Friday, 31 January 2020

Day One Results

If you caught last night's episode of The Hockey Show on UMFM, you likely knew that I was spending my weekend out at BellMTS IcePlex in Winnipeg as UMFM had the privilege of being asked to broadcast the games for the 2020 Female World Sport School Challenge once again. Honestly, this tournament gets better and better each year as teams seem to circle this weekend on their calendars. With 16 teams being part of the event, 22 post-secondary institutions already having recruits playing in the event, and nearly 40 schools scouting at the tournament or taking in games via Hockey TV, this tournament has also become a must-watch event for those schools looking to connect with players in an effort to better their schools and women's hockey teams at the next level!

Over the next couple of days, I'll post the results of each day. Sunday is still reserved for The Rundown as the Canada West season has just two weeks and four games remaining, so I'll post two days worth of games on Monday as that day will define which teams finished where and who won what medals. That being said, there are only two games scheduled for Sunday in the bronze- and gold-medal games, so it's not like there will be an extra-long post that day.

Here are the results of Thursday's games.
  • Winnipeg Avros beat the Red Deer Sutterfund Chiefs by a 5-1 score. Avros forward Trinity Grove had a pair of goals.
  • St. Mary's Academy Flames defeated the Rocky Mountain Raiders 2-1. Flames forward Reese Chuback set up both goals.
  • Eastman Selects shutout the Pilot Mound Buffaloes 5-0. Emma Plett earned the shutout.
  • Westman Wildcats doubled up the Vancouver Island Seals 6-3. Wildcats forward Gillian Gervin scored twice in the win.
  • Winnipeg Ice downed the Thompson Okanagan Lakers by a 6-3 score. Ice forward Reagan Yewdall netted a pair.
  • Minnesota Ice Cougars got by the Lloydminster PWM Steelers by a 4-2 score. Ice Cougars forward Abby Promersberger scored twice and assisted on another goal in the win.
  • Edmonton Pandas got by the Thunder Bay Queens by a 4-3 margin. Pandas defender Emma Hebert scored a goal and added an assist.
  • Northern Alberta X-Treme trounced the Calgary Fire 6-0. Elle Boyko recorded the shutout while Abby Soyko scored a hat trick and assisted on another goal.
Honestly, seeing how these women played on the first day has me feeling like we're going to see some epic battles over the next few days. There was some physical play, there definitely were some highlight-reel goals and saves, and there was a ton of talent on display. If anyone has concern about the future of U SPORTS, NCAA, or international women's hockey, I can honestly say that the future is bright based on one day of play at the 2020 Female World Sport School Challenge.

If you're interested in catching the action, please head down to the BellMTS IcePlex in Winnipeg. Admission is $5 at the door, and tournament passes are $30. It's well-worth the money based on the results seen today, and we'll pick things up tomorrow on UMFM's Alternate Stream which is found on the Female World Sport School Challenge if you can't make it down! I suggest that if can, however, make the trip, you do so because the hockey action was incredible today, and tomorrow's slate of 30-or-so games will give you ample opportunity to watch each team play!

As a bonus, here are the two games I was lucky enough call today if you'd like to listen to the action!

St. Mary's Academy Flames vs. Rocky Mountain Raiders

Edmonton Pandas vs. Thunder Bay Queens

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 30 January 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 384

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is on the road tonight as we set up camp at the BellMTS IcePlex where the 2020 Female World Sport School Challenge is being held! I'll be on-site this afternoon calling one of the tournament's opening games before settling in and getting the radio show rolling! This is one of my favorite road trips that the show does every year, and seeing the next wave of women's hockey players who will be stars with their respective U SPORTS and NCAA teams is always exciting! There are recruits from 22 schools already confirmed at the tournament, and we always see more and more scouts making contact and chatting with players who want to play at the post-secondary level. Tonight, we'll talk with a few people who are making those dreams a reality on The Hockey Show!

Tonight, Teebz sits down with St. Mary's Academy Flames head coach Larry Bumstead as we talk to him about the growth of the Female World Sport School Challenge, how his team is doing in the CSSHL, the many graduates he's coached who have moved on to collegiate hockey careers, and his work throughout Manitoba in helping kids achieve their dreams! If we're lucky, there might be a player or two who will drop by the broadcast area, and we'll talk to them about their careers, their future careers at the next level, and more! It's going to be another busy night on The Hockey Show, so make sure you tune in at 5:30pm CT!

Where's the best place can you hear the show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you're looking for great hockey action to listen to all weekend long, hit the 2020 Female World Sport School Challenge website and click on the UMFM logo! I'll be calling all the games featured on the Canadian Tire rink, including the gold medal game, throughout the weekend! Tweet at me if you're listening!

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz talks with Larry Bumstead - and possibly others? - about growth of a tournament, growth of his team, the results of that growth in seeing so many of his players move to post-secondary hockey careers, the growth of women's hockey in Manitoba, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: January 30, 2020: Episode 384

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

It Lurks In The Depths Of Rumours

I have to give the Seattle NHL squad a lot of credit in not letting a lot of their details leak out. Whether it be team colours, future hires, or scouting plans in terms of who they may be focusing on, they've kept their cards pretty tight to their collective chests when it comes to any details. However, it seems there may be a crack in the shell of the Seattle team as it was reported today on a radio program that they may have settled on a team name, and it was a name that was more of a fun option than a serious, professional option.

According to a radio segment today featuring John Hoven, the Seattle NHL team has settled on a name. Here is the radio clip that features his chatter on the matter, and you'll want to skip ahead to 2:20 to hear the Seattle news.

Ok, so that's a chunk of news - Seattle KRAKEN?!? Wow. I know I joked about this on The Hockey Show some time ago about how it would be a phenomenal name based on all the marketing ideas one could use, but it's not a very "professional hockey" team name. It feels like a minor-league hockey name, and I'm pretty sure that the NHL would likely have to vet this name heavily based on the number of Kraken-based products. Nevertheless, let's break this down as we sift through truths and rumours.

First, the Seattle NHL team didn't do anyone any favours by neither confirming nor denying Hoven's report.
In getting no help from the Seattle group themselves, it was time to turn to the good news sleuths who work in the Seattle area to see what they had to offer on this name. Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times wrote an excellent piece earlier today all about this reported name. Linked in Mr. Baker's article is a second article he wrote two weeks ago where he indicated that a name for the Seattle team would be released in March, with late February being a possibility.

Would the name already be chosen if the team is planning an unveiling? Likely, but what Mr. Baker seems to be saying is that there's nothing conclusive about the "Kraken" name whatsoever to be derived from this announcement of a date.

The name "Sockeyes", however, is not off the table according to Mr. Baker's reporting. He writes,
"Hoven went on to suggest he'd been told by a team source that the franchise had been leaning toward 'Sockeyes' as a name, but he added that was nixed because of possible legal issues. Romance novel writer Jami Davenport of Shelton has a Seattle Sockeyes book series.

"In a phone interview Wednesday, Davenport told The Seattle Times she has only a book-related trademark for the name, but nonetheless had her lawyer write the team a year ago inviting officials to discuss the issue. She filed for the Seattle Sockeyes trademark Dec. 21, 2017, two weeks after the group that became NHL Seattle was given permission by the league to apply for an expansion team, which was awarded a year later.

"'He (Davenport's lawyer) let them know that I was willing to work with them," she said. "And we haven’t heard a thing."
Sockeyes is likely the most palatable name for the NHL, and it would lend itself to all sorts of marketing ideas as well. It seems this name is still in the mix, and Miss Davenport was quick to stress that she's not stopping the Seattle team from naming itself the Sockeyes, telling Baker, "I don't like people thinking I'm the holdup here, because I'm not."

In knowing these vital pieces of info now, we can safely say that there's conclusive evidence pointing towards a name for the Seattle franchise yet. We're likely close on one of either Sockeyes or Kraken, but we also need to consider what Baker wrote down a couple of scrolls in his piece today that reads,
"NHL Seattle officials for months had strongly hinted they felt Kraken was too gimmicky to be used as a name for a major sports franchise. They at one point suggested it might be looked at for a secondary team such as their American Hockey League franchise in Palm Springs, Calif., given its popularity with some segments of fans."
It may lurk in the depths of the ocean, but there's nothing to believe that the Kraken has been summoned as an NHL franchise name at this point outside of Hoven's report. While he may end up being right after everything is said and done - and Hoven does good work, so let's not dismiss his efforts - the fact of the matter is that the Seattle NHL franchise is likely working on the name and logo as you read this.

While it's exciting to think that an NHL team went trendy with its name like the NBA's Toronto Raptors did, we need to check the nets before exclaiming that we have the catch of the day.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Get It Together, Eddie

That is not the photo I wanted to see when I opened social media this morning, but there it was. According to reports, this is the mugshot for Hockey Hall of Fame netminder and Stanley Cup champion Ed Belfour after he was arrested in Kentucky early this morning. And while it's funny at first glance, I'm starting to worry about Ed Belfour possibly having a drinking problem after his repeated brushes with law enforcement following a night of binge drinking. Last night seems it was no different as Ed Belfour was arrested for, among other things, alcohol intoxication in a public place after an incident in a hotel.

I'm not sure why the Carman, Manitoba native was in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but Bowling Green police were called to the Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa where the arrest report states that Belfour "was lying on the floor clutching a curtain rod that had been ripped out of the dry wall above a window when police approached him" and that he "was kicking a door to the locked spa in an attempt to get in". As per the report, Belfour's condition suggested he was intoxicated as he demonstrated "slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and could barely stand up". Making matter worse, the police also reported that "Belfour was not being compliant when officers tried to put handcuffs on him."

Look, I'm not here to pile on Belfour. If he is having trouble with alcohol, he wouldn't be the first former pro athlete to go through this, but he needs to admit he's not very good around alcohol and seek treatment if his evenings end up with him in a jail cell. For anyone who has woken up in a jail cell with no recollection of the night before - and I doubt Belfour will remember much based on his actions - it has to be an unnerving and embarrassing situation. I can't speak from experience, thankfully, but I can't imagine the confusion and shame that must be felt when the officers explain why one's hotel room has been replaced by a jail cell.

