Sunday, 10 November 2019

The Rundown - Week 6

With the second-half of the conference bye in full swing, it was another weekend with just four teams in action playoff picture while Mount Royal and Lethbridge looked to claim first-place once more with sweeps of their own. With four teams idle, there was likely going to be some movement in the standings, so let's find out who sits where after six weeks of games on this week's edition of The Rundown!

The battle of the cellar dwellers in Canada West had more to it than just who would end up in seventh-place and eighth-place. A weekend sweep by either team would put them within reach of the final playoff spot, so there was a lot on the line this weekend if either team hoped to make a run at a playoff spot after slow starts. Jane Kish got the start for the Cougars while Amanda Schubert was in net for the Bisons.

The teams came out with a sense of defence as the play was mostly kept to the neutral zone. The Cougars were the more aggressive team as they had a number of times of sustained pressure in the Manitoba zone where they moved the puck and their feet, drawing penalties on the sluggish Bisons. The second penalty to the Bisons wouldn't result in a goal, but it was the power-play formation that saw Regina score first as Jaycee Magwood skated off the wall in the corner and fed Paige Hubbard cross-crease at the backdoor for the easy chip by Schubert to put Regina up 1-0 at 15:10! Kish and Schubert would give nothing else before the horn as Regina went to the break up 1-0 and leading 9-6 in shots.

The second period saw Manitoba find more shots, but almost none came from the high-danger areas. Nonetheless, Manitoba drove more of the play in the second frame compared to the first. Even with that increased shot total, it did not faze Kish as she stood her ground. At the opposite end, Schubert was less busy, but kept her focus sharp as she turned aside all Regina shots. After two periods, Regina held onto their one-goal lead despite Manitoba holding a 15-13 edge in shots.

The third period was more of the same as Manitoba couldn't penetrate the high-danger scoring areas enough to generate genuine scoring chances despite throwing more shots on Kish. Regina's defence simply cleaned up any rebounds that Kish couldn't corral and tied up Manitoba sticks on the way to the net. Again, Schubert had little to do in the third period as Manitoba's defence blocked shots and moved the puck, but it would Kish and the defence that shone on this night as Regina skated to the 1-0 win as the final horn sounded. Jane Kish earned her first win and first shutout of the season by denying all 24 Manitoba shots while Amanda Schubert deserved a better fate after stopping 16 shots for her team.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: As Manitoba's scoring woes bled into another weekend - more on that in The Last Word - there was a sense of urgency to break the scoreless drought and get thing righted in Bisons' camp. Regina, fresh off a shutout and a big win, looked to continue the momentum from that win on Friday into Saturday. Jane Kish got the call after a big night on Friday for the Cougars while Manitoba sent Erin Fargey out to the crease.

If Friday's Bisons team looks slow and sluggish, the Saturday edition was out to erase those memories as the Bisons came out physical with their feet moving which resulted in much better chances early on. That effort was also reflective on the defensive end as the Bisons kept the Cougars to the perimeter for most shots while limiting good scoring chances on Fargey. It seems the only thing that didn't go right for the Bisons was scoring goals, but the teams went into the intermission tied 0-0, but with Regina leading 8-7 in shots.

The second saw Manitoba use their speed to create chances as they opened up the game. Kate Gregoire, using her speed, appeared to have the first goal of the game as she broke in alone on Kish from right to left while flipping the puck back towards the abandoned right side of the cage, but her shot caught iron as the Bisons were once again denied a goal. Despite holding an 8-5 edge in shots, both goalies kept the scoresheet blank as the teams went into the second break tied 0-0.

Regina appeared to take control early in the third period as they had a handful of chances, but Fargey was equal to the task. Manitoba began to exert their will as the period rolled on, simplifying their game by trying to get more screens in front of Kish. While the strategy was effective, Kish and her defenders would smother pucks or clear them quickly to take second chances away from the Bisons. When the horn sounded, these two teams were still tied 0-0 and would need overtime to find a winner!

In the extra hockey frame, Jordy Zacharias was whistled for tripping on what appeared to be Tamara McVannel falling. Despite her protests, the Cougars went to the power-play, and it would Tamara Mcvannel who zipped a shot through the five-hole of a screened Erin Fargey at 2:39 of overtime to give the Cougars the 1-0 victory! Jane Kish earned her second win and second shutout of the season by blanking Manitoba on 26 shots while Erin Fargey did all she could, but suffered the loss on Regina's 15th shot of the night.

