Saturday, 6 February 2016

Pandas win ugly, hold off Huskies rally

The Pandas celebrate Natasha Steblin's OT winner.
    The University of Alberta Pandas women’s hockey team proved they win the ugly one.
    Had the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies claimed victory, they would have held that same distinction.
    On Saturday night at the ancient Rutherford Rink, the Pandas slipped past the Huskies 2-1 in double overtime in a match that resembled what a New Jersey Devils game looked like back in their Stanley Cup winning years. From the second period onwards, the contest was defined by a whole tonne of clutching and grabbing, and the officials could have called more penalties than 13 total infractions that were issued out.
    Actually, the officials seemed to be trapped in not knowing what calls they should let go and what infractions they should call, which helped to further drag the flow of play down.
    When the dust settled in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport regular season clash, one of the biggest differences that created the final outcome was the fact the Pandas went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Huskies went 0-for-7 with the one-player advantage.
    The Pandas struck first in Saturday’s clash with 2:03 to play in the opening frame. While working the power play, fifth-year forward Lindsey Cunningham collected the rebound from a Natasha Steblin shot at the side of the U of S goal and potted her third of the season to put U of A up 1-0.
    As the contest progressed, it appeared Cunningham’s tally would hold up to give the Pandas victory. Both teams had trouble working their way up and down the ice, which helped cut down on the scoring opportunities for both sides.
Julia Flinton had a huge goal for the Huskies.
    When scoring chances did come, Lindsey Post stood tall in the Pandas net, while Cassidy Hendricks ensured the Huskies remained within a goal.
    Just when the contest appeared to be stuck in a quagmire, Huskies offensive defender Julia Flinton netted the equalizer with four seconds to play in the third period on a beautiful solo rush. The Williams Lake, B.C., product picked up speed in the centre ice zone, blew by the Pandas defenders and slipped home a backhand shot past Post to even the score at 1-1.
    Near the end of the first four-on-four overtime period, the Huskies had huge chance to pull out the win, when they went on the power play after Pandas forward Deanna Morin was given a minor for checking to the head. The Huskies had three solid chance to win the game on that power-play chance including a point shot that deflected high into the air and almost lobbed into the U of A net. The puck ended up just settling on top of the goal.
    During a second overtime period played under a three-on-three format, the Pandas went to the power play after Huskies centre Lauren Zary was given a slashing minor.
    The visitors capitalized on that chance, when Steblin fired home the winner from the slot passed a screened Hendricks to give the Pandas a 2-1 victory.
    Hendricks made 18 stops taking the overtime setback in goal for the Huskies. Post made 24 saves to earn the win in goal for the Pandas.
    The Huskies record moved to 13-9-4, and they were able to clinch a berth in the Canada West playoffs with the point they earned from the overtime setback. With two regular season games to play, the Huskies sit fourth overall in Canada West two points up on the University of Manitoba Bisons.
    The Pandas improve to 14-9-3 to sit third in Canada West with a four-point cushion on the Huskies thanks mainly to having 13-10 advantage in regulations wins.
    The Huskies close the regular season with a home-and-home series with the U of Regina Cougars (16-9-1). The two teams play this coming Friday in Regina at the Co-operators Centre and this coming Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink.

Golden Bears pull out brooms in Edmonton

Sean Aschim had a goal for the Huskies in Edmonton on Saturday.
    The University of Alberta Golden Bears served notice that they are still a force to be reckoned with in Canada West men’s hockey.
    On Saturday in Edmonton, the Golden Bears completed a two-game series sweep of the Canada West leading U of Saskatchewan Huskies posting a 5-2 victory before 1,653 spectators at the Clare Drake Arena. The sweep at the hands of U of A marks the first time the Huskies have dropped two straight game all season. The Golden Bears took Friday’s clash in Edmonton between the two club’s 3-0.
    In Saturday’s encounter, Levko Koper, Jordan Rowley and Thomas Carr netted singles to stake the hosts out to a 3-0 lead.
    Jesse Ross and Sean Aschim responded with singles for the Huskies to cut the Golden Bear’s lead to 3-2 heading into the second intermission.
    In the third period, Stephane Legault and Jamie Crooks potted singles to seal victory for the Golden Bears.
    Jordon Cooke made 32 saves to take the loss in goal for the Huskies. Luke Siemens turned away 17 shots to pick up the win in the Golden Bears net.
    The Huskies, who are rated first in the CIS top ten rankings, fell to 21-5, but they have already locked up first overall in Canada West. The Golden Bears, who are rated seventh in the CIS top ten rankings, improve to 17-7-2 to sit third in Canada West just one point behind the Mount Royal University Cougars (17-6-3).
    U of S closes its regular season with a home-and-home series against the University of Regina Cougars (6-20). The two clubs play this coming Friday at 7 p.m. at the Rutherford Rink and on Saturday in Regina at the Co-operators Centre.

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