Connor Hood - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON - In the first of two meetings between the two top ranked teams in U SPORTS, the No. 1 Manitoba Bisons held to their lead atop the Canada West standings with a 2-1 win over the No. 2 Alberta Pandas, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Sheridan Oswald and Erica Rieder's goals were enough for the Bisons, while starting goalie Rachel Dyck overcame an early Alberta goal, as she made 13 saves to earn the win. Autumn MacDougall scored the lone Alberta marker, her eighth of the season, in the loss. The win is the Bisons 13th overall win this season (11-4-2-0), as they add to their conference lead with 37 points in 15 games. The Pandas, meanwhile, fall into fourth place in the conference standings, and now own a 7-4-3-3 Canada West record.
In what was hyped as a superstar matchup between two of the conference's better offensive teams, turned into an incredibly tight-checking defensive duel. The teams combined for just 29 total shots, and were 0/5 on the powerplay. A majority of the games offence came early in the first, as MacDougall opened the scoring for Alberta just six minutes in. Off a misplay at the red line, Panda forward Lisa Lloyd was sprung on a partial break on Dyck. Her initial shot was stopped, but MacDougall read the play to perfection, tapping the rebound into an empty Manitoba net.
The 1-0 Alberta lead would be short lived, however, as Oswald evened the game with an incredible solo effort just seven minutes later. After creating a turnover at the Panda blueline, Oswald broke in alone on Panda goalie Kirsten Chamberlin, beating the young Pandas keeper with a fantastic deke for her third tally of the season.
The offence came to an abrupt halt after the goal of the year candidate, with the teams combining for just seven shots in the second frame, and another 11 in the third. The opportunity for Manitoba finally came midway through the third, as they took advantage of a Panda line caught on a long shift. Rieder beat Chamberlin five-hole from in tight with a quick shot, as her fifth of the season stood as the game-winner.
The two Canada West juggernauts will finish their weekend and season series tomorrow afternoon, with the rematch scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. start time at Clare Drake Arena and live on Canada West TV.