Monday, 20 November 2017

How About A Little Respect?

The above screenshot is taken from this article linked from The Ice Garden, a blog that stated in its very first post that "[o]ur mission, plain and simple, is to tell the stories of all the women in hockey". While The Ice Garden has the occasional piece that stands out, I'm not really concerned with the majority of the coverage found on the blog. Hey, it's a blog, so there will be hits and misses when it comes to article quality. However, I do have a serious issue with the article linked above for one major reason.

As you may be aware, I am a staunch supporter and advocate of the Canadian university women's game. I think these student-athletes are some of the most dedicated players on the planet when it comes to upholding high GPAs to go along with being elite hockey players, so perhaps you can excuse me when I get excited about some of the news and highlights that come out of U SPORTS women's hockey. But what I will not stand for are writers who get a big stage like The Ice Garden and yet can't show these student-athletes something as basic respect for the athlete.

Take a good, long look at the image to the left. The team in white is UBC, a team found in Canada West. They are a team that Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson would normally see four times over the course of a Canada West regular season. Again, take a good look at that image. Click on it to blow it up because I want you to really take a look at the team in the navy-and-yellow jerseys. Do you see the multiple instances of the letter "Q" on their jerseys and the goalie's mask? I'm not sure where one would find a "Q" in "Lethbridge" or "Pronghorns", but that isn't Lethbridge and that's not Alicia Anderson.

If you're clicking on the article, you will now see a picture of Alicia Anderson standing with her back towards you, but that's because the incorrect image of Stephanie Pascal was pointed out to the author of the article. Pascal and her Queen's Golden Gaels met up with UBC in the two teams' opening games of the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship last season, a tournament in which Lethbridge didn't take part. So this leads me to one of three possible outcomes: the author has no clue who Alicia Anderson is, she has no clue what the Lethbridge Pronghorns look like when on the ice, or both. In all three cases, it should have been pretty obvious that the "Q" on the jerseys and Pascal's mask meant this wasn't Anderson or the Pronghorns.

Once you finally got past the fact that you weren't looking at Anderson and began reading about her, there were some striking trends that emerged that were similar to an article about the Regina Cougars that this person wrote a week ago. I called that article out in "The Final Word" of Week Six's edition of The Rundown, so let's review:
It's five paragraphs long, it mentions four players from the Cougars, it doesn't explain any reason why the Cougars are contenders aside from crediting their earning splits with Alberta, UBC, and Saskatchewan as a reason why, and the author thinks the fourth-place team only has weaker teams to play.
Oddly enough, the article posted on Saturday about Anderson has five paragraphs, doesn't explain any reason why Anderson is having the success she is, and somehow leads one to believe that Anderson is the best goaltender in Canada West despite her leading in just two categories, one of which is more reflective of the team than her. Similar to the article written about the Cougars, I have to ask at what point does the rest of the team factor into her success?

Line by line, I feel like this is the writer's first real writing gig. I have a deep appreciation for that, but the fact that she's missing major details or making serious errors in her writing should be caught by any editor with the ability to read. In any case, I was expecting some analysis in this article to explain and justify why "The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns are on pace to more than double their 2016-2017 wins and Anderson is a major part of that". According to the author, the reason for this is because Anderson stops pucks! Amazing, right? A goaltender who stops pucks - who would have thought that?
Anderson has been integral to the Pronghorns’ success this season. Relied upon to stop a large volume of shots, she always keeps her team in games. In the last series against the University of Alberta, Anderson stopped 90 of the 93 shots she saw. As a result the Pronghorns earned four of the six possible points in the series against the higher ranked Pandas. Winning games that they were expected to lose because of exceptional goaltending is the reason Lethbridge currently sits in a playoff position.
Yes, she's been integral. She's the starting netminder and the only goaltender to play for the Pronghorns this season. Thanks, Captain Obvious. And one can spew statistics about stopping 90 of 93 shots, but that didn't cause the Pronghorns to take four of six points off the Pandas.

I'm quite certain that there were some goals scored, some defence played, and, yes, Anderson made saves. Attributing the four-point weekend to one person is a little disrespectful to the other 19 women and the coaching staff of the Pronghorns who played a large part in game-planning for the Pandas. It's not like she stood back there alone and stared down the entire Pandas roster. I'm not sure who this author is speaking for when she wrote "[w]inning games that they were expected to lose", but if you had asked the Pronghorns, they didn't expect to lose. Yes, if there were odds on the game, they would have been in Alberta's favour, but that's why they play the games.
The only goaltender with 10 starts this year, Anderson is the bedrock of the Pronghorns’ team. She has started in every game and has played a Canada West leading 587 minutes of hockey. In that time Anderson has made 378 saves and allowed just 15 goals. She has almost 100 more saves than Calgary’s Kelsey Roberts and has surrendered seven fewer goals than Mount Royal’s Zoe DeBeauville has in her nine starts.
What does her starting every game mean? Do the Pronghorns not have confidence In Jessica Lohues? Is Anderson trying to set some new record? And the idea that she's started every game equates her to being "bedrock" for the team seems like a logical fallacy when you consider that the top-three scorers on the team - Tricia Van Vaerenbergh, Alli Borrow, and Katelyn Breitkreuz - have played every game as well. Do they not count for something?

The statistical comparisons that the author is making are rather nonsensical without context. Anderson has nearly one hundred more saves than Roberts, but Roberts has played two less games. Anderson averages 37.25 saves per game compared to Roberts' 35.20 saves per game. That doesn't seem so outrageous now, does it? And yes, she has surrendered less goals than the starting goalie for the last-place team in the conference, but so has everyone else. In fact, DeBeauville trails all qualified goalies by ten goals in terms of the number surrendered. Who has the next most? Manitoba's Rachel Dyck and Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson.

Perhaps the author meant to draw on the fact that Anderson sits with a goals-against average of 1.43 - good for fifth-best in the conference - while giving up just 17 goals on 447 shots in 12 games. Comparably, UBC's Tori Micklash has a 1.49 GAA, surrendering nine goals on 156 shots in her seven games of work. That comparison shows how good Anderson has been while shouldering her immense workload compared to players of the same ability. But just randomly throwing numbers out there for shock effect? It doesn't work when one can easily Google those numbers.
If that wasn’t impressive enough Anderson’s .960 save percentage leads Canada West and her 1.53 GAA is good for fourth among qualified goaltenders. Her 10 games give her the largest sample size, which suggests that this isn’t just her riding a hot streak. Anderson is simply this good in her second year of U Sports hockey.
Her save percentage is among the tops in the conference, and her goals-against average improved against Manitoba to 1.43, but fell to fifth-place. The author stated that Anderson was the best goalie, but then points out she is fifth in GAA. And her "largest sample size" comment seems to indicate that those numbers are good enough to warrant "the best goaltender" title. The only problem is that there's another goaltender who has better stats than Anderson's stats as of today.

Calgary's Kelsey Roberts recorded her third and fourth shutouts of the season over the weekend, leaving her with a 4-5-1 record in ten games, a 1.23 GAA, and a .966 save percentage. Because the sample size is so small, there are bound to be wild swings in statistics based on good weekends and bad weekend which is exactly the opposite of what the author was indicating. Roberts' two shutouts pushed her past the conference's best goaltenders in both GAA and save percentage - the two stats that determine best goalie normally - because the same size is small. If this was later in the season, Roberts' two shutout would still count, but they wouldn't have the same effect as they did early in this season. That's the effect on small sample size versus larger sample size.

Oh, and if you're going to use the internet to compile these articles, the least you could do is get eligibility correct.
Anderson stands out from her peers not only statistically, but also in the athleticism, intelligence, and determination she displays in net. No other goaltender in the Canada West Conference is asked to do as much for her team as Anderson is. Given her workload, her consistency this season has been nothing short of exceptional.
This should have been the statement with which the author started the article. It's factual in its approach even though every other goalie is asked to stop pucks as well. From here, the author could have used Anderson's athleticism, intelligence, and determination as factors for her incredible stats, and I'd agree that her season has been pretty exceptional. Instead, we got this at the end when most people probably had already closed the article because there was really nothing to keep you on the page other than a few numbers and sensationalistic phrases.

