Cougar women sweep in Lethbridge
It’s 2020; Bring out the brooms
Coming out of the holiday break with momentum is crucial, especially for teams trying to get into the playoff hunt. While team Canada battled away at the World Junior Hockey Championship, the Cougars prepared to restart their season in winning fashion. On Jan. 3 and 4, the U of R women were able to do just that. If there was a holiday hangover for the Cougars, it lasted just a period. The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns got off to a strong start with Krya Greig striking first just three minutes into the contest at even strength. Their pressure led to four Cougar penalties, and Alli Borrow was able to capitalize on the fourth with just two minutes left in the first period.
The next two periods were an entirely different story. The Cougars put the pedal to the metal and didn’t look back, pelting Pronghorns goaltender Alicia Anderson with a whopping 39 shots in the contest. The pressure drew them five powerplays of their own and they were able to capitalize on two of them to bring the game to overtime. Jordan Kulbida scored the first goal on a rebound from Adela Juzkova for her fifth of the season and Shaelyn Vallotton scored her third of the season of a rebound from Cougars captain and leading scorer, Jaycee Magwood. The always consistent Cougars netminder Jane Kish shut the gates in the last two periods, stopping 21 shots of her own. Neither team found the edge they needed in overtime and Kish became the hero once again, stopping all three shooters as Jenna Merk potted one in a shootout victory for the Cougars.
On Saturday the Cougars picked up a second win, defeating the Pronghorns 3-1. The home side opened the scoring once again, this time courtesy of Mila Verbicky who put one in on a powerplay opportunity from a penalty to Cougars captain Jaycee Magwood. However, Magwood redeemed herself at the end of the frame, setting up Vallotton to tie the game at one. Magwood and Vollotton combined with Hubbard for another, four minutes into the second, bringing the game to 2-1. The Cougars held their 2-1 lead for much of the rest of the game as neither team could solve the opposing goaltender. In the final seconds, Merissa Zerr potted an empty netter for the Cougars to secure the win. Jane Kish was one save short of her fourth shutout of the season, stopping 26 of 27 shots. With the victory, the Cougars improved their season record to 8-10, good for seventh in Canada West and just three points back of the sixth place Pronghorns. For Head Coach Sarah Hodges, this weekend was a great effort for her roster.
“I’m really happy with the effort the team put forward this weekend. They played hard and desperate, and as a team we need to continue to do more of the same over the next month.”
The team has been steadily building momentum after a sluggish opening to their season. Going 6-4 in their last 10 games, the Cougars continue to make a push toward playoffs. Captain Magwood has carried a lot of the load so far, streaking her way to fourth in the Canada West rankings with 15 points, 6 ahead of next best Cougar, Tammara McVannel. In fact, the Cougars next highest scoring forwards Kulbida and Vallotton have just 12 points combined. If the Cougars can continue to bolster their offensive production that will help them stay in the winning column.
On the defensive side of things, it helps to have a great netminder like Kish, but they can’t rely on her 0.931 save percentage every game. Their goals against average of 2.3 is the second highest in Canada-West and limiting dangerous chances will be key to success moving forward.
January brings a great opportunity for the charging Cougars to gain some points on the competition. Next week they will head to Vancouver to play the against the fifth place UBC Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are in a six-game losing slump, and the Cougars will look to capitalize on that and keep building momentum. The Thunderbirds bring a balanced offence that should pose a good challenge for the top-heavy Cougars. They also have a strong netminder in Tory Micklash who will test the Cougar snipers.
The Cougars will then close out the month of January with four big home games. In their toughest challenge, they draw the third place Mount Royal Cougars but will then close out the month against last-place University of Manitoba.
The Cougars take up their sticks in Vancouver against UBC Jan 10 and 11. They return home the following week for games against Mount Royal.