WINNIPEG — Defender Leah Bohlken tapped in a puck loose in Manitoba's crease in three-on-three double overtime as the No. 9 Saskatchewan Huskies earned the extra point over the No. 3 Manitoba Bisons 3-2 on Saturday night at Wayne Fleming Arena.
The contest showcased why the two teams are both ranked in the top ten in the nation, with momentum flowing back and forth throughout.
Manitoba pushed the pace early in the first period, generating plenty of traffic in front of the Saskatchewan net. The hosts were rewarded for their efforts with the game's opening goal at 6:52, as forward Karissa Kirkup beat Huskies goaltender Jessica Vance from an odd angle at the goal line for her fourth tally of the season.
The Bisons had a chance to double up right afterwards, as Saskatchewan took two minor penalties a minute apart from each other, however the visitors stood strong in the defensive zone.
After plenty of hard work against the boards and a few quality chances from both sides, the Huskies were able to tie the contest up just 11 seconds after a Manitoba penalty with 5:27 to go. Forward Emily Upgang got her stick on a shot from Kayla Kirwan to do the damage.
The second period featured a faster pace with plenty of end-to-end transition action.
The Huskies would take the lead at 4:27, as they forced a turnover around centre ice and Kirwan made no mistake on a two-on-one, going low blocker side.
Manitoba had their share of opportunities to tie the contest, but couldn't solve Vance, while the Huskies defence also did an effective job winning battles on the perimeter.
Forward Sheridan Oswald got a good look on the power play five minutes into the middle frame as the puck took a Bisons bounce behind the net right to her, however Vance made the save.
Forward Lauryn Keen — the team leader in points — also produced a no-look pass into the Huskies crease with seven minutes to go, however no team mate was able to get their stick on the puck as Saskatchewan entered the third period up by one for the second straight game.
Manitoba goaltender Lauren Taraschuk made a few key saves early in the third period to keep the Bisons within one. First, she stopped forward Bailee Bourassa on a three-on-one break, then she stymied Kennedy Brown on a partial breakaway with the Huskies short-handed.
The Bisons would reward their goalie with the equalizer at 8:34, as defender Alexandra Anderson took advantage of Saskatchewan's smothering defensive tactics, skating around multiple players and flipping a backhand shot past Vance, who was screened by a few team mates.
"It was kind of a will thing more than anything. I knew there wasn't much left in the tank there. It's been two hard battles, two wars the last two weekends and I knew there wasn't a lot left on the back end," Bisons head coach Sean Fisher said postgame.
"It was more a will thing. That speaks volumes to the character in that dressing room to battle back and grab a point there. I thought through regulation we were the better team. We out shot them, out blocked them and out chanced them. It was just unfortunate that we had to go to the extra time. We didn't have a lot left in the tank."
The Huskies had a chance to re-take the lead with five minutes to go on a power play, however the hosts held strong, limiting the one-time shot from the slot. Manitoba then got an excellent chance as forward Allison Sexton was sprung coming out of the penalty box, however Vance stood firm as the game went to a five minute four-on-four overtime session.
The majority of the four-on-four session was spent in Manitoba's zone, as the Huskies did an effective job controlling puck possession. The best chance of the session came on a shot from the top of the circle by Brooklyn Haubrich, however Taraschuk was up to the task as the squad's went to three-on-three for five minutes.
Manitoba was trapped in their own zone for the entire duration of the second overtime session and the Huskies made them pay, as Bohlken found a loose puck to get the victory.
"We were just tired," Fisher said about the game-winning goal postgame. "The horses were tired."
With the win, the Huskies advanced to 5-4-4-1, while Manitoba dropped to 8-3-2-1. Next up for Manitoba is a road tilt against Calgary while Saskatchewan will face Alberta, also on the road.