The first-ranked University of Manitoba Bison women’s hockey team took game one of the Canada West final in overtime over the eighth-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
After nearly 70 minutes of deadlock, Bison captain Caitlin Fyten scored the overtime winner with 8.6 seconds remaining in the first overtime. Venla Hovi hit the post with three minutes remaining in the first period of extra time, but she set up the winner a couple minutes later. The Olympic bronze medalist dropped the puck to Fyten, and the Bison captain took a point shot to give her team a 1-0 series lead in the Canada West Final.
“To have that puck go into the net after we got one waved off was a good feeling,” Fyten said. “I knew Hovi was coming up and I knew she was going to drop it and to be honest I was a bit too tired to skate so I decided to bury my head and shoot it and it went in.”
Huskie captain Kaitlin Willoughby was confused after the play, saying she thought there should have been a penalty call prior to the goal.
“I thought that our player got interfered with but whatever. The ref didn’t see that, but that is how it goes,” she said.
“But after, I thought I heard the ref blow the whistle, so that was what I was asking him about after the game. He said he did blow the whistle, but it was still a good goal.”
Fresh off an emotional marathon victory over the University of Alberta in the Canada West semifinals, the Bisons were buzzing in the first period. The top line of Jordyn Zacharias, Alanna Sharman, and Hovi were all over the Huskies but were unable to put one past former Bison Jessica Vance.
“I thought they were a threat every time they were on the ice,” said Bison head coach Jon Rempel. “I thought they really exploited some things, I would they think would be able to keep doing that if they were skating and playing the right way. I thought they were real good today.”
Manitoba appeared to have the puck in the net in the final minute of the first period after a mad scramble, but the referee had already blown his whistle. The raucous crowd of 640 at Wayne Fleming Arena had to wait.
The second period didn’t produce any goals, but there were plenty of chances. Early on, Bison forward Courtlyn Oswald had a breakaway opportunity but Vance closed the door after Oswald tried to go five hole. Willoughby forced an awkward save off Lauren Taraschuk’s shoulder a few minutes later.
Taraschuk finished the game with a 25 save shutout, and since allowing one goal against the University of Alberta Pandas in game two of the semifinals, she has not allowed a goal in 224:15 of playoff play.
Bison forward Lauryn Keen had the best chance of the game in the dying embers of the second period, toe dragging around a Huskie defender, after being sprung by Natasha Kostenko, and fired her shot off the post.
The third period had no scoring, so once again the Bisons headed into the all too familiar territory of overtime. Fyten left it late, but sent the crowd at Wayne Fleming into jubilation after the long anticipated goal.
“She just found a way, shoot pucks to the net with traffic, which is what we’re trying to do the whole game,” Rempel said. “We had a lot of good looks today, just finally found one.”
Game two of the Canada West Final goes tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Wayne Fleming Arena.