Matthew B. Pohl, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE, Alta — A three-point night for Autumn MacDougall helped the University of Alberta Pandas achieve a 4-1 result over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday night, restoring her team's lead ahead of the University of Manitoba Bisons at the top of the Canada West standings.
Halle Oswald started in net for the Pandas, and she turned aside all but one of the 18 shots she faced. Pronghorns starter Alicia Anderson made 29 saves in the losing effort.
Alberta started the game off with a bang, taking control of the momentum early with a drawn penalty. Kiara Machry would find a cross-crease opportunity at the goal line to MacDougall just outside the Lethbridge crease, where she would put the puck behind a sprawling Anderson, just 2:01 into the game.
The visiting Pandas continued to maintain control on the pace of play, but Alberta would only have a 4-2 shots lead at the halfway mark of the period. Both teams would get a number of shot opportunities, but strong defensive showings by both sides early would keep things tight.
Alberta headed into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, and a 9-5 shots-on-goal advantage.
The second period started out similar to the first, this time with the Pandas on the power play to open the frame. While Lethbridge did manage to kill off the penalty, Alberta held the momentum. Danielle Hardy, breaking into the Pronghorns zone with help, opted for the low slapshot that ended up trickling between the pads of Anderson to double the Pandas lead.
Alberta continued to display their dominance throughout the second half of the period, finding numerous ways to get the puck behind the Lethbridge defenders. Abby Benning would get possession of the puck near her own half-boards, springing a speedy Kennedy Ganser on a partial break. Ganser would pull off her own version of the "no-move" move to slide the puck through Anderson's five-hole and increase the Pandas lead to three.
Just after the game's half-way point, the Pronghorns put a halt the Pandas three-goal streak on the power play. Some good passing by the Pronghorns to spread the Pandas defence allowed an Eryn Johnson shot to cleanly rebound to Katelyn Breitkreuz. She fed an open Delaney Duchek, and she would wire a wrister off of Oswald that would ricochet over and behind the netminder to cut into the deficit by one goal.
However, the Pandas had a quick answer to restore the three-goal lead, as Alex Poznikoff broke into the zone and cut across the ice to spread the Lethbridge defenders apart, opening up a clean pass to MacDougall for her to tip-in her team's fourth goal.
Lethbridge managed to stop the surge of power from the Pandas for the rest of the frame, including surviving a 46-second five-on-three penalty-kill, to head to the dressing room down by three. Alberta outshot the home side by almost double in the period with 15-8.
A pair of off-setting penalties assessed at the end of the second meant the third period would start with some four-on-four action. Neither team could capitalize on the extra space.
The Pronghorns began to show a little life after the brief four-on-four action, as they would get a number of quality chances on a power play opportunity. Oswald would stand tall, turning aside all four shots she faced.
Passing the 10-minute mark of the third, Alberta would begin to recapture the momentum from the Pronghorns, who have shown strong third-period play over the course of the season. Despite the change in momentum, Lethbridge continued to stand tall defensively.
Despite the late effort by the home side to cut into the lead, and with the Pandas taking a penalty with less than 30 seconds in the game, the score after 60 would be the same as after 40.
Game two of the penultimate regular season series takes place Saturday, February 2nd, at the Nicholas Sheran Arena. Puck drops at 2:00 PM.
Photo by: MPP Photography