Pandas keep walking towards first with another victory

Pandas keep walking towards first with another victory

EDMONTON – The No.5 University of Alberta Pandas put their best foot forward, skating to a 4-1 win over the University of Calgary Dinos to stay atop the Canada West standings, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.

Fourth-year forwards Janelle Froehler and Amy Helfrich each netted a goal and an assist, as did third-year Sasha Lutz. Veteran rearguard Kirsten Toth rounded out the scoring while forwards Jessica Sekulic and Gillian Altheim added two assists apiece.

Hailing from nearby Ponoka, Alta., Janelle Parent scored the lone goal for the visitors, the Dinos' third-straight loss all but eliminating them from a chance to finish first in the conference and getting Calgary closer to losing their fourth-place spot to the Saskatchewan Huskies, only five points back after Friday night's action.

With the win, the Pandas now have 54 points on the season, but UBC (51 points) and Manitoba (50 points) remain hot on their heels, all three teams in the mix for first place as well as a "bye" to the playoff semifinals, which the top two teams receive at the end of the regular season next weekend.

Having not scored since November 15 of 2014, Helfrich got Alberta on the board first at the 8:25 mark of the opening period, taking advantage of a mad scramble in front of the Dino net, poking the puck just over the goal line for her second of the season.

Froehler doubled the lead on her second of the campaign, only 1:14 into the middle frame, when she roofed the puck in tight in a dominant period for the Pandas.

Making good use of their first power-play of the stanza, Alberta doubled their shot total from the first period in those two minutes alone, but came up short on the scoreboard to improve their lead even further.

Fortunately for the home team, they did just that soon after at the 8:20 mark, Helfrich's behind-the-net pass finding Lutz alone in the slot, the former MacEwan Griffin firing it blocker side inside the post on sophomore netminder Hayley Dowling.

The third goal chased Dowling from the Calgary net, rookie goaltender Carissa Fischer stepping in to face the offensive onslaught as the Pandas outshot Calgary 13-6 in the second period and kept the puck in the Dino end for most of the 20 minutes.

Calgary got a great chance late, however, on a bench minor by Alberta for too many men, Parent finding herself wide open at the side of the net and ready to cut the lead by one, but the right pad of Lindsey Post desperately reached out to prevent the sure goal before the goalie swallowed up the rebound and keep the game at 3-0.

Avenging that save in the final frame, Parent netted her 11th of the season 1:13 into the third period when she curved in from the sideboards just inside the Pandas' blueline before effortlessly flicking the puck top shelf to break Post's shutout bid.

Not to be outdone, the Chelsea, Que. native cemented her second star status in the game ten minutes later when she stoned second-year forward Kate Lumley on a breakaway, just after a Dino penalty expired, to reclaim the game's momentum for the home team.

On a faceoff following coincidental minors for both teams in the final minutes, Toth tallied an insurance marker with a rising slapshot from the point, going top right to beat Fischer with 2:23 left to go.

A second bench minor by Alberta gave Calgary a six-on-four chance to sway the momentum going into tomorrow's game, but the Panda defence outworked the Dinos in every puck battle in the waning minutes, finishing the game without even giving up another shot.

Alberta finished 1-5 on the power-play while Calgary went 0-4.

The two teams now head south for the second half of the home-and-home series, puck drop going at 6 p.m. MT at Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.