Jeremy Laurie (UBC Thunderbirds)
VANCOUVER – Strong defence and a stellar 28-save performance from Regina goaltender Toni Ross propelled the Regina Cougars to a 3-0 shutout over the UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team on Friday night in Vancouver. The win gives Regina a 1-0 lead over the T-Birds in their best-of-three Canada West women's hockey semifinal series.
The Cougars trailed UBC by only one point in the Canada West regular season standings. With two wins apiece through their four regular season matchups it was no surprise that Friday's game, UBC's first of the post-season, was both hard fought and unpredictable.
Although the Cougars spent nearly 17 minutes on the penalty kill and were out-shot 28-17, goals from Brooklyn Moskowy, Carleen Meszaros and Jaycee Magwood helped Regina achieve the 'W'. UBC's Samantha Langford (Pense, Sask.) made 14 saves.
UBC head coach Graham Thomas commends the Cougars on their efforts, but is confident that his team has what it takes to win the series.
"[Regina] played with a little more desperation than us and capitalized on their chances when they had them," noted Thomas. "But I fully believe in this group. We are going to come back. We're going to get it done tomorrow."
Regina's defenders came up big during a penalty kill late in the first frame, denying a single shot through two minutes despite heavy offensive pressure from UBC.
Ross shut the door after a behind the net pass from Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Vancouver) found Melissa Goodwin (Burlington, Ont.) out front alone. Ross' pad save allowed the Cougars a chance to regroup and carry the puck deep into the T-Birds' zone. Regina's Moskowy sniped the game's opening goal at 18:20. A UBC clearing attempt hit the space between two panes of glass and took a strange bounce right to Emma Waldenberger in the right faceoff circle. She curled into the slot and backhanded a pass to Moskowy, who batted the puck out of midair past Langford.
The T-Birds didn't let the goal deficit discourage them and came out firing on all cylinders early in the second. UBC registered seven quality shots on net in the opening six minutes alone, but Ross stood tall, even with her team spending over half of the second period on the penalty kill.
A five-minute major against the Cougars at 7:05 gave UBC a brief opportunity with a 5-on-3 advantage. UBC's best chance came during a slick solo effort from Nicole Saxvik (North Vancouver), who deked through multiple defenders and nearly roofed it, but Ross again denied the 'Birds of the tying goal.
Back on even strength, UBC's Emily O'Neill (Oakville, Ont.) managed to squeak past the Cougars defence and take off on a breakaway, though Ross tracked her deke and was able to kick the puck aside.
The Cougars, taking advantage of their first power play opportunity of the second period, secured their second goal of the game at 19:08. After receiving a nice feed from Jolene Kirkpatrick, Meszaros rifled the puck from the hash marks past Langford.
UBC out-shot Regina 14-4 in the second period, but were unable to score.
The T-Birds went on the penalty kill at 9:57 in the third frame, giving Magwood enough open space to sail a wrister into the top left corner of UBC's net, giving Regina a 3-0 lead.
Langford prevented a fourth goal when she made a pair of brilliant, sprawling saves off Dempsey, who nearly netted her own rebound. While the 'Birds continued to register shots late in the game, they were unable to get on the scoreboard.
Two of Regina's three goals came on the power play, while the home side couldn't convert on any of its seven opportunities.
UBC will have the chance to force a third game when they face the Cougars again at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Saturday, February 27 at 7 p.m. (PT).
IMAGE CREDIT: Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds