Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Rundown - Week 7

All eight teams were back in action this weekend - and earlier in the week, in one case - as the Canada West Conference makes its way towards the December break. The top-two teams in the conference were scheduled to meet while a number of other intriguing match-ups that could affect the standings awaited viewers and fans this week. Of course, there were eyes on Manitoba as they looked to snap a program-record scoreless streak as well, so let's find out who did what on this week's edition of The Rundown!

We get to start this week's action on a Thursday with the first portion of the annual Crowchild Classic got underway. Mount Royal started the week one point ahead of Calgary, so the crosstown rivalry was very much alive as both teams had a shot to jump into first-place in the conference with wins this weekend! Kaitlyn Ross got the start for the Cougars in this game while the Dinos responded with their veteran starter in Kelsey Roberts.

The Dinos opened the game with a little jump in their step as they controlled the play early on. Carrying the play seemed to do them well as the Dinos were the first to hit the scoreboard when a puck was dug out of a scrum near the corner, was poked off a Mount Royal defender's stick, and the pinching Paige Michalenko corralled the puck and fired it low past Ross at 9:51 to put Calgary up 1-0! Despite having the Cougars push back through the remaining ten minutes, Calgary would take that one-goal lead to the room along with a 7-5 edge in shots!

Early into the second period, Mount Royal would square things up when Anna Purschke's shot in all sorts of traffic in front of Roberts somehow went up and over the Dinos netminder and into the net at 3:31 to make it 1-1! Minutes later, Calgary's Holly Reuther broke down the left wing and cut across the middle after entering the Cougars' zone where she put a shot high on Ross that the goaltender simply appeared to miss with her glove to make it 2-1 for the Dinos at 8:14! The teams would trade a few more opportunities as the second-half of the period wore down, but it would be Calgary who took another one-goal margin into the intermission, but with the Cougars holding a 17-15 margin in shots!

Early in the third period, Elizabeth Lang picked the pocket of a Cougar in the Calgary zone, chipped the puck past a Mount Royal defender at the blue line, and was off to the races. Delaney Frey joined her as the other Cougars defender dropped back to turn the break into a two-on-one, but Lang would feather a pass across to Frey who cut across the crease and slipped the puck five-hold past a sprawling Ross to make it a 3-1 game for Calgary just 2:16 into the frame! From there, the Dinos went into denial mode as Roberts stoned the Cougars on their remaining opportunities to give the Dinos the 3-1 win! Kelsey Roberts earned her seventh win with a 24-save performance while Kaitlyn Ross suffered her first loss of the season after making just 16 saves.

Highlights of this game are below!

The second-half of the crosstown rivalry took place at Flames Community Arena as the Cougars hosted the Dinos. Mount Royal needed a win to keep pace with the Dinos who had moved into first-place with their win on Thursday. Friday's game could put real separation between the Dinos and the pack, so Calgary came in with a purpose. Kelsey Roberts got her twelfth-straight start for the Dinos while Cassie Shokar was between the pipes for the Cougars.

It was pretty clear early on in this game that Mount Royal wasn't content with the loss the night before as they came out and peppered Roberts with shots. Regardless of what they threw at her, though, Roberts wasn't letting anything by her. At the other end, Shokar was just as good, denying all the chances Mount Royal set up in what was a period where the goalies shone. After one frame, the score remained 0-0, but Mount Royla had an 11-5 advantage in shots.

The second period had the same vibe as the first period as the Cougars continued their assault on Roberts in the offensive zone, but the Calgary netminder was just as good as she was in the first period. That netminding became key midway through the period when Paige Michalenko's long shot from the point deflected off a defender in front of Shokar and past the goalie at 12:20 to give Calgary the 1-0 lead! Despite having a power-play 90 seconds later, the Cougars could get nothing to to twine in this period as the Dinos went to the break with the one-goal lead, but having been outshot 24-10 through 40 minutes.

The third period saw the Dinos crank up their defensive game as they took time and space away against the Cougars throughout the final period. This was effective at limiting chances on Roberts as she faced nowhere near the same barrage as she did through the first period, and that defensive play allowed the Dinos to skate away with the 1-0 victory! Kelsey Roberts was perfect on all 28 shots she faced for her eighth win and second shutout of the season while Cassie Shokar suffered the loss despite stopping 14 of 15 shots sent her way.

Highlights of this game are below!

The Pandas went east to visit the Cougars in Regina as these two teams found themselves starting the weekend a lot closer than anyone may have imagined at this point in the season. Regina could overtake the Pandas in the standings with a pair of wins on home ice while the Pandas needed points to claw their way back into the discussion for top-spot on the conference. Halle Oswald got the start for the Pandas while Jane Kish earned her third-straight start after a pair of wins over Manitoba the week before!

The two goaltenders started this game strong with each making a number of key saves in the first period. Despite a handful of chances seen, both Oswald and Kish would keep the scoresheet clean through one period as the Cougars held a 7-5 edge in shots in the 0-0 game.

The second period started much like the first period did with both netminders continuing their stellar play, but a penalty to Alex Poznikoff six minutes into the frame gave Regina the advantage they needed. On the power-play, McVannel and Magwood played catch up top before Magwood's one-timer from the right face-off circle found its way through traffic and under Oswald thanks to a deflection, and Regina had the 1-0 lead at 7:12! Just 31 seconds later, Rachel O'Toole would send a point shot towards Oswald that Jordan Kulbida deflected past Oswald after setting up in front, and the Cougars had themselves a 2-0 lead! Alberta could muster anything on the power-play they received moments later, and this game would head to the second break with the Cougars up 2-0 on the scoreboard and leading 15-10 in shots!

In the third period, the Pandas brought all the firepower as the Cougars went into a defensive shell to try and preserve the two-goal lead. No matter what the Pandas did on this night, however, the Cougars had an answer for them, and it was often in the form of Jane Kish. At the final horn, the Cougars wrapped up a 2-0 victory over the Pandas! Jane Kish picked up her fourth win and her third-straight shutout with the 21-save blanking while Halle Oswald took the loss after a 14-save effort.

Just for the record, it should be noted that Jane Kish is personally sporting a shutout streak of 193:37 after tonight's shutout of the Pandas. The last time she was scored on was back at 6:23 of the third period against Mount Royal on October 25 when Victoria Byer scored the winner that night.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: With the win the night before, Alberta and Regina found themselves separated by one point in the standings, so there was all sorts of intrigue in today's game. Alberta needed to put some space between themselves and Regina for the final playoff spot while Regina looked to bump Alberta into a non-playoff spot with a win. The Pandas turned to Kirsten Chamberlin in this game while the Cougars were riding the hot goalie by starting Jane Kish in her fourth-straight game!

That shutout streak that I mentioned about Jane Kish? It ended quickly on Saturday because there was another player who was all over the scoresheet on this day. Just 2:35 into the game, Autumn MacDougall stripped a Regina defender of the puck at her own blue line and skated in all alone on Kish before wiring a shot high glove-side that found the back of the net for the early Alberta 1-0 lead! Both teams went back to work following the goal as Regina looked for an equalizer, but Chamberlin was on her game. With 13 seconds remaining in the period, Regina was whistled for tripping. After a scramble around the net, Alex Poznikoff threw a pass out front from behind the net, and it was MacDougall standing on the doorstep, whacking it past Kish with one second on the clock to put Alberta up 2-0 through 20 minutes with the power-play marker. Regina, however, took a 6-5 edge in shots into the intermission.

If you're asking, Kish's shutout streak ended at 196:12 of time on MacDougall's first goal - a heck of a run for the Cougars netminder!

The second period felt like an Alberta Pandas frame as they controlled the period from start to finish. What they couldn't do, it seemed, was solve Kish again. That was true until late in the period when Autumn MacDougall picked up a loose puck behind the net and centered it where it went off Kish and into the net behind her at 15:20 to make it a 3-0 game! In a period where Alberta outshot Regina 9-2, that 3-0 lead seemed a lot bigger.

