Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE – With her first goal of the season in the last minute of play, Lethbridge Pronghorns forward Brett Campbell put away the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, 2-1 in the first game of a Canada West weekend double-header, and snapped the Pronghorns six-game losing streak on Friday night.
With the win, the Pronghorns record improves to 4-9-0-2, moving to within six points of the Regina Cougars for the final playoff spot, while the Thunderbirds fall to 6-3-3-3 on the season remaining in third.
The game began with two fired-up benches cheering and jeering, as the two teams traded chances on the rush at either end of the ice. Players from both schools fought hard to regain possession of the puck on the back-check to keep the momentum swing in check.
The Thunderbirds would begin to find chances on the Lethbridge net halfway into the first, finding openings on the outside to get past the defending Pronghorns. Lethbridge Goaltender Alicia Anderson would come up strong, slowing down the play.
Despite a reckless cross-checking penalty by UBC's Jenna Fletcher that sent Pronghorns player Ashlee Hodge-Hirschfield tumbling into Anderson, the momentum would swing in favour of the Thunderbirds with a number of high-quality chances, and would continue with a roughing penalty to Campbell. Anderson would continue to stand strong for her team, preventing all five of the Thunderbirds shots on goal from entering the net.
British Columbia would serve notice to their momentum as Fletcher took a roughing penalty after engaging with a Lethbridge defender in front of Anderson's net. Lethbridge would hem the Thunderbirds in their own zone for the entire man-advantage, but were not able to capitalize.
After the expiration of the penalty, the Thunderbirds would regain the momentum from the Pronghorns with a number of quality open-slot chances against Anderson. The Lethbridge netminder would stand tall, making excellent glove and blocker saves on four power-play chances to keep the score tied up at zero.
Lethbridge's Ashley McCabe took a late roughing penalty to put the Thunderbirds on the power-play for the remainder of the period and forcing her team to start the second frame a player down for 41 seconds. UBC outshot the Pronghorns 16 to 5, while the score remained tied at zero.
The home team would manage to kill off the remaining time on the penalty to McCabe, but not without the Thunderbirds getting another quality chance on the Lethbridge net, turned aside again by Anderson.
On British Columbia's sixth chance of the period, they become the first team to find the scoring column. Off of a wrap-around attempt by Emily Costales that coaxed Anderson out of her net, an unguarded Hannah Clayton-Carroll was in perfect position to net her fifth goal of the season, putting the visiting side up one to nothing.
Just over two minutes later, the team from Lethbridge would find an answer to Clayton-Carroll's marker. After her takeaway on a poorly-controlled UBC possession in the neutral zone, Jodi Gentile stormed into the Thunderbirds zone and fired a well-placed wrist-shot just above the glove of Micklash, to tie the game back up at one.
The game would begin to get aggressive from both sides, with UBC's Brie Bellerive taking a boarding penalty shortly after the first Lethbridge goal. Lethbridge wouldn't be able to capitalize on this power-play.
Both teams would continue to chip at the other in an attempt to draw penalties. Late in the period, Lethbridge's Ashley Nodhof would interfere on the actions of a UBC attacker at her own half-boards; 80 seconds later, she would be joined by UBC's Celine Tardif who tripped a rushing Pronghorns player at her own blue-line. Despite the extra ice, neither team would find the back of the net to give their team the lead.
The score would remain tied at one after the second period. The Thunderbirds garnered seven shots on Anderson in the frame, and the Pronghorns with five shots on Micklash.
The Thunderbirds would begin the third period pressing the Pronghorns in their own zone, with Bellerive drawing a hooking penalty from Lethbridge's Delaney Duchek, but wouldn't be able to capitalize on the opportunity.
As time began to tick away in the second half of the period, both teams began to focus on creating quality scoring chances to get their team the lead. Both Anderson and Micklash stood tall for their teams, as shots would come from all angles in a rapid series of back-and-forth hockey.
With less than three minutes remaining, Anderson would come up strong for the Pronghorns, turning aside a point-blank shot on the blocker-side into the corner before the play went back into the UBC zone. Anderson, less than a minute later, would make an astounding blocker-save on a screened wrist-shot from the slot to keep her team from going down by one goal late in the game.
Despite all of the pressure from both clubs to break the tie in their favour while being leak-proof defensively, it would be the Lethbridge Pronghorns who would break through their opponent's barrier late in the game. Continuing with a cycle-play near the blue line, Katelyn Breitkreuz would feed teammate Alli Borrow at the near-side half-boards; her wrist shot would be deflected in by Campbell in front of the net behind Micklash to mark her first goal of the season.
Campbell's first of the season would put the Pronghorns up for good on the Thunderbirds, breaking their six-game losing streak. Micklash stopped 11 shots in the final frame, and Anderson turned aside all 15 of the shots she faced; final shots on goal were 38-22 in favour of the UBC Thunderbirds.
The Pronghorns are back in action Saturday at 2 PM at the Nicholas Sheran Arena, for game two of the weekend series versus the UBC Thunderbirds.
Photo by: MPP Photography