Champions dethroned

The queen has lost her crown — at least at the conference level.

With a two-game sweep at the hands of the University of Alberta Pandas, the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team failed to defend its conference title.

Now, the two clubs will turn their attention to the national championship.

Friday

Game one of the Canada West finals was all Pandas, as Alberta came away with a 3-0 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Bisons goaltender Lauren Taraschuk was under siege for most of Friday’s game. The sophomore netminder stopped 25 of 28 shots fired her way, while Manitoba could only muster 17 shots on Kirsten Chamberlin.

It was Taraschuk’s first career post-season loss.

The game got off to a less than thrilling start for the Bisons as Alex Gowie picked up a Manitoba turnover and moved toward the goal.

She hammered the puck by Taraschuk for the 1-0 Alberta lead just over six minutes into the game.

Alanna Sharman and Jordyn Zacharias got a pair of solid chances in the second, but Chamberlin shut the door. Alex Poznikoff scored late in the frame to put the Bisons in a two-goal hole heading into the third.

Manitoba was unable to get anything going in the third and a Jaslin Sawatzky goal gave Alberta the 3-0 win.

Saturday

The Pandas poured on the offence again Saturday, thumping the Bisons 4-1 to capture the Canada West conference championship.

Despite the lopsided score, the two clubs battled and combined for 42 shots on the night.

Both teams got started right off the hop in the first period.

Less than eight minutes in, Danielle Hardy picked up a loose puck along the side boards and snapped a shot on Taraschuk from a tough angle. The Bisons netminder squeezed her body tight and made the save.

Then Sheridan Oswald had the best chance of the period for Manitoba, streaking down the right side and blasting the puck toward the Pandas goal.

Chamberlin, though, got her shoulder on it to keep the game tied 0-0 at the end of the opening frame.

In the second Poznikoff, Kennedy Ganser and Amy Boucher all got pucks by Taraschuk to give Alberta a 3-0 lead.

In the third, Lisa Lloyd made it 4-0 before Natasha Kostenko finally broke the goose egg for Manitoba.

Erica Rieder picked up the puck at the point, sent it across to Megan Neduzak and she fired a point shot toward the goal.

Natasha Kostenko got a piece of the puck, deflecting it by Chamberlin for Manitoba’s lone goal of the game.

With the win, Alberta claims its second conference championship in five seasons.

The Bisons still have a chance to defend the national title beginning March 13 in P.E.I.