By Marc Lagace
Third period goals from Bison rookies Megan Tully and Alanna Sharman proved to be the difference as the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team defeated the Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-1 on October 25 at Wayne Fleming Arena.
Manitoba tried to dictate the pace of play early by blocking Lethbridge's attempts to clear the zone and jumping on loose pucks in the neutral zone. Sharman opened the game scoring with her team-leading fifth goal of the season. Her slap shot from the point blasted past Pronghorn goalie Crystal Patterson to give Manitoba a 1-0 lead at 7:05.
Lethbridge worked hard to turn the momentum in their favour before the period ended. In the final minute of the first, Pronghorns captain Sadie Lenstra forced a turnover in the Manitoba zone, and slipped the puck past Bison goalie Rachel Dyck with a shot from up close. The teams headed into the first intermission all tied up.
The Pronghorns came out strong in the second period, maintaining good pressure in the Bisons end but failing to beat Dyck in net. Maggie Litchfield-Medd was called for the game's first penalty midway through the second. Before Manitoba's penalty expired, the visitors were also sent to the box. Manitoba had a few good chances with the man advantage—including a point shot that rang off the post—but could not beat Patterson. The Bisons built momentum with two more power play opportunities before the period expired, but again failed to beat the Pronghorns netminder as the teams remained tied heading into the third.
Both teams came out in the third desperate for the go-ahead goal. Manitoba went back on the power play at 5:25, and this time rookie defenseman Megan Tully beat Patterson with a shot from the blue line. With assists from Lauryn Keen and Courtlyn Oswald, the goal put Manitoba back in front. Less than a minute later, Sharman picked up her second goal of the game as the home team extended their lead. Dyck and the Bisons did a good job stifling any attempt at a Lethbridge comeback, holding on for the 3-1 victory.
"Anyone who knows us, we're not at our best in the first two periods," said Rempel. "We were flat and they were winning most of the battles and compete for the puck. I thought the game changed in the special teams exchange in the second period where we got momentum off the kill and then we started generating momentum off our power play."
Coach Rempel also had glowing words for his rookies, who were responsible for all three goals.
"These kids coming in here aren't afraid to play," said Rempel. "They're not afraid of the big moments and they're not afraid of responsibility. The thing I like about them is they all play big, but they all have a lot of humility about who they are as a people and I think that really shows in the way they play."
"They're unselfish, and players like that usually get it coming back to them when they're unselfish and they do good things."
The game was played as part of the annual Shoot For The Cure campaign to raise awareness and money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Bison players sported pink laces and stick tape, while the seating area was decorated with pink streamers and balloons.
The Bisons (4-1-1) and Pronghorns (1-6-0) play the second half of the weekend series on Sunday, Oct. 26 at Wayne Fleming Arena, with puck drop scheduled for 1p.m.