Playoff Ice Chips: T-Birds, Pandas ready for semis after first round bye

Playoff Ice Chips: T-Birds, Pandas ready for semis after first round bye

Brian Swane, Special to Canada West

EDMONTON – All four provinces in Canada West are represented in the women's hockey semifinals, with four teams whose playing styles are as diverse as their respective landscapes.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba both swept quarter-final series, and will now play UBC and Alberta, respectively, the top two seeds who enjoyed byes last weekend.

Combined, these teams account for all but two of the championship teams in Canada West women's hockey history, and all four semifinalists have won at least one title in the last six years. UBC captured the crown in 2016 and went on to play in the U SPORTS championship game, before ultimately losing to Montreal.

A look at the series:

(4) Saskatchewan vs. (1) UBC

The T-Birds' quest for a repeat begins against the Huskies, who swept Regina with a pair of one-goal wins in Saskatoon last weekend.

Currently No. 1 in the U SPORTS rankings, UBC suffered just four regulation losses this season and is the highest-scoring team in Canada West. UBC and Saskatchewan went 2-2 against each other this season, with each winning a game in overtime.

UBC forward Nicole Saxvik scored 12 goals this season, including five game-winners. Right on her heels was Saskatchewan's Kaitlin Willoughby, who had 11 goals in 24 games and scored four times in the two games against Regina. Jumping out to an early lead will be critical for the Huskies; UBC is 18-1 when leading or tied after one period and 20-0 when leading or tied after two periods.

(3) Manitoba vs. (2) Alberta

The Bisons swept Mount Royal in the quarter-finals, winning by scores of 5-1 and 1-0, to set up this rematch of last year's thrilling Canada West semifinal. Revenge will surely be on the mind of the Pandas, who lost in three games at Clare Drake Arena, with the deciding contest going to overtime. Prior to that, Alberta had downed Manitoba 2-0 in the 2015 conference final.

The Pandas went 4-0 against the Bisons in 2016-17, though three of those games were decided by one goal, including the regular season finale in Edmonton two weeks ago.

Alberta features Canada West's leading goal scorer, Alex Poznikoff (13), while Manitoba's Lauryn Keen finished first in assists (25) and points (34). The Pandas, who ranked first in Canada West with a minuscule 1.39 team goals against average, will look for continued stellar play from the goaltending tandem of Danya Owen and Lindsey Post, against an explosive Manitoba team that possesses Canada West's No. 1 power-play (23.4%).

Women's hockey semifinal series schedules:

Fri. 24 Manitoba   Alberta   2:00 PM MST
  CW Semifinals - Game 1
  Saskatchewan   UBC   7:00 PM PST
  CW Semifinals - Game 1
Sat. 25 Manitoba   Alberta   2:00 PM MST
  CW Semifinals - Game 2
  Saskatchewan   UBC   7:00 PM PST
  CW Semifinals - Game 2
Sun. 26 Manitoba   Alberta   2:00 PM MST
  CW Semifinals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Saskatchewan   UBC   3:00 PM PST
  CW Semifinals - Game 3 (if necessary)

Watch every game on Canada West TV