The last weekend of the Bisons’ season was definitely an important one, as they closed it out in Alberta. This series was to decide which team could lock down second place in the Canada West. The Bisons played hard throughout the weekend, but were swept by the hometown Pandas.
Heading into Friday’s action, Manitoba looked like they were on a mission after winning six in row. They fought hard but ultimately dropped a 5-2 decision to the Pandas, who took sole possession of second place based on the tiebreaker.
Alberta got on the board first, early into the opening frame. Ashley Morin picked up the puck in the slot, ripping a quick wrister by Rachel Dyck to give the Pandas the 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes after the opening goal, Jordyn Zacharias netted her 11th of the year to tie the game. A Lauryn Keen wraparound attempt was stopped by Lindsey Post of the Pandas, but the rebound popped out to Zacharias. She got enough on the puck to lift it over Post to make it 1-1.
Thirty-nine seconds later Alberta responded – a loose puck in front of the Manitoba net found its way onto the stick of Jaslin Sawatzky, who beat Dyck to make it 2-1.
Before the first period was out, the Pandas extended their lead thanks to Lisa Lloyd. Abby Benning took the puck at the point, ripping a point shot on goal. Lloyd was in the right place and time, tipping the shot past Dyck. Just over a minute into the third, Lloyd snagged her second of the season to put Manitoba in a 4-1 hole.
A glimmer of hope came in the form of a Megan Neduzak goal midway through the frame. Neduzak was able to beat Post in tight with a shot, cutting the Alberta lead to two. This was as close as the Bisons got. Autumn MacDougall picked up an empty net goal and Alberta took the game 5-2.
The two sides came back together Saturday for a matinee matchup where the Bisons were playing to secure third place in Canada West. Alberta took control of the game early and pounded the Bisons. Dyck gave her side a chance to win, but it wasn’t enough as Manitoba was swept with a 2-1 loss.
Alanna Sharman, fresh off her stint with Team Canada at the FISU games, got the Bisons ahead in the early going. Sharman broke into the Pandas’ zone with speed, pulling the forehand-backhand move Bisons fans have become accustomed to seeing. Post couldn’t quite keep up as the puck slid past her to give the Bisons the 1-0 lead.
The Pandas came right back, shelling the Bisons’ net and finally in the final minutes of the second frame, one got through. Erica Nelson sent a pass cross-ice to Amy Boucher, who was coming in with a head of steam. Boucher snapped a shot past the blocker of Dyck to tie the game 1-1.
Lloyd played the hero again for her team, picking up her third goal of the year and second game-winner of the series. Another loose puck was the undoing of the Bisons, as Hannah Fouillard was able to get it over to Lloyd, who beat Dyck to seal the game 2-1.
Manitoba will now host the Canada West quarterfinals on Feb. 17-19 at the Wayne Fleming Arena against the Mount Royal Cougars.