I hopeful this incident sets off a chain of events for Belfour that sees him move in the right direction when it comes to alcohol consumption and moderation. The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is a problem, and I can't help but think that Ed Belfour might need some help in that regard. Whatever the case, I just hope that Belfour finds whatever he needs to be successful in life so there are no more police reports and mugshots in his future.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 January 2020

Old-School Skills Competition

I have been pretty open in past articles about my traditionalist views when it comes to hockey. Yes, I want to see progressive changes in some aspects, but there are certain pieces of the game that should rightfully remain unchanged for eternity. One of those things, in my view, is the Skills Competition at the All-Star Game. Yes, I know that the accuracy shooting, the fastest skater, and the hardest shot are still there, but I loved the puck control relay and I loved seeing the goalies move laterally in the rapid fire event. Those are skills that players need in today's game, so seeing the AHL set up the old-school Skills Competition with these events on Sunday made me smile!

Here are the highlights from the AHL Skills Competition! Note the blast by Martin Frk of the Ontario Reign. I'll have more on Frk below the video.
I was a big Martin Frk fan when he was with the Grand Rapids Griffins. I watched him play against the Moose often, and it was always puzzling to me how a guy with so much talent seemingly couldn't crack an NHL roster. He was claimed by Carolina off waivers after Detroit tried to send him down in October of 2016, and he was back in the Detroit organization one month later when Carolina waived him and he was claimed by the Red Wings. He signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings this past summer, and I was quietly screaming that the local NHL team should have been looking at him as an option to play in the bottom-six where the Jets had holes on their roster.

You might be asking why the Jets would want him. Comparatively to a player like Gabriel Bourque, there isn't a lot that stands out when looking exclusively as their stats. Both have had comparable points-per-game stats in the NHL, and Frk's AHL career seems to be slightly better. That said, Bourque is a more physical player than Frk, but Frk certainly isn't afraid to go into a corner and win a puck battle.

When you look at Frk's skating and his ability to score goals, however, that's where he stands out compared to players like Bourque and Logan Shaw. Frk is a good skater with better speed than both Bourque and Shaw when he turns it on, and his shooting ability, as shown above, is pretty good. He has 20 goals with Ontario this season and is on pace to smash his AHL high of 27 goals set with Grand Rapids. Frk has become better defensively as he's matured as well, and he likely would be an above-average player with the Jets when compared to Bourque and Shaw this season.

Congratulations to Martin Frk on his record-setting blast. Here's hoping the Jets can entice solid AHL talent like Frk to come to Winnipeg this off-season to help bolster their rosters both at the NHL level and the AHL level.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 January 2020

The Rundown - Week 13

With playoff spots up for grabs and a number of intriguing match-ups this week, Canada West women's hockey is getting very interesting when trying to predict who may emerge as the two teams who will travel to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to represent the conference at the U SPORTS National Championship. There were some impressive streaks that were on the line this week, there were some teams looking to climb the standings, and there's still a battle for first-place in the conference. Who did what this week? Let's find out on The Rundown!

We'll start with the Battle of Alberta's Two Largest Cities as the Alberta Pandas traveled south for the first-half of this home-and-home to meet the Calgary Dinos. With four points separating these two teams, Alberta could take a stranglehold on first-place with a pair of wins while Calgary could jump back into first-place with two wins. Needless to say, this series meant a lot to both squads! Kirsten Chamberlin got the start for Alberta while Kelsey Roberts was in net for the Dinos!

Coming into the game on an 11-game win streak, the Alberta Pandas were all business on this night as they limited chances by the Dinos, capitalized on their own chances, and played a solid game from start to finish. Autumn MacDougall got things started at 3:17 of the first period off goalmouth scramble with Payton Laumbach following up on another scramble around the net at 10:31 to make it 2-0. Regan Wright scored late in the second period at 19:13 with a laser snipe of a wrist shot high on Roberts, and Jaslin Sawatzky scored her first of the season by converting the pass on a 2-on-1 at 13:18 of the third period to round out the scoring.

The Pandas held Calgary sniper Elizabeth Lang to a single shot in the game, with Lang, Delaney Frey, and Sara Craven recording just two shots combined in the game. If the Pandas are going to win the Canada West Conference this season, this game might have been a blueprint for how they're going to accomplish that as they played one of their better road games this season. In the end, Alberta won the game 4-0 over Calgary to jump ahead of the Dinos by six points in the race for the top seed in the conference. Kirsten Chamberlin continues to roll as she stopped all 18 shots she faced for her sixth shutout and ninth win of the season while Kelsey Roberts made 32 stops in the loss.

Highlights of this game are below!

With the win streak now at a dozen games, there was some wonder as to whether Alberta would lose again this season as the series shifted back to Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton. The Dinos were certainly going to give their best effort tonight in order to close the gap between them and Alberta in the standings. Kelsey Roberts was back in the Calgary night on this night while Halle Oswald was sent out to the crease for the Pandas.

Just as they always do at home, the Pandas started this game like the house was on fire, getting great chances early on only to be denied by Roberts who looked very calm in the Calgary end. Those early saves proved fortuitous as Calgary cracked the tie midway through the period when a scramble around the net saw Osawld stop Rebecca Clarke's backhanded shot in the slot only to have rebound go directly to Chelsea Court who fired it home before Oswald could recover at 10:15 to put the Dinos up 1-0! Both teams would trade chances through the latter half of the period, but the 1-0 score would hold in favor of Calgary despite being outshot 9-4 by the Pandas in the frame.

The second period was more of the same as the top-two teams in Canada West rolled up and down the ice. However, a penalty to the Pandas saw the Dinos take advantage as Merissa Dawson's point shot was stopped by Oswald, but Elizabeth Lang picked up the rebound as she flashed across the top of the crease, tucking the puck past Oswald as she went right to left across the goalmouth to give the Dinos the power-play goal and a 2-0 lead at 7:44! Minutes later, a turnover in the Calgary zone saw Madison Willan get a good chance that Roberts appeared to get a piece of, but the puck ended up behind her where Autumn MacDougall shoveled it home as she crashed the net to make it a 2-1 game at 13:03! The final seven minutes felt like a championship fight as these two heavyweights continued to throw punches, but none would land squarely as the Dinos carried the 2-1 lead into the third period with the Pandas holding a 28-8 margin in shots!

The third period was more of the same as the Pandas pushed for an equalizer, but they continued to come up short thanks to the efforts of Kelsey Roberts and the Dinos defence. Despite outshooting the Dinos in dramatic fashion over the 60 minutes, the only goal scored in the third period came off the stick of Jordyn Burgar who found the empty net in the Alberta zone. When the horn sounded, the Calgary Dinos snapped the 12-game winning streak of the Pandas with a 3-1 victory! Kelsey Roberts added her name to Goalie of the Year conversations with a 36-save performance for her 13th win of the season while Halle Oswald suffered the loss on a nine-save night.

Highlights of this one are below!

The Huskies stood three points back of the Dinos for second-place in the conference, so they knew that wins were important as they rolled into Vancouver to play the Thunderbirds. UBC, meanwhile, had snapped their scoring drought and losing streak, but still weren't out of danger in terms of missing the playoffs depending on what other teams did. Needless to say, the six points offered up to these two teams this weekend would mean a spirited battle as both the Huskies and the T-Birds needed those points.

Making this Friday game a little more crazy was an 11:30am start time as the Thunderbirds played host to Kids Day at their rink, so the change from a night to morning game on Friday could play a factor as the time change for Saskatchewan would be equivalent to playing at 10:30am! Jessica Vance got the nod for the Huskies while Tory Micklash started for the T-Birds!

It seemed the time change may have affected the Huskies a little as they started the game like they were sleepwalking while UBC came out strong in the early part of the period. A too-many-players penalty to the Huskies cost them early as Mikayla Ogrodniczuk's long point shot through traffic eluded Jessica Vance at 5:14 to put the Thunderbirds up 1-0 on the power-play goal! 51 seconds later, Hannah Clayton-Carroll showed all sorts of skill after skating the puck out of the UBC zone, through the neutral zone, and into the Saskatchewan zone where she cut across the middle while avoiding checks from four different Huskies to go high glove-side past Vance on one of the best individual efforts seen this season in putting UBC up 2-0! That goal seemed to awaken the Huskies as they began to push back on the Thunderbirds, highlighted by the parade to the penalty box in last five minutes of the period. Those penalties would prove costly as Saskatchewan would strike on a 5-on-3 advantage when Emily Upgang fed a wide-open Bailee Bourassa in front of the net, and she buried the power-play goal at 16:09! Through one highly-entertaining period, UBC led 2-1 despite Saskatchewan holding an 8-7 lead in shots.

Saskatchewan would find the equalizer early in the second period off a turnover in the UBC zone when Sophie Lalor walked out of the corner to pick up a puck poked loose by Kennedy Brown, and Lalor would find room high on Micklash on the glove-side to make it a 2-2 game at 2:42! Five-and-a-half minutes later, UBC used a power-play to grab the lead once again when Hannah Koroll's point shot was tipped in front by Clayton-Carroll as Vance could only get a piece of the deflection as it skittered across the line at 8:13 to put UBC back on top by a 3-2 score! The teams would continue to trade chances through the latter half of the period, but that 3-2 score would hold into the intermission for UBC with the teams firing seven shots apiece at the opposing goaltender.

Saskatchewan would use a quick start and a bad bounce to get things rolling in the third period as Lalor's long dump-in to the right corner took a huge bounce off the kick plate that ended up in the slot area, allowing Kennedy Brown whack the puck out of the air and past Micklash at 1:48 to tie the game at 3-3! The teams would settle down and play some solid defence, but Saskatchewan began to turn up the heat on UBC as they found the net with more and more shots as the game progressed. A penalty with five minutes to play didn't result in anything positive for the Huskies as they saw their chance killed off by the T-Birds, but second after the power-play ended, they grabbed their first lead of the game! Leah Bohlken stepped into a blast that caught the top corner on the glove side of Micklash on a shot I don't believe the UBC netminder ever saw based on the traffic in front, and the sniper fire from Bohlken put Saskatchewan up 4-3 with 2:24 to play! Despite some late pressure by the T-Birds with Micklash on the bench, the horn would sound to let the Huskies escape with a 4-3 victory in this one! Jessica Vance stopped 16 shots for her 11th win of the season while Micklash took the loss in a 22-save effort.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: A much more normal start time for this game was the highlight prior to the game even starting as the Huskies and Thunderbirds reconvened for the second-half of their weekend set. After a game where pretty goals and weird goals were the norm, would we see a more traditional goaltending duel between these two defensively-minded teams? Camryn Drever was sent out to defend the Huskies' net while Danielle Wierenga got her second Canada West start for UBC on this night!

