Lightning struck Friday and thunder followed Saturday, as the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team split a weekend series with the UBC Thunderbirds.
The early bird went home empty-handed Friday as the Bisons battled back from a slow start to win 3-2 over the Thunderbirds.
“I liked our first five minutes and I liked the last five in the first period,” Bisons interim head coach Sean Fisher said.
“It was the 10 minutes in between there that wasn’t so hot. Part of that’s the ebbs and flows of the game, part of that is our opponent […] and we haven’t played a team like that in a month.”
The Bisons looked shell-shocked early. Passes were missed, defensive miscues led to UBC scoring opportunities and a solid Thunderbirds defence bred frustration in the herd.
The frustration only intensified after Mikayla Ogrodniczuk gave UBC a 1-0 lead in the first.
Ireland Perrott hopped out of the box as her penalty expired and picked up a pass. The forward broke into the Bisons zone and fed Ogrodniczuk in the slot, who picked the corner on Lauren Taraschuk for a 1-0 UBC lead.
UBC extended its lead to two in the second with a Rylind MacKinnon powerplay marker before the Bisons got on the board.
After a few solid chances for the Bisons, Alexandra Anderson put a point-shot on goal. The puck skittered through a crowd and was tipped past Tory Micklash’s foot by Lauryn Keen to cut the UBC lead to one.
The marker energized the Bisons and Keen struck again to tie the game 2-2 late.
Karissa Kirkup stepped out from behind the net and sent a pass to Keen in front. Keen kicked the puck to her stick and flipped it over Micklash for the finish.
“I had an opportunity there earlier in the period and I didn’t crash [the net] hard enough,” Keen said.
“So when I saw [Kirkup] and [Natasha Kostenko] driving there I knew I needed to get down a little bit harder and, yeah, perfect pass right to me and I didn’t make a mistake.”
The teams battled through regulation, and in overtime Kostenko put it away.
Kostenko got the puck at the point and walked into the high slot uncontested. She stopped up and ripped a wrister below the bar on Micklash for the win.
“I’m always happy to help my team out any way I can,” Kostenko said.
“It just feels good to be able to come [up] big for them in that last little bit of overtime.”
There was not a dry eye in the house Saturday before a 3-2 Bisons shootout loss to the Thunderbirds.
The Bisons honoured eight fifth-year players prior to puckdrop.
Erica Rieder, Alanna Sharman, Erin Kucheravy, Courtlyn Oswald, Anderson, Keen, Kostenko and Kirkup will all graduate from the program at season’s end.
“I liked that whole crew tonight,” Fisher said.
“They managed their emotions well. They battled and competed hard and they were out there kind of affirming their legacy here at Max Bell Centre.”
Captain Rieder and alternate captain Sharman reminisced on their five-year Bisons careers after the game.
“A few of us got emotional,” Rieder said.
“This program has been unbelievable. I didn’t really know what to expect coming in, but I can firmly say this [was] the best decision I’ve ever made — to come play for the Bisons.”
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Sharman said.
“Sometimes on the road we reminisce and it’s been some pretty great times these past five years — obviously a lot of highs and lows with winning and losing and close games and playoffs. But we’re a tight group of people and definitely going to be friends for a long time.”
After the ceremony there was still a game to be played.
Allison Sexton got the Bisons ahead late in the opening period. Anderson gave Sexton the puck and she walked down the right side throwing the puck on goal.
UBC goaltender Micklash could not handle the wide-angle shot and let it sneak by for the 1-0 Manitoba lead.
That margin held until the third, where UBC scored back-to-back powerplay goals to take the lead, 2-1. Both goals came on backdoor plays and Taraschuk could not get over to stop them.
Then, with the final seconds ticking off the clock, Kostenko tied it up. Rieder threw the puck up the side boards to Sharman and she blew into UBC territory.
“I looked up at the clock and was like, ‘Oh we have barely any time left,’” Rieder said.
“I literally turned around and just — I wanted to fire — but [thought] ‘Better make a good pass.’”
Sharman put the puck on and in a scrum Kostenko poked it through to tie the game with seconds remaining.
Two overtimes solved nothing and Mathea Fischer had the lone goal for UBC in the shootout to seal it for her club.
The Bisons will finish the regular season on the road next week against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Game one is Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. CST and game two is the next day at 5 p.m. CST.