Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Pandas hockey team moved one game away from the Canada West Final and a berth at the U SPORTS Championship, defeating the Manitoba Bisons 3-2 in Game 1 of their conference semifinal, Friday afternoon at Clare Drake Arena.
Abby Benning, Amy Boucher and Alex Poznikoff scored for the Pandas in the series-opening win, with fifth-year goalie Lindsey Post stopped all but two of the 16 shots she faced to earn her sixth career playoff win.
Canada West conference points leader Lauryn Keen, and third-year defender Erica Rieder scored for Manitoba.
The win was also the Pandas 12th-straight, 11 of which came at the end of the conference season, a streak that runs back to the beginning of 2017. It was also the fifth win for the Pandas this season against the Bisons, the first four coming in the regular season.
Coming off a first round playoff 'bye' last weekend, the Pandas showed no signs of rust early in the first, scoring just five minutes into Game 1. After Sheridan Oswald was sent to the box for interference, Benning was able to rip in her first career playoff goal past a screened Rachel Dyck from the left point on the powerplay.
The offense completely dried up after the quick strike from Benning, as the Pandas and Bisons combined for just eight first-period shots.
The Bisons came out hot to start the second, as Keen notched her first of the playoffs just 1:24 in. After her initial shot was stopped, Keen found an opening on the side of the Alberta net, banking a shot from behind the goal line, off Post, and in.
The momentum generated from the goal lasted all of two minutes, as the second seeded Pandas slowly took control of the period. Boucher was able to level the game two minutes after the Keen tally, taking the long stretch pass from Kelsey Tangjerd, before beating Dyck with a fantastic dangle on the breakaway. While the shot clock read 12-7 in favour of the Bisons, the Pandas had numerous chances to add to their lead, but couldn't add the insurance marker in the second.
That third goal, however, came early in the third on the powerplay. Cayle Dillon's point shot was tipped by an unmarked Poznikoff in front of Dyck, who perfectly redirected it five-hole on the Bison tender.
Manitoba, who needed a spark to get back in Game 1, received it two minutes after the Poznikoff goal. On yet another scramble play beside the Alberta net, Rieder was able to jam the puck under Post from yet again behind the Panda goal line, cutting the lead to 3-2.
The goal, however, was as close as the Bisons could get in Game 1. Manitoba couldn't muster any late magic, with the Pandas blocking nearly every shot thrown towards their net.
Game 2 of the best-of-three semifinal will get underway tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. at Clare Drake Arena.