EDMONTON, AB – The University of Alberta Pandas hockey team, defending Canada West champions, suffered a 3-2 loss in their home opener as they fell to the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday night at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton.
The win vaults the rebuilt 'Horns to 3-0 on the season after sweeping the UBC Thunderbirds in week one, while the Pandas fall to 1-2.
Kirsten Reeves, Lauren Fredrich and Janae Culp found the twine for Lethbridge, while rookie goalie Alicia Anderson stopped 37 of 39 shots she faced to earn first star honours. Fifth-year forwards Janelle Froehler and Alison Campbell were Alberta's lone goal scorers.
The young Pronghorns were led by their revamped special teams, as they went two for three on the powerplay, and stopped all five player advantages they faced. Lethbridge has yet to allow a goal while down a player this season, improving their penalty kill to a perfect fifteen for fifteen.
The Pandas were able to sneak a goal through Anderson early, taking the 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the opening frame. On a scramble in front of the Pronghorn crease, Froehler found the puck loose in the crease, and slid her shot through the Anderson five-hole.
Despite a constant high pressure attack from the Pandas, the Pronghorn's were able to keep it a one goal game, with Anderson stopping 15 first period shots. However, Lethbridge would gain some momentum heading into the intermission. After Natasha Steblin took a penalty in front of her own net giving Lethbridge the powerplay, the Pronghorns were able to capitalize on the player advantage. Jodi Gentile's initial shot was stopped by fourth-year goalie Lindsey Post, but Reeves was able to sneak the rebound through a hole short –side on the Panda keeper, leveling the score at one.
It was another powerplay which put the visitors up in the second period. Fredrich found herself wide open in the faceoff circle, and wired a shot through Post. Alberta outshot the 'Horns 26-12 after two periods, but found themselves down 2-1 on the scoresheet.
Alberta would equalize the game just five minutes into the third period. Lindsey Cunningham fed a cross-crease pass to Campbell on the two-on-one, tying the game at two. However, it took Lethbridge only 44 seconds to get back in front. Culp was on the receiving end of another generous Post rebound, and her second chance shot beat the Alberta keeper over the shoulder.
The Pandas would continue to press late for the tying goal, but a penalty in the final minute by Hannah Olenyk squashed any hope for a comeback.
The Pandas won't have much time to dwell over the loss on Friday night, as they host the Pronghorns again on Saturday afternoon in game two of their weekend series. Game time is set for 2:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena.