By: Alyssa Etsell, Bison Sports Information
WINNIPEG — The No. 2 University of Alberta Pandas won a battle of a first game in the 2018 Canada West women's hockey semi-final best-of-three series against the No. 1 University of Manitoba Bisons 4-1 Friday night (Feb. 23) at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
With just three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, an Amy Boucher wrist shot into the corner of the net broke a tie game, making the score 2-1 for the Pandas.
The Bisons came to fight in the first game, after a stellar regular season which included claiming the Canada West regular season champion title for the first time in the team's history. The tie-breaking power play goal from the visitors put the Herd behind late in the game and they couldn't get back in time.
"I like some of the things we did today, we were 1-1 with three-and-a-half minutes left and we got a tough call against us, but that's part of the game," said Bisons head coach, Jon Rempel. "You have to persevere through those sorts of things and if you can't kill those types of situations off, it's tough to win hockey games especially at this time of year."
Later in the third, two unassisted empty-netters from Regan Wright and Boucher drove the final score to 4-1.
To open the scoring in the first period, rookie Mekaela Fisher netted a rebound goal for the Herd, in the home team's favour. The assist for the first goal went to Courtlyn Oswald and Erica Rieder at 12:17.
Shortly after, the Pandas answered on the power play. A Taylor Kezama shot from the point sailed over Rachel Dyck's shoulder after the shooting lane was left open for Alberta. Alexandra Poznikoff and Autumn MacDougall helped cement the tie, as the teams went into the second period.
Though the second period was scoreless, it was ripe with opportunity for both teams.
Both competitors had many missed rebounds and across net passes. The period was dominated with tape-to-tape passes and plays made with focused precision, which led to end-to-end battles for the puck.
In regular season action, the home team had a record of 2-1-0-1 against the visitors. Splitting a matchup at home with a win (4-2) and a loss (4-3), and at Alberta, a win (2-1) and an overtime loss (3-2).
Goaltender Rachel Dyck had 12 saves in the loss while Alberta's Kirsten Chamberlin registered 18 saves in the victory.
The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to conference final and earn a Nationals berth.
"You've got to have a short memory—could be a long series yet," said Rempel about how the home team will approach the game tomorrow.
Both teams will play again tomorrow (Feb. 24) in game two at the Wayne Fleming Arena with pick drop at 7 p.m. CT. Watch the game live online at CanadaWest.tv.
1. Amy Boucher, Alberta (2G – 1 GWG)
2. Mekaela Fisher, Manitoba (1G)
3. Taylor Kezama, Alberta (1G)