Highlights of this game are below!

In what could be a battle for first-place in the conference, Mount Royal kicked off the home-and-home in Lethbridge this weekend. Six points for either squad would put that team all alone in first-place, so there were some big stakes in this series. Zoe de Beauville took to nets for Mount Royal while Alicia Anderson was in her normal place between the pipes for the Pronghorns.

The home side didn't have to wait long for a goal as Tricia Van Vaerenbergh's long shot following a face-off win made its way through traffic and went low past de Beauville as Lethbridge jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 3:47 into the game! Mount Royal, not to be outdone, drew a hooking penalty on Ashlee Hodge-Hirschfield midway through the period and they went to work on the power-play. Some good puck movement by the Cougars resulted in an Emma Bergesen one-timer from the high slot that was stopped by Anderson, but Breanne Trotter corralled the rebound and slid it by the netminder as Mount Royal squared the game 1-1 at 12:13 on the power-play! Mount Royal continued to pepper Anderson and the Pronghorns defence with shots as the period closed, but the game would remained tied at a goal apiece with MRU leading 15-8 in shots!

The second period saw Mount Royal come out and maintain their level of aggressiveness, but a Camryn Amundson penalty was the opportunity that Lethbridge needed. Eryn Johnasen's point shot hit a body in front and popped out to where Madison Porter was heading to the net, and Porter fired the puck past de Beauville before she could cover the net for a power-play marker at 7:26 as Lethbridge went up 2-1! Mount Royal seemed unfazed as they continued their barrage on the Lethbridge net, but Alicia Anderson was perfect in the second period! As the teams went to the break, Lethbridge maintained their one-goal lead despite being outshot 30-13 through 40 minutes of play!

Just as they had done for two periods, Mount Royal threw a ton of pucks at the Lethbridge net in the third period. Anderson, however, was having none of it as she was in full denial mode on this night. With four minutes remaining in the game, Van Vaerenbergh corralled an Alli Borrow pass at center and pulled away from a defender on a breakaway before going to her backhand where she roofed a puck past de Beauville to make it a 3-1 game with 3:55 to go! That insurance marker was more than enough for Anderson as the Pronghorns claimed a 3-1 victory at the final horn! Alicia Anderson was spectacular in stopping 42 shots for her sixth win of the season while Zoe de Beauville suffered her third loss in a 16-save effort.

Highlights of this game are below!


Canada West hockey has been entertained by the amazing goaltending of Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson for some time now. The fifth-year goalie has perennially been one of the best netminders in the conference despite her team's record, and she's literally been the reason that Lethbridge had remained in games in years past. There's no doubt that she is one of the best at stopping the puck that this conference has seen in its history, and now we can call her the best to do so.

As per Paul Cartledge, the Canada West stats guy, Anderson's 42 saves tonight moved her past former Lethbridge Pronghorns netminder Crystal Patterson - a woman she replaced starting in the 2015-16 season - for career saves made. Patterson's old record of 3314 saves made in her career is now second to Alicia Anderson's total of 3328, meaning that the final Mount Royal shot of the second period in tonight's game was the save to put her in first-place all-time! I've immortalized Alicia in NHL '94 player form for her record-setting night, but let me congratulate Alicia Anderson here and now for her accomplishment!

Congratulations from Hockey Blog in Canada, Alicia, for stopping more pucks than anyone else!

With the series shifting back to Calgary and Flames Community Arena, the Pronghorns were looking to grab a hold of first-place by themselves with a sweep of the Cougars. Mount Royal was looking to put space between themselves, Alberta, and Saskatchewan while competing for a top-two finish that would give them a bye in the opening round of the playoffs. Alicia Anderson got the start after her record-setting night while rookie Kaitlyn Ross was given the task of knocking off the conference's top team.

Mount Royal continued right where they left off the night before by being the more aggressive team in putting pucks on net. However, like one night earlier, the same results were found as Anderson denied all opportunities. At the other end, Ross was looking to keep her record on the season perfect, and she helped her cause in the opening frame by denying all Lethbridge chances as well. After 20 minutes, the game was tied 0-0 with Mount Royal holding a 12-7 edge in shots!

The second period saw more good defence and more exceptional goaltending as the two sides continued to hunt for goals. Anderson and Ross, however, were unwilling to participate in the scoring as they denied all chances once again, and we'd move to the third period still tied at 0-0 and with Mount Royal up 21-12 in shots.

Three minutes into the third period, we'd see the stalemate broken when Kate Hufnagel's long shot went through her defender and past Anderson on the blocker side at 2:58 to put the Cougars up 1-0! The Cougars would extend that lead on the power-play midway through the period when Emma Bergesen's wrap-around went through the crease under Anderson, allowing Andrea Sanderson to tap home the power-play goal at 12:17 to put MRU up a pair! From there, Kaitlyn Ross and the Cougars defence did the rest as they withstood the Pronghorns attack through to the final horn to claim the 2-0 win! Kaitlyn Ross earned her fourth win and second shutout by stopping all 20 shots she faced while Alicia Anderson suffered the loss despite making 31 saves.

Highlights of this game are below!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
19 23 18
vs UBC
British Columbia
19 17 22
Mount Royal
18 19 11
17 18 17
vs MRU
16 15 15
14 28 16
10 14 24
vs ALB
7 9 20
vs SAS

The Last Word

If there was ever a few numbers that should worry a fanbase, here are three: 4, 2, and 243:57. All three of these numbers are related to the Manitoba Bisons who simply just cannot score goals. They had multiple chances over the weekend against Regina only to be shutout in both games, and they'll welcome one of the best defensive teams in the conference to Wayne Fleming Arena next weekend in the Saskatchewan Huskies. If you were worried before, the three numbers above won't help.

Manitoba has been shutout in four-straight games while losing five-straight games. In those games, they've scored a total of one goal - October 19 at Calgary - while racking up 102 shots. To make matters worse, they scored zero goals at five-on-five play in those five games, and that should have head coach Jon Rempel searching for goals in any fashion through whatever means he has to take. With the talent on this roster, there is no way that they should be under-performing as often as they are. However, when your team is shooting a collective 0.98% as a unit over five games, you have serious scoring problems.

The second number is two, and that should worry Manitoba fans, coaches, and players because that's the number of goals that Manitoba has scored on home ice in four home games. The last time that Manitoba scored at home was October 12 when they downed the Mount Royal Cougars 2-0. Since then, they've been shutout three times on home ice. They're just 1/16 on the power-play at home, they've hit the net with just 84 shots in four home games (21 shots/game), and have a shooting percentage of just 2.3% at home. When a team has the last change and can get favourable lines out against potentially weaker lines of their opposition, that 6.25% power-play success rate, 2.3% shooting percentage, and low average shot totals are big indicators that this team simply doesn't find quality scoring chances often nor do they generate a lot of chances. Let's upgrade that "serious scoring problems" comment to "catastrophic scoring problems".

The last number is 243:57, and that's the length of time in minutes and seconds since Manitoba last scored on October 19 when Chloe Snaith scored on the power-play against Kelsey Roberts with 3:57 to play in the third period of a 2-1 loss to the Dinos. With just nine goals in ten games, this team may challenge the 2017-18 Calgary Dinos for fewest goals in a 28-game season with 22, and the reality of the situation is that Manitoba plays Saskatchewan (second-best defensive team this season), Alberta (best possession team this season), and Lethbridge (first-place in conference) over the next six games before the December break. No one will have mercy for Manitoba in those six games, so that 243:57 time may be extended further based on Manitoba's opposition. Much further. Again, we'll update that "catastrophic scoring problems" to "nearly-impossible-to-achieve scoring problems".

Now it's easy to sit here and throw out stats and make comments, so here's the solution for this apocalyptic scoring drought: get mean! If you watched or listened to the Manitoba broadcasts this weekend featuring Kyleigh Palmer and I, you likely heard us talking about how no player on Manitoba ever dropped a shoulder and cut hard to the net, how Bisons players were being pushed around by the Cougars, and how they gave far too much respect to players like Magwood and McVannel. That has to end here and now. The best teams in Canada have an edge to them, and they don't let other teams skate into their barns and push them around.

Manitoba has already lost the same number of games as they did all of last season, so let's be honest and say that playing passively for the remainder of the season is not an option. This team needs to discover its edge in rapid fashion or they'll set new records for scoring futility this season. That's not how the Manitoba Bisons play, and it certainly shouldn't sit well with these players who came from great programs. And they're being embarrassed by programs with which they should be competing, if not beating.

For the remainder of this season, Manitoba needs to adopt Patches O'Houlihan's advice in Dodgeball because there are no other options being this far behind at this point in the season. His advice?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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