Pandas win series with OT nailbiter

Pandas win series with OT nailbiter

EDMONTON – Despite the University of Calgary Dinos tying the game with 0.6 seconds left on the clock, the University of Alberta Pandas emerged victorious, winning a 4-3 thriller in extra time to take the best-of-three conference semi-final series, Saturday afternoon at Clare Drake Arena.

Canada West All-Rookie Team selection Hannah Olenyk scored 1:55 into overtime, her second point of the night, while First Team All-Star Jessica Kampjes also netted a goal and an assist. Fourth-year forward Lindsey Cunningham and third-year forward Sasha Lutz added singles for the Pandas, the team now hosting the Canada West championship for the first time since 2011.

Senior forward Janelle Parent netted three points for the Dinos, getting the buzzer-beater tally at the end of the third to force overtime and helping set up power-play markers by third-year forward Heather Berzins and fifth-year forward Jenna Smith. First Team All-Star and recent gold medal winner with Russia at the 2015 Winter Universiade Iya Gavrilova added two assists in the scintillating series-ender.

Olenyk got things started with a breakaway midway through the opening period, but sophomore netminder Hayley Dowling stoned a backhand deke and also stopped Kampjes on the rebound.

At the 17:21 mark, after good pressure in the Calgary corner by fourth-years Tess Houston and Alison Campbell, the puck squirted out to the high slot where Cunningham slapped it home for the 1-0 lead.

The Pandas continued the offensive momentum in the second, Kampjes on a two-on-one and Edmonton native Gillian Altheim on a two-on-none with Lutz, but Dowling held her own, stymieing both attempts to keep the deficit at one.

Yet just after a point-blank Deanna Morin shot got prevented in front, a wide wraparound by Kampjes found the far corner through some bodies to elude the 'keeper and double the Alberta lead.

Down by two and their season threatening to end, the Dinos fought back, capitalizing when a blocked Jayme Clark point shot on the man-advantage ricocheted right to Berzins at the side of the net for the tap-in just over two minutes later in the middle frame at the 12:46 mark.

The buzzer-beating Dinos then did a test run at the end of the second, knotting things up at two when Gavrilova's point shot deflected off Panda Amy Helfrich and Smith before squeezing through Alberta's Lindsey Post and sliding over the line, just inside the far post, with only 2.5 seconds left on the clock.

Undeterred, the Pandas responded by reclaiming the lead 2:12 into the third, Altheim getting possession of a loose puck in front of the Calgary goal, firing a no-look backhand pass behind her to Lutz, the former MacEwan Griffin raising it into the empty net for the 3-2 lead.

Alberta then turned to their CIS second-best defence to keep the Dinos to the perimeter inside the Pandas zone, but with time winding down, Gavrilova found Parent in the slot, the Ponoka, Alta. native roofing it gloveside with six tenths of a second left, seemingly deflating the home team as much as the hometown crowd.

Yet just under two minutes into extra time, gritty work below the goal line by Helfrich got the puck to Kampjes at the halfboards, the team-leading scorer making a seeing-eye pass to a streaking Olenyk for a one-time wristshot in front that ended the Dinos season.

Alberta went 0-1 on the power-play while Calgary went 2-2.

The Pandas will host the Canada West championship next weekend, aiming for their 12th conference title against the winner of the Manitoba Bisons and UBC Thunderbirds semi-final series.