Everyone in Bell Aliant Centre blinked and the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team’s bid for a national championship repeat was over in a 3-2 opening round loss to the University of Guelph Gryphons.
Guelph scored twice in the opening two minutes and a comeback fuelled by two Alanna Sharman goals fell short.
“We were the better team for 58 minutes so I thought we deserved a better result to be honest with you,” Bisons interim head coach Sean Fisher said.
The team “played their hearts out and played a really good game,” he said. “Spot them a two-goal lead and when you do that it’s tough, especially against that goalie.”
It was all Guelph in the opening frame, with Manitoba seemingly unable to move the puck out of its own zone. Guelph, meanwhile, was able to get to the front of the net, pounce on second-chance opportunities and cause havoc in front of Lauren Taraschuk.
Two quick goals from Kaitlin Lowy and Sydney Davison gave Guelph a 2-0 lead before Manitoba finally woke up.
Sharman got her team within one late, scoring in vintage Sharman fashion.
She took the puck to the corner, sent it up to Megan Neduzak at the point and crashed the net. Valerie Lamenta made the initial stop on a Neduzak point shot, but the puck slipped through.
Sharman pounced on the puck in the blue paint and banged it home to make it 2-1 Guelph.
“I saw the puck sitting there and I heard the ref say ‘It’s still in play,’ and then I just swooped at it and I didn’t even see it go in,” she said.
Sharman was not done there, as she struck early in the second to draw Manitoba even.
Jordyn Zacharias “made a really good play, chipped it past the [defence],” Sharman said.
“We were on a 2-on-1 and I was hoping to pass it but the [defence] took away Sheridan [Oswald]. So it was just a last second […] I was aiming for right corner and glad I hit it.”
Sharman snagged the puck back, walked it and went bar down on Lamenta, tying the game 2-2.
Manitoba took over the game from there and pressed for the lead, but the victory was not meant to be. A misplay behind the Bisons goal sent the puck to Nicole MacKinnon in the slot and she snuck a shot by Taraschuk for the 3-2 lead.
The Bisons could not make up the difference and will go home without a medal.
After the game Sharman was disappointed, but said the team will still approach the rest of the tournament with the same mentality.
“Obviously not what we were hoping for going into this tournament,” she said.
“But yeah we battled hard […] we really wanted it but obviously they really wanted it too. I’m really proud of this team. It sucks losing but we’re still going to battle hard for fifth.”