Two Lindseys too good in Pandas win

Two Lindseys too good in Pandas win

EDMONTON – Fourth-year forward Lindsey Cunningham's two-goal effort, combined with third-year 'keeper Lindsey Post's 21-save shutout, fueled the University of Alberta Pandas to a 4-0 game one win over the University of Manitoba Bisons in the best-of-three Canada West championship series, Friday afternoon at Clare Drake Arena.

Cunningham has now scored in two straight playoff games, as has First Team Canada West All-Star Jessica Kampjes. Fourth-year defender Natasha Steblin added a power-play marker to round out the scoring while fourth-year forward Alison Campbell recorded two assists.

Post, another First Team All-Star who posted a conference record 10 shutouts in the regular season, earned her first post-season clean sheet while Second Team All-Star Rachel Dyck struggled in the Manitoba goal, making 19 saves on 23 shots before getting pulled.

"I felt like we put some pucks away," commented Alberta head coach Howie Draper. "They're not an easy team to score against and when we had opportunities, we were able to put them away. When that happens, the game flows for you a little more."

It was the visitors who had the jump as the first period started, though, pushing early to drive up the shot clock 5-1 in their favour, only to have Alberta open the scoring just under seven minutes in, Cunningham digging the puck out of scrum in front of the Bison net before shooting it low, gloveside for the 1-0 lead.

Yet Manitoba continued to maintain their offensive pressure in the opening frame, outshooting the Pandas 12-6, but with nothing to show for it.

"I think they came with nothing to lose," continued Draper. "They're a young team, and they're on the road for the second-straight weekend, so I think they felt like underdogs coming in here, and sometimes that helps you play a little looser."

After making adjustments in the first intermission, Alberta returned to the ice a different team, controlling most of the play for the first five minutes and continuing the momentum for the rest of the stanza.

"We went over our game plan, and we talked about what we can do to be successful against them. We've played them enough times this year, and we've done the video work, so we know what we need to do to be successful against them, and for whatever reason, maybe some nerves, we didn't have that commitment to the plan in the first period. So during the intermission, we talked about how our game plan was still there, all of our options for plays were still there, and the team decided to start focusing on the process instead of worrying about the results. Once we did that, I thought we took the game over."

Midway through the second, the Pandas doubled their lead, a Jessie Olfert point shot getting knocked down in front by sophomore Deanna Morin, who jammed at the puck, making it squirt to the side of net to a wide-open Kampjes for the 2-0 tally.

Physical play persisted at both ends of the rink, but the officials were content to keep their whistles under wraps, unless it was absolutely necessary.

That was the case five minutes into the final frame, the Bisons' aggression leading to a five-on-three power-play for Alberta for 1:36 that Manitoba was almost able to kill off, but just after the first penalty expired, Steblin fired a wristshot in the slot that found the far side behind Dyck for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

With Bison defenders pinching, Alberta almost made it 4-0 a minute later when Kampjes and fourth-year forward Janelle Froehler went in on a two-on-one, Kampjes passing to Froehler for an open-ice wristshot but Dyck made an amazing pad save to keep the deficit at three.

Unfortunately for the Winnipeg Beach, Man. native, her afternoon ended early when a bouncing puck in the high slot got away from senior rearguard Michelle Pawluk, Cunningham gaining possession of the loose puck and going in on Dyck before scoring on a beautiful backhand deke.

"I thought Lindsey was our best forward today," praised Draper. "I could tell she was dialed in during the first period; she was physical, she was skating well, and once the rest of the team caught up to her performance, it really complimented her play very well. She has wonderful potential to be a really good offensive player, and you saw that today with those goals."

With Bison head coach Jon Rempel putting in sophomore netminder Amanda Schubert to try re-energizing his team with 8:42 left in the game, his squad replied with some good pressure and a great shot by third-year forward Nicole McGlenen, but Post made a huge toe save with her right foot to keep Manitoba off the scoreboard.

"When we play well, Post is stopping the first shot, and we're clearing the rebounds and she did a great job tonight. We know that in order to beat Manitoba, we have to win battles in front of our net, and we did that today."

Alberta went 1-5 on the power-play while the Bisons went 0-3.

Game two of the best-of-three Canada West final series goes Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. MT.