U of S women’s hockey team overcomes tough opening games
|Pandas F Autumn MacDougall is stopped by Huskies G Cassidy Hendricks.|
Coming out of the gate, it appeared the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team was facing a murderous schedule.
In their first four games, the Huskies had to hit the road to take on the defending Canada West champion University of British Columbia Thunderbirds twice, and then they returned home to host the University of Alberta Pandas, who are always a conference powerhouse, twice. On paper, a split in each series would be considered a great success for the Huskies.
There was also a realistic chance the Huskies could play well and still come out of that stretch without a win.
|Kaitlin Willoughby netted the shootout winner for the Huskies.|
On Friday, the Huskies opened their home schedule at the ancient Rutherford Rink with a 2-1 double overtime victory over the Pandas. Offensive defender Leah Bohlken blew home the winner on the power play on a perfect backdoor feed from star winger Kaitlin Willoughby.
On Saturday at Rutherford, the Huskies completed the sweep of the Pandas pulling out a 2-1 victory after a tiebreaking shootout. Willoughby was the first shooter up in the shootout and netted a beauty goal on a deke that totally fooled Pandas goaltender Dayna Owen.
That turned out to be the only tally in the tiebreaking session. Veteran Huskies goalie Cassidy Hendricks slammed the door on the three Pandas shooters she faced to deliver her side to victory.
|Rachel Lundberg (#15) celebrates her short-handed goal.|
The Huskies weren’t always at their best. Had it not been for the stellar play of Hendricks, who made 29 stops through regulation and 10 minutes of overtime play, the Huskies wouldn’t have pulled out a sweep.
The Pandas had the Huskies pinned in their own zone for much of the first period, and at one point, the visitors had a 9-1 edge in shots on goal. U of A was winning every race for loose pucks and taking what seemed like every physical battle for the puck.
Hendricks was under siege, but the fifth-year standout from North Vancouver played with a trademark calm that has defined her whole university career. She was going to hold her team in the game until her teammates could find some traction.
When the first 20 minutes ended, the Pandas had outshot the Huskies 16-7. The visitors could have had at least a three-goal edge on the scoreboard, but the two sides were locked in a 0-0 draw.
|Rookie Kayla Kirwan has been solid for the Huskies.|
Lundberg broke into the Pandas zone, wired her first shot off the post, collected the rebound and beat Owen to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. The Dogs found their skating legs, and they played fairly even for the rest of the contest with the Pandas.
In the third, the Huskies ran into some penalty trouble, which allowed the Pandas to pull even. Playing with a two-person advantage, Pandas sophomore forward Autumn MacDougall buried her second of the season to tie things up at 1-1 shortly before the seven minute mark.
Before going to overtime, the Pandas had a glorious chance to pull ahead. Third-year forward Amy Boucher found herself on a breakaway late in the third, but she fired a shot wide of the goal.
During the second five-minute overtime period, Owen had to make a big save on Willoughby, when the Huskies were pressing with all sorts of pressure around the U of A net.
That set the stage for the shootout, where Willoughby made no mistake in potting the only goal in the tiebreaking session to give her team the win. The Huskies improved to 3-1 as a result.
|The Huskies celebrate their shootout victory against the Pandas.|
Besides getting clutch contributions from their veterans, the Huskies have also received strong performances from rookie defender Kayla Kirwan and rookie forward Emily Upgang.
After three big wins in a row, the Huskies now encounter their next challenge, when they hit the road to Lethbridge for two trap style games this coming Friday and Saturday against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The Pronghorns are 1-3, but they have always found a way to give the Huskies difficulties.
For the moment, the Huskies can take pride in their surprising good start. In the back of their minds, they have to ensure they don’t get too high, so they can focus on their next challenge and keep finding ways to win.
Bauml bashes Bears with hat trick
|Kohl Bauml had a hat trick to lead the Huskies to a big road win.|
On Saturday, Bauml fired home a hat trick to lead the defending Canada West champs past the U of Alberta Golden Bears with a 4-2 victory at the Clare Drake Arena. Bauml’s third goal broke a 2-2 tie just 55 seconds into the third period.
Huskies captain Kendall McFaull added a big insurance marker just past the midway point of the third to cement a two-goal victory. Goaltender Jordon Cooke made 32 saves to give the Dogs a split in their weekend series with their forever rivals. The Bears picked up a 3-2 double overtime victory on Friday.
In Saturday’s encounter, Jayden Hart and Cole Linaker had singles for the Bears, while netminder Kenny Cameron turned away 24 shots taking the loss in goal.
With Saturday’s win, the Huskies, who are rated third in the CIS top 10 rankings, improved to 3-0-1. The Bears, who are rated fourth in the CIS top 10 rankings, fell to 1-1.
The Huskies return to action this coming Friday and Saturday when they host the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns (1-1) at 7 p.m. on both nights at the Rutherford Rink.
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