SASKATOON – It took 119 minutes and 49.3 seconds of action but in the end the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey team were able to pull out a thrilling 2-1 triple-overtime victory over the Mount Royal Cougars to book their ticket to the Canada West semifinals.
Scoring the decisive in goal in Game 3 inside Merlis Belsher Place was one of the least likely figures, as Rachel Lundbergpotted her first of the season to advance the Huskies and end the Cougars' season in heartbreak.
"I can't describe it, I think I blacked out," said the fourth-year forward. "It felt so good to be done the game, I am very tired but just so happy I was able to do it for my team because everybody was contributing and playing great."
With the third overtime frame winding down, Shyan Elias picked the pocket of a Mount Royal defender and fed it into the path of Lundberg who one-timed the puck past a helpless Zoe De Beauville in the Cougars' net.
"I saw that Shyan had it and everybody seemed to be looking at her so I just got into the slot, got ready for the pass and was screaming her name," said Lundberg.
With the win, Saskatchewan will now get set to travel to Edmonton where they will face the No. 1 seed Pandas in a best-of-three semifinal series.
"Honestly it was enjoyable, unfortunately we have too much experience in these types of games but the girls were in a good frame of mind, they were committed to doing what we were doing and by and large I thought we controlled the play and that it was just a matter of time," said Huskies head coach Steve Kook.
Bailee Bourassa scored the other goal for Saskatchewan while Tatum Amy had the lone marker for Mount Royal.
Zoe De Beauville was outstanding in the losing cause, stopping 58 of the 60 shots fired her way. Jessica Vance got the win in net for Saskatchewan, making 24 saves on the night.
The first goal of the game came under two minutes into the second period after some sustained pressure from Saskatchewan.
Emily Upgang and Brooklyn Haubrich combined to force a turnover behind the Cougars' net and Bourassa made no mistake when the puck came out to her in the slot, making the score 1-0 for Saskatchewan.
That tally stood up until deep into the third period.
A desperate Mount Royal team played their best hockey of the night in the frame and found the equalizer they were searching for with just under three minutes to play in regulation.
Right as a Cougars' powerplay expired, Amy unleashed a powerful wrister from the point the made its way through a crowd in front and past Vance.
With regulation solving nothing, the teams headed to overtime.
Both teams came out of the gates looking to end the game early, as end-to-end action saw the two exchanging chances early.
A great individual effort from Elizabeth Salyn resulted in the best chance of the frame after her pass gave Abby Shirley a look from in close but she was denied by the right pad of De Beauville, who extended the game to another period with that stop.
Towards the end of double-overtime, Mount Royal had their best chance to score outside of regulation when Tori Williams wound her way through the Huskies defence but Vance was able to get a pad on the effort.
The teams exchanged chances throughout the final frame but in the end, it was Lundberg and the Huskies that were destined for the victory.
"I honestly thought it was undeniable for us tonight, just the way the girls were on the bench. For the first time in an overtime game I wasn't nervous and it felt enjoyable out there," said Kook.
Next week will mark the third year in a row that the Huskies have advanced to the semifinal stage of the Canada West playoffs and that series in Edmonton will get underway Friday, Feb. 22 at 3:00 p.m.