Pandas knock off Bisons; secure playoff bye

Pandas knock off Bisons; secure playoff bye

Connor Hood, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON – The No. 7 ranked University of Alberta Pandas clinched the second overall seed in Canada West, knocking off the No. 4 ranked Manitoba Bisons 5-2, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.  

Lisa Lloyd netted the first two goals of her Panda career on Friday, with Ashley Morin, Jaslin Sawatzky, and Autumn MacDougall also scoring for the Pandas. Jordyn Zacharias and Megan Neduzak scored for Manitoba in the loss.

The win is the Pandas 10th straight and third this season against the Bisons. Having earned a full three points for the regulation win the Pandas improve to 16-4-4-3, and their 59 points good enough to clinch that second seed in Canada West. The Bisons, now 16-6-3-2, now trail the Pandas by just three points in the standings, but are not the holder of the tie-breaker based on the team's head-to-head record.

The Pandas will now host a Canada West semi-final series at Clare Drake Arena February 24-26th, against the highest remaining seed. UBC has already clinched the top spot in the conference, and would host the lowest seeded team to win their quarterfinal. With the loss, Manitoba will finish third in Canada West, and will play the No. 6 seed in Winnipeg next weekend. As it stands right now, Manitoba will play either the Mount Royal Cougars, or Regina Cougars in the quarterfinal.

With that all-important second seed at stake, the Pandas didn't disappoint in the first period scoring three times on 11 shots. Morin opened the scoring three minutes into the game, beating Rachel Dyck with a quick shot from the slot.

Manitoba, however, tied the game at one's midway through the first. Off a stopped wrap-around, Zacharias was able to pot the rebound over fifth-year goalie Lindsey Post from in tight. It would take only 39 seconds for the Pandas to regain their lead, as Sawatzky netted her first career goal off another loose puck in the Manitoba slot.

Not to be out done, Lloyd also scored the first of her young career at 18:04 of the first, deflecting an Abby Benning point shot past a fooled Dyck.

Lloyd added her second before the night was up, beating Dyck five-hole 1:32 into the third period. Despite being outshot 9-3 in the second, and 4-1 early in the third period, the Pandas held a comfortable three-goal lead in the final frame. The Bisons clawed partially back halfway through the period, as Neduzak scored from nearly the same spot as her teammate in the first, cutting the lead to two.

Despite pulling Dyck with four and a half minutes left, the Bisons couldn't pull any closer to the Alberta Pandas, not generating any high-quality shots at the Panda net.

MacDougall sealed the first round playoff 'bye' with an empty net goal, her 11th of the season, with six seconds left.

The two teams will face off one last time in the regular season finale tomorrow afternoon, with a 2:00 p.m. puck drop scheduled at Clare Drake Arena.