The University of Regina Cougars and the University of Alberta Pandas – separated by just one point – battled for second place in the Canada West standings and a first-round playoff bye Feb.1-2.
The first period was fast paced – back and forth action between both ends. Although the girls had a lot of goal scoring chances, they couldn’t find the back of the net.
The second period was similar to the first with very few whistles. But fifth-year Cougar forward Paige Wheeler did sneak the puck past the Pandas’ goalie Michala Jeffries with just over 12 minutes left in the second.
The Cougars had a few notable chances in the last six minutes of the period to increase their lead, but couldn’t beat Jeffries.
At one point, the U of R appeared to score when Wheeler tipped in a long-range shot from First-year defenceman Alexis Larson. However, Wheeler’s stick was high and the goal was waved off. Just moments later, fifth-year forward Gina Campbell fired a shot from the top of the circle that hit the inside corner of the post and bounced out.
The momentum was on the Cougars’ side going into the third.
Half way through the period they got a turnover in the Pandas’ end and fifth-year forward Rianne Wight blasted a shot straight to the top right corner of the net, extending the Cougars’ lead 2-0.
The tempo was high and with just 15 seconds left, second-year defenceman Carleen Meszaros passed the puck to Wheeler, who slid it to fourth-year forward Kendra Finch for a wide open goal.
Saturday night’s game started off with the fifth-year girls being recognized. Wheeler, Wight, Campbell and Hilary Lerat will all be leaving the team this year after five seasons with the Cougars.
“I think our team played hard both these games, I don’t think we have any reason to hang our heads…We’re looking at second for the standings now, so we just have to focus on U of M for next weekend.” – Jennifer Schmidt
After a pre-game presentation to the fifth-years, the team started off a little flat. The Pandas capitalized on a power play opportunity with four minutes remaining in the first period to take a 1-0 lead in the game.
But, the Cougars weren’t ready to give up. With eight and a half minutes left in the game, Wheeler got around the Pandas’ defence and passed the puck out front to Campbell to tie the game at one.
The second period saw a pair of penalties against the Cougars to start things off. The Pandas captured more of the momentum when they put another goal past Cougars’ second-year goaltender Jennifer Schmidt to go up 2-1.
The Cougars fought hard to try and get back into the game. With three minutes left, Meszaros took a shot from the top of the circle that found the back mesh of the Pandas’ net to even things up.
The third period was another high tempo contest. However, neither team could break the barrier and the third period ended up being scoreless; forcing overtime.
Overtime was just as high tempo as the third. Lots of chances came from both sides. There was a tense moment with just under five minutes left as the referee called a penalty shot for the Pandas, but Schmidt was able to keep her team in the game and as overtime expired, the score was still tied at two goals apiece.
A scoreless overtime made way for an intense shootout that had the crowd cheering the Cougars on every step of the way through the marathon seven-round shootout.
Finally, the Pandas were able to score as the seventh shooter managed to sneak the puck passed Schmidt, handing the Cougars a 3-2 loss.
“I think our team played hard both these games; I don’t think we have any reason to hang our heads,” Schmidt said. “We’re looking at second for the standings now, so we just have to focus on U of M for next weekend.”
With the series split, the Cougars still have sole possession of second place in Canada West and will head to Manitoba this weekend to finish off the regular season.
Photo by Kelsey Conway