Mike Still, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG — A Karissa Kirkup goal on a breakaway with eight minutes to go in the third period made the difference on Friday night at Wayne Fleming Arena, as the No. 3 Manitoba Bisons topped the No. 9 Saskatchewan Huskies 2-1.
"Our goalie had to make a few key saves, and we were a bit scrambly in front of her there that shift, but it ended up working out okay," Bisons head coach Sean Fisher said postgame.
"[Lauren] Taraschuk made a couple of huge saves there and sometimes that's how the game of hockey works. You get a big save from your goaltender and you can go right back down there and zing them."
These two teams entered the weekend second and third in the conference in goals against, with 15 (Saskatchewan) and 16 (Manitoba), respectively. With that in mind, it's not much of a surprise that the contest was a defensive battle.
Both teams had one power play opportunity in the opening 20 minutes, however smothering play in and around the half wall negated many chances.
The Huskies broke the dead lock with the only goal of the period at 10:02. Defender Isabella Pozzi let a shot go off in traffic and it bounced directly to forward Abby Shirley who tapped it in.
Manitoba had a few solid chances to tie the contest. Forward Mekaela Fisher's shot with five minutes to play beat Huskies goaltender Jessica Vance but not the post, while line mate Emilie Masse got a lead pass from Jordyn Zacharias in the last minute, however her open look was stopped by Vance.
The physicality between the two squads continued in the middle frame as neither team was able to find the back of the net.
The Huskies had a great chance in the opening minute and a half on a loose puck around the Bisons crease, however Shirley was stopped by Manitoba goaltender Lauren Taraschuk. Forward Kennedy Brown also had a strong opportunity six minutes in on a partial breakaway but was also stymied by Taraschuk.
Manitoba's aggressive forecheck earned them a few quality chances in the first five minutes. One of those came on a positive defensive play from forward Kaitlyn Chatyrbok that led to a good look for line mate Madison Cole, however she couldn't solve Vance.
Zacharias also had a good opportunity on the power play with three minutes to go, however Vance stood tall.
The Huskies took their third penalty of the game ten seconds into the third period and Manitoba made them pay on the power play, as forward Lauryn Keen tapped a puck five-hole from in tight against Vance. The goal was the first surrendered on the penalty kill on the road for Saskatchewan.
"It was only a matter of time," Fisher said of his team's power play.
"They were doing such good things and had such good habits. They were sharing the puck and running plays and shooting pucks. Yeah, [Saskatchewan] has a great PK there, so it was going to take a couple of opportunities to find one against them."
Kirkup would score the game-winning goal seven minutes later, as defender Jenai Buchanan caught Saskatchewan on a line change, springing the speedy forward who made no mistake past the blocker of Vance. The play was set up by Taraschuk, who made a few key saves earlier in the shift and recorded her first U SPORTS assist on the play.
The visitors pressed for the equalizer, with their best chance coming with three minutes to go, as Shirley deflected a shot but couldn't beat Taraschuk.
With the win, Manitoba advanced to 8-3-2-0, while Saskatchewan fell to 5-4-3-1. Both teams are back at it tomorrow at 4 p.m.