The Manitoba Bison women’s hockey team went to war this past weekend, finishing off their regular season by clinching a top four position in Canada West and a home ice advantage for next weekend’s playoff games.
The Bisons had plenty to play for in their games against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Entering the weekend series, Manitoba still had an outside shot of finishing in third place in the conference.
On Friday night, Manitoba benefitted from undisciplined play by the Pronghorns in the third period, securing a 4-0 win.
The Bisons came out hot to start the game, generating quality chances early. Their hard work was rewarded under four minutes in as captain Amy Lee hammered a Michelle Pawluk rebound into the open net on the power play. Both teams had opportunities with the extra man later in the period, but neither could capitalize as Manitoba headed into the second period up 1-0.
The Bisons doubled their score less than five minutes into the middle frame. Pawluk followed her first period assist with a goal of her own at 4:13 to give the home team a 2-0 lead. Manitoba goalie Amanda Schubert was on her A-game for the remainder of the second, as Lethbridge pressured the Bison net with nine shots to Manitoba’s five. Schubert stayed strong, preserving the two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Lethbridge essentially took themselves out of this one in the third, with undisciplined play resulting in six penalties, totalling a whopping 23 minutes. The Bisons capitalized at 9:22 on the power play, as Caitlin MacDonald blasted a slap shot past Lethbridge goalie Crystal Patterson.
“I thought the power play actually was pretty good today,” commented Bison head coach Jon Rempel following the game. “We had a number of chances and I thought we moved it around and we were patient, and we didn’t try to force too much, so I thought that was good.”
The Pronghorns managed just four shots on net in the third, as they were forced to the defensive due to the revolving penalty box door. The Bisons, on the other hand, threw another 14 shots at Patterson in the final 20 minutes. Manitoba added a late insurance marker at 12:02 from Rachélle Bosc to seal the win.
The Bison defence was solid all night long, as Lethbridge mustered only 19 shots on net, all of which Schubert turned aside for her second shutout of the season. Patterson stopped 23 shots in defeat.
Manitoba received another strong defensive performance on Saturday evening, completing the weekend sweep with a 3-1 victory.
The Bisons dictated play in the first period, keeping the pressure on Lethbridge goalie Shauntelle Williams throughout. Their efforts paid off at 16:11, and Meagan Vestby slid a loose puck into the back of the net after a Pawluk shot from the point. The assist was Pawluk’s fourth point of the weekend series. Manitoba kept the tempo up, receiving a few power play scoring chances late, but couldn’t add to their one-goal lead.
Just like in their previous game, the Bison defence stiffened as the game went along, allowing just three shots on net in the second. They added to their lead at 5:48, as Lee capitalized on a big rebound to increase the lead to two heading into the third.
Lethbridge finally got their first goal of the weekend early into the final frame, as Pronghorns captain Jenna-Marie Durnin slipped the puck past Manitoba goalie Dee-Ana Marion. It was as close as they would get: the Bisons protected the lead. They added a third goal from Kayleigh Weins and secured the two-goal win.
With Saskatchewan’s win on Friday night, the Bisons (16-7-4) are now locked into the fourth seed in the Canada West playoffs. They will host a quarter-final matchup against the Calgary Dinos next weekend, starting at Wayne Fleming Arena on Friday, Feb. 14 at 3 p.m.
photos by beibeilu