After giving up the lead in the third period one night earlier, UBC came out with purpose on Saturday, peppering Drever with shots. The only problem? Drever was equal to the task through the opening frame. Nothing got by her, and it looked like we might head into the second period tied if not for a turnover deep in the UBC zone. Abby Shirley knocked the puck off Ireland Perrott's stick and threw a quick, backhanded centering pass out front where Kennedy Brown's backhander got into Wierenga's crease, and it would be Sophie Lalor who would eventually push the puck across the line at 16:33 to give Saskatchewan the 1-0 lead! That score would hold through to the break as UBC trailed despite outshooting the Huskies 15-7 in the frame!

In a rather uneventful second period where both teams flexed their defensive muscles, it would be a pass that changed the scoreboard. Jadeon Cooke's low shot that appeared to be a centering pass for one of either Hannah Clayton-Carroll or Mathea Fischer - both of whom went to the net - found the wickets on Drever as she tried to fend off the crashing Fischer into her crease, and Cooke's shot-pass ended up in the back of the net at 12:18 to tie the game at 1-1! Aside from that, it was a rather highlight-less second period as UBC outshot Saskatchewan 4-2 in the period, but had tied up the game heading into the final stanza!

Saskatchewan used another early goal to jump ahead on the scoreboard as Shyan Elias' shot from the left face-off dot that got through traffic and Wierenga, and seemed to surprise Elias that it went in just 1:02 into the period as the Huskies went up 2-1! Six minutes later, the Huskies showed some good puck movement as Leah Bohlken found Abby Shirley cutting through the high slot area, and Shirley ripped a high shot to the glove side that, again, found its way through all sorts of traffic in front of Wierenga to make it a 3-1 game in favour of Saskatchewan! From there, a parade to the sin bin began for the T-Birds, killing their push to come back in this game. With more than four minutes left in the game, head coach Graham Thomas opted to pull Wierenga, but offsetting minor penalties followed by a minor penalty to UBC ended their push early on this night. At the final horn, the Huskies claimed the 3-1 victory over the Thundrbirds! Camryn Drever picked up her fourth win of the campaign with 27 stops while Danielle Wierenga made 18 saves in the loss.

Highlights are below!

The nice thing about games between the Alberta-based teams are the home-and-home series as the Lethbridge Pronghorns travelled north to Calgary to kick off this home-and-home with the Mount Royal Cougars. Lethbridge was mired in an eight-game slide that saw them slide out of the playoff picture while Mount Royal had dropped four-straight games to find themselves in the sixth and final playoff spot. One of these losing streaks would end on Friday as these two teams looked to end the suffering! Alicia Anderson was in her spot in the Lethbridge crease while Zoe de Beauville took the net in the Mount Royal end.

Both teams looked for a spark early on as the game went up and down the ice, but the two netminders stood tall as the clock advanced. However, Lethbridge would break the goose eggs when Brooklyn Palmer broke into the MRU zone, circled away from her check back towards the line, and sent a long wrist shot in along the ice that fooled de Beauville with traffic in front at 9:34 to give the Pronghorns a 1-0 lead. 25 seconds later, it was 2-0 for the Pronghorns when Eryn Johansen made good on her second attempt after de Beauville stopped the first shot in the slot as the Pronghorns were off and running! The Cougars would push back in the second half of this period, but Anderson was good on all attempts as Lethbridge carried the 2-0 lead into the intermission despite being outshot 10-9 by Mount Royal.

The second period saw the goalies come to play once again as they stymied shots from all over the ice. With just over five minutes to play in the period, Nicolette Seper chipped a puck past Brooklyn Palmer to Breanne Trotter and beat Palmer down the ice to be open for pass back from Trotter on the 2-on-1, and Seper used Mattie Apperson as a screen as she fired a shot between Apperson's legs high to the glove side on Anderson who had slid too far at 14:04 to make it a 2-1 game! The final six minutes would tick off the clock, but the Cougars were within one goal at 2-1 despite being outshot 19-15 in the game!

Early in the third period, Tori Williams broke down the left side and circled the Lethbridge net looking for a centering pass. She spotted Trotter who wasn't tied up by Mattie Apperson, and Trotter's quick shot got under Anderson and into the back of the net at 1:43 to tie the game at 2-2! With 18 minutes left in regulation time, would we see a game-winning goal? That answer was yes, and it happened at the midway point of the third period as Lethbridge's Tallon Stephenson picked the pocket of Mount Royal's Daria O'Neill in front of de Beauville and went over the right pad with her shot at 10:39 to put the Pronghorns ahead 3-2! As I foreshadowed two sentences ago, there would be no more goals despite MRU having six attackers on the ice for 89 seconds as the Lethbridge Pronghorns snapped their losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Mount Royal Cougars! Alicia Anderson made 23 saves for her eighth win of the season while Zoe de Beauville also made 23 saves, but in a losing effort.

Highlights of this game are below!

We head south to Lethbridge to pick up the second half of this weekend series after Lethbridge snapped their losing streak and moved closer to a playoff spot. Mount Royal needed points to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot as they found themselves in the mix with both UBC and Lethbridge for the final two playoff spots. Beating Lethbridge on Saturday would be a huge boost for the Cougars, so let's see how this game went. Cassie Shokar was in net for the Cougars while Alicia Anderson got the nod for Lethbridge once again.

The Cougars must have had the "talk" on the way to Lethbridge from head coach Scott Rivett as they came out in this game like their lives were on the line. Despite their offensive flurry, they couldn't solve Anderson with any shots in the opening period. The other thing that marked this opening period were the repeated visits to the sin bin by both teams as Mount Royal was assessed four minor penalties while Lethbridge was handed three. There was a goal, however, as Kianna Dietz spotted Sage Sansregret out front late in the period, and Sansregret fired the puck home past Shokar at the 15:00 mark to put the Pronghorns up 1-0! The score would carry into the intermission with Mount Royal doubling up Lethbridge 10-5 in shots.

Just 33 seconds into the second period, we had a tie game as a long shot from Mackenzie Butz seemed innocent enough, but it eluded Anderson's glove and found the back of the net to make it 1-1! 7:41 later, the Pronghorns were back up by a goal when Eryn Johansen hit Eva Debaie with a pass in the slot on a partial 2-on-1, and Debaie's backhander found the twine behind Shokar to make it 2-1! We weren't done with the goals there, though, as Mount Royal came right back as Tianna Ko picked up a puck in the neutral zone, turned it up ice on the right wing, turned on the afterburners, and snapped a low shot past Anderson at 10:34 to tie the game at 2-2! Mount Royal's attack didn't let up through the period, but the goals would dry up through the final ten minutes of the frame as the game hit the second break at that 2-2 deadlock, but with Mount Royal leading 21-9 in shots.

The third period saw the two sides play a more even period as chances were seen at both ends, but the goalies stood tall through the first seven minutes. However, we'd see a lamp lit at 7:23 when Tianna Ko hit Breanne Trotter in the neutral zone with a pass, Trotter made a nice move around Kirana Stocker, and broke in alone on Anderson before using the head fake to the left before going right with the forehand and deking around the netminder for the goal, putting Mount Royal up 3-2! 1:54 later, Anna Purschke and Jayden Thorpe broke in on a 2-on-1, and Purschke opted to keep which was a good decision as she snapped a shot past Anderson on the blocker side, and Mount Royal had a 4-2 lead! That would end Anderson's night as Chloe Marshall skatd out in relief, but would that move spark the Pronghorns?

Mount Royal would find itself shorthanded with six-and-a-half minutes remaining, and the Pronghorns took advantage on the power-play. Kyra Grieg's shot off the left half-boards hit a player in front and ricocheted to Mila Verbicky who fired the puck past Shokar before she could reset, and the Pronghorns pulled within a goal at 4-3 at 13:50! The Pronghorns would pull Marshall late in the game for the extra attacker, but they'd find no other goals as the Mount Royal Cougars grabbed the 4-3 victory over the Lethbridge Pronghorns! Cassie Shokar picked up her fifth win with a 15-save performance while Alicia Anderson suffered the loss in making 24 stops in 49:17 of action. For the record, Chloe Marshall stopped all four shot she faced in the 10:43 of action she played.

Highlights of this game are below!

One of the hottest teams in Canada West in the Regina Cougars welcomed the Manitoba Bisons, who appear to be figuring this Canada West hockey thing out in the last ten games, to the Saskatchewan capital. Regina needed to keep pace with the Huskies and Dinos if they hoped to improve their playoff standing, so wins mattered. The Bisons needed wins to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot as they looked to leap past Lethbridge and hunt down UBC and Mount Royal. Amanda Schubert got the start for Manitoba while Jane Kish looked to continue her amazing play against the Bisons this season.

It didn't help Manitoba's cause early in this game when a turnover ended up in the back of the Bisons' net after Elise Endicott stripped a Manitoba defender of the puck behind the net, stepped out front, and backhanded it past Schubert at 2:33 for the 1-0 lead. 3:20 later, Regina found itself on the power-play when Paige Hubbard's shot from a sharp angle was stopped by Schubert, but the she couldn't squeeze the puck until the whistle and it popped out behind her into the net for the power-play goal and the 2-0 Regina lead! Manitoba stepped up its game after a fairly terrible opening five minutes, but Kish was good in her crease as the period would end with the two-goal Regina lead intact and the teams tied 7-7 in shots.

