It is time to check flights and book a hotel. The U of M Bisons women’s hockey team is headed back to the national championship.
With a 2-1 win over the UBC Thunderbirds Saturday, the Bisons advance to the Canada West playoff finals as well as the national tournament in PEI next month.
Karissa Kirkup led the way for Manitoba, scoring both goals in a Herculean effort for her squad.
In the first, Kirkup picked up the puck in the neutral zone and blazed through the UBC defence toward the goal. Tory Micklash came out to challenge but Kirkup dangled past, waited out the UBC netminder and scored for the 1-0 Bisons lead.
Kirkup’s move perfectly mimicked one used by Alanna Sharman on her penalty shot goal in Friday’s series opener.
“I came back [to] the bench and I kind of said ‘Stole your move’ — but the opposite way, right,” Kirkup said.
“Sometimes [Micklash] will play way out in her crease, so I tried to use my speed to go around her.”
The lead held until the second when Ireland Perrot picked the corner on Lauren Taraschuk through a crowd to tie the game 1-1.
On the next play, though, UBC took its first penalty of the game and Manitoba immediately took advantage.
Jenai Buchanan walked the blue line, sent a slap pass down low to Lauryn Keen who redirected the puck in front where Kirkup was waiting. Kirkup deflected the puck home and got Manitoba back out in front.
The goal was all Manitoba needed as it took the game 2-1 to advance to the Canada West finals and clinch a spot at the U Sports national championship.
Kirkup was emotional talking about the win. The senior suffered a season-ending injury during the 2017-18 season and missed the herd’s national championship run.
“I’m very very excited. I’m so happy right now,” Kirkup said, tearing up.
“I’m very lucky to be a part of this great group you know, and very excited to go forward — and knowing we’ve got a lot of work to do — but just to have another shot and continue my hockey career, very excited.”
The Bisons will defend the Canada West crown next week in Edmonton against the University of Alberta Pandas. The series will be the March 1 to 3 weekend with times TBD.