I appreciate people wanting to hone their craft, but the lack of respect in posting the wrong image that didn't feature the athlete in question, the lack of respect shown towards Anderson's teammates and coaches in helping her, the nonsensical statistics, and the overall poor quality of the article in general should be reviewed. These women deserve much, much better than what was shown on The Ice Garden, and I hope this examination is read by the editors and writers there because Alicia Anderson's story needs to be told better. After all, your "mission, plain and simple, is to tell the stories of all the women in hockey". You failed to do that here.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Rundown - Week 7

With a new team in first-place that isn't nationally-ranked in the Top-Ten and three teams following that team who are ranked, I'm beginning to think there's something a little suspect with the Canada West standings. Indeed, there seems to be a significant issue when it comes to the real standings versus how HockeyTech's Canada West page displays them. I'll talk a little bit about this below, but the standings reflect regulation wins which are being recorded incorrectly on the site. In any case, there was some significant movement in the standings this weekend once again, so let's take a look at what happened in Canada West women's hockey on The Rundown!

CALGARY at REGINA: The Cougars, coming off a one-goal weekend against Manitoba, played host to a team that appears to be turning the corner in the Calgary Dinos. Regina had taken four of six points off Mount Royal - the other Cougars - a weekend before, so this series had the potential to see Calgary catch Regina in the standings if the Dinos continued to win the weekend in total points. In knowing this, Regina came out guns a-blazing as they threw 14 shots at Kelsey Roberts in the Dinos' net, but couldn't find a seam on the goaltender as she came up clutch on a few chances. At the other end, Jane Kish had a much quieter opening frame with just four saves, and the two teams carried the scoreless draw into the first intermission.

The second period saw Calgary respond much better as Kish and the Cougars' defence was far busier. She made a couple of saves to keep the Dinos off the board. 200-fet away, Roberts was also equal to the task as she denied all of the Regina opportunities, and got a little help from her defence as well. All told, Calgary outshot Regina 8-7 in the middle frame, but we were still stuck on a stalemate through forty minutes.

It would take a Jordan Kulbida penalty in the third period to break the deadlock. As she sat for roughing, the Dinos went to work. Laine Grace's point shot was deflected by Sage Desjardins in front of Kish, but the netminder got enough of the puck to keep the redirection from getting behind her. However, the rebound fell to the stick of Rachel Paul who buried her second goal of the season past Kish at 7:14 to put Calgary up 1-0! That would be all the support Roberts needed on this night as she and the Calgary defence withstood some late pressure during a six-on-four power-play as Regina was denied again and again. When the final horn sounded, the Dinos skated away with the 1-0 victory! Roberts stopped all 35 shots she faced for her third win and league-leading third shutout while Kish suffered the loss in a 17-save effort.

CALGARY at REGINA: One goal in three games. Regina's scoring drought continued as they had dropped the last three games, so they needed to find the back of the net desperately to remain relevant in Canada West. Calgary, with points in all three games of their last games, sat four points back of Regina in the standings and was looking to continue the upward ascent in trying to overtake the Cougars. Saturday's game started the same way as Friday's game with Regina flying early on as they peppered Kelsey Roberts with shots from every angle, but the Dinos netminder was outstanding in the first period in denying all Cougars chances. Jane Kish could have set up a chair in her crease, but she was called upon once in the opening period. Through twenty minutes, Regina led 13-1 in shots, but we went to the second period in a scoreless draw.

The second period saw our first goal. Just as a Jordan Kulbida penalty expired, Delaney Frey wristed a shot at the net that eluded the traffic in front and got by a screened Kish at 6:35 to put the Dinos up 1-0! The Dinos used a couple of early power-play chances to get ahead in shots, but Regina began chipping away. There was a scary moment in the second period when Calgary's Georgina Williams buried a Cougar from behind along the boards, and her night was cut short as she was shown the gate for that indiscretion. Even with the power-play, the Cougars still could not solve Roberts as the Dinos led 1-0 on the scoreboard despite trailing 18-7 in shots through forty minutes.

If one had thought Roberts had seen it all in the previous five periods of work, Regina had other things on their minds. The Cougars came out of the tunnel and gunned another 18 shots at Roberts! They still could not find room past Roberts, and things got even crazier with Jane Kish on the bench for the final 2:59 of the game. Deflections, redirected shots, screened shots, and good looks would all be turned away while Regina had the extra skater on the ice. When the final horn sounded in this one, the Dinos somehow managed a second-straight 1-0 win over the Cougars! Roberts was outstanding in stopping 36 shots for her fourth win and fourth shutout while Kish takes another loss despite only making seven saves on this night.

LETHBRIDGE at MANITOBA: Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson came into this game leading Canada West in saves and save percentage, and there was hope we might see her square off against Canada West's best statistical goalie in Lauren Taraschuk. Unfortunately, Taraschuk was out this weekend with a minor injury, so Rachel Dyck grabbed the reins and was set to do battle with Anderson. Dyck, who struggled early on this season, had begun to round into form recently, so we might yet get a goalie battle in this series!

The first period on Friday was all Manitoba as they tested the conference's busiest goalie time and again. Opportunities were had by the Bisons throughout the period, including a couple of odd-player rushes, but Anderson turned aside all shots she saw in the opening frame. To her credit, Rachel Dyck did the same thing, but she was far less busy as the Bisons outshot the Pronghorns by a 20-3 margin.

The second period seemed to be more of a "how do we solve Anderson" period for the Bisons as they spent more time moving the puck in the offensive zone and less time shooting it at Anderson, but the results remained the same for the fourth-ranked Bisons. Dyck may have had the bst seat in the house for this period as she faced one long shot that she stopped, and the two teams went into the second intermission in a scoreless tie with Manitoba outshooting Lethbridge 26-4.

Both teams had a renewed sense of purpose in the third period. Manitoba had a number of great chances that Anderson turned aside while a late penalty to Manitoba's Alexandra Anderson gave Lethbridge several good lucks that Rachel Dyck turned aside. Alicia Anderson may have made the best save of the night in turning Allison Sexton away on a partial breakaway in which she showed off some incredible lateral movement to blocker away the shot after Sexton deked forehand-backhand. With no goals in the third period, we were due for some free hockey as Manitoba held the edge in shots 33-11.

The four-on-four period saw a few shots taken as both teams looked to try and set up a game-winning goal, but neither side would find the back of the net. The three-on-three period saw some incredible skating as the teams went up and down the ice, but we'd find no goals there either. Having outshot Lethbridge 39-15, Manitoba would shoot first in the shootout. Allison Sexton would be stopped while Lethbridge's Delaney Duchek found Rachel Dyck's pad. Jordy Zacharias, Manitoba's hottest shooter as of late, was up next.

Alli Borrow would be stopped by Dyck, Alanna Sharman's chance to win the game was denied by Anderson, and that set up Brett Campbell who needed a goal to keep this going.

The Manitoba Bisons prevailed in a wildly entertaining game! Dyck records the win while earning a 15-save shutout while Anderson takes the shootout loss despite pitching a 39-save shutout.

LETHBRIDGE at MANITOBA: Fourteen-and-a-half hours later, the puck dropped on Game Two of the weekend series between Lethbridge and Manitoba. Alicia Anderson would earn her twelfth-consecutive start while Rachel Dyck took to the blue paint 200-feet away. And just like Friday, the Bisons were all over the Pronghorns early. One thing that really benefits Anderson from what was seen is the collapsing defence that Lethbridge plays. There were a lot of blocked shots or redirected shots that took a lot of the bite off the Manitoba shots, allowing Anderson to make easier saves than perhaps shows on the stats sheet. Regardless of this fact, we'd actually see a goal scored in the first period!