The second period saw the two teams with chances at both ends, but both netminders were equal to those tasks. Schubert, after a rough opening sequence in the first period, seemed to rebound well with a couple of big saves in the second period to keep her team in the game. Kish, at the other end, continued her stellar play as she denied the Bisons on a couple of great opportunities, and we'd head to the second break with Regina still leading 2-0, and ahead in shots by a 15-13 count.

The third period saw the even play between these two teams continue, but the defence on either end tightened up slightly as both sides looked to counter-attack with their transition games. As time ticked down, Schubert went to the bench for the extra attacker, but a turnover at the Manitoba blue line to Jaycee Magwood saw Magwood feed Endicott for her second goal of the game into the yawning cage with 3:00 to play, and the Regina Cougars secired their third-straight shutout of the Manitoba Bisons by a 3-0 score. Jane Kish earned her seventh shutout of the season - three against the Bisons in three games! - and 12th win of the campaign with her 18-save blanking of Manitoba while Amanda Schubert was assessed the loss after her 16-save performance.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: A loss today by the Bisons would virtually seal their fate in missing the playoffs, so this game was as close to a "must win" game as possible for the Herd. Regina, meanwhile, was looking to keep pace with the teams ahead of them, so they too were looking to add points to their standing. Erin Fargey was in net for the Bisons in this game while Jane Kish looked to shutout the Bisons in the season series between the two teams.

Manitoba didn't seem to have the jump one would expect in playing a must-win game, but it didn't seem to matter after they jumped ahead in this game. Jordyn Zacharias threw a pass across to Kate Gregoire on the right side, and then blew by Kaitlyn Crowe up the middle to turn the rush into a 2-on-1. Gregoire returned the puck to the streaking Zacharias, and she went high blocker-side to snap the shutout streak of Kish against the Bisons at 185:27 and, more importantly, put the Bisons up 1-0 in this game! Regina, after that goal, carried the play for the remainder of the frame, getting chances on Fargey only to be denied by the Manitoba goalie. Through one period, the 1-0 lead would hold for the Bisons, but the Cougars were well out in front in shots at 9-2.

Manitoba employed an non-recommended strategy to start the second period as they took three-straight minor penalties, and the third penalty would come back to haunt them. Jaycee Magwood loaded up the cannon from the blue line that Fargey would withstand, but the rebound bounced down in front where Shaelyn Vallotton whacked home the loose puck at 5:47 to tie the game at 1-1! Manitoba would regain their lead six minutes later when Kish got all turned around in her crease in trying to find a loose puck that ricocheted high off the glass behind her, and, after eight players converged around Kish to battle for the puck in what looked more like a rugby scrum, it would be Kate Gregoire who finally found the puck and buried it at 11:39 to put Manitoba up 2-1! Regina would push back over the last eight minutes of play in the second period, but the one-goal lead would hold for the Bisons despite being on the wrong side of a 21-8 shot total.

The third period saw Regina push for an equalizer, but Fargey wasn't having any of it in this frame. Chances were had, and chances were turned aside by the Bisons goaltender. It looked like Regina was going to opt for the extra attacker late, but a penalty would eliminate any advantage as Manitoba, despite being outshot heavily, survived this game with a 2-1 victory over the Regina Cougars! Erin Fargey was on her game as she stopped 29 shots for her fifth win of the season while Jane Kish suffered her first loss in 2020 on a ten-save night.

Highlights of this game are below!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
50 70 27
46 45 34
vs MAN
46 49 37
35 43 45
vs ALB
Mount Royal
32 36 38
vs CAL
British Columbia
30 36 51
vs LET
26 42 65
23 25 47
*teams in yellow have clinched a playoff spot

The Last Word

There are 12 points left on the board over the final four games of the season. While no team is mathematically-eliminated at this point, the playoff picture seems to be pretty clear for three teams who have clinched playoff spots - they're in. Who finishes where is still up for grabs, but there's definitely three teams in the clear at this point. That leaves five teams to determine where they finish, but we'll focus exclusively on the three teams battling for the final playoff spot.

Based on the schedules remaining, here are how each of those three teams will finish the season:
  • UBC - vs Lethbridge, vs Mount Royal.
  • Lethbridge - at UBC, home-and-home with Calgary.
  • Manitoba - at Saskatchewan, vs Alberta.
Based on what we know, Manitoba needs eight of 12 points based on tie-breaker rules, plus a lot of help, to overtake UBC. With UBC and Lethbridge playing one another this week, Manitoba needs Lethbridge to take four or five of the possible six points to even have a remote chance at playing for a playoff spot on the final weekend, so, as much as it pains me to say this, Manitoba likely will be mathematically-eliminated this weekend either through losses to Saskatchewan, wins by UBC, or a combination of the two.

Lethbridge, who trails UBC by four points, needs to win both games against the Thunderbirds this weekend to have a shot at the playoffs. A split makes it more difficult as Lethbridge would need Mount Royal to defeat UBC twice on the final weekend while winning both. Two points or less against the T-Birds this weekend will end the dream of the playoffs this year for Lethbridge.

UBC can eliminate both Lethbridge and Manitoba, and claim one of the Canada West playoff spots, with two regulation wins. Simple, straightforward, six points.

Next week, the playoff picture should become much clearer as we'll likely know the six teams who are in, who is not, and what those six teams need to do in the final weekend to slot into one of the six positions for the playoffs. We'll break everything down at that time for the playoff invitees, so make sure you check back in following the games this week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Less Is More

This image, from last year's NHL All-Star Game, shows the player tracking that the NHL was working on then. Move forward one year, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated to the world that player tracking will be used during the NHL playoffs this season with the hopes of improving the technology to the point where it could be used during reviews on plays and determining whether pucks crossed the goal line.

With regards to the title of this article, I appreciate the efforts the NHL is making to improve its statistical information, but there needs to be some separation of the technologies from the TV broadcasts and the online broadcasts. I get that the NHL is trying to make the game better for all, but let's let the TV broadcasts look like they always do without the player pointers and little stats bubbles that appear above players' heads while allowing those who are seeking a deeper statistical analysis to go online and wade through that flood of stats that are being generated.

Yes, it's cool to have the stats bubbles pop up and deliver all sorts of information relevant to the player, but it's also slightly distracting as it forced the viewer's eye away from the puck and player. Like VH1's Pop-Up Video, you spend less time watching the game and more time reading the pop-ups. If the action on the ice is the most important part of the viewing experience, why is the NHL taking eyes off that? Shouldn't the game, not the pop-ups, be the most important part in watching the game?

Do I think the technology is cool and could provide all sorts of great stats and overlays for broadcasters between plays when discussing the action on the ice? Absolutely. The options for broadcasters to use all sorts of the info becomes nearly infinite as stats and information are blended with creativity and analysis, and there is already seamless integration where computer screens for NHL Advanced Stats can be displayed on television broadcasts. Beyond that, as stated above, the networks can then start using the stats found on the NHL Advanced Stats site for their own overlays and screens, and that opens up all sorts of options.

As it stands, I liked the presentation of the stats this weekend in the trial run the NHL did with the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, but I also just want to watch the game. Let me go back and find the stats I want or need during or after the game without taking anything away from the actual competition on the ice with pop-up bubbles and player pointers.

I might be in the minority here, but less is more when watching hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 January 2020

Frustration From The Booth

I have to admit that I really enjoy calling women's hockey games at the U SPORTS/Canada West level. Often, Kyleigh, my esteemed play-by-play colleague, and I are wowed by the athleticism of the players at this level, and we hope there will one day be a place they can further showcase their talents. But that's not what I'm angry about today. Instead, I want to take aim directly at the authoritative body who hands down the rules and requirements for our broadcasts in the Canada West Conference.

I am fully aware that one shouldn't bite the hand that feeds one's self, but it seems that the rules and requirements we were handed at the start of the season have either been ignored or have been interpreted differently. If you catch the Canada West broadcasts on Canada West TV, you know that there's a sponsor this season - Co-Op - who requires a specific number of mentions per broadcast. That part seems to have been received and understood by the eight schools who play Canada West women's hockey, but it seems the other asks of the schools by Canada West aren't even being touched.

Well, all schools except Manitoba as Kyleigh and I do our best to fulfill those asks. It's one specific ask, though, that really has me bent out of shape as we sit with just five games left in the season.

One of the asks that Canada West made to the schools at their annual summer meeting was to start promoting the other schools in the conference in order to show impartiality. Basically, the conference was looking for schools to less "homer-ism" in the broadcasts by having the broadcasters speak about the opposition on each broadcast. It makes sense from an integrity point-of-view when considering the broadcasts, and it should, in theory and in my view, make the broadcasts better by having those calling games do a little research on the opposition.

Being that this ask was made, I went one step further by not only learning about the opposition - something I do anyway - but by featuring the other schools and players by showcasing some of the amazing things the schools and athletes are doing or have done during the pregame show and the intermissions.

We've learned so much about some of the incredible things the other schools are doing or have done such as sexual violence advocacy at the University of Calgary, mental health initiatives at UBC, and the addition of the new high-definition broadcast facility at the University of Regina. We've talked to and about athletes such as Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson, the first Canada West recruits for the Trinity West Spartans in Jade Ridgewell and Desiree Wiens, and the efforts of the Saskatchewan Huskies' Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser. We've run features about Canada West's role in the first-ever World Junior Championship gold medal won by Canada in 1982, all of the Canada West women graduates who are playing pro hockey in Sweden, and Jon Rempel's amazing pro hockey career that he never seems to mention and always downplays.

In short, we're doing as many stories about other schools as we can because Canada West asked us to be more impartial and promote the other schools in the conference. Honestly, it's not hard to do, and I feel we're doing a better broadcast for our fans who are tuning into watch.

If you think I'm going to eviscerate the other schools for not following Manitoba's lead, I'm not going to do that. Each school has their own set of rules of how they broadcast their women's hockey broadcasts, and the differences between how the schools do that varies greatly. While the effort to produce these segments that we're running on the Manitoba broadcasts is sometimes significant, I respect that not every school in the conference has the time nor the resources to do what we're doing at the level at which we produce these features.

