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!

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