Despite having a serious deficit in shots, the Pronghorns would get on the board late in the first period. Katelyn Breitkreuz skated the puck out of her zone on the right side and flipped a high crossing pass that saw Tracia Van Vaerenbergh corral the puck in full stride on the left side just inside the Bisons blue line on a partial breakaway. She cut in on Dyck and wired a beautiful shot high on the glove side just inside the far post on Dyck, and the Pronghorns jumped ahead 1-0 at 18:09 with the weekend's first goal in regulation time! Despite being outshot 11-2 in the period, Lethbridge's second shot was the only one that counted through the first twenty minutes!

Throughout the radio broadcast on the weekend, we had mentioned repeatedly that to be Anderson the Bisons would need to move the puck quickly and effectively so she couldn't get set in her crease when a shot finally was taken. The Bisons would finally figure this out in the second period after four-and-a-half periods of having Anderson stonewall them.

With Krya Greig in the penalty box, the Bisons set up the power-play in the Pronghorns zone, and moved the puck effectively from the right to left, shifting the passive box and keeping Anderson moving. Jordy Zacharias passed the puck to Alex Anderson at the top of the umbrella who turned and found Alanna Sharman on the right side. As the box moved, though, Zacharias snuck into the slot into the middle of the box where Sharman fired a hard pass to her. Zacharias redirected the puck high over Anderson's left shoulder before she could set, and the Bisons finally broke through Alicia Anderson's goaltending at 6:32 to make it 1-1!

This seemed to spark the Bisons as they actually trailed in shots in this period before the power-play, but neither Rachel Dyck nor Alicia Anderson would allow a puck to get by them in the remaining 13 minutes, and these two teams would go into the second intermission tied at 1-1 with the Bisons leading 19-7 in shots.

Would we see more free hockey in this one? It seemed that way as Alicia Anderson made a number of key saves in the third period, stopping Alanna Sharman on two occasions when it seemed like she had done enough to score. Instead, it would be Sharman who setup the game-winning goal late in the third period. With three Pronghorns defending against Sharman and Courtlyn Oswald, this opened up the slot area for Zacharias once more.

Zacharias' goal with 4:10 remaining put the Bisons up 2-1. From that point on, the Pronghorns went with six attackers as they looked to push this game into extra time. Dyck made a couple of great saves late in the game, and the Bisons did some excellent work getting the puck down the ice into the Pronghorns end while holding control to run out the clock as the Bisons prevailed 2-1! Dyck earned the win with 11 saves while Anderson stopped 28 shots in the loss.

I'll have more about Anderson in "The Final Word" down below, but make no mistake in that I believe she should be in the conversation for U SPORTS Player of the Year.

UBC at MOUNT ROYAL: Mount Royal needed some points, but their challenge on this weekend would be formidable as UBC visited. UBC looked like the better team early on in this game as they controlled the puck for the majority of the first ten minutes until they finally solved Zoe DeBeauville. Cassandra Vilgrain found just enough room inside the post on a wraparound attempt to squeeze the puck by DeBeauville, and the Thunderbirds went up 1-0 at 10:46. The dominance by the T-Birds continued as DeBeauville robbed Kathleen Cahoon moments later, but, despite the dominance of the UBC, they would get no more past DeBeauville in the first period as they went to the dressing room leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and 7-3 in shots.

Things seemed to change between periods as whatever was said by head coach Scott Rivett seemed to fire the Cougars up. They were unable to convert an early five-on-three advantage, though, and this fired up the T-Birds again. The Thunderbirds would force a turnover midway through the period as Cahoon stripped a Cougar of the puck and fed Hannah Clayton-Carroll with a beautiful pass that allowed Clayton-Carroll to walk in on DeBeauville all alone. Clayton-Carroll went bar-down on the glove side of DeBeauville, and UBC led 2-0 at the 9:11 mark. Mount Royal would continue to push, leading the period in shots by a 10-8 count, but it would be UBC who would go into the intermission up 2-0.

The Cougars would finally break through against UBC's Amelia Boughn early in the third period. Megan Carver skated into the UBC zone on a two-on-one with Kennedy Bozek, and she decided to keep and shoot. Her initial shot was stopped, but Bozek followed up on the rebound and chipped the puck past Boughn at 1:47 to make it a 2-1 game. Minutes later, the Cougars would find themselves on another extended five-on-three advantage, but Amelia Boughn stood on her head to keep the pouncing Cougars from finding the equalizer. Neither team would find the back of the net through the remaining time as both netminders were extraordinary, but UBC would take this game 2-1 when the final horn sounded. Boughn stopped 21 shots in the victory while DeBeauville made 22 stops in the loss.

UBC at MOUNT ROYAL: The Cougars fell short on Friday, but looked to carry over some of the momentum they had built with a strong third period. Things started well with Mount Royal buzzing around Tory Micklash and the UBC net, but the netminder held them off the scoresheet. UBC would respond with a flurry of activity of their own, and they would capitalize six minutes into the frame. Cassandra Vilgrain fanned on a shot towards Zoe DeBeauville, but she got enough of the puck to push it to an area where Mathea Fischer could corral it, and she fired the puck home to put UBC up 1-0 at 6:03.

The goal seemed to deflate the Cougars as UBC mounted more offence, and their next goal was a beauty. Off a face-off, Logan Boyd pulled the puck back to Madison Patrick who used a head fake to evade a couple of Cougars to open some space for herself. Patrick spotted Hannah Clayton-Carroll cutting to the net down the middle, and her pass was redirected by Clayton-Carroll past DeBeauville at 13:33 to put UBC up 2-0. The period would close with that score and UBC leading in shots by a 10-8 count.

Things got a little aggressive in the second period as UBC took two early penalties, but the Cougars couldn't solve Micklash. UBC's offence came alive again after they killed off the penalties, and they peppered DeBeauville with more shots. They would find a late goal just after a Mount Royal penalty expired as the UBC power-play moved the puck well before firing a shot on DeBeauville. Hannah Clayton-Carroll jammed away at the puck, and it somehow got through DeBeauville for UBC's third goal of the night at 18:14. After forty minutes, UBC led 3-0 and 25-16 in shots.

Sensing that time might be their enemy, Mount Royal came out with renewed enthusiasm in the final period as they found ways to get the puck through to Micklash. The only problem was that Micklash continued to turn those attempts aside. UBC seemed content to sit back and protect the lead while mounting offence where necessary to relieve the pressure that Mount Royal applied. The Cougars were finally able to solve Micklash late when Shawni Rodeback's low shot somehow found its way through a maze of legs and past Micklash at 15:49, but it was too little and too late for the comeback as UBC took the second game by a 3-1 score. Micklash picked up the win in a 22-save performance while DeBeauville suffered the loss despite making 25 saves.

SASKATCHEWAN at ALBERTA: In this weekend's heavyweight tilt, the first-place Huskies traveled to Edmonton to play the first-ranked U SPORTS team in the Alberta Pandas. It's always a tough place to play when one enters Clare Drake Arena, and the Huskies found out first-hand as the Pandas controlled most of the play within the first period. If not for the solid netminding of Jessica Vance, the Pandas could have had two or three goals early on in this one. After a scoreless first period in which Alberta led in shots by a 9-4 margin, the two teams headed to the intermission buoyed by solid goaltending.

The Pandas continued to pour the pressure on and they would finally be rewarded midway through the period when Cayle Dillon finally find a seam to get one through on Jessica Vance.

Dillon's slap shot from the point somehow found room between Vance's wickets at 11:22, and the Pandas had the 1-0 lead. Again, Vance was busy in this period as Alberta outshot Saskatchewan 11-2, and they led 1-0 after two periods of play while holding a 20-6 advantage in shots.

