Saturday, 20 February 2016

Bisons bounce back, tie series

Huskies team play disintegrates when adversity hits

The Bisons celebrate a second period goal by Venla Hovi (#9).
    It is amazing in hockey how momentum can shift when a team that is down gets some traction.
    After posting a solid 3-0 win in Game 1 of their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series on Friday night, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team looked early like they would post a repeat performance in Game 2 Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink. Instead, the visiting University of Manitoba Bisons turned the tide of the whole series with one play to skate away with a convincing 5-1 victory to even the series 1-1. 
    The teams will play a series deciding Game 3 on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.
    Huskies came out buzzing on Saturday night riding the wave they created from their Game 1 victory. They had golden chance early on to go ahead, when a point shot from fifth-year defender Hanna McGillivray rattled off the post.
    The hosts did draw first blood, when star offensive defender Julia Flinton popped home an off-speed point shot with 1:17 to play in the opening frame to give the Huskies what would be a short-lived 1-0 lead.
    With 13 seconds to play in the first, the series turned on a play that seemed to come out of the blue. The Bisons broke into the Huskies zone on a 2-1 and a set up pass from Alanna Sharman was deflected home in the air at about knee level by Venla Hovi, who is an import player from Finland. 
    The Bisons bench came alive on the tally that tied things up at 1-1, and the visitors played like a different team than they had the whole series.
Huskies goalie Cassidy Hendricks faced a lot of breakaways.
    Just before the 10-minute mark of the second period, the Bisons worked the puck around well down low causing the Huskies to lose focus on their positional play. Lauryn Keen slipped the puck over to Hovi, who was left open at the right side of the Huskies goal. She netted her second of the contest to put U of M ahead 2-1.
    At that point, the Huskies team play unraveled. Players would zip up ice individually with the puck hoping to make something happen instead of trying to create a play with their teammates.
    During other stretches, the Huskies would try to make a fancy pass in areas like the centre ice zone, when the more prudent decision would have been to get the puck deep in the offensive zone and charge in hard on the forecheck.
    The Bisons continued to play with sound structure, which helped create even more golden scoring chances. After a Huskies turnover, Keen,  while being taken down, sent Sharman in on a breakaway, and she deked out Huskies netminder Cassidy Hendricks to make the score 3-1 for U of M. Hendricks had thwarted Sharman on an earlier breakaway when the contest was still tied.
    After drawing assists on the first three U of M goals, Keen scored at the 5:03 mark of the third on another breakaway to put the visitors up 4-1. Kayleigh Wiens rounded out the scoring for the Bisons with a third breakaway goal, which came unassisted after a U of S turnover.
Alanna Sharman had a breakaway goal for the Bisons.
    Hendricks made 19 stops to take the loss in goal for the Huskies. Amanda Schubert, who was making her first start of the playoffs, stopped 22 shots to earn the win in goal for the Bisons.
    Heading into Game 3 on Sunday, the Huskies will be able to see on video everything they did wrong is easy to correct. Individually, the players have to keep their focus up.
    They also have to concentrate on playing as a group of five in all three zones. When the puck goes into the defensive zone, everyone has to dart back. When they bring the puck up ice through the centre ice zone, they have to attack that area with speed and together as a unit.
    In the offensive zone, they have to worry about making smart decisions, which means deciding at times to not thread a pass through three or four bodies, but get the puck down low and work a cycle. Those that don’t have the puck in the offensive zone need to move into an area to offer an outlet to support the puck carrier.
    The series is there for the taking. If the Huskies stay focused and play as a unit of five in all three zones, they will give themselves a chance to advance. They have done that in the past, and they have to remember they have the ability to do it again.

Cougars advance to face Thunderbirds

Bailey Braden had a series winning goal for the Cougars.
  In Regina on Saturday night, the University of Regina Cougars swept away the University of Calgary Dinos in the other Canada West women’s hockey best-of-three quarter-final series.
    Bailey Braden scored on a first period power play and Toni Ross made 29 saves to power the Cougars to a 1-0 victory over the Dinos. Hayley Dowling stopped 27 shots to take the loss in the U of C net.
    The Cougars took the best-of-three series 2-0. In Game 1, they dumped the Dinos 4-1, while holding a 45-14 edge in the shots on goal department.
    The Dinos, who finished sixth in the Canada West standings, had stormed into the playoffs winning nine of their last 11 regular season games before bowing out. They will play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship tournament as the host squad. The eight-team national championship event runs March 17-20 in Calgary.
    The Cougars, who were third in Canada West, advance to face the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series.
    The winner of Game 3 between the Huskies and Bisons on Sunday advances to face the first place University of Alberta Pandas in the other Canada West best-of-three semifinal series. Sunday’s Game 3 with the Bisons will mark the final time the Huskies play at home in the 2015-16 campaign.

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