Saturday, 16 February 2019

Cougars trap Huskies to perfection, force playoff series deciding Game 3

The Cougars celebrate a third period power-play goal.
    The Mount Royal University Cougars women’s hockey team were the excellence of execution when it game to playing the neutral zone trap.
    Facing elimination in a best-of-three Canada West quarter-final playoff series, the Cougars put the clamps down on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and skated to a 3-0 victory in Game 2 on Saturday night at Merlis Belsher Place. The Cougars win evens the set at 1-1 and a series-deciding Game 3 will be held on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.
    Following Saturday’s U Sports post-season clash, Huskies head coach Steve Kook said his team didn’t have one of their better efforts.
    “I didn’t think we won very many puck races,” said Kook. “I didn’t think we won very many puck battles.
The Cougars battle for the puck at the side of the Huskies net.
    “They played a real good road game, a boring style of road game, but it was effective. Anytime that we generated anything or had anything outside of our zone it was one versus four. It was hard to generate anything out of that.
    “We’ll have to try and figure out a way to get past their four players.”
    The Cougars had their game plan working to perfection right from the outset. Over the opening 10 minutes of the first period, the Huskies held a 2-0 edge in shots on goal, but it felt like the host side was barely in the offensive zone.
Daria O’Neill had a pair of assists for the Cougars.
    Mount Royal had U of S pinned in its own zone for very lengthy stretches.
    At the 13:22 mark of the first, the Cougars broke through on the scoreboard. Third-year right-winger Anna Purschke drove down the right wing on a rush and roofed a shot over the shoulder of Huskies star netminder Jessica Vance into the top right corner of the U of S goal.
    Trotter’s drive was Mount Royal’s first shot on goal of the game, and the Huskies were still sitting at two shots on goal at that point in the contest.
    “That reminded me of our first playoff series last year against UBC in Game 2,” said Huskies captain Brooklyn Haubrich. “They got a goal and it kind of deflated us, and we were able to comeback.
    “I was hoping that would be the case tonight, but unfortunately, that wasn’t. Hopefully, we can rebound tomorrow.”
Cougars RW Anna Purschke battles Huskies RW Abby Shirley for the puck.
    After the Cougars goal, the Huskies were able to get some more shots on net. They held an 8-2 advantage on shots on goal after the first period and a 16-7 edge in shots on goal after the second frame.
    Those shots resulted in very few quality scoring chances against Cougars netminder Zoe DeBeauville.
    At the 3:39 mark of the third, the Cougars jumped ahead 2-0 on a goal by standout rookie right-winger Breanne Trotter.
    Following that tally, the Huskies tried to mount a push back, but the Cougars ensured they remained muddled up in the centre ice zone.
Camryn Amundson jets up ice for the Cougars.
    “We tried to get some offensive zone time, but I think that was probably the one that killed us a little bit in terms of energy,” said Kook about the Cougars second goal. “We’re a good skating club, but it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot of beans if we don’t go to try and retrieve the puck first.
    “If we get the puck, we have to find some space. If it is through the middle, we have to get going that way. It is not always along the boards. We would just make it too easy on these guys.”
    The Cougars put the capper on the win netting a power-play goal with 1:36 remaining in the third period. Mount Royal left-winger Jayden Thorpe tipped home a point shot from defender Daria O’Neill to round out the 3-0 win for the visitors.
    O’Neill finished with two assists on the night.
    Vance stopped nine shots to take the setback in goal for the Huskies. DeBeauville turned away all 19 shots she face to earn her first career shutout in post-season play for the Cougars.
Huskies D Emma Nutter checks Cougars RW Anna Purschke.
    “Kudos to them, their systems were a lot more disciplined I would say today,” said Haubrich. “They were able to get a good trap on us.
    “Tomorrow, we’re going to have to look through some video and try and find a way that we can penetrate that trap.”
    The winner of Game 3 on Sunday between the Cougars and Huskies will advance to face the University of Alberta Pandas in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series. The Pandas finished first overall in the Canada West Conference.
    The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds swept the University of Regina Cougars 2-0 in the other best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series with a 5-1 win in Game 2 of that set on Saturday in Vancouver, B.C. 
Bailee Bourassa brings the puck up ice for the Huskies.
    The Thunderbirds advance to play the defending Canada West Conference and U Sports national champion University of Manitoba Bisons in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series.
    While she would have preferred to see her Huskies down Mount Royal on Saturday, Haubrich is looking forward to the excitement of a series deciding Game 3.
    “You have to love those as a player,” said Haubrich. “Those are fun to play in.
    “With this rink and this atmosphere, I’m really excited. The energy will be great.”
    NOTES – The Huskies claimed Game 1 of their series with Mount Royal 5-0 on Friday at Merlis Belsher Place, but that victory was costly in the injury department.
    U of S lost third-year defensive forward Danielle Nogier in that contest to a broken arm, and she is out for the remainder of the U Sports playoffs. 
The Cougars celebrate their Game 2 win on Saturday.
    Defender Morgan Willoughby had a goal and an assist in Game 1 before suffering a concussion injury. She was out for Game 2 and is highly doubtful for Sunday’s Game 3.

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