Saskatchewan must have had the riot act read to them between periods because they looked like a different squad in the third period, but it would be the Pandas using some good passing who doubled their lead early in this frame. Deanna Morin fed twin sister Ashley Morin on the doorstep with an outstanding feed, and Ashley wired a puck inside the far post on Vance at the 4:00 mark to make it 2-0 Alberta. Saskatchewan, though, kept coming at the Pandas, and they would cut the lead to one goal just 29 seconds after the Pandas scored. Danielle Nogier's point shot was kicked aside by Kirsten Chamberlin, but the rebound came to rest on Kori Herner's stick in the slot and she buried the puck behind Chamberlin to make it a 2-1 game.

Alberta would ice the game with just over five minutes to play when Autumn MacDougall showed off some great hands in tight on Vance.

MacDougall's insurance marker at 14:58 would be all the offence that the Pandas needed on this night as they took this game 3-1. Chamberlin was solid in her 16-save win while Vance stopped 23 shots in the loss.

SASKATCHEWAN at ALBERTA: Saskatchewan woke up Saturday morning to find themselves in second-place in Canada West after dropping Friday night's affair. To make matters worse, both Alberta and UBC sat one point back of the Huskies, so this game had a lot riding on it for both teams. Saskatchewan showed early on in this one that they had a different result on their minds on this day, but Kirsten Chamberlin looked sharp as she turned the Huskies away. Midway through the period, the home side would find some breathing room. Autumn MacDougall was in the right place to get a stick on Abby Benning's wrist shot, and her redirection went up and under Jessica Vance's blocker to put the Pandas up 1-0 at 9:31. Despite the setback, the Huskies continued to pressure the Pandas, but they could not find a way to beat Chamberlin in the opening frame. After one period, the Pandas led 1-0 despite being outshot 7-6.

Again, the Huskies came out of the tunnel ready to play, and they would be rewarded for their efforts. Just 21 seconds into the frame, Emily Upgang's wrist shot eluded the blocker of Chamberlin, and the Huskies found themselves on even ground at 1-1. It appeared the Pandas took the lead back moments later, but officials ruled that Amy Boucher had interfered with Jessica Vance on a Kennedy Ganser shot that found the back of the net, and that goal was waved off to keep the game at 1-1. The Huskies really asserted themselves in the second period, finding all sorts of ways to get the puck on net, but Chamberlin was solid in her play as she thwarted wave after wave of Huskies attacks. This would provide the necessary means for the Pandas to respond, and they would as Deanna Morin cut to the net hard and beat Vance on a nice deke.

Morin's goal at 13:06 would put the Pandas up 2-1. Chamberlin would be forced to make a couple of nice saves towards the end of the period, but the Pandas would carry that one-goal lead into the second intermission.

Saskatchewan continued their intense play in the third period as they pressed for an equalizer. Kaitlin Willoughby, Kennedy Harris, and Emily Upgang all had chances, and all were denied by Chamberlin. Much like they did last year, Alberta used that strong goaltending to go the opposite direction and score goals. On a gorgeous three-way passing play, Amy Boucher fed Kennedy Ganser behind the Saskatchewan net who spotted Hannah Olenyk out front and went tape-to-tape. Olenyk snapped a shot past Vance before she could get set, and the Pandas claimed a 3-1 lead at 11:09. From there, Chamberlin stole the show as the freshman netminder withstood the furious attack from the Huskies that included 2:34 with the extra attacker. At the final horn, the Pandas claimed the weekend sweep with their second-straight 3-1 win over the Huskies. Chamberlin was outstanding as she stopped 32 shots for the win while Vance was on the losing end of a 16-save performance.

CANADA WEST WOMEN'S HOCKEY
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Manitoba
8-3-1-0
26 29 22
W7
@ CAL
Alberta
6-2-2-2
24 29 19
W3
@ UBC
British Columbia
8-4-0-0
24 26 18
W2
vs ALB
Saskatchewan
7-4-0-1
22 23 19
L2
vs MRU
Regina
4-6-1-1
15 22 27
L5
@ LET
Calgary
4-6-0-2
14 10 15
W2
vs MAN
Lethbridge
2-6-2-2
12 14 17
L3
vs REG
Mount Royal
1-9-2-0
7 15 31
L2
@ SAS

The Final Word

There's been a lot of talk around my Twitter account about just how good Alicia Anderson has been for the Pronghorns. Little did I realize that there is so much more to how the Pronghorns play this game that perhaps too much credit has been given to Anderson. That's not to say that she hasn't earned the kudos she's received - quite the contrary, in fact. But in watching this Pronghorns team for two straight games give everything they had to the Bisons, this is a team that does a lot of little things right in taking care of their defensive zone.

The first thing that I noticed is that the Pronghorns play a collapsing passive box and one in that the puck carrier of the opposing team is pressured by one of the forwards while the others drop into a box formation around the slot area. Basically, the Pronghorns take away the most dangerous area of the ice and then try to force turnovers or bad passes by making the puck carrier hurry the play. It's an effective strategy as they keep teams, specifically lethal shooters, to the outside, and this makes Anderson's job easy as she often sees shots from the perimeter as opposed to scoring areas. Stopping shots from the outside makes a goalie's night a lot easier.

If a player does find a seam to get inside the box by either beating the pressuring forward or by sneaking in from the weak side of the box, the players collapse around the front of the net to prevent rebounds from becoming an issue. Too many times this weekend did we see Bisons players head to the net while looking for a rebound only to run into a wall of blue-and-yellow jerseys as Anderson was able to smother any and all rebounds with little trouble. The defence in front of her does a good job in tying up sticks so second chances are few and far between, and this allows Anderson to eliminate rebounds quickly and effectively before any opposing players can get to them. In other words, there aren't a lot of opportunities to bang home a rebound in front of the Lethbridge net thanks to the defence and goaltender.

Beyond that, let's give credit to Anderson for a few reasons. First, she tracks the puck better than any goaltender in Canada West that I've seen to this point. Even while screened, she seems to instinctively know where the puck is at all times, and this is a big reason why she's leading the conference in save percentage. While she may get bumped by players standing on her doorstep, she doesn't get flustered either. Instead, she continues to fight through the screens and tracks the puck extremely well regardless of where it is on the ice. This leads her to being caught out of position less, being able to square to shooters more, and gives her more time to set up for shots and passes. Honestly, her concentration levels are through the roof when it comes to finding the puck on the ice, and that's a large reason why she's able to make so many first saves.

Second, she's incredibly flexible and agile. This is the case for most goalies, but where she shows this off is in the lower half of the net. Whenever Anderson is down, there is nothing that gets past her along the ice. Her pads are parallel to the ice, the paddle of her goal stick takes away the five-hole, and she's tall enough to reach both posts. Adding into this is her incredible lateral movement which might be the best in the conference and maybe in the nation. Anderson covers more ground side to side than most other goalies, and she does it all while being fundamentally sound in her posture and movements. Rarely does she leave the five-hole open when moving side to side, and her blocker and glove are lightning-fast. If I was making an instructional video on goaltender movement, I'd tab Anderson as the star because she's incredibly gifted and efficient in her movements.

It's easy to look at Lethbridge's record and dismiss Anderson as a lone star on a team that's finding its footing in an ultra-competitive conference, but it really needs to be said how good she is and the work her team does to help their star netminder out. Anderson's statistics benefit from this help as she's able to do her job, and because of that the Pronghorns have seen great improvements in their overall standing as they currently sit just two points back of last year's total of 14 points in 28 games. With 16 games to go this season, there's no doubt that Anderson and the Pronghorns will exceed that total and push for a playoff spot in Canada West.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Unlikely Offence

The goalie to the left is Mikhail Berdin of the Sioux Falls Stampeders who play in the USHL. Berdin was a sixth-round selection at 157th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2016 NHL Draft, and the netminder from Ufa, Russia has played the last two seasons in Sioux Falls. His 14-12-3 record last season came with a 2.73 GAA and a .925 save percentage, but he's already upped his stats in his second season as Berdin sits with a 6-3-1 record, a 2.47 GAA, and a .933 save percentage. Tonight, though, he added a new statistic to his totals.

