The U of M women’s hockey team picked up a pair of victories over the Mount Royal Cougars over the home opener weekend in Wayne Fleming Arena at Max Bell Centre. On Oct. 18, a busy third period featured three Bison goals, en route to their 4-1 win.
The Bisons came out of the gate firing hot on Friday. Nicole McGlenen opened the scoring just over one minute in. The team was quick and energetic, but the Cougars showed some fight. With her teammate Rachel Piitz in the penalty box, Janessa Jenkins sped past the Bison defence on a breakaway and beat Bison goalie Amanda Schubert for a shorthanded goal.
The Bisons did a great job of cycling the puck around in the first period, getting shots on net and keeping play in Mount Royal’s end. Manitoba skated with amazing speed, successfully moving out of their own zone and creating odd-man rushes and breakaway opportunities.
Penalty troubles began for the Bisons late into the first period, and spilled over into the second. On the day, the Bisons gave up 22 minutes of penalties—even playing 6-on-3 for a brief moment near the end of the second period—but they killed every second.
Maggie Litchfield-Medd scored the go-ahead goal 3:23 into the third period, after a fortunate bounce found her stick at the side of the Cougar net. Captain Amy Lee scored an insurance marker at 6:42 on the power play. The Bisons outhustled the Cougars to the puck, and outshot their opponents 32-17.
Cassandra Taylor put a bow on the game, beating Mount Royal goalie Jess Ross high glove side on a penalty shot at 9:45. Final score: 4-1.
Strong play on special teams was a key to the Bison victory.
“I was impressed by the speed and pace we played at tonight. Our penalty kill, which has been outstanding all year, probably won us the game,” said Manitoba head coach Jon Rempel.
“I’m impressed that we won a close one like this headed to the third, it’s great for our confidence.”
The following night, the Bison forwards picked up where they left off, setting the pace and finding the net early and often.
Meagan Vestby assisted on the opening goal—just 1:06 into the first period—as Alana Serhan tipped in her first of the game and season. Vestby and Serhan would find the net just three minutes later. A third goal, this one by Litchfield-Medd at 9:15, chased Mount Royal goalie Katie Sigurdson from the net. Ross came in and managed to stifle the Bison momentum.
While coach Rempel was impressed by the way the team came out and played early, he still expects more from his players.
“We managed the game well,” said Rempel, “I would’ve liked to see us put it away in the second, though, because we had plenty of chances.”
At the other end of the rink, Schubert followed up her 16-save performance the night before with a 20-save shutout, her first of the season.
In the sixth game of the regular season, Vestby earned her sixth assist of the season. She leads the Bisons in points with six and is currently sixth in conference scoring.
On the back end, Kyleigh Palmer and Caitlin MacDonald were solid offensively and defensively all weekend. Palmer was fast to the puck and eager to jump in on the rush, finishing with an assist in both games. MacDonald was solid along the blue line, getting pucks toward the net and providing an outlet pass at the top of the slot.
Manitoba is 3-2-1 on the season after the wins, while Mount Royal falls to 1-5-0. They travel to Calgary next for a pair of games against the 2-3-1 Dinos.
Bison men split out-of-town series
Deven Dubyk stopped 38 shots in a 1-0 shutout victory against Mount Royal on Oct. 18. Brendan Rowinski scored the only goal of the game midway through the first period. Dubyk and the Bisons survived the Cougars’ onslaught in the third period. The Cougars outshot the Bisons 18-7 in the final 20 minutes. Manitoba did everything they needed to protect the one-goal lead and hang on for their second win of the season.
The rematch the following night featured more offence, but yielded a worse result for the Bisons. A power play goal 27 seconds into the third period broke a 1-1 tie. The Cougars potted a third goal for insurance, winning 3-2. Jesse Paradis and Dane Crowley scored for the Bisons Saturday, while Dubyk had 29 saves on the day.
The Bisons and Mount Royal remain tied in the standings, at 2-4-0, after splitting the series. Manitoba hosts the 6-0-0 Calgary Dinos at Wayne Fleming Arena in a pair of games on Oct. 25 and 26. Puck drop is 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday evening.