Instead, my ire is directed at the very people who made the ask of us to promote the other schools in Canada West. I would have assumed they would be watching to ensure this ask of impartiality while promoting the schools across the conference, but it seems that has yet to happen based upon the lack of cross-promotion happening at the other schools on the Canada West TV broadcasts. I would have assumed, based on past actions, they would have fined schools who weren't following the asks made by Canada West, but that assumption is tied to the assumption that Canada West is watching the broadcasts with their logo on them. I would have assumed Canada West gave a damn, but, clearly, I was mistaken.

Look, I get that Canada West doesn't have an unlimited bank account with which they can pay staff to watch games in an effort to review what is presented on the broadcasts. They are working hard to oversee the athletic competitions for a vast number of sports in their portfolio, and women's hockey is just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to Canada West's online broadcast options. Between men's and women's competitions over the winter, there's basketball, volleyball, hockey, curling, and swimming to go along with out-of-season competitions for sports like rugby, wrestling, and track-and-field. Again, the schedule is busy, and I realize that one school's broadcast for one sport is a drop in the ocean for an organization like Canada West.

However, we're not just talking about one school here. At this point, we're talking about seven schools for one sport's entire schedule where not one of those seven schools has ventured outside the four corners of one's own campus to talk about the others. One school has, and it seems to have gone unnoticed despite it being something that Canada West desired to see this season.

I'm not asking for Manitoba to be put on a pedestal for what we're doing. We believe that our broadcasts, for a handful of people who have zero total professional broadcasting experience combined, are among the best in the nation based on our hard work off the ice to be informed and up-to-date about news and events happening across western Canada campuses. We feel these features containing information about other schools - information that was asked for by Canada West, I stress again - are interesting, compelling, and entertaining for those who watch the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey broadcasts.

Of course, maybe I'm completely wrong, and Canada West just rolls its eyes when we hit the intermissions, knowing there's another one of those "ridiculous" intermission features coming up. The only thing I want to point out, though, is that we're doing exactly what Canada West asked its schools to do on the Canada West TV broadcasts, and it seems no one else is.

I've never been one to seek recognition for what we do because, in my view, we do this for the student-athletes on the ice. The ladies who play Canada West women's hockey are some of the greatest minds and athletes this country has to offer, and we're happy to be able to talk about their academic and athletic achievements and the efforts being made by their schools to help their students and student-athletes become the best people they can be. Like the features on Hockey Night in Canada, it's about bringing awareness and recognition to those people and places we cover in our features.

Like any teacher who assigns homework, the ask made by Canada West to promote other schools and those schools' athletes on the Canada West TV sports broadcasts should have been done each and every week. Maybe our doing this work this season where others didn't will be the example Canada West can use going forward if they want to pursue this idea of cross-promotion among the schools for impartiality reasons. Maybe they won't and, looking back, this will all be for naught in the big picture. Whatever the case may be, I've taken pride in the effort we - Kyleigh, Bryan, Neil, John, and myself - put forth as a team this season when it comes to producing these features, and I hope the University of Manitoba and Bisons Sports is proud of the work we're doing.

I don't ask for much and I certainly never ask for credit when it comes to the work I do. However, to go unnoticed, unwatched, and unappreciated all season long after the efforts we made to not only fulfill the ask made by Canada West, but to go above and beyond in that fulfillment, leaves me disappointed in watching the broadcasts from the other schools after knowing what was asked of them this past summer. Again, I'm not here to throw them under the bus because it's up to those schools to mandate their broadcast teams to follow through on Canada West's requests.

I'm just frustrated that we put so much effort into our features about the other schools in the conference, and the governing body who made the request hasn't even taken a few minutes of their time to review our work. I'm hopeful the viewers watching our broadcasts appreciate the features we've done. It would just be nice to know the people who demanded that work be done appreciated it as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 383

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back in the studio tonight and on the normal channels you receive us to discuss some hockey-related news and stories. In other words, it's Thursday! There are a number of news-worthy pieces and interesting tidbits of stories we'll work through tonight on The Hockey Show as we throw our opinions out for debate on the topics discussed. It's a busy show tonight, so settle in at 5:30pm CT and get ready for some hockey chatter!

Tonight, I am joined by Jason Pchajek, editor of the sports section at The Manitoban, as we have a frank discussion about the Winnipeg Jets falling off the map in all advanced statistical analyses and in the standings. We'll also tear into Bakersfield's Brandon Manning and his poor choice of words towards an opponent, the five-game suspension he received for using a racial slur towards an opponent, and why his conduct likely warrants more than just five games of sitting at home. We'll chat about the Bisons hockey teams as the women are still mathematically alive despite Jason's advanced metrics on the team while the men may have missed a glorious opportunity against UBC last weekend. And we'll wrap things up in the second-half of the show with a discussion about one of the biggest tournaments in Canada for 16-18 year-old women as the 2020 Female World Sport School Challenge goes down next week at BellMTS IcePlex. All of this and perhaps more will be featured on the show tonight, so make sure you tune in on 101.5 FM or at 5:30pm CT!

Where's the best place can you hear us if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason discuss terrible hockey, terrible things to say, a terrible February with no playoffs at the University of Manitoba, one of the best tournaments held annually in our rather amazing city, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: January 23, 2020: Episode 383
RESOURCES: Female World Sport School Challenge

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards

I don't normally write about advertising in rinks on the boards unless there's something crazy happening with them, but I was reading Elliotte Friedman's 31 Thoughts on today, and Thought #23 caught my attention as Elliotte wrote about "Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards". I recall these from the World Cup of Hockey and didn't really give it much thought back in 2016 mainly because the World Cup of Hockey didn't really register on my radar, but the use of these digital ads on the boards at the NHL All-Star Game this weekend had me wanting more information about them.

According to the digging I did, this technology was created by a London, England-based company called Supponor. Supponor has used their augmented reality technology with a vast number of businesses all over the world with the NHL being a major client in North America. Seeing it live at the World Cup of Hockey was a different experience as the normal board ads would suddenly change from static ads for many companies to one ad that was digitally-superimposed over the static ads.

Here's a quick promotional video from Supponor explaining the technology of their digital advertising.
Kinda cool, right? It seems they already have the soccer world locked down with their technology - they are an English company, after all - and it looks like the NHL could be the next major professional league who brings this technology into their rinks and on to our TVs at home.

Supponor and the NHL went through a two-year process to get the technology in place and ready for prime time action in hockey rinks in 2016 at the World Cup of Hockey, but there were still complaints from fans as some complained they looked "glitchy". As with any new technology, there are likely to be some hiccups. It seems that the NHL and Supponor are ready to roll out a new, upgraded version of the technology in St. Louis this weekend.

You might be asking how this technology works. According to this article from The Globe and Mail, there is an infrared film that is installed over the boards and the static ads currently in place, and there is a sensor that is attached to television cameras around the rink that pick up the infrared film that is invisible to the naked eye. With the device on the camera and the film on the boards, a team behind the scenes can roll out all sorts of specific advertising based on location, time, and other potential demographics using this infrared technology.

Why did it take two years to put together something that seems to work so well in soccer stadiums across the globe? The film being used by the NHL had to be tested to ensure it could withstand the rigors of the game in terms of play along the boards along with ensuring that the ad images remained clean and sharp and didn't blend with the image of the game play. As we know, NHL players generally have solid scrums when they're along the boards, so making this film strong enough to withstand the abuse it may take had to be a priority.

The end result was that the NHL wasn't sold on the idea of the infrared film from a cost standpoint, but was willing to keep Supponor in the loop if a better solution could be found. This weekend, we'll see that new technology as Supponor will use infrared strips in the dasherboards that work with the same camera technology that will allow the digital advertising to be injected into the game. The changes have also seen the costs reduced for the technology as, according to Keith Wachtel, chief business officer of the NHL, "costs have been cut by 30% since the league first tested the technology at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Canada".

"It works flawlessly," Wachtel added in his discussion with, "but there are still some technological things we need to work through and perfect. Because our boards are rounded and also the camera is shooting through glass, we have challenges the other sports don't have. But we are confident that isn't going to be an issue or a problem. It's really more about showcasing, evaluating, and refining."

It seems the NHL and Supponor are going to be business partners for the foreseeable future if the technology and its far-reaching capabilities work as intended. Supponor has the ability to broadcast different ads to different audiences using the same video feed off the cameras, making this venture highly-customizable for advertisers who want to use different branding in different markets.

"We can't monetize anything of significance with our partners in other markets when we have an event in one market," Wachtel explained. "This game is a good example. Our US partners will be able to take advantage of very valuable camera-visible signage with our dasherboards. But, across Canada this weekend, we will have 4 million viewers, which is significant, and yet the likes of Scotiabank or Tim Hortons coffee and our Canadian-only partners are not able to take advantage of it. More important, we can't monetize it. One of the original thoughts is, wouldn't it be great if there was technology that could allow us to do that?"

By continuing to offer the static board ads inside the rink, the revenue generated by those ad sales would still benefit the team while the NHL would use its national broadcasts to sell the "Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards" to a number of national and international sponsors who want the isolation of having their logo and message as the only branding television viewers would see. There would be an increased cost for this, of course, but this opens up yet another avenue of revenue for the NHL that never existed before. Virtual static ads could still be used on the glass behind each net if the NHL chooses, but the "Digitally Enhanced Dasherboards" offer up a whole new opportunity for virtual advertising.

"The most interesting thing from a sponsor standpoint, and something that is immediately very popular, is the visually enhanced action boards — what we euphemistically call 'erase and replace' technology — which we haven't used in our game before," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told "We have virtual ads that we've used on the boards before, but we've never replaced dasher boards, and we found that by creating the digital dasher boards you can actually create a cleaner look, a more distinct and unique look for a single advertiser, which has been very attractive to our corporate sponsors."

As a bit of a traditionalist about hockey, I feel that throwing virtual ads over static ads really doesn't take anything away from the integrity of the game, and the fact that we're seeing this technology become cheaper and more prevalent in other sports only means that we're not far from seeing it full-time in the NHL. And according to Watchel, if the NHL "can figure out the right business model, it could be deployed in the '21-22 or '22-23 season".

new technology is always fun to see, and I'm interested in seeing how far the NHL is willing to go with their technological advances when it comes to driving revenue. We already know they make a ton of money, but maybe they can shave off a portion of this new revenue source to possibly start a women's professional league? They would surely use the same technology there, so this revenue stream as the seed money for an investment where they can generate more revenue through advertising is the old "gotta spend money to make money" adage.

