Ryan Stelter, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG – The No. 1 University of Manitoba Bisons squeaked out an overtime win in game one of the 2018 Canada West Final by a score of 1-0 over the No. 8 University of Saskatchewan Huskies at Wayne Fleming Arena on Friday, March 2. Manitoba now leads the best-of-three series 1-0.
The two best women's hockey teams in the West were locked in a deadlock for the majority of the game until Bison captain Caitlin Fyten blasted a point shot home with 8.6 seconds left in the first overtime.
"To have that puck go into the net after we got one waved off was a good feeling," Fyten said. "I knew Hovi was coming up and I knew she was going to drop it and to be honest I was a bit too tired to skate so I decided to bury my head and shoot it and it went in."
Huskie captain Kaitlin Willoughby was stunned after the game.
"I thought that our player got interfered with but whatever. The ref didn't see that, but that is how it goes," she said.
"But after, I thought I heard the ref blow the whistle, so that was what I was asking him about after the game. He said he did blow the whistle, but it was still a good goal."
Manitoba largely dominated the opening minutes of the game, with Bison forward Nicole Carswell getting the best chance at the 13:45 mark. Carswell pounced on a rebound, but former Bison and Canada West Player of the Year Jessica Vance was equal to the task.
The Huskies gained their footing as the period wore on, forcing Canada West Rookie of the Year Lauren Taraschuk into a few tough stops. In the final minute of the frame the Bisons appeared to have the puck in the net but the referee had already blown his whistle before the puck crossed the line.
Courtlyn Oswald had a breakaway chance early in the second period, but Vance shut that down after Oswald tried to slip it five hole. A few minutes later, Willoughby dashed in and fired a quick snap shot off Taraschuk's shoulder.
In the dying seconds of the second period, Bison fourth-year forward Natasha Kostenko blocked a shot at her own blueline and chipped a pass through to Lauryn Keen. Keen raced into the Huskies zone, made a nice toe drag around the defender but had her shot go off the post. Shots were 16-12 in favour of the Bisons after 40 minutes of play.
"I thought we controlled the play for almost the whole game," said Bison head coach Jon Rempel. "We didn't give them much, most of their stuff came from the outside."
Saskatchewan had a pair of chances to start off the third period, but Taraschuk was there with some key saves. The rookie finished with a 25 save shutout, extending her playoff shutout streak to 224:15.
Halfway through the third period, Huskie forward Abby Shirley put the Bisons on the powerplay with an interference penalty. Manitoba applied some furious pressure, and just after the penalty expired Keen tipped a point shot in, but the goal was waved off due to goalie interference. After 60 minutes of deadlock, the two prairie rivals headed to overtime.
Venla Hovi hit the post for the Bisons with three minutes left in the first overtime, but she set up the game-winner. Hovi, 2018 Winter Olympics bronze medallist with Team Finland, dropped a pass to Fyten at the point and she fired a point shot past a screened Vance.
"There's not a lot of margin for error, it's not two teams who fly up and down the ice, it's two teams who play a very controlled game," Rempel said.
Manitoba leads the best-of-three series 1-0, game two goes tomorrow at 7 p.m. CT at the Wayne Fleming Arena.