Losers of eight of its last nine games, the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team did its best John Wick impression over the weekend, telling the rest of Canada West, “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.” With a pair of convincing wins over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, the Bisons head into the holiday break on a heater.
The U of M entered Friday’s action with a monkey on its back. On a two-game losing streak the club looked to right the ship against a resurgent Pronghorns team.
Getting the nod in net was fifth-year net minder Amanda Schubert. She finished the game with 18 saves on 19 shots in a 3-1 U of M victory.
The game started out as a fast-paced, even-tempo tilt between the U of M and the U of L in their first meeting since early October.
The teams traded power plays in the first period, but neither could find the scoresheet, leaving the game tied at zero at the end of the period. The herd looked to strike first in the second, but after a quick snap from the U of L’s Alli Borrow beat Schubert, they fell 1-0.
The U of M turned up the heat but could not even the score, heading into the third looking for the equalizer.
Early in the third period a scrum ensued in front of the U of L goal and third-year forward Mekaela Fisher jumped onto the puck, scooping it into the yawning cage to tie the game at one apiece.
Then, a beautiful backdoor pass from Jenai Buchanan allowed rookie Kate Gregoire to tap it in to give the U of M the 2-1 lead with just under three minutes left to play.
The U of L pulled the goalie with 30 seconds left to try and tie the game back up, but Fisher skated the length of the ice before sliding it into the empty net, sealing the victory for the Bisons.
Rookie forward Sarah Dennehy was happy with her team’s performance.
“Our team had a great weekend, we played with confidence and strong in the d-zone […] I think our team really started to work together and grind to pull off two huge wins,” Dennehy said.
Veteran presence was felt all over the ice Friday for a young Bisons team. Fifth-year Schubert held the fort in goal and fourth-year Buchanan set up the eventual game winner.
“Our leadership group really leads by example which really helps us rookies out,” said Dennehy.
With a win already in the books over the weekend, the Bisons were looking for more against the Pronghorns Saturday and finished off the calendar year with a 2-1 overtime win.
The flash and flow found late in Friday’s game had evaporated in the first period Saturday, but a few power plays late in the frame provided a spark for the herd.
As Ashley Nothof stepped back onto the ice after serving a holding minor, Jordyn Zacharias walked into the zone and sent a blast toward the U of L goal. Lethbridge netminder Alicia Anderson flashed the leather and picked the puck out of the air to negate the chance.
Then, with Ashlee Hodge-Hirschfield in the box for tripping, the Bisons sent a flurry of shots on Anderson. The veteran netminder was unfazed, keeping her team alive as the horn sounded to end the period.
The pressure continued early into the second, where a Gregoire shot was tipped on by Kaitlyn Chatyrbok. The puck slid along the goal line and Anderson pounced to swipe the loose rubber out of her crease.
Then, after yet another U of L penalty, the U of M struck.
With Madison Porter in the box, Anderson stopped a shot by Dennehy but the puck popped right onto the stick of Gregoire in the slot. Anderson dove to make the stop, coming up short as Gregoire shoveled the puck by for the 1-0 Manitoba lead.
Porter made up for her mistake late in the frame with a goal of her own. She picked up a loose puck on the doorstep and snapped a shot by Erin Fargey to knot the game 1-1 heading into the intermission.
Neither club could get one to go through the rest of regulation, and in overtime Jordyn Zacharias had the dagger.
The fifth-year poked the puck past a U of L defender, beat her with a burst of speed and raced in on Anderson. Zacharias went to the backhand and snuck the puck five-hole on Anderson for the 2-1 overtime win.
Following the holiday break, the Bisons will hit the ice in Calgary, Alta., Jan. 3 and 4 against the Mount Royal University Cougars. Puck-drop is 8 p.m. CST for game one and 3 p.m. CST for game two.