If you are the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team, this is not how you would like your season to start.
With a pair of national championship appearances in the rear-view, the Bisons welcomed the 2019-20 season with fresh new faces and a two-game sweep at the hand of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Last minute heroics by Lethbridge’s Mikaela Reay made all the difference Friday as the Bisons women’s hockey team dropped its season opener 4-3 to the Pronghorns.
Emilie Massé was a factor in the game — though not always for the best — as the third-year forward notched a pair of markers for the herd, but also gave the puck away on the eventual game winner by Reay in the dying seconds.
Amanda Schubert was tested early and often in her return to the Bisons crease, and just over four minutes into the game she let the first one by her. Kyra Greig fed Tricia Van Vaerenbergh in front of the Manitoba goal, and she found twine for a 1-0 Pronghorns lead.
Just over a minute later Jenai Buchanan notched her first of the year to tie the game 1-1, and before the period was out the Bisons snagged the lead. Massé stripped a Lethbridge defender of the puck and snapped a shot glove-side on Alicia Anderson for a 2-1 Bisons lead at the end of the first.
In the second, Kirana Stocker tied the game up at two and Madison Porter got Lethbridge back in front a few minutes later.
A failed Manitoba clear was picked up by Mattie Apperson and she dropped it for a trailing Porter. In against Schubert with time and space, Porter outwaited the Bisons netminder and tucked it home for the 3-2 Pronghorns lead in the second period.
Massé scored late in the second to again tie the game, this time 3-3, but as time wound down in regulation, Reay seized her opportunity — thanks to a misplay by Massé. The Manitoba forward dropped a no-look pass to nobody at centre, Reay picked it up, turned and put a shot by Schubert to give Lethbridge the 4-3 win.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bisons Saturday, as the Pronghorns rode three first period goals to a 4-1 win to complete the weekend sweep.
Kaitlyn Nault got her first career U Sports start in the Bisons crease, but was pulled heading into the second period after allowing the three Lethbridge goals on 12 shots. Schubert finished the game for the herd, turning aside 16 of 17 Pronghorns shots.
Kianna Dietz got the ball rolling for Lethbridge in the first period, with back-to-back goals giving the Pronghorns a 2-0 lead midway through the opening frame. The first goal came off a scramble in the Bisons crease, with Dietz pouncing on a loose puck, and the second off a nice rebound pick-up by Mila Verbicky.
Sage Sansregret scored the third Pronghorns goal of the period for a 3-0 Lethbridge lead after 20 minutes of play.
Coming back out for the second, Jordyn Zacharias gave Manitoba an early goal and some life. A shot by Buchanan went wide, rebounded off the back boards and right to Zacharias. She made no mistake to make it 3-1 Lethbridge.
Greig picked up her first goal of the weekend to deflate the Bisons soon after and they could not recover in the 4-1 loss.
Manitoba returns to Wayne Fleming next week for its home opening series against the Mount Royal University Cougars. Game one is Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. CDT, and game two is the next day at 3 p.m. CDT.