A week after earning a split in Regina to open the second half, the seventh-ranked Bisons were back home for a pivotal series against the top-ranked UBC Thunderbirds. The Bisons won 2-0 on Friday night, but fell 4-3 on Saturday afternoon.
On Friday night, penalty trouble kept the Bisons quiet for most of the game, but a 4-on-4 goal was enough to change that and the Bisons added an insurance goal for a 2-0 win.
The teams traded chances for most of the first, with the Bisons applying a good deal of pressure. Winger Alanna Sharman got the home team in front during a 4-on-4 stretch, using the extra space to her advantage. An outlet pass from Lauryn Keen was almost picked off by a Thunderbirds defender, but Sharman snagged the puck at centre for a breakaway chance. She roofed the puck with a wrister over goalie Tory Micklash’s glove to put the Bisons up 1-0.
No goals were scored in the second and or third periods. The Bisons had a great number of chances in tight on Micklash, but couldn’t get anything past the UBC goaltender.
Sharman was stopped but drew a penalty late in the third, which allowed Venla Hovi to put the Bisons up by two. The Bisons went circle-to-circle with passes, and ended with a pass by Alexandra Anderson going in front to Hovi. The Finnish forward got just enough on it to tip the puck top shelf, sealing the 2-0 Bisons win. Rachel Dyck recorded her 4th shutout of the season with the victory.
In her return from injury Sharman picked up the game-winning point, and her seventh of the year.
“It’s hard to replace the minutes, the positivity, and the work ethic,” head coach Jon Rempel said postgame. “The work is what makes her such a good player because she doesn’t stop and she doesn’t quit.”
Following a hard-fought win Friday night, the Bisons were back on the ice Saturday looking to sweep the weekend series against the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds. The herd closed a major deficit, but a late goal was enough to put them away 4-3.
The Bisons came flying out of the gate, but an early UBC goal stopped their momentum in its tracks. A shot was stopped by Bisons goalie Dyck, but the puck couldn’t get cleared and wound up on the stick of Haneet Pahar at the side of the goal. She tapped it into the yawning cage to put UBC up 1-0 at the 1:51 mark.
This was followed up by another goal by Pahar four minutes later. The Thunderbirds got another, this time off the stick of Emily O’Neill who sent a one-timer low blocker-side on Dyck to make the game 3-0 early.
Before the period was over, Manitoba got on the board. Hovi broke into the UBC zone on the right side, using a side-step move to get inside towards the slot. She fired a wrist shot on goal which found its way through Ameila Boughn’s five-hole, sliding in to cut the T-Birds’ lead to two.
The Bisons drew closer in the second thanks to Alana Serhan. Winger Karissa Kirkup picked up a loose puck, letting a shot loose towards the UBC net. Serhan got just enough of her stick on it to tip the shot by Boughn, making the game 3-2 UBC.
After Nicole Saxvik restored the two-goal lead for UBC, Anderson responded for the Bisons in highlight fashion. Manitoba got the puck low in the UBC end and a pass from Courtlyn Oswald found its way to Anderson in front. Anderson picked up the puck, spun around to avoid two UBC defenders and roofed a backhander on Boughn.
That’s as close as the Bisons got, with the Thunderbirds taking the second game of the weekend series 4-3.
“We weren’t ready and they were,” Rempel said postgame. “I liked our fight and compete to not let it get away on us.”
When asked about the main takeaway from the weekend, where his team earned a spilt on the top-ranked team in Canada, Rempel urged consistency.
“We’re there, again we have to be consistent in our approach to weekends. We have to be ready to play,” he said.
The Bisons will be at the Wayne Fleming Arena again for a series against the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Jan.20-21.