Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG - A two-goal second period helped pace the defending national champion Manitoba Bisons to a season-opening 3-1 win over the Calgary Dinos on Friday night at Wayne Fleming Arena.
The game-winner came from forward Jordyn Zacharias at 8:38 of the middle frame as she tucked a shot between the pads of Calgary goaltender Kelsey Roberts. The fourth-year player had a strong game in the middle, along with her line mates Madison Cole and Emilie Masse.
"[Jordan] Zacharias kind of drives the bus on that line, but I think there's some good chemistry developing between [Madison] Cole and [Emilie] Masse," said Bisons head coach Sean Fisher post game. "I think after the first period they got their legs under them, and that's a line that will be able to do some things for us moving forward."
The opening five minutes of play were primarily spent in the Bisons zone. Dinos forward Delaney Frey had a solid opportunity on a wrist shot in the opening minute, but Manitoba goaltender Lauren Taraschuk was up to the task.
Calgary would keep pressing and eventually opened the scoring at 5:02, courtesy of forward Elizabeth Lang from in tight, who was stopped on her first attempt but not her second for her first career U SPORTS goal.
"There were so many bodies at the net and we were all just shoving at [the puck]," Lang said. "The goalie kind of slid the other way and I just tapped it home."
The visitors would take a body-checking penalty seven minutes into play, which drastically shifted the momentum of the opening period. Manitoba was unable to get on the board on their first power play but generated some critical confidence in the offensive zone.
The home side would head back to the power play with just under five minutes to go in the first and made no mistake on their second opportunity, as forward Sheridan Oswald netted a quick shot less than 10 seconds in to the man advantage to tie the game at one.
Both teams had their chances to retake the lead in the dying minutes, with the most notable opportunity coming courtesy of Calgary forward Annaliese Meier with mere seconds to play.
The rookie from Stonewall, MB stepped into the Bisons zone on a partial breakaway but was stymied by Taraschuk, who kept the game tied 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The Bisons were the clear aggressors in the second period, generating a significant number of chances in the offensive zone.
Defender Erica Reider and forward Lauryn Keen each had good looks in the opening minute, however both shots were tipped away by the Dinos. Keen would get another solid chance on a wraparound six minutes in, but was stopped by Roberts.
Manitoba's offensive persistence would pay off however, as Zacharias went five-hole to give Manitoba the 2-1 lead just under nine minutes into the middle frame.
The herd would increase their lead to two with 4:28 to go, as Keen connected on a rebound. The original shot came from defender Jenai Buchanan.
Calgary's best chance in the second period came on an odd-man rush from Lang and forward Sage Desjardins with six minutes to go, but they were unable to connect.
The visitors also had a power play opportunity with three minutes remaining and generated strong pressure, but Taraschuk was up to the task as the hosts entered the second intermission up 3-1.
Manitoba kept their foot on the gas in the third, producing a handful of solid opportunities in the opening 10 minutes. Their best chance came from Oswald, who let a shot rip from just inside the slot but was stopped by Roberts just over three minutes in.
The Dinos pulled their goalie with five minutes to play, resulting in sustained offensive pressure. Forward Sara Craven had the visitor's best chance with 4:30 to go from in tight but Taraschuk made the save, preserving the two-goal victory.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m., as Manitoba looks to sweep the season-opening series.