This is precisely what I believe technology should be used for: making the world better. Some will argue that it only makes the hockey world - specifically, the NHL's world - better, but if the end result is increased revenue leading to a professional women's league that pays livable wages while taking nothing away from what the NHL currently does? I'd say we're all a little better off because of it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Outstanding Evening

Take a look at that gang to the left. That's not a group I'd mess with if I were out on the ice. You're likely to end up with broken ankles with all the dekes, jukes, and dangles that would hit you. In saying that, however, I was lucky enough to see these amazing women - Rachel Dyck, Alana Serhan, Venla Hovi, Amanda Schubert, and Maggie Litchfield-Medd, from left to right - at the 2020 Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fundraising Reception last night where I emceed the event. Now you might be asking why the hockey programs at the University of Manitoba need a fundraiser for scholarship monies, and it's because the men and women from the UofM do some amazing work in the classroom and community and should be rewarded for that work.

We have to remember that these athletes are student-athletes with the most important word coming first in that phrase: student-athlete. Watching these great players do their thing on the ice, we may forget the fact that these athletes are, indeed, students first and athletes second at the University of Manitoba, and this is why the Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fund is so important. Without the education component, the hockey wouldn't be an option at university.

In saying that, I want to point out the amazing work being done by all our athletes, both past and present, while in the classroom. We know what they're doing on the ice as we can check the stats and see the boxscores, but it's in the classroom where I believe that these men and women are truly excelling.

Last year, 129 students were awarded Academic All-Canadian status by U SPORTS for maintaining a 3.5 grade-point average – that's an 80% average to the layperson like me. That represents the most Academic All-Canadians at the University of Manitoba ever in one season of athletic competition. It's also the third-straight year where a new record has been set in terms of the number of Academic All-Canadians at the university, and it's the ninth-straight year of competition where the University of Manitoba has featured 85 or more Academic All-Canadians. Of those 129 athletes who achieved the Academic All-Canadian status, it should also be noted that 62 also had GPAs of 4.0 or higher, and 74 of the 129 Academic All-Canadians were women!

If we break this down a little more granular, 21 hockey players achieved Academic All-Canadian status last year, and three Bisons women's hockey players were recognized as an Academic All-Canadian in all five years of their university careers: Alexandra Anderson, Erin Kucheravy, and Alanna Sharman. That take some serious dedication to the work they're doing in the classroom when you consider that all three played five years of hockey that saw them win a U SPORTS National Championship and attend two separate National Championship tournaments. With all of the travel done in Canada West, a lot of the homework and studying these women did was on the road, and they still maintained a minimum 3.5 GPA for all five years! That is OUTSTANDING!

With the hard work being done in the classroom, on the road, in practice, and in games, the Bisons have little time for anything else, right? Well, that answer is "no" when one considers that they're heavily involved in community initiatives as well. In fact, the Bisons hockey programs requires players to be good leaders in the classroom, on the ice, and in the community! The Bisons are certainly doing some impressive stuff in the community as well, showing excellent leadership both for younger fans and their colleagues at the University of Manitoba. These initiatives include:
  • Bisons Book Buddies where Bisons go out to elementary schools and read with students.
  • Bisons Against Bullying where Bisons conduct anti-bullying workshops for students in Grades 4-6 around the city.
  • Siloam Mission days where Bisons volunteer at Siloam Mission to help the most vulnerable people in our communities.
  • One Minute Movement where the Bisons devote one minute to helping someone else for every hour they spend on themselves – whether it be studying, practicing, or hitting the gym – in order to change at least one life; and,
  • Bell Let's Talk where Bisons show their support for mental health initiatives across Canada while pledging support to specific causes on their own.
Now, you might be wondering how these men and women are able to participate in these amazing initiatives, maintain their GPAs in order to play hockey, and play said hockey while representing the university while trying to earn enough dollars and cents to pay for the ever-increasing costs of tuition. Personally, I know it's not easy for these students with all of these responsibilities placed upon them, and that’s where the Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fund comes in because the Bisons Hockey programs feel that our student-athletes, in showing their commitments to their teams, their academic careers, and their community, should be able to earn a bit of a tuition break after working hard in the classroom, making us proud on the ice, and making a difference in our community.

I can hear some of you saying that it's not your job to help put these kids through school. I get that - university tuition is expensive and we all have bills to pay and expenses to cover. Because the Scholarship Fund is a registered charity, though, you will get a credit for it that you can put towards your tax breaks for this year (or any future year)! Maybe you need a little help avoiding the taxman or want to top up your donation levels to keep CRA from grabbing any of those funds, you can get a tax receipt for your donation to the Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fund!

In the end, your money goes to a great cause if you happen to donate, you get a break on your taxes, and a hockey player at the University of Manitoba can continue to earn great grades, bring home big wins, and continue to make out communities better without having to worry about squeezing a few extra minutes out of a part-time job. If nothing else, just take the selfish reason and help yourself with the tax option alone!

To donate to the Bisons Women's Hockey Scholarship Fund, please click here. To donate to the Bisons Men's Hockey Scholarship Fund, please click here. If you have any questions about the Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fund, please email the University of Manitoba here.

To those who attended the 2020 Bisons Hockey Scholarship Fundraising Reception last night, the Bisons Hockey programs are eternally grateful for your support. To those who have given in the past, I can say, on behalf of Bisons Sports, that your support then and now is also greatly appreciated. And for those looking to give to beat the taxman and/or because of your belief in the Bisons Hockey programs, Bisons Hockey appreciates your generosity and your continued support.

A great night was had by all last night, and here's hoping the Bisons Hockey programs raised a ton of money to help their amazing student-athletes get ahead in the classroom, on the ice, and out in the community!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 January 2020

Nault A Regular Day

Today is not just another Monday in the United States. It's Martin Luther King Day in the country that is Canada's closest neighbour, and that means that there are a number of people off work and a pile of kids who don't have to be in school. What do minor-league hockey teams do on days like these? They schedule afternoon games, and there were a pile of people on-hand to witness the track meet that the Atlanta Gladiators and Greenville Swamp Rabbits held today in the ECHL. So why is HBIC looking at this game? Well, one former Manitoba Bisons men's hockey player played a major role in helping one team earn a victory today!

Kamerin Nault is a former Winnipeg Blues player in the MJHL where he made a name for himself as a scoring threat every time he came over the boards. That reputation earned him a spot on the roster of the Manitoba Bisons where played two-plus seasons as one of the more dynamic players that the Bisons roster featured. He signed a pro contract with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in 2018-19 where the rookie was a scoring sensation, potting 12 goals and adding nine helpers in 20 ECHL games. The Manitoba Moose called him up late in the AHL season in '18-19 where he scored a goal and an assist in his only appearance, and he was invited back for Moose training camp this season.

After being released by the Moose following a very competitive training camp, Nault signed with the Swap Rabbits again where he has nine goals and nine assists in 20 games thus far this season. However, today's game was the last game before the ECHL All-Star break, and Nault made sure he gave everyone something to talk about prior to the action at the All-Star Game.

Nault scored the second goal of the game at 8:36 of the first period to tie the game at 2-2. He added an assist on Michael Pelech's goal at 7:24 of the second period to put Greenville up 5-3. Atlanta would rally to tie the game in the third period at 6-6, sending the game to overtime where Kamerin Nault showed off his great scoring touch!
Nault drifted into the middle of the slot as the trailing player on the 3-on-2, and he wired the puck high glove-side on Atlanta's Chris Nell in a highlight that has to be one of the more memorable goals of Nault's pro career! That shot is a laser, and I suspect most goalies would have little chance in stopping that shot. Simply awesome by the former Bisons forward!

I'm always proud when I see former Bisons playing at a high level and succeeding in pro hockey, and Kamerin Nault's success at the ECHL and AHL levels is proof that Canadian university hockey players have the talent to play professional hockey. Maybe more teams will begin looking north for professional-ready hockey players?

Congratulations to Kamerin Nault for his big goal, and here's hoping that this continued success lasts for decades to come!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Rundown - Week 12

This weekend is where some of the fuzziness surrounding the playoff picture begins to clear. It's pretty clear that Calgary and Alberta are going to make the playoffs based on their current point totals, and the Saskatchewan Huskies are nearly in the clear as well. Mount Royal and Regina will likely see one of them host a playoff game while UBC is hanging onto sixth-place following their scoring struggles. Lethbridge's free-fall through standings has them looking up at the Thunderbirds, and Manitoba is going to need a win streak and some help to claim a spot. What happened this week? Let's find out on The Rundown!

We'll start in Saskatoon where the Dinos went east to tangle with the Huskies. This weekend series had all sorts of intrigue as Saskatchewan, with two regulation wins, could put some serious pressure on the Dinos with just three weeks of games left. The Dinos, meanwhile, needed to hold off the Huskies while keeping pace with the Alberta Pandas. Kelsey Roberts was in the net for Calgary while Jessica Vance took to the crease for the Huskies.

There were highlights over the three periods, but they were all from the netminders as Kelsey Roberts and Jessica Vance went save-for-save through the entire length of regulation time. Elizabeth Lang came close to solving Vance in the first period, but found only post with her shot. With chances at both ends being thwarted by the netminders, this game would need extra time to find a winner after Calgary outshot Saskatchewan 22-16 over the three periods of 0-0 hockey.

A very one-sided four-on-four overtime period saw Saskatchewan outshoot Calgary 3-0, but find no twine with the puck. The three-on-three overtime period was wide-open as Vance denied a 2-on-1 with a glorious save while Bailee Bourassa couldn't hit the net with a couple of shots late. The second overtime period wouldn't produce a winner, so we were off to a shootout after Saskatchewan was all over Calgary again with a 7-1 margin in shots in the second five-minute frame.