With Sioux Falls leading the Muskegon Lumberjacks 6-4 late in the third period, a puck was dumped in behind Berdin's net where the goaltender came out to play it. And then this happened.
Officially, Berdin scored his first goal at 16:36 of the third period in Sioux Falls 7-4 victory over Muskegon. It was also Berdin's first point of the season this year, and he celebrated like he just celebrated winning the Stanley Cup with the fist-pumps, the bench-long high-fives, and the wave to the crowd. Honestly, it's pretty cool to see a goalie goal, but even better to see a player enjoying himself on the ice. Well done, Mikhail!

What is perhaps the bigger story here is that Muskegon gave up five unanswered goals - including Berdin's goal - and coughed up a three-goal lead in being swept this weekend. With the losses this weekend, Muskegon finds themselves in ninth- and last-place in the USHL Eastern Conference with ten points. Sioux Falls improves to 17 points and sits in third-place in the Western Conference, but every team with the exception of the Fargo Force has games in-hand. In other words, this was a big win to try and keep pace with everyone for the Stampeders!

It's always fun to see goalies celebrating like crazy after scoring a goal. Congratulations to Mikhail Berdin on his first goal of the season in helping Sioux Falls earn the 7-4 win!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Honouring The Pups Who Help

With Remembrance Day and Veterans Days having passed, it's always hard to imagine some of the struggles that some face after their tours of duty. Veterans see and live through the atrocities of war, and some suffer from impairments and stresses that we, in our regular five-day-a-week cycle, never would imagine facing. Charlie, the black lab above, is one of the dogs that works to help soldiers ease back into normal life by being a companion and offering a little extra help to the soldiers who return with impairments or stresses.

The New York Islanders welcomed Charlie to Barclays Center tonight to drop the ceremonial puck prior to their game against the Carolina Hurricanes. I think this is an outstanding initiative by the Islanders as we often take service animals for granted in terms of the role they play in the lives of those who need them. Charlie is a member of VetDogs which "is a program that provides trained service dogs to United States military veterans who could use a little extra help in day-to-day life. There are dogs specifically trained for veterans who are vision-impaired, hearing-impaired or those who may be suffering from post-traumatic streess disorder."

Quite honestly, that's incredible.

Joined by his trainers and two Army veterans from Fort Bragg, Charlie made his way to center ice and dropped the puck between Islanders captain John Tavares and Hurricanes captain Justin Faulk.
That's awesome, and it's great to see Charlie and VetDogs being honoured by the Islanders. Far too often, we don't hear about the challenges that soldiers face when returning from duty, especially if they have suffered some sort of trauma or injury, so getting a companion that can help them work through the difficulties of everyday life while coping with this trauma is vitally important. VetDogs is doing an outstanding job in helping the returning officers.

One of the benefits that VetDogs may not be promoting is that people who own dogs not only live longer, but have better cardiovascular health. While the science in that study only looked at Swedish people, I can't imagine people with dogs not being happier with a loyal companion nearby.

Charlie appears to be on his way to being a fantastic companion and aid to a service member who will return from action in the future. VetDogs is doing an amazing job, and I'm glad to see an organization helping those who do so much to help others.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 269

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the 101.5 FM frequency and the internet airwaves tonight with a special in-studio guest! We're always thrilled to have great guests in-studio, and this man's career saw him criss-cross North America and the globe on his professional hockey adventure! He did spend parts of two seasons with the Manitoba Moose before returning here where he's been honing his skills in coaching! Tonight, we get to meet one of the men I used to watch when the AHL was big hockey in Winnipeg as Beans and I welcome Josh Green to the show!

First off, we'll do a little celebrating with Josh tonight as he celebrates his 40th birthday today! After we enjoy cake, we'll talk to Josh about his life, his career, his many stops in that career, an injury or two, some old coaches, some teammates, and more! Josh had a fascinating career in which he played with some of the greatest players to ever suit up in the NHL as well as being coached by men who went on to have outstanding careers of their own. We'll also get an update on what Josh has been doing with his time after the game as he's been a busy guy with two little Greens running around!

For those that aren't aware, Josh played with the Manitoba Moose during the lockout season in 2004-05 before Vancouver signed him. He stuck around in Manitoba and even got his first letter in his professional career here as he was named an alternate captain in 2005-06 with the Moose. All said and done, Josh put up 28 goals and 43 assists to go along with 105 PIMs in 102 regular season games with the Moose, but he always shone brightest in the spring. In the AHL playoffs, he scored 14 goals and added ten assists in 24 playoff games. It's not often you find guys who step their games up in the playoffs, but Josh Green was one of those exceptional players for the Manitoba Moose!

How do you tune in to hear Josh's interview tonight, you ask? We suggest that you download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 FM and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, we talk Kodiaks, Broncos, Winterhawks, Falcons, Monsters, Bulldogs, Moose, Ducks, Kings, Oilers, Barons, and more as we meet and talk with former pro hockey player Josh Green on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: November 16, 2017: Episode 269

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Suspensions? Probably.

On a quiet evening in Detroit, Michigan, a group of Calgarians came calling on the local hockey team called the "Red Wings" for a friendly game of ice hockey. The two teams traded chances on the local frozen sheet of ice where the team clad in red-and-white thrilled fans with an eight-goal performance while only allowing a pair of goals past its formidable goalkeeper in Jimmy Howard. Yes, everyone had a merry Wednesday evening that included a number of hugs and high-fives as shown above.

Wait, hold on. I'm being told that's not what happened. In fact, it's not even close to the truth.

I'll let Sportsnet's Dave Randorf and Garry Galley walk you through all the fun had at Little Caesars Arena last night.
So if you're the Department of Player Safety tomorrow, where do you start in this melee?

Luke Witkowski will most likely get the biggest suspension after he was escorted off the ice only to return to the ice and try to engage in a second fight. Once assessed a game misconduct as it appears he was, Witkowski is required to exit the ice surface. Returning is a major no-no.

I don't know if Anthony Mantha will get one, but throwing punches while Hamonic is down on his back through the gate is also going to be frowned upon by the Department of Player Safety. Hamonic is vulnerable to a number of injuries in that position, and it would have been wiser for Mantha to simply let him go.

It also appears that Micheal Ferland participated in this skirmish while still on the bench. That's also a major no-no in the NHL rulebook, so I'd expect him to have some time off as well.

It's not an easy job to be George Parros in this situation, but I'd rather see him err on the side of "Don't Do That Again" than to be lenient in this case. We'll await the results on Thursday or Friday from the Department of Player Safety, but expect a few players to be lighter in the wallet and possible have some time off for their actions.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Has Adidas Just Given Up?

As we all know by now, there will be a special outdoor game played in Ottawa this winter between the hometown Senators and the NHL's most storied franchise in the Montreal Canadiens. The image to the left are the jerseys that Adidas and the NHL have signed off on for that game, and I'm not certain that this deal with Adidas is working for the NHL's aesthetics. If there was a minimalist series of jerseys, I can see the NHL being happy with what was introduced today, but whatever Adidas is selling to the NHL should be stopped cold turkey because these Adidas jerseys don't look like hockey jerseys.

On December 16, these two teams will play outdoors at Lansdowne Park as part of the league's 100th anniversary celebration. According to the NHL's statement, "[t]he color silver was used uniquely in the design as a symbolic accent, drawing a direct connection to the NHL's Centennial Celebration narrative" as well as an homage to the Stanley Cup. The silver stripe on the arms of the jerseys features the years that the teams won the Stanley Cup. It's also a nice tie to the Ottawa Silver Sevens, but that fact seems to have fallen by the wayside in the NHL's shameless self-promotion. Thankfully, the Senators made that connection, so at least they honour their heritage.
Honestly, can one really call it a feature if it's invisible to the cameras who will broadcast the game? It's such an insignificant feature that it seems superfluous at best. These jerseys aren't going to sell by the millions, so let's start cutting back on the rather needless additions to jerseys, shall we? To make this even gaudier, the Canadiens jersey has the "right sleeve showcasing the triumphant seasons that fell between 1916 and 1960, and the left sleeve highlighting the conquests from 1965 to 1993." Ugh.