Alberta focused more on playing solid defence in the third period as they kept Regina away from the net and out of danger zones with the puck. While they still had a couple of chances, it was clear that the Pandas were more concerned with closing this game out with a strong finish, and they did just that as they limited Regina to just one shot in the third period en route to the 3-0 victory! Kirsten Chamberlin picked up her third win and first shutout of the season by stopping all nine shots she faced while Kish suffered just her second loss of the season in a 17-save performance.

Highlights of this game are below!

If we're talking about shutout streaks, no one likely knows shutouts better than Manitoba after having been shutout in four-straight games. With the Huskies travelling east to Winnipeg with one of the best netminders in the conference on their side, there was some general fear that Manitoba's streak would be extended further. Saskatchewan, however, has been having their own scoring woes as of late, having scored just four goals in their last three games while going 1-2 in those games. Jessica Vance got the call for Saskatchewan on Friday while Erin Fargey started for the Bisons!

Manitoba started the game going stride for stride with the Huskies, but it was soon evident that Saskatchewan was the more aggressive team in the opening frame. A couple of penalties slowed the Huskies attack, but Manitoba's power-play couldn't seem to find any great chances on Vance. The teams would retire to the dressing rooms for the intermission tied at 0-0 with Saskatchewan doubling Manitoba in shots by a 10-5 margin.

The second period saw the tides turn when it came to the penalty box as Manitoba was whistled for two quick penalties early on that gave Saskatchewan all kinds of momentum. It would be the first power-play, however, where the Huskies would open the scoring when Bailee Bourassa's shot from the left side was stopped by Fargey, but the puck popped up and over the netminder, landing behind her in the blue paint. Leah Bohlken saw the loose puck as she drove the net, and she tapped it across the line for the power-play goal to put Saskatchewan up 1-0 at the 3:37 mark! Saskatchewan simply exerted their will in this period, controlling most of the possession leading to a lot of offensive zone time, but Fargey was solid as she kept Manitoba in this one. After 40 minutes, the Huskies held the one-goal lead despite outshooting the Bisons 22-7!

The third period saw the Huskies continue their strong play through the first-half of the period before the Bisons turned up the tempo with some good neutral zone play and transition attacks. Despite Manitoba's increased pressure, Vance looked cool and calm as she made save after save. With Fargey on the bench late in the game, Manitoba had a number of good chances to tie this game up, but the puck never found its intended destination as Kate Gregoire looked like she had all the room with 20 seconds to play to end the drought, but she partially-fanned on the shot and it settled underneath the sprawling Vance. When the horn sounded, the Huskies picked up the 1-0 victory over the Bisons! Jessica Vance stopped 14 shots for her fourth win and second shutout of the season while Erin Fargey deserved a better fate than a loss after making 29 stops on the night.

Apparently, the Bisons decided not put any highlights up for this game, so you'll have to take my word that everything above happened. What shouldn't be disputed, however, is that the Bisons were shutout again, extending their scoreless streak to 303:57 of time. At some point, something has to hit the twine whether by shot or by fluke, but it seems the snake-bitten Bisons will have to regroup and try again tomorrow.

SATURDAY: Saskatchewan came into Saturday's game looking for the sweep over Manitoba to strengthen their lead over Mount Royal who they jumped in the standings. Manitoba, meanwhile, just needed a goal in order to restore some confidence in themselves. A win would be other-worldly at this point. Regardless of the underlying drama, Camryn Drever was named the starter for Huskies on Saturday while the Bisons called upon fifth-year netminder Amanda Schubert to guard their nets.

This game had a far more physical tone early on that the referees didn't seem top appreciate, so the first period was a parade to both penalty boxes as the teams worked out their anger towards each other in the sin bins. In total, there were seven minor penalties called in the opening frame with five of those going to Manitoba. The good news is that the top penalty-killing unit in Canada West came up big as the Bisons killed off all the power-play opportunities that the Huskies were awarded. The flip side is that the conference's worst power-play didn't help the Bisons' cause either, and we went to the intermission still tied 0-0 with Saskatchewan holding a 7-5 edge in shots.

