Friday, 2 March 2018

Huskies take gut punch in controversial Game 1 finish

Bisons claim Canada West finals opener 1-0 in overtime

The Bisons celebrate an overtime winning goal from Caitlin Fyten.
    WINNIPEG, Man. - Kaitlin Willoughby was still trying to process a stunning loss for her University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team.
    With 8.6 seconds remaining in overtime, captain Caitlin Fyten of the University of Manitoba Bisons drove home the winning goal to deliver her team to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the Canada West championship series at the Wayne Fleming Arena. Fyten’s goal on Friday night was surrounded by hectic action played in front of 640 spectators.
    Huskies right-winger Bailee Bourassa was knocked to the ice by one of the Bisons skaters and the U of S players on the ice were calling for an interference penalty. Willoughby, who is the Huskies star fifth-year captain, skated over to the officials to talk to them about another concern.
Huskies captain Kaitlin Willoughby talks to the officials after the game.
    She thought the officials blew the whistle early causing the Huskies players to stop on the play. When the dust settled post-game, Willoughby was still dumbfounded by what happened.
    “I thought that our player got interfered with, but whatever,” said Willoughby. “The ref didn’t see that, but that is how it goes.
    “But after, I thought I heard the ref blow the whistle, so that was what I was asking him about after the game. He said he did blow the whistle, but it was still a good goal if it goes in.”
    The overtime goal moved the Bisons, who are rated first in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, into position to sweep the short best-of-three series. U of M will try to close out the set in Game 2 at 7 p.m. local time at the Wayne Fleming Arena. If necessary, Game 3 will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday also at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
Caitlin Fyten had the overtime winner for the Bisons.
    “I think I just need a few minutes to like just let it sink in,” said Willoughby. “(It is) definitely not the ending that we wanted.
    “Obviously, we don’t want to be losing the first game. That is how it goes. Sometimes, hockey plays don’t go your way, and we just have to come back tomorrow.”
    As she has done throughout her playoff career, Willoughby did have a couple of chances in clutch time to make the outcome of Friday’s game a different one. In the third, she shot a puck using a defender as a screen on a dangerous rush only to be denied by the glove had of Bisons netminder Lauren Taraschuk, who is the Canada West rookie-of-the-year.
    Late in the third, Willoughby tried to fire a smart shot between Taraschuk’s legs, but the puck stopper turned aside that chance with a stick save.
    Taraschuk turned away 25 shots to pick up her second straight playoff overtime shutout win in goal for the Bisons.
Kaitlin Willoughby was denied on two good third period chances.
    In the Huskies end, netminder Jessica Vance, who is the Canada West player-of-the-year, was doing her best to steal the win making 32 saves overall in the setback.
    For the host side, Fyten played the role of hero. The fifth-year defender was solid at both ends of the ice, and her strong play was especially evident in overtime.
    Before she scored her winner, Fyten came up with a key shot block on Huskies rookie centre Chloe Smith on a three-on-one U of S rush. That shot block set the stage for Fyten to score her winning goal.
    “I’m happy for the captain,” said Bisons head coach Jon Rempel. “She played a solid game.
    “She was just so good against their top line today. She just found a way shooting pucks to the net and getting some traffic, which we were trying to do the whole game.
    “We had a lot of good looks today. We just finally found one.”
    Vance’s play was key in keeping the contest scoreless through the first period, where the Huskies were outshot 12-5. The sophomore goalies turned away a handful of backdoor setups.
Netminder Jessica Vance turned away 32 shots in Friday’s playoff setback.
    When the Bisons were working on a power play in the third period, centre Courtlyn Osward was denied down low by Vance after receiving the puck on a sweep setup from the point.
    The Bisons thought they went ahead 1-0 with 9:26 to play in the third, but it was waved off when the officials said one of the U of M players contacted Vance in the crease.
    Bisons head coach Jon Rempel gave credit to Vance for her play, and he also gave props to his team for playing a sound game.
    “You know she (Vance) is going to stop most of the pucks that she sees,” said Rempel. “We had some good looks today. I think we had three goalposts and a disallowed goal, so we were there.
    “I thought we did some good things. I thought we controlled the puck. I thought we controlled the play for almost the whole game.
Netminder Lauren Taraschuk turned away 25 shots in goal for the Bisons. 
    “We didn’t give them much at our net. Most of their stuff came from the outside.”
    Willoughby said her team can’t dwell on how Friday’s game ended. She took solace in the fact she knows her team can play better.
    “I think we just have to make sure we come ready to play in the first period,” said Willoughby, whose Huskies are rated eighth in the U Sports Top 10 rankings. “We know we are a better team than we were today.
    “We just have to come ready to play in the first period. It is do or die now.”
The Huskies look stunned after their Game 1 loss.
    NOTE – The Huskies didn’t have head coach Steve Kook behind the bench for Friday’s game. Under an old U Sports rule, Kook was serving a one-game suspension for the fact his players left their bench at the end of their 2-1 Canada West semifinal series clinching win over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds last Saturday at the Rutherford Rink before the referee gave them permission to do so when another penalty had been called on the U of S side. Kook was given a game misconduct, when that happened.

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