If that feature isn't vapid enough, the design of the jersey "features performance poly fabric and a new lightweight crest and numbering system that make the jersey 19% lighter." Does Adidas know that this game is being played outdoors in December in Canada? Lighter means less warmth, and the average temperature in Ottawa for December 16 ranges between -4°C and -8°C. The high one year ago in Ottawa on December 16 was -11°C on a day where it started out at -26°C at 6am with a -31°C windchill. In other words, the players may want to dress with another warmer, thicker layer than what Adidas is providing.

With the pock marks across the shoulders, the lack of a hem stripe on the Ottawa jerseys, the lighter fabric, crest and numbers, and these ridiculous features that matter to no one, Adidas is really doing a number on hockey. What I would give for the old CCM jerseys right now. Instead, the 100th anniversary of the league will go down as one of the worst looking outdoor games in the league's history.

For traditionalists like me, maybe it's time that Adidas starts giving a damn about this sport.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Highest Ever

If you've been listening to The Hockey Show since the hockey season started, you know a late-summer chat with Krista Patronick sold me on cheering for the Colgate Raiders women's hockey team. I used to be a UND Fighting Hawks fan, but the school's canceling of the women's hockey program and the garbage treatment of the players through the ordeal caused me to look elsewhere in terms of my fandom. While I'm still a fan of the UND players - Kristen Campbell is tearing it up with Wisconsin! - Krista's convincing me to cheer for Colgate made me into a Raiders fan.

All season, the Colgate Raiders have defied the odds in beating some good teams. They have climbed steadily through the national rankings, and today it was announced that they had reached a new height in being named the third-ranked team in the NCAA, the highest ranking the program has ever achieved! That's a heckuvan accomplishment for the Raiders in this season!

A few names might be familiar to Canadians. Shae Labbe, a Calgary native, played for Canada in Buffalo at the IIHF Women's U18 World Championship two seasons ago where she played on the top line with current Canadian Olympic hopeful and Minnesota Golden Gopher Sarah Potomak and Clarkson University forward Élizabeth Giguère. That top line had an outstanding tournament in Buffalo, and it really helped them hit the spotlight when it came to college recruitment. Labbe decided to choose Colgate, and there is still history being written on behalf of Colgate by Shae Labbe.

Shae, though, isn't the only member of the team to come out of the Canadian U18 team as it seems that Colgate has a solid number of great, young Canadian players on its roster. Senior defender Kaila Pinkney, senior forward Breanne Wilson-Bennett, freshman defender Shelby Wood, freshman forward Malia Schenider, sophomore forward Anonda Hoppner, and senior defender Lauren Wildfang are all graduates of Canada's program. Speaking of national players, they also boast Swiss national team defender Livia Altmann, so this squad has a pile of incredible international talent and experience on it this season.

After a pair of wins over the New Hampshire Wildcats this past weekend, the Raiders improved to 11-1-0 with their only loss coming at the hands of St. Lawrence. They also beat the former third-ranked team in the nation in the Clarkson Golden Knights, so they've taken down a heavyweight on their climb up the standings. Factor in wins against perennial powerhouses Mercyhurst and Northeastern, and this Colgate team may have all the pieces it needs to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

In getting to be the third-best team in the nation, the team went off and set some new school records as well. Julia Vandyk, who hails from Cambridge, Ontario, broke Colgate's record for wins in an NCAA career with her 36th win on Friday over New Hampshire, breaking the previous mark of 35 set by Rebecca Lahar in 2005. Shae Labbe went off and set the new mark for the fastest hat trick in school history, scoring three goals in 8:39 against New Hampshire on Friday.

Honestly, it's been fun checking up on Colgate when I can. I'm happy that Krista convinced me to switch allegiances over to her school this season as it's been a heckuva ride thus far. I'm just hoping that the Raiders can make it to the Women's Frozen Four this year as it will take place March 16-18 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That's close enough for me to go and cheer on my new favorite team!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Rundown - Week 6

All eight teams were back in action this week, and that logjam at the top of the standings in Canada West needed a little sorting out. There were some intriguing series this weekend as Regina visited Manitoba and Saskatchewan traveled to UBC, so we'll look at each of the eight games played and figure out who stands where after the dust settled this week. The action was intense in Canada West women's hockey, so let's check it out on The Rundown!

MOUNT ROYAL at CALGARY: We had a bit of quirk in the scheduling as this game went Thursday night as the first game of the Crowchild Classic between the two Calgary-based Canada West teams. Calgary got the home draw for this game, and they'd give the home crowd something to cheer about midway through the opening frame. With Mount Royal's Jordan Finnie serving a penalty, defender Laine Grace opened the scoring on a shot from the point at 11:36.
That would be the only scoring of the period as Paige Michalenko and Delaney Frey drew the assists on Grace's first U SPORTS goal. Despite the Cougars having chances on breakaways and one-timers, Kelsey Roberts was outstanding in the Calgary net with the Cougars outshooting the Dinos 14-3.

It appeared we would have a one-goal game to start the third period, but Calgary leading scorer Sage Desjardins had other ideas late in the period. On a partial breakaway, she'd find the twine with 22 seconds left to make it 2-0 for the Dinos.
The third period saw Calgary continue to build on their lead as Rachel Paul scored off a great individual effort at 12:01.
Paul's first of the season came 4:55 before Grace decided she wanted another goal as she unleashed a slap shot from the point that got by Zoe DeBeauville at 16:56.
When all was said and done, Kelsey Roberts rejected all of Mount Royal's chances in a 4-0 victory. Roberts stopped all 28 shots she faced while DeBeauville made nine saves on 13 shots in the loss.

CALGARY at MOUNT ROYAL: The second-half of the crosstown rivalry went at Flames Community Arena on Friday. Mount Royal needed to find some points at home, or they were in danger of falling completely off the board. Calgary looked to continue their winning ways after the 4-0 defeat on Thursday night. The only problem? There were no goals scored through the first twenty minutes as Mount Royal's Emily Severson stopped seven shots and Calgary's Kelsey Roberts continued to stonewall the Cougars with ten more saves. The play was carried by the Cougars, though, so it was clear they were hungry for a win.

Four minutes into the second period, the Cougars' relentless pressure paid off. Channia Alexander teed a puck up that whistled past Roberts for her first of the season to put Mount Royal up 1-0 at 4:09. The Dinos had chances as well, including a Holly Ruether breakaway, but Severson was equal to the task on all four shots she saw to carry the 1-0 lead into the third period. Mount Royal's pressure had them leading in shots 20-11 through two periods.

Things were tense down the stretch as both sides had chances in the one-goal game. Calgary opted to pull Roberts for the extra attacker at 18:25, and they would be rewarded with the extra player. Ruether, who had chances before, got a stick on a wrist shot from Morgan Loroff and deflected the puck past Severson at 19:10, and this game was destined for extra time!

The overtime periods would solve nothing, so the teams went to the skills competition. Reanna Arnold would score on Mount Royal's first attempt. Calgary was denied on its first two attempts before Delaney Frey skated to center ice needing to score.
With the miss on the final attempt, Mount Royal secured the 2-1 win! Severson picked up her first U SPORTS win with a 25-save performance plus three more in the shootout while Roberts suffered the loss in making 30 saves plus two more in the skills competition.

ALBERTA at LETHBRIDGE: On paper, this may have looked like a major mismatch, but Lehtbridge's Alicia Anderson has been other-worldly this season to keep the Pronghorns in games. She'll need to be outstanding once more against the defending U SPORTS national champions, and she was through the first period as she denied all 14 shots - some of the spectacular variety - she saw to keep Alberta off the board. Unfortunately, the Pronghorns couldn't score on Dayna Owen with their eight shots, so it was off to the second period to see if we could find a scorer.

