The Manitoba Bisons open the season against the reigning Canada West women's hockey champions in the Alberta Pandas in a Canada West Final rematch from last season. Both teams are looking to jump out to a winning record as the season gets underway at Wayne Fleming Arena after splitting the season series 2-2 last season. The Bisons prevailed in an exciting 2-1 battle on Saturday, October 3.
The Pandas pushed the play early on as they had Manitoba pinned in their own zone, but the Bisons weathered the storm and came back with some excellent chances of their own towards the end of the period as Rachel Dyck stood tall in the Manitoba blue paint. At the other end, goaltender Lindsey Post kept everything in front of her, and the two teams entered the intermission tied 0-0 with Manitoba holding the advantage in shots at 4-3.
The second period saw Manitoba open with the man-advantage after a late first-period penalty to the Pandas' Ashley Morin. This trend would continue as the Pandas were whistled for five additional minor penalties in the second period, but the Bisons would be turned away each and every time as Post and the rearguards held strong. The Bisons did take a 10-6 advantage in shots into the second intermission of the scoreless game.
The third period saw the Pandas break their goose egg first as a pile-up in front of the Bisons net resulted in Natasha Stelbin notching her first goal of the season with Dyck at the bottom of the pile. The two teams traded chances much like they did in the previous two periods, and it took a 4-on-4 situation at the 6:46 mark for the Bison to pull even. Karissa Kirkup found Alanna Sharman who made a nice move at the Pandas' blue line to deke around Lindsey Cunningham to find herself in alone on Post. A nice forehand-backhand combo had Post down early, and Sharman made no mistake in sliding the puck in on the backhand to even the game at 1-1.
"She was playing a little to her left side, so I tried to fake that way," Sharman said. "I'm glad I had enough room to make the move to my left for the goal."
The Bisons weren't done there, though, as they continued to press after killing off a four-minute double-minor for spearing assessed to Lauryn Keen and mounting some solid momentum. Charity Price wired a low shot from the left side that Post saved, but the rebound laid in front of her where a waiting Keen took full advantage by knocking the puck over Post's pad under her right arm for the second Bisons goal with 2:53 play.
A late power-play for the Pandas went fruitless as the Bisons kept the Pandas outside of the Bisons' zone for the majority of the two minutes, and the Bisons skated to the 2-1 victory.
The Bisons improve to 1-0-0 on the season while the Pandas drop to 0-1-0 for the season. Game two of this two-game series goes Sunday, October 4 at 1 p.m. CT at Wayne Fleming Arena.