A week after earning a split against the University of Alberta Pandas, the number one ranked University of Manitoba women’s hockey team were back at home to take on the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The two games were low-scoring defensive battles, and the Bisons walked away with a split.
The Bisons came out flat in the opening game and did not recover, falling 3-1 to the Huskies.
Saskatchewan got on the board first after a Danielle Nogier backhander was stopped by Manitoba netminder Rachel Dyck and the puck fell loose in the crease. Kayla Kirwan got on the loose puck and lifted it past Dyck to give the Huskies the early 1-0 lead.
Manitoba turned up the intensity coming in the final frame and after Rachel Lundberg extended the visitors’ lead to two, the Bisons finally responded. A Lauryn Keen shot from an odd angle bounced off a player in front of the net and past former-Bison Jessica Vance, cutting the lead back to one.
The Huskies added an empty netter and Vance made 22 stops to topple the top team in the nation.
Manitoba showed life in the third period after failing to apply any pressure to the Huskies in their end, a point raised by head coach Jon Rempel after the game.
“They were more prepared to play than we were for whatever reason,” he said. “I thought they were way hungrier off the start and we were flat footed for the better part of two periods.”
The game was scrappy and tight, but the Bisons were able to pull together a 1-0 win to salvage the weekend.
The herd got out to an early lead after a shot from captain Caitlin Fyten found its way through a crowd but was stopped by Vance. Nicole Carswell jumped on the loose puck, kicking it to her stick and snapping it home.
The teams traded chances throughout the rest of the game, but both goaltenders stood tall for their sides.
The Huskies came close to knotting the score in the final moments. With Vance pulled, Saskatchewan turned multiple shots toward Bisons goaltender Lauren Taraschuk. The rookie stood tall, preserving the 1-0 shutout win for the Bisons.
With the win, Taraschuk ties her goalie-partner Dyck with seven wins on the season. The two sit tied for second in wins in the conference, while Taraschuk continues to lead all netminders with a 0.84 goals-against-average.
Taraschuk made 26 saves in the win, picking up her third shutout of the season. At the other end, Vance made 19 saves.
The series marks the end of the Bisons’ schedule against the top half of the Canada West conference. With no more games against top teams like the University of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, on paper the Bisons schedule appears to look easier, but Rempel noted that they were not thinking the same.
“I would say it’s still pretty tough,” he said. “I’d say it’s different because we’re playing teams with a different mentality, they’re scraping and clawing to get in, they’re fighting for two playoff spots.”
The Bisons remain at home and will take on the Mount Royal University Cougars at the Wayne Fleming Arena on Jan. 19 at 7:00 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 1:00 p.m.