Amber Doyle, Bison Sports
WINNIPEG – With a rollercoaster of a game and a third period photo finish, the No. 2 seeded Manitoba Bisons took game one of the Canada West Semifinals over the No. 3 seeded UBC Thunderbirds, 4-3 at Wayne Fleming Arena.
Manitoba had the last laugh in a wild third period, where three goals were scored, including one on an Alanna Sharman penalty shot. The Bisons got the game-winner off the stick of second-year Lauren Warkentin, who scored after a misplay from UBC goalie Tory Micklash with just 40 seconds left.
"I liked most of tonight's game in a lot of ways," said Bisons head coach Sean Fisher. "It was 60 solid minutes. They showed a lot of resilience."
Also scoring for Manitoba were Lauryn Keen and Karissa Kirkup, while the Thunderbirds got goals from Mathea Fischer, Hannah Koroll, and Ireland Perrott.
Early on, the Thunderbirds took advantage of a power play halfway through the first. Fischer fired from the circle with just 18 seconds to go in the Bisons penalty kill, scoring her sixth point of the playoffs through just three games. Mikayla Ogrodniczuk and Hannah Koroll each picked up an assist.
The Bisons burst into the second period in style, scoring 12 seconds in. Fifth-year forward Lauryn Keen slid the puck short side past Micklash. Fellow fifth-years Karissa Kirkup and Natasha Kostenko padded their stats with an apple a piece.
The line, nicknamed "Special K", once again had a great game for Manitoba.
"They're puck possession monsters," said Fisher. "They're tough to get the puck from once they have it. They play the game the right way."
Just over five minutes later, the Herd's second-year blueliner Brielle Dacquay-Neveux was shut down by Micklash, but Kirkup put away the rebound off the goalie's pads, putting the Bisons up 2-1.
With 5:25 remaining in the second, a flub in front of the Bisons net ended with the puck bouncing off Jenai Buchanan's skate and past Taraschuk. UBC's Koroll was credited with the goal, tying the score at 2-2.
Most of the action then came in the third. Early in the period, a UBC player covered the puck in the crease, awarding the Bisons a penalty shot. Fifth-year forward Alanna Sharman had the honours. She faked right but went left, sliding a nice backhand shot past Micklash, giving the Bisons a 3-2 lead.
It didn't last long. Just a few minutes later and with Manitoba in the box, UBC's Ireland Perrott found room in traffic to put one past Taraschuk. Perrott's goal was assisted by Logan Boyd and Koroll. The teams were back at par, 3-3.
It looked as though the Bisons were going to put away another goal as the puck floated behind Micklash shortly after, but the UBC goalie batted it out of midair before it crossed the goal line, leaving the Bisons frustrated.
"We don't give up," said second-year defenceman Lauren Warkentin. "We just stuck with our game."
The Bisons' energy was unwavering.
"They wouldn't take no for an answer," said Bison head coach Sean Fisher. "The hockey gods didn't shine on us early in the game, but they always come back."
With 40 seconds left on the clock and overtime looking necessary, Warkentin broke away from the pack, landing an unassisted goal to secure the win.
"She's a horse back there," said Fisher. "She can play in any situation. She's been solid all year."
The battle will continue in game two of the series, which will take place at Wayne Fleming Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Game three will follow on Sunday at 4 p.m., if necessary.