The second period started the same way the first did as Manitoba was forced to kill off another minor penalty before going on a power-play of their own. No goals were scored, but we would see one midway through the period when Emile Massé skated along the line before dropping the puick to Chloe Snaith who fired the biscuit into a crowd that eluded Drever and found the back of the net at 9:05 to put the Herd up 1-0! THE BISONS SCORED! And they weren't done there as a penalty to the Huskies sent the Bisons out on the power-play where Katie Chatyrbok's centering pass from behind the goal line in the left-wing corner deflected in off a Huskies defender at 15:44 to make it a 2-0 Bisons lead! The early goal seemed to energize the Bisons, and the second one looked like it brought them back to life as they closed out the period with the 2-0 lead and outshooting the Huskies 6-5 in the frame!

The third period opened with Saskatchewan showing some purpose as they looked to get back into the game. They would be rewarded for their efforts early on when Morgan Willoughby's point shot hit a player in front of Schubert as she was sliding in the opposite direction, giving Shyan Elias all sorts of time and space to bury the puck at 4:53 to make it a 2-1 game! The Bisons, though, would not be deterred by that goal as they continued to move their feet and get chances while Saskatchewan did all they could to find an equalizer on Schubert. When the horn sounded, the losing streak and the scoreless streak were both over the Bisons captured victory by the 2-1 score! Amanda Schubert was solid in stopping 20 of 21 shots for her second win of the campaign while Drever took the loss after stopping 13 shots.

Again, no highlight package from the Bisons for the game. Get your act together, Manitoba! And just for the record, that scoreless drought that Manitoba was on ended at 333:02 with Snaith's goal as Manitoba went nearly thirty days without denting twine. Let's hope no team has to go through something that again this season or in any future season!

Perhaps the most intriguing match-up of the weekend occurred in Lethbridge where the Pronghorns, who had flirted with the top spot in the conference all season, met the UBC Thunderbirds who had charged up the standings over the last few weeks to put themselves in a situation where they could not only catch Lethbridge, but pass them as well. First-place was on the line in this meeting between these two teams, and UBC opted for their hot goalie in Tory Micklash to tend the nets while Lethbridge went with their veteran in Alicia Anderson!

The early portion of the period was played fairly evenly before we saw our first goal. Off a defensive zone face-off win that went behind the net, a UBC defender had the puck stripped off her stick by Kianna Dietz who centered the puck, and Tricia Van Vaerenbergh finished off the play by going high over the right shoulder of Micklash at 6:37 to put the Pronghorns up 1-0! However, 30 seconds later, that lead was gone as Ireland Perrott picked up a pass on the right side, skated into the high slot area, and beat Alicia Anderson with a wrist shot to make it a 1-1 game! UBC continued to pressure the Lethbridge defence through the remainder of the period, but chances at both ends were denied as the teams went to the intermission tied 1-1, but with UBC leading 9-5 in shots.

The second period saw Lethbridge start the period strong, but UBC began to rally as the period progressed. Before the midpoint, a Pronghorns clearing attempt was held inside the zone by Mikayla Ogrodniczuk. Emma Hall picked up the loose puck and was tripped, but pushed the puck ahead to a wide-open Chanreet Bassi who made a good fake to freeze Anderson before taking to the forehand and firing the puck past the prone goalie at 7:53 to make it a 2-1 game! 2:50 later with UBC on the power-play, the T-Birds moved the puck well from Hannah Clayton-Carroll to Shay-Lee McConnell to Mathea Fischer who one-timed it past Anderson to give UBC a 3-1 lead! And UBC would add a second power-play goal with 3:38 to play in the period as Hannah Clayton-Carroll beat a Lethbridge defender on the right side and fed Mathea Fischer streaking down the left side who went forehand-backhand for her second goal of the night as the Thunderbirds jumped out to a 4-1 lead! Through 40 minutes, the three-goal lead stood with UBC leading in shots 18-13.

The third period saw UBC and Lethbridge open things up in a big way as both teams looked for more goals. Chances were had at both ends, but both Anderson and Micklash were up to the challenge as they denied all shots in this period. In saying that, the 4-1 score remained intact through to the final horn as UBC earned the victory! Tory Micklash was stellar once more as she denied 22 shots for her seventh win of the season while Alicia Anderson suffered the loss in a 26-save effort.

Highlights are below!

