:53! The rest of the period was played more like the first period as both teams clamped down in the defensive zone, and after 40 minutes the Huskies held the 1-0 lead and a 17-11 edge in shots.

Saskatchewan came out and looked to double their lead as they pressed, but Mount Royal continued to repel the opportunities. After killing off a penalty, the Cougars went to the power-play when Saskatchewan's Jordyn Holmes was called for hooking. The momentum built off the penalty kill carried over as the Cougars moved the puck well. The Huskies penalty had just expired when Tatum Amy's wrist shot from the point found a path through traffic and past Vance into the back of the net at 17:01 to tie the game at 1-1!

When the final horn sounded, the game remained deadlocked at 1-1, so it was time for the most exciting hockey of the season as Game Three went to overtime with the next goal guaranteeing advancement!

The first overtime period saw Saskatchewan dominate the ten-minute period as they outshot Mount Royal 7-1, but there would be no goals scored. We'd move to the 20-minute double-overtime period where Saskatchewan continued to pepper Mount Royal with shots, outshooting the Cougars 13-3 in this period, but the Cougars would not allow the Huskies to score. The third overtime period saw more Saskatchewan pressure as they outshot Mount Royal 34-10 in the free hockey, but it would be the 34th shot in overtime and 60th of the night for the Huskies that was the difference!
Shyan Elias forced the turnover in the Mount Royal zone, and her pass found Rachel Lundberg who one-timed the puck past Zoe De Beauville with 10.7 seconds to play in the game for the 2-1 triple-overtime victory! Saskatchewan wins 2-1 in the game and 2-1 in the series! Jessica Vance stopped 24 shots in 109:50 of work for the victory while Zoe De Beauville made 58 stops in the triple-overtime loss.

Fourth-seeded Saskatchewan now advances to play first-seeded Alberta in Edmonton next weekend.

While technically not standings, here are your Canada West Semifinal series with game times for each game shown.
While I can't speak for Alberta's coverage of their series, I can tell you that the Manitoba-UBC series will be broadcast live and for free on 101.5 UMFM and on Pre-game show will start 30 minutes before puck drop, so tune in for free via the radio or internet stream for all the action!

The Last Word

There isn't a lot to report on in the first five games of the Canada West playoffs, but there some stats that stick out for the two teams that advanced.

First, the Saskatchewan power-play was 3/10 against Mount Royal, accounting for 3/7 goals scored in the series. UBC's power-play was 3/14 in their series against Regina, accounting for 3/10 goals scored in the series. Both teams used strong power-plays to help them advance, and both Alberta and Manitoba will need to be cognizant of this as they open their series.

On the flip side, Saskatchewan killed 4/5 penalties against Mount Royal, so Alberta will need to work hard in both forcing the Huskies to take penalties and then on the power-play where the Saskatchewan penalty killers are doing their parts. UBC's penalty killers were successful on 6/7 penalties they took, so Manitoba's power-play will have to be at the top of its game in order to win the special teams battle.

I expect some close games as Saskatchewan was 1-3-0 against Alberta, but was outscored just 6-2 in the four games. Saskatchewan is 1-7-0-0 in the last five seasons at Clare Drake Arena, so Alberta's dominance at home is well-documented. However, Alberta was just 1/15 on the power-play against Saskatchewan this season, so it will likely be five-on-five play that determined who wins this series. Alberta has outshot their opponents in 27 of 28 games this season, going 23-4-0 in those games so Saskatchewan will either need to weather that storm and look for opportunities or they'll need to bring every ounce of offence they have in their bag of tricks for every minute of play as Alberta did lose the one game where they were outshot this season. On the road, Saskatchewan was just 6-7-0-1 this season while Alberta posted the best record in the conference at home with a 13-1-0-0 while surrendering just seven goals in those 14 games.

UBC went 2-0-2 in their games against Manitoba this season, and both teams scored nine goals against each other. These two teams might be the most evenly-matched squads in the playoffs with Manitoba holding a slight 4-3-0-1 edge over UBC at home in the regular season over the last five seasons. The key difference in this series is that Manitoba was 0/11 on the power-play against UBC this season while UBC was good on 4/13 power-play opportunities against the Bisons. If Manitoba gets into penalty trouble, that could be the break that the Thunderbirds can use to win the series. UBC was 9-2-2-1 on the road this season where they surrendered just 19 goals while Manitoba was 10-1-2-1 on Wayne Fleming Arena ice this season while scoring a conference-high 45 goals at home.

Canada West playoff hockey continues next weekend so catch the action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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