Just 2:09 into the middle frame, we would get a goal. With Alberta's Alex Poznikoff in the penalty box, Alli Borrow set up Tricia Van Vaerenbergh for the one-timer from the face-off circle, and her blast found just enough room through Dayna Owen's pads to get across the line for the power-play goal and the 1-0 lead. Alberta barely had time to shake that goal off when Lethbridge struck again! 44 seconds after Van Vaerenbergh's goal, Kyra Greig scored her first U SPORTS goal of her career!
Greig's goal seemed to snap the Pandas out of their slumber as they came to life and blitzed the Pronghorns for the remainder of the period, outshooting Lethbridge 16-4. The story was the bend-don't-break defence of the Horns and Alicia Anderson once more as they went into the second intermission leading 2-0 despite being outshot 30-12 through forty minutes.

The Pronghorns weathered some early trouble from the Pandas in the third period to preserve the two-goal lead. Midway through the period, the Pronghorns found a third goal compliments of the power-play once more. Mattie Apperson set Alli Borrow up with a beautiful pass, and Borrow one-timed a rocket past Owen to make it a 3-0 game for Lethbridge. Anderson was lights-out once more as the Pandas went with the extra attacker with 3:35 remaining as she made stop after stop. However, Alberta would finally find a seam on Anderson with 50 seconds to play when Kennedy Ganser jammed home a puck in the crease to make it 3-1, but that's as close as Alberta would get on this night. Anderson stopped 42 shots in the 3-1 victory while Owen made 11 saves on 14 shots in the loss.

ALBERTA at LETHBRIDGE: Game Two went from Lethbridge's Nicholas Sheran Arena on Saturday, and you had to know that the Pandas would come out flying in this one after dropping Friday's game. Did I mention that Lethbridge may have the best netminder in the nation in Alicia Anderson playing for them? Because she was in the blue paint again, and she was beyond good once again. The Pandas were all over the Pronghorns in the first period, throwing 14 shots at Anderson, but they couldn't find the back of the net. The result was a scoreless opening period in which Alberta led 14-6 in shots.

The ice seemed to be tilted towards the Pronghorn net in the second period as the Pandas poured on the pressure. It would take nearly 18 minutes, but the Pandas finally broke through the wall known as Anderson. Taylor Kezama moved in from the point and let a shot go up high that beat Anderson over the shoulder at 17:54 to give the Pandas the 1-0 lead! The only problem? That lead would last a mere 43 seconds. Madison Toppe would even the score at 1-1 when she took advantage of some miscommunication between the Pandas defenders and netminder Kirsten Chamberlin to wrap the puck around the post and into the vacant net at 18:37 to tie the game up on Lethbridge's second shot of the period! Yes, you read that correctly as Alberta outshot Lethbridge 19-2 in the second period and 33-8 overall, but the scoreboard still showed things on even terms at 1-1.

Again, it was a Panda-centric period as they outshot the Pronghorns 14-7, but Anderson denied all 14 chances including a Kennedy Ganser breakaway. Lethbridge had shots on Chamberlin, but the rookie netminder turned them aside as well. With no scoring, we'd get some free hockey in this one! The overtime period wouldn't last long, though. Cayle Dillon put the Pandas on her shoulders and the captain snapped a shot past Anderson at 1:10 on Alberta's third shot of the extra period for the 2-1 victory! Chamberlin earned the win in making 14 saves while Anderson stopped 48 shots in the loss.

REGINA at MANITOBA: Two teams that were within striking distance of first-place met at Wayne Fleming Arena on Friday night. Manitoba was skating without Canada West leading scorer Venla Hovi due to her participation in the Four Nations Cup in Tampa Bay, captain Caitlin Fyten due to a shoulder injury, Jenai Buchanan due to lingering concussion issues, and Karissa Kirkup due to an undisclosed injury situation, so the Bisons were going to need some help if they wanted to take down the upstart Cougars. Where they found that help was in the form of the hockey gods as they seemed to be smiling on the Bisons. Just 27 seconds in off a dump-in by Erica Rieder, the puck ricocheted with a funny hop off a stanchion that caught Morgan Baker heading behind the net while the puck ended up in front of the net. Jordy Zacharias was all over the loose puck as she put it into the unguarded net to give Manitoba the early 1-0 lead. The rest of the period saw Manitoba control the pace as they outshot Regina 11-5 without rally giving up a good scoring chance.

The second period started with another crazy goal. After a turnover in the Regina zone, Megan Neduzak found Jordy Zacharias at the top of the slot. The puck, though, bounced on Zacharias, and she chose to tee up a puck on edge. The knuckle-puck floated over Morgan Baker's glove as she was way out to cut down the angle, and it found the top-right corner of the net just 28 seconds into this period to give the Bisons a 2-0 lead! From there, Regina began going to the middle of the ice as opposed to playing down the wings, and it almost worked. Jordan Kulbida was sent in on a partial breakaway, but Lauren Taraschuk turned her aside to keep her clean sheet. Lauryn Keen would make it a three-goal game with just over three minutes to play in the period when she centered the puck from behind the net to three Cougars in the slot, but the puck hit Tamara McVannel's skate and ended up behind Baker! After forty minutes and having the bounces go their way, Manitoba held the advantage in shots at 20-11 and, more importantly, on the scoreboard at 3-0.

It was up to the Manitoba defenders to preserve the lead in the third period, and they did some outstanding work blocking shots and knocking away passes and rebounds when needed. One tipped pass late in the game with Regina on the power-play resulted in Manitoba's Sheridan Oswald racing down the ice past a Regina defender for a partial breakaway. She went forehand-backhand on the break, but Baker stayed with her as the puck went off Baker's pad for the save. However, those hockey gods were smiling once again as the rebound went off Oswald, over Baker, and settled in the back of the net with 5:49 to play to give Manitoba the 4-0 lead. Honestly, if the Cougars didn't have bad luck, they wouldn't have had any luck on this night as Manitoba held on to the 4-0 score for the win! Taraschuk was solid in her second-straight shutout with 20 saves while Baker deserved better on this night as she stopped 31 of 35 shots.

REGINA at MANITOBA: I'm sure the Cougars were told by head coach Sarah Hodges to take the puck to the net more often after Friday night's loss because Saturday's game saw the Cougars play far more aggressively down the middle of the ice. Both defences were sharp in the first period in clearing rebounds and blocking shots, though, and both Regina's Jane Kish and Manitoba's Lauren Taraschuk kept the puck from getting behind them as we played a scoreless first period in which the Bisons outshot the Cougars 9-6.

It took them four periods and six minutes, but the Cougars finally soled Taraschuk in the second period. While on the power-play, the Cougars moved the puck around the top of the umbrella before it reached Tamara McVannel in the left face-off circle. With Emma Waldenberger standing directly in front of her, Lauren Taraschuk peeked around the leg of Waldenberger on the right side. The only problem? McVannel's shot went to the far post on the left side, and it caught the inside of the netting for the power-play marker at 6:11 to give the Cougars the 1-0 lead! That goal also ended Taraschuk's shutout streak at 147:08! Despite a few chances coming in this period, Jane Kish kept Mantioba's shooters silent as Regina outshot the Bisons 14-9 in this frame!

Manitoba came out of the gates in the third period with guns a-blazing, but Kish was simply outstanding in sending wave after wave of opportunities aside. However, a hooking penalty taken by Melissa Zerr at 14:18 and a five-minute major for bodychecking on Martina Maskova at 14:49 gave Manitoba a two-person advantage for 1:29, and they made it count. Emma Waldenberger blew a tire on the top of the triangle coverage that allowed Erica Rieder to walk into the slot area and zip a shot past Kish on the glove side for the power-play goal at 15:37 to make it a 1-1 game!