The first three rounds of the skills competition produced no goals, and it felt like this game may go late into the night with how the netminders were playing. However, Leah Bohlken's wrist shot found just enough room to trickle through and past Roberts into the net to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead in the shootout in the fourth round! Dana Wood had to score for Calgary, but Jessica Vance stood tall in denying Wood as the Huskies downed the Dinos 1-0 via the shootout! Jessica Vance picked up her fourth shutout and ninth win of the season by denying all 23 shots plus four more attempts in the shootout while Kelsey Roberts also picked up a shutout, but suffered the loss after surrendering the lone goal in the shootout.

I'm not sure why the Huskies wouldn't have video of this game as it sounded like a heckuva goaltending clinic, but there is no video to be found of this game. Get it together, Huskies!

SATURDAY: After the Dinos and Huskies went 70 minutes plus a skills competition just to see one goal scored over the course of the night before, you had to figure Saturday's game would feature a couple of goal celebrations at least. The Dinos did pick up a point on Friday, but they were looking to go home with the majority of points after this game. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, had a chance to get within striking distance of the Dinos with a regulation win. Just as they did the night before, the Dinos sent out Kelsey Roberts to defend their net while the Huskies answered with Jessica Vance.

We would see a goal much earlier tonight as these teams battled through the first period. It seemed like we were headed for zero goals in 90 minutes of play, but a late shot by Kara Kondrat made it into Roberts who couldn't cover it cleanly, and Kennedy Brown pushed it across the line for a goal at 18:38 to make it 1-0 for the Huskies! It was quite fitting that the Huskies finally scored after dominating most of the period's possession time, and that was reflected at the horn with the 1-0 lead and an 8-2 advantage in shots.

The second period was played more evenly as both teams looked for more goals, but Roberts and Vance were en fuego this weekend when it came to making saves. Both netminders were having none of the offensive outburst, and the 1-0 lead for the Huskies held after Calgary outshot Saskatchewan 9-7 in the middle frame.

The third period saw the Dinos take an early penalty that slowed them down on their comeback, but they killed the Saskatchewan power-play and went back to work. It felt as though the momentum was building for Calgary as we reached the final five minutes of the game, but a bodychecking penalty combined with a bench minor penalty for the protest put the Dinos in some serious trouble. Once again, though, Kelsey Roberts and the Dinos penalty-killers came up clutch to give themselves two-and-a-half minutes of time in which to find the equalizer. It seemed strange, however, that Calgary didn't pull Roberts for the extra attacker down a goal and needing points in the standings, but the final horn would sound with Roberts still in the net and Saskatchewan celebrating their 1-0 victory! Jessica Vance picked up her fifth shutout and tenth win of the season with a 17-save blanking of the Dinos while Kelsey Roberts suffered the loss despite being good on 23 of 24 shot attempts.

Once again, there's zero video evidence of any of this going down for me to embed here as the Huskies seemingly forgot there were hockey games this weekend. That's somewhat tragic as well when one considers that Vance moved into sole position of second-place in the Canada West record books with the 20th career shutout on this night! Congratulations to Jessica Vance on that amazing accomplishment!

Alberta enters the weekend on a nine-game winning streak, and looking every bit like the most dominant team in Canada West. Lethbridge returned home after dropping six-straight games, and they needed to find the win column again if they hoped to make the playoffs this season. That task wasn't going to be easy against the Pandas. Halle Oswald got the nod for the Pandas while Alicia Anderson was tasked with stopping the Pandas.

I don't like celebrating blowouts, so let's just say that Danielle Hardy scored at 12:05 and Kelsey Tangjerd added a second goal at 16:55 of the first period to put Alberta up 2-0 after 20 minutes as they doubled up the Pronghorns in shots by a 10-5 count.

A 2-0 lead isn't so bad, but the wheels came off for Lethbridge before the second period was five minutes old. Kennedy Ganser scored on the power-play at the 3:00 mark, and then she added a second power-play goal just 1:50 later as Alberta was off and running with a 4-0 lead. Tallon Stephenson would cut into that lead at 6:49 with her goal to make it 4-1, but Alberta would tack on a Payton Laumbach goal at 12:07 followed by a Madison Willan goal at 13:59 as Alberta took a 6-1 lead into the third period after outshooting the Pronghorns 16-7 in the second period.

Lethbridge would send Chloe Marshall to the net for the final frame, but it seems that Alberta was content with the damage they had already done as they were outshot by Lethbridge 9-7 in the third period. The only problem was that there were no additional goals for the Pronghorns as Alberta skated to the 6-1 victory over Lethbridge. Halle Oswald stopped 25 shots for her eighth win of the campaign while Alicia Anderson suffered the loss after stopping 15 of 21 shots she faced. For the record, Chloe Marshall stopped all seven shots she faced in her 20 minutes of work.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: After a bit of a butt-kicking the night before, the Pronghorns were looking to show a little pride going into Saturday's game against the Pandas. I expected the Pronghorns to come out and set the pace on this day while limiting Alberta's chances. Alberta had to be expecting a better push from the Pronghorns as well, so I also expected the Pandas to up their games in the back-half of this weekend set. Kirsten Chamberlin was in the Alberta net for this one while Alicia Anderson was between the pipes for Lethbridge.

The first period saw the Pronghorns far more mindful of their defensive zone, but they seemed to sacrifice their offensive output to make up that difference. Alberta certainly carried the play for the majority of the period, but they were unable to solve Anderson with the Lethbridge defence doing their best to clear pucks and second chances away from the net. After one period of play, the score remained 0-0, but Alberta held a significant edge in shots at 7-1.

The second period saw Lethbridge open it up a bit which, in turn, also allowed Alberta to open it up a bit as they found more room to skate and make plays. A penalty to Lethbridge five minutes into the middle frame gave Alberta they break they needed as Taylor Anker's shot from the left side was stopped by Anderson as was the follow-up shot by Kennedy Ganser on the doorstep, but the rebound came out into the slot area where Autumn MacDougall got her stick on the puck before a Lethbridge defender could, sending the puck into the cage to put Alberta up 1-0 at 6:47! Both teams would continue to trade chances as the period progressed, but it was Alberta who would strike once more while shorthanded when, after what looked like a clear bodychecking penalty call against Alberta that went uncalled, Abby Benning streaked down the right-wing, cut to the net at the dot, and found the seam through the five-hole on Anderson at 12:22 to make it 2-0 for Alberta! The remainder of the period allowed Lethbridge head coach Doug Paisley time to cool off as the Pronghorns held the Pandas at bay through to the horn. 40 minutes were in the books with Alberta leading 2-0 and up 19-10 in shots.

The third period saw Alberta tricken with penalties in the first half-half of the frame only to find themselves with two opportunities on double-minor penalties in the latter half of the period. The difference, however, was both Chamberlin and Anderson as the goaltenders continued to play well in this period, denying all shots sent their ways. In the end, the horn would sound without any further goals as the Alberta Pandas downed the Lethbridge Pronghorns by a 2-0 score! Kirsten Chamberlin was solid in earning her fifth shutout and eighth win of the season by stopping all 17 shots she faced while Alicia Anderson suffered the loss despite making 34 stops on the night.

I'll also put an asterisk on this game because there are a couple of comments in The Last Word about this game as a trend that's being seen in a few rinks across Canada West.

Highlights of this game are below!

Regina hosted a little Cougar-on-Cougar action this weekend as the Mount Royal Cougars travelled east to meet the Regina Cougars in what looked like a battle for fourth-place in Canada West! The Regina Cougars have been on some kind of tear through western Canada recently, winning four in a row to set up this weekend's tilt with Mount Royal. The Calgary-based Cougars took a few lumps from Alberta one week earlier, and they needed to hold off the surging Regina-based Cougars to retain their hold on fourth-place. It was a big weekend for both teams as Cassie Shokar got the start for MRU while Jane Kish was in net for Regina.

The first period went up and down the ice with chances at both ends. The green Cougars had a couple of prime scoring opportunities, but Shokar handled those shots well. At the other end, Kish looked as calm as she has over the last couple of weeks in helping the green Cougars through those four wins. However, at the end of 20 minutes, we still had a 0-0 draw despite Regina leading the way in shots at 8-4.

The second period started quickly as Jaycee Magwood picked up a loose puck along the right half-boards in the MRU zone, skated to the top or the right circle, and unleashed a laser beam of a wrist shot high glove-side on Shokar that dented twine as Regina went up 1-0 just 1:05 into the frame! The defence would tighten up after that as shots came at a premium, but there were chances turned aside by both netminders. However, a mid-period push by Regina saw Martin Maskova center a puck for Ireland South-Sorestad from the side of the net, but Shokar made a huge save on South-Sorestad! The only problem? The puck was lying in front of the crease and Maskova, while being tackled to the ice, swept it into the net at 11:26 to put Regina up 2-0! The stingy defence would continue after that goal as Regina outshot MRU 5-3 in the period, but took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.

The third period saw Regina put forth all sorts of shot attempts, but it would be Mount Royal who cracked the shells of the Cougars' egg. Emma Bergesen and Tatum Amy broke into the Regina zone two-on-two after Bergesen emerged from the penalty box, and Amy went for the net as Bergesen's shot bounced off a defender's shin pad. In the confusion of finding the puck, it was Bergesen who spotted it fluttering in the slot, and her second attempt found the back of the net past Kish who had all sorts of traffic in front at 7:58 to make it a 2-1 game! With 12:02 left, this game got a lot more interesting!

However, the Regina Cougars showed all sorts of resolve as they took over in both the offensive and defensive zones, limiting shots on net while driving possession as they looked for an insurance marker. By the time the final horn went, time had run out on a comeback as the Regina Cougars earned a 2-1 victory over the Mount Royal Cougars! Jane Kish made just nine saves in earning her tenth win of the season while Cassie Shokar stopped 22 shots in the loss.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: Things got a little tighter in the race for fourth-place with Regina's win on Friday, and they looked to push the win streak to six games with another victory on Saturday. Mount Royal was simply looking for a win of any kind - regulation or extra time - to prevent Regina from passing them in the standings. Kaitlyn Ross was in the crease for Mount Royal while Jane Kish was back in the net for Regina!

