By Jordon Dinsmore
Two of the midseason favourites in Canada West women's hockey face off in a key battle this weekend in Winnipeg, as the No. 3 Alberta Pandas make the trip to face the Manitoba Bisons. The two squads find themselves in a four-way tie for first place and have registered very similar stats across the board.
Alberta is coming off a tough weekend of hockey against the Calgary Dinos in which they barely squeezed out an overtime win, while splitting the series. They managed to manufacture a win despite getting outshot 37-19 on Friday night. However, the lack of shots would show the next day, as they only had 18 shots and as the Dinos capitalized by evening the series.
The Manitoba Bisons were relieved to come home and play on their ice this past weekend after a few road trips. The effort showed as they swept the visiting UBC Thunderbirds in both games, winning one in overtime. "After playing pretty well in Calgary last weekend and not getting any points, I thought they really showed a lot of maturity this week in practice to prepare," said Bison's head coach Jon Rempel The Bisons played strong defense and once again scored goals late to go up ahead in both matches.
Key Points to the Games
Rachel Dyck – The Maniotba goalkeeper is quietly having a great season for herself. She boasts the best save percentage in the league at .945 and has only allowed 13 goals this season. If she can step up to the high-powered Panda offence, Bison fans will be thanking her. She was honoured as the Canada West Second Star of the Week for her impressive performance versus UBC last weekend.
Alberta Offence – Three out of top five in points leaders in the Canada West are wear the Evergreen and Gold as this team likes to shoot and score at a high rate. It will be interesting to see how the Bisons play the top line from Alberta. Manitoba will have to use its size and defense to slow down this offence that has scored five or more goals on multiple teams. Containing Jessica Kampjes, Hannah Olenyk and Allison Campbell will be key.
Pace – Whoever controls the tempo and the nautral zone in this game just may end up winning it. Bisons Coach Jon Rempel has already admitted that his squad comes out slow and sometimes not playing their best until the third period. This won't cut it against Alberta who will look to capitalize on every opportunity.
Who's helping Alanna? – The Bison forward is doing quite well in the Canada West points and goals categories, ranking third and second in the conference, respectively. She also receives high praise from her coach and teammates alike. However if Alberta scores multiple goals, someone is going to have to step up and help Alanna Sharman get it done out there.
The two teams will face off this Friday, November 28 at 6:30 pm CT and Saturday, November 29 at 1:00 pm CT. Follow the scores and statistics on CanadaWest.org.