With the five-minute major continuing, the Bisons continued to press, but the penalty killers of the Cougars continued to find way to relieve the pressure. On a late stand on the major penalty, the puck was worked around the top of the umbrella until it found Lauren Warkentin on the top of the left circle. I think the entire arena anticipated a shot with 40 seconds remaining on the clock, but Warkentin faked the shot and fed a perfect cross-ice pass to the left-side face-off dot where Alana Serhan had the stick armed and ready for the one-timer. Her drive was stopped by an outstanding save by Kish, but the puck popped loose from between her pads and sat behind Kish on the goal line. Courtlyn Oswald lunged for the puck and pushed it across the line to give Manitoba another power-play gal with 36 seconds to play and, more importantly, the 2-1 lead!

Despite pulling Kish and getting a couple of shots off, none made it through to Taraschuk as the Bisons snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with the two late power-play goals in a 2-1 win! Taraschuk had another fantastic outing as she stopped 23 shots for her fifth win of the season while Kish stopped 32 shots in the loss.

SASKATCHEWAN at UBC: In a battle of the top-two teams in Canada West, the Huskies travelled west to meet the Thunderbirds. This game had a playoff-like feel to it already despite just being Week Six of action. The opening period saw Saskatchewan have slightly more offence to speak of, but both sides had opportunities that were thwarted by Saskatchewan's Jessica Vance and UBC's Tory Micklash. In the end, the opening frame saw the Huskies with an 11-8 advantage in shots over the T-Birds.

UBC brought more of the firepower in the second period as they continued to pepper Vance and the Huskies with shots from all over. Saskatchewan, for their part, used their speed to set up shots and opportunities as well, but the two netminders were impenetrable at either end. UBC outshot Saskatchewan 12-9 in this period to even the shots at 20 apiece, but the game remained scoreless through forty minutes of play.

The third started the same way as the previous two periods went with both teams testing one another's defensive schemes, but a penalty midway through the period would see our first goal scored! With Leah Bohlken watching from the sin bin, Kaitlin Willoughby caused a turnover and went off to the races as she outskated the UBC defence for a shorthanded breakaway. The Huskies' most lethal scorer would make no mistake on this one as she deked Tory Micklash enough to open up the netminder before sliding the puck home at 9:34 for the shorthanded marker and the 1-0 Huskies lead. UBC would continue to press, including pulling Micklash for the extra attacker with two-and-a-half minutes to play, but the Huskies would give up nothing on this night. Chloe Smith's goal into an empty-net with 44 seconds to play iced this game as the Huskies took victory with a 2-0 score and leapfrogged the T-Birds into first-place! Vance was stellar in stopping all 33 shots she faced for her first win and shutout with Saskatchewan while Micklash stopped 27 shots in the loss.

SASKATCHEWAN at UBC: The playoff atmosphere between these two teams continued today as UBC was looking to avoid the sweep while the Huskies were looking to pad their lead over the T-Birds in the standings. And just as they did one night earlier, the two teams skated to a scoreless draw through the first twenty minutes of play. Amelia Boughn made four saves for the T-Birds while Jessica Vance stopped eight shots. Both goalies were tested, and both came away unscathed.

We'd find some scoring in the second period. Just under eight minutes in, Saskatchewan's Kayla Kirwin sent in a puck in on Boughn from the blie line that found its way through the traffic and past Boughn at 7:42, and the Huskies grabbed the 1-0 lead. Less than three minutes later, Hannah Clayton-Carroll picked up a rebound off a Mathea Fischer shot on the power-play, and she dented twine behind Vance at 10:35 to make it a 1-1 game. The tied game lasted all of 63 seconds. Emily Upgang found a seam on Boughn with her shot, and the Huskies jumped ahead 2-1. Saskatchewan was certainly the more aggressive team in the second period as they outshot UBC 9-5, leading to their 2-1 lead.

The third period saw Saskatchewan pour on the offence, keeping the T-Birds on their heels. The Huskies outshot UBC 15-5 in the final frame, and the five shots that Vance faced weren't overly difficult to stop. When the final horn sounded, Saskatchewan had swept the weekend series with a 2-1 win! Vance picked up her second win by stopping 17 shots while Boughn suffered the loss despite stopping 26 shots.

CANADA WEST WOMEN'S HOCKEY
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Saskatchewan
7-2-0-1
22 21 13
W4
@ ALB
Manitoba
7-3-0-0
21 27 21
W5
vs LET
Alberta
4-2-2-2
18 23 17
W1
vs SAS
British Columbia
6-4-0-0
18 21 16
L2
@ MRU
Regina
4-4-1-1
15 22 25
L3
vs CAL
Lethbridge
2-5-2-1
11 13 15
L1
@ MAN
Calgary
2-6-0-2
8 8 15
L1
@ REG
Mount Royal
1-7-2-0
7 13 26
W1
vs UBC

The Final Word

Alberta and UBC, the top-two teams in the nation, now sit in third- and fourth-place in Canada West. UBC lost a weekend series for the first time in over two years at the hands of Saskatchewan, so maybe it's time that the voters of the U SPORTS Top Ten start letting go of what happened last season because there are two teams ahead of the Pandas and Thunderbirds in their own conference. Regina's losses at the hands of the Bisons really set them back in the race for first-place, but they're not out of it yet.

What maybe bothered me the most this week was an article from a blog that supposedly covers women's hockey, but apparently doesn't bother watching any hockey. It all started with a tweet that I saw.
You're free to click on the link if you like, but let me save you the trouble. It's five paragraphs long, it mentions four players from the Cougars, it doesn't explain any reason why the Cougars are contenders aside from crediting their earning splits with Alberta, UBC, and Saskatchewan as a reason why, and the author thinks the fourth-place team only has weaker teams to play. I guess that's "all the details" on why they should be contenders, right?

Forget the fact that the Manitoba Bisons - this past weekend's competition - was ranked sixth in the nation. Apparently, Manitoba is a weaker team despite having a rookie goalie allow one goal in two games to the Cougars in taking both games and all six points from the Cougars. Forget the fact that they still have to play in Lethbridge against arguably the nations's best goalie in Alicia Anderson when they could barely manage a single goal against Manitoba. Forget that the "physical game" the Cougars play cost them Saturday's game against Manitoba.

It bothers me when people are writing articles that are better based for sports briefs than for blogs where examination and introspect are sought. It also leads me to believe that the author doesn't watch a lot of Canada West women's hockey because the insight and details that were provided could have been seen on the boxscore of most Regina games. Rather than talking about the leadership of Kylee Kupper and Jaycee Magwood and Sam Geekie in helping a young squad rich in freshmen and sophomores come together to play solid hockey, we instead get "they have goals and assists". It could have been written about the mentorship and work done by Sarah Hodges and her staff in getting some great recruits into the program who have high hockey IQs, but we instead get "goalie has won games and has good stats".

I'm lucky in that I get to see these amazing women play each and every week through calling games and by watching them via Canada West TV. I get to see the ups and downs these teams go through, and it's an incredible process each and every week. Regina, to their credit, could be contenders this season, but this is a team of 20 players who find contributions from each player that don't always make the scoresheet.

This weekend, I watched Shaelyn Vallotton make some solid defensive plays with her big frame that other defencemen wouldn't have been able to make. I saw Chelsea Hallson use her speed and skill to open up space in the offensive zone before dishing pucks to teammates. Emma Waldenberger had two great games using her size and reach to win puck battles, but just couldn't find the back of the net. Did any of these players get mentions? No. Why? Because they aren't easy-pickings at the top of the stats columns for the Cougars.

Don't believe me? Check out the top-three scorers for the Cougars.
Which three players were mentioned in the article? Hint: see above.

Canada West is a deep and talented conference of hockey players. Heck, it produced the gold- and bronze-medal teams last year at the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship. The Regina Cougars could surprise a lot of people and find themselves there this season as the article alludes to, but it will take more than four players, a quick glance at the stats, and some generic descriptions about the team to convince me they should be contenders for the crown.

Why, you ask? Because I actually watch the games.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!