Mount Royal came out with much better pace in this game as they drive the offence early through a strong forecheck and good speed. Jane Kish, however, was having none of it in her net, denying Mount Royal on their first-period chances. It would be in the latter half of the period where we'd see our first goal. Off an offensive-zone face-off win while on the power-play, Hannah Pennell's shot from the point was deflected down by Melissa Zerr in front of the net and through Ross' five-hole as the Regina Cougars grabbed the 1-0 lead at 13:46! Kish and Ross would close out the period with just the one goal between them as Regina went into the intermission up 1-0, but Mount Royal had outshot the home side by a 9-5 count.

The second period saw the Regina Cougars ratchet up the defence as they limited shots and chances on Kish, but they didn't throw any additional offensive chances on the board. Had it not been for a late power-play, Regina may have carried the one-goal lead into the third period. However, that power-play was for Regina, and they'd cash in once more using the same template as they did in the first period. Kaitlyn Crowe's point shot was tipped past Ross by Shaelyn Vallotton at 13:54 for the power-play goal and the 2-0 Regina lead! at the conclusion of the middle frsme, Regina held the two-goal lead with Mount Royal up 12-10 in shots.

The third period was more of the same type of play as the second period as Regina continued to be defensively-responsible. Kish continued her strong play as well with shots being absorbed by her so there were no rebounds while being sound fundamentally in the crease. As they did one night earlier, Mount Royal pressed for a goal, but a late penalty while Ross was on the bench for the extra attacker killed any momentum that was building for MRU. They'd pull Ross once more with 58 seconds remaining, but they couldn't find the back of the net on this day as Regina closed out a 2-0 win over Mount Royal! Jane Kish recorded her sixth shutout and eleventh win of the season by stopping all 16 shots she faced while Kaitlyn Ross suffered the loss after making 14 stops on this day.

Highlights are below!

The teams who have struggled to score for long lengths of time this season met in Winnipeg as the UBC Thunderbirds, currently mired in a scoreless drought of 145:16 after going more than 300 minutes without a goal, met the Manitoba Bisons who had previously gone 333:02 without a goal this season. It was anyone's guess as to whether we'd see any goals or a pile of goals based on how these two teams had played this season, but UBC's eight-game losing streak was in need of being snapped if the T-Birds were to hold onto the final playoff spot while Manitoba looked to build on their win over Calgary last Saturday as they looked to get back into the playoff picture. Tory Micklash was in the UBC crease for this game while Erin Fargey got the start for Manitoba.

Despite expecting the Bisons to come out fired up on home ice after their win over the sixth-ranked Dinos last week, Manitoba instead looked slow and plodding in the first period as UBC controlled the play for the majority of the opening period. Had it not been for a few key plays, there's a good chance the entire period may have been played in Manitoba's end. The good news is that Fargey looked calm and cool in her net, and the Manitoba defence did a good job to clear second chances away before they became any more dangerous. Through 20 minutes, the 0-0 tie remained intact despite UBC outshooting Manitoba by a 12-2 count.

The Bisons continued to employ this all-defensive style of play in the second period, barely testing Micklash in the UBC for the second-straight period despite having the only power-play opportunity of the frame. UBC continued to put pucks on Fargey as they looked for chances and rebounds, but the Manitoba netminder was good in absorbing and smothering pucks in the middle frame. Through two periods, the 0-0 draw held strong after UBC outshot Manitoba 12-4 in this stanza.

The third period saw things get a little more even as the Bisons seemingly picked up their game, but Micklash was just as good as Fargey in this frame as the two teams continued to play stalemate. Despite a much closer shot total in this period, the horn at the end of 60 minutes would sound without a lamp being lit, so we would need extra time to solve this game after UBC held an 8-6 advantage in shots in the third period.

The four-on-four overtime saw chances at both ends of the ice as the five-minute period counted down, but it would be a giveaway in the UBC zone off an errant pass that saw the puck land on Jordy Zacharias' stick, and she simply outwaited Micklash as she brought the puck across the crease until Micklash went down, and Zacharias buried the puck high inside the right post to give Manitoba the 1-0 overtime victory! Erin Fargey was outstanding in the Manitoba net as she made 35 saves for her second shutout and fourth win of the season while Tory Micklash likely deserved a better fate after making 13 of 14 stops.

Manitoba's highlight crew seems to have taken Friday night off as there are no highlights available for this game. Don't let this be a habit, Manitoba - we want our highlights!

SATURDAY: After likely feeling like they played well enough to win, but dropping their ninth-straight game, the Thunderbirds had to be stinging following the game on Friday where their goalless drought increased to 209:37. Manitoba, who escaped with their second-straight win, absolutely needed to play a much better game than they did one night earlier, so Saturday's game should feature more goals, right? UBC opted to start Danielle Wierenga in her first Canada West start of her career while Erin Fargey was back in the net for Manitoba for this game.

Again, I'm not sure what's happening in the Manitoba room nor on the bench, but UBC came out like gangbusters and absolutely dominated the Bisons in the first period as the Bisons looked overwhelmed and outmatched in the opening frame. Just 2:07 into the period, UBC snapped their scoreless drought as Ireland Perrott finally solved an opposing goaltender for UBC to end the streak at 211:44! 58 seconds later, the floodgates were open as Jadeon Cooke snapped a shot past Fargey to make it 2-0! UBC wasn't done there as a goalmouth scramble saw Mathea Fischer push the puck across the goal line at 9:11 to make it 3-0! And with UBC on the power-play, Hannah Koroll sniped a gorgeous goal as she went high glove-side on a screened Fargey as Koroll's shot avoided all the traffic to find the twine at 12:56 for a 4-0 lead as the T-Birds went from famine to feast in a hurry in this game! Manitoba had a handful of shots, but Wierenga was good on all pucks she faced as UBC went into the first break up 4-0 and leading 18-7 in shots.

Manitoba opted to have Amanda Schubert start the second period in the net, perhaps as a bit of a wake-up call to the team. Whatever was said in the dressing room between the periods, it seemed to spark a fire in the Bisons as they built momentum in this period. A power-play at the midpoint of the period was the catalyst that Manitoba needed to turn momentum into change, and it would be Sarah Dennehy from in front who would bury the power-play goal behind Wierenga to make it a 4-1 game! 1:32 on a separate power-play, Manitoba would strike again when Lauren Warkentin made a beautiful cross-ice pass from the right half-boards to the tape of Kate Gregoire's stick, and Gregoire sniped the power-play goal to make it a 4-2 game! UBC decided that penalties were a bad idea and cleaned up their game through the remaining six minutes fo play, but the deficit had been cut in half by the Bisons through 40 minutes after Manitoba outshot UBC 8-3 in the period.

The third period was far more north-south with the Thunderbirds and Bisons trading chances as Manitoba continued to press for goals. A couple of early power-plays were killed off by Manitoba as one could feel the momentum building once again, but Wierenga and the UBC defence thwarted a number of chances. With time winding down and Schubert on the bench for the extra attacker, a goalmouth scramble around the UBC net saw Kate Gregoire chip a puck into the net at 19:39 to make it a 4-3 game! With one last rush down the ice following the ensuing face-off, Manitoba looked for the equalizer, but UBC's defence kept the Bisons to the outside as the horn sounded, ending the comeback. Despite the furious comeback by the Bisons, the UBC Thunderbirds claimed victory with the 4-3 score! Danielle Wierenga earned her first career Canada West victory with a 21-save performance while Erin Fargey suffered the loss after stopping 14 of 18 shots. For the record, Amanda Schubert was perfect on all nine shot sshe faced in the 40 minutes she played.

Again, Manitoba's video crew was asleep at the wheel for this game as there are no highlights for the second-straight game. If this happens for a third-straight game, there may be riots!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
47 65 24
43 46 32
vs ALB
40 38 30
32 39 43
vs MAN
British Columbia
30 32 44
vs SAS
Mount Royal
29 30 32
23 36 59
20 25 47
*teams in yellow have clinched a playoff spot

The Last Word

I made mention of an asterisk above regarding the Alberta-Lethbridge game, so let's get into this because I feel this one change could really make hockey better in the Canada West Conference. I am advocating for Canada West to employ some sort of officiating czar or czarina who will work with the four provincial hockey organizations when it comes to making officiating standards the same in every Canada West rink.

Let me be clear: this off-ice Canada West senior official will not assign or remove officials from any game across Western Canada. Instead, this official will send clips of games where officials are to be commended for their work on the ice or instances where they may need to improve their judgments so that officials from Vancouver to Winnipeg make more standardized calls so that coaches and players no longer have to guess what is and isn't a penalty when they move between provinces and cities.

After seeing the missed hooking call which led to a bodycheck in the Alberta-Lethbridge game which preceded the Abby Benning goal, I can understand why Lethbridge head coach Doug Paisley was incensed at the point. The hooking call was a textbook call by any means - Sawatzky was in the back pocket of Borrow and reached around her with her stick - and the bodycheck that followed was a result of Sawatzky being unable to free her stick from Borrow, leading both players to barrel into the boards with Borrow being checked against the boards by Sawatzky. Even as a non-official, I have watched enough hockey to know that's a penalty, if not two penalties, yet the referees in Lethbridge had no qualms with the play.

This is only one instance in what has been a season in which there have been questionable or missed calls in most games, but the good news is that most haven't had the direct outcome like this missed call did in Lethbridge. However, with two additional teams and more officials being used every weekend, there needs to be a standardization to which teams can refer. A hooking penalty should be the same in every rink. A bodycheck needs to be separated from a pin along the boards. Goaltender interference needs to be defined entirely.

The last thing this conference needs is a missed call or blown call that costs a team a playoff game or series when it could mean the difference between a trip to the U SPORTS National Championship and a chance to showcase their school on a national stage, and going home to plan for the following season. The amateur hockey organizations face no repercussions from the Canada West schools if their officials call a bad game, so Canada West should have an advocate that can work with these organizations to ensure that the level of officiating remains high and continues to get better.

I want the men and women in stripes to succeed as much as the players do. There's a chance that a number of them can work larger tournaments and move up the officiating ladders in their respective provinces with good performances in the games they officiate, and that includes Canada West hockey. On the flip side, Canada West should have a voice in recommending officials for specific conference games based on performances in Canada West games. The only way that happens is if Canada West has someone who is evaluating the officials at the Canada West level.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!