REGINA, Sask. - Bailey Braden's first period powerplay goal proved to be the difference as the University of Regina women's hockey team defeated the Calgary Dinos 1-0 at home on Saturday night to sweep the Canada West quarterfinal series.
Saturday's win completes the sweep of the Dinos and earns the Cougars a spot in a Canada West semifinal next weekend, when they will travel to Vancouver for a best-of-three series with the UBC Thunderbirds.
A night after the Dinos looked lifeless in a 4-1 loss to the Cougars, the visiting team came out with some fire with their season on the line. The Dinos rebounded from a 14 shot effort with a balanced attack and aggressive defence, outshooting the Cougars 29-28 on Saturday. The nation's leading scorer Iya Gavrilova led the charge with six shots, but for the second consecutive night Toni Ross and the Cougars kept her off the scoresheet.
The Cougars powerplay went to work midway through the first period following a Sasha Vafina hooking penalty. It took the home team 31 seconds to find the net, as Braden (pictured) made a great play in front to tip a Nikki Watters-Matthes point shot through the legs of Hayley Dowling. Alexis Larson also collected an assist on what would be the only marker of the evening.
The third period was where Ross would steal the show for the Cougars, as the CIS leader in wins made a number of remarkable saves to hold the Dinos in check. One more than one occasion the fifth-year goaltender looked out of position after making the initial save, but with the help of her defence she stopped all 29 shots sent her way.
"I was really focused on making one save at a time," Ross said about the third period pressure from the Dinos. "I had to tell myself to stop thinking so much and focus all my energy on the next save."
Calgary outshot the Cougars 10-5 in the final frame, controlling possession for most of the period. However, there was one key stretch late where the Cougars were able to remain on the attack and prevent Dowling from vacating her net for an extra attacker. The Dinos played the final minute and two seconds with an extra skater, but an aggressive Cougar defence kept the visitors off the scoreboard.
The Cougars will prep for next weekend's Canada West semifinal against the Thunderbirds, where games will be played on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. local time followed by a Game 3 at 3 p.m. on Sunday if necessary.
"It's a special opportunity for us - this is the best team we've had since I've been here," Ross said following Saturday's win. "It's more about the team and the opportunity we have than about it being the last shot for us fifth-year players. This season has been special already, we're just trying to add to it."