SATURDAY: After dropping the first game of the two-game set, the Pronghorns knew they needed to dig deep to down a formidable opponent who had picked up points in nine-straight games. UBC was looking to keep the good times rolling as they had a shot to claim first-place outright with a win, so they came in focused on the task at hand. Tory Micklash was back between the pipes for UBC while Lethbridge opted for Chloe Marshall as their netminder to try and derail the Thunderbirds.

The only problem? The Thunderbirds were hitting their targets today. Tiffany Chiu scored at 4:29 and Mikayla Ogrodniczuk added a goal at 6:04 as the UBC Thunderbirds jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in this game despite only putting five shots on Marshall in the opening frame. In contrast, Lethbridge fired pucks from every point at Micklash and the UBC defence thanks to a handful of penalties only to come up empty. After one period where the ice was slanted towards the UBC zone, the T-Birds led 2-0 despite being outshot 14-5 in the frame!

The second period saw the game even out a little as the two teams traded chances and shots as the parade to the penalty box disappeared. The goaltenders were both sharp in the period as they kept pucks from getting behind them, and the 2-0 lead that UBC brought into the period was carried into the second intermission with Lethbridge leading 22-15 in shots.

And then the wheels fell off for the Pronghorns in the third period. Hannah Clayton-Carroll scored at 3:34, Ireland Perrott scored on the power-play at 6:20, and Clayton-Caroll book-ended the scoring with her second of the game at 12:30 as a handful of penalties really provided the spark that UBC needed to take over this game. When the final horn sounded, UBC piled up a 5-0 win over the Pronghorns. Tory Micklash picked up her eighth win and fifth shutout of the season with a 27-save blanking of Lethbridge while Chloe Marshall took the loss in a 24-save performance.

Highlights of this one are below!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
British Columbia
25 26 23
vs MRU
23 22 18
vs LET
19 24 27
19 17 17
vs REG
Mount Royal
18 20 15
17 31 18
vs MAN
13 16 27
10 11 22

The Last Word

Let's talk about how good UBC has been in the last eight games because there simply aren't enough people talking about their efforts. There's a reason why they're in first-place, and I alluded to it above as they've picked up points in their last ten games. They don't have a regulation loss since the first week of the season, and a big reason for that is their commitment to taking care of their own zone and the work by Tory Micklash.

Let's just throw out the 14 goals they surrendered in the opening weekend to Alberta. We can't take them off the stats, but we're going to focus on the last ten games because UBC has been the best defensive team by a country mile!

In those ten games, UBC has surrendered just nine goals. They haven't given up two goals since November 1 when they beat Saskatchewan 3-2 in overtime, and haven't given up three goals since October 19 when they lost in a shootout to Regina by a 3-2 score. If we toss out the shootout goal, UBC hasn't given up a three-goal game since the opening weekend, and have only allowed more than one goal in a game three times! This team is addicted to defence right now, and it only helps that their goaltending has been bolstered by Tory Micklash.

Again, pulling the 12 goals off her total that Alberta laid on her, Micklash has surrendered just eight goals in 618:07 of play in those last ten games. If you're doing the math, that's a 0.78 GAA to go along with an incredible .961 save percentage as she's saved 195 of 203 shots in those ten games. With teams averaging just 20 shots per game over that time on Micklash, she's likely to give up just one goal if teams are lucky based on that save percentage. If your goaltender is surrendering just one goal per game, there's a good chance you're winning games. Unless you're Manitoba and mired in a program-record scoring slump.

Through seven weeks last season, Alberta had surrendered just ten goals through 15 games in what was one of the best seasons for goals-against ever put together by any Canada West team. They would finish the season with just 24 goals-against in a 28-game season, so it's likely that UBC won't better that mark, but it should be encouraging to know that if UBC continues to match the pace that Alberta ran at last season, it's very likely UBC will finish in the top spot at season's end just as Alberta did one campaign ago.

The playoffs are a whole different matter, of course, but with UBC playing playoff-like hockey in terms of their defensive effort, one has to believe that they'll be set for a good playoff run. Things might change over the December break as the month off may cool off the T-Birds, but it seems the Thunderbirds are soaring right now thanks to a solid commitment to defence.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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