Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON - Morgan Willoughby's first goal of the season stood as the game-winner as the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey team concluded their regular season campaign with a 2-1 win over the visiting Manitoba Bisons on Saturday, Feb. 9 at Merlis Belsher Place.
Kennedy Brown recorded her third goal of the season to open the scoring for Saskatchewan, while Willoughby's second period snipe proved to be the difference for the home side. Brooklyn Haubrich chipped in an assist on the opening goal to give her points in back to back games. Abby Shirley, Shyan Elias and Leah Bohlken also added helpers in the win.
Jordyn Zacharias continued to build on her impressive fourth-year campaign as the forward's 12th goal of the season was the lone goal of the night for Manitoba. Alanna Sharman's fifth assist of the season moved her point total to eight.
Erin Fargey got handed the start in the second night of the back-to-back, and the rookie netminder was solid between the pipes for the Bisons. The first year stopped 27 of 29 shots in the loss.
Jessica Vance recorded the win against her former team, as the third-year netminder turned aside 18 of 19 shots.
The Huskies, who were assured the fourth seed in the conference coming into the game, improved their record to 10-10-5-2.
The loss locks the Bisons into the second spot in the Canada West entering the postseason and drops their record to 16-4-4-3 this season.
At the 16:24 mark of the first period, Saskatchewan got on the board. Brown was in the right place at the right time, as the rookie forward banged home a scrambling puck to make it 1-0.
With under a minute remaining in the opening frame, the Bisons were threatening for the response. Buchanan snuck in from the point and released a wrister from the right hash, but Vance was equal to the task.
Saskatchewan outshot Manitoba 12-6 in the period. The Huskies are now 7-2-0-0 on the season when leading after one period of play.
The Huskies extended their lead midway through the second frame.
After Abby Shirley forced a Bisons turnover, the home side started cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Eventually, the puck made its way back to the point, and Willoughby's heavy wrister found twine. The fourth-year blueliner continued Saskatchewan's trend of receiving production from the backend, as that goal stands as their 16th from a defenceman this season.
However, the Bisons got on the board with 5:44 remaining in the second period. Zacharias poked home her second goal in as many games after a Sharman wrister snuck through the wickets of Vance.
Through two periods of play, the shots on goal totals were 24-10 in favor of Saskatchewan.
Manitoba had a glorious opportunity to knot the game back up after Willoughby blew a tire in the defensive zone, resulting in a two-on-zero break in on Vance. However, the netminder stood tall and made a tremendous save on Allison Sexton to keep the Huskies one-goal lead intact after Zacharias set the forward up with the one-timer from the slot.
With 1:14 remaining in regulation, the Bisons pulled Fargey from her cage in favor of an extra-attacker with the visitors seeking the equalizer. However, the Huskies were able to weather the storm and escape with the victory.
Saskatchewan will play their first-ever playoff game at Merlis Belsher Place next weekend as they welcome either the Mount Royal Cougars or Regina Cougars to the Bridge City. Manitoba will have a bye next weekend before officially beginning their quest towards a second consecutive Canada West Championship on Feb. 22 at Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg.