Winners of eight straight games entering this weekend, the University of Manitoba Bison women’s hockey team saw their impressive streak come to an end on the road, against the UBC Thunderbirds. Special teams were the difference over the two-game set, as UBC went a combined 5-for-12 on the power play.
The Thunderbirds entered the matchup ranked first in the Canada West, and fifth in the entire CIS in power play percentage. They used their strong play with the extra attacker to their advantage, sweeping the Bisons in two critical match-ups.
The Thunderbirds pulled out a 4-3 win on Friday and a 5-2 win on Saturday, becoming the first team to score more than three goals against Manitoba all year.
Friday’s opening match-up featured an impressive back-and-forth battle, with both squads generating plenty of opportunities.
The Bisons cracked the scoreboard first, as Tasmine Hemingway found the back of the net just 1:33 into the opening frame. Discipline would cost the Bisons, however, as they found themselves in the penalty box three times in the first 20 minutes, with UBC capitalizing on their second opportunity with the power play.
Tatiana Rafter was the one lighting the lamp for UBC with the extra attacker, as she tied the game up at 7:46 of the first period. The Thunderbirds were able to successfully control the zone throughout their entire minute and a half with the man advantage, effectively draining the Bisons’ first unit on the penalty kill.
The home squad entered the second period on yet another power play, after a Caitlin Fyten penalty to end the first. Rebecca Unrau would take advantage, walking in and going blocker side on Manitoba goalie Rachel Dyck, to give UBC their first lead of the game just 53 seconds into the middle frame.
Fyten would get redemption for the Bisons as her long shot through traffic beat UBC goalie Danielle Dube at 13:18 to square things up at two. Fyten’s goal occurred on the power play, as Manitoba finished 1-for-3 with the extra attacker.
Manitoba’s momentum was short-lived, as Nikola Brown-John would score the eventual game-winning goal just over two minutes later, as she deflected an Emily O’Neill shot into the back of the net.
Unrau would pad the lead at 3:56 of the third, yet again on the power play, to give UBC a two-goal cushion. Alana Serhan got one back for Manitoba at 9:30, but it was too little too late, as the Thunderbirds held on for the win.
Saturday’s rematch saw both teams score twice on the power play; however, UBC was just a bit stronger at full strength, outshooting Manitoba 26-19, and becoming the first team to score five goals against the Bisons.
The Thunderbirds got two goals from Rafter – both with the man advantage, as well as one goal from Unrau, Stephanie Schaupmeyer, and Nicole Saxvik. Manitoba countered with goals from Courtlyn Oswalk and Michelle Pawluk.
With the pair of victories, UBC leapfrogged over Manitoba for second place in the conference with 54 points.
The best position the Bisons can now finish is second in the conference, as UBC plays top-ranked Alberta this weekend. Manitoba will need to sweep the Calgary Dinos at home for a chance at the number two seed.
The Dinos will visit Wayne Fleming Arena for the final two games of the regular season on Friday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb.14. Game times are 6:30 and 1 p.m., respectively.