Thursday, 22 February 2018

Then Hockey Show - Episode 283

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight, but I'm afraid it'll just be me on the microphone unless I can come up with a co-host scenario pretty quickly. Beans, it seems, has turned his home into ground zero for the ebola virus or the bubonic plague or some incurable disease that has encompassed his entire family including himself. In knowing Beans, I didn't think biochemistry was his specialty, but apparently the high-grade medical laboratory garage he owns is a good place for storing such stuff. As a result, I'm the one-man gang tonight on The Hockey Show, so buckle up because we've got a lot to discuss!

Did you stay up and watch the Canada-USA gold medal game in women's hockey? Did you make it to the end? If you did, you may be feeling a little sleepy too since everything wrapped up around 2am. Tonight, I will go over the Canada-USA women's game in terms of what happened, where things went well and went wrong, and vent a little about how shootouts to determine medal winners is anti-sports. We'll look at Finland's bronze medal victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia where Venla Hovi claimed her second Olympic medal, and we'll go over the men's tournament which resumes tomorrow. In the second-half of the show, we'll talk about the Milwaukee Admirals and Manitoba Moose having some fun on the ice, the Manitoba Bisons men's and women's teams and what their statuses are, the Jets finishing off their ten-game homestand before heading out on the road, and whatever else may come up in the hour I get to broadcast tonight for as long as I can stay awake!

So how do I tune in to the world's greatest radio show about hockey, 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 on the FM dial 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, Teebz and possibly a co-host will go over the results of the Olympic tournament, talk Bisons, chat Moose, discuss the Jets winning and losing, and more on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: February 22, 2018: Episode 283

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Bronzed Hovi Blog In Canada

That, folks, is what a bronze medal hug looks like. Venla Hovi and Team Finland earned the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic bronze medal in women's ice hockey today with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia, and this writer's favorite Finn played a part in that victory today! Before we get to playing said part, I have to admit that the Finns played one helluva tournament. They may have fallen short on their goal of bumping one of Canada or the US out of the gold medal, but they still come home with hardware - an incredible achievement for all the players and staff at the games and for the entire country of Finland!

Finland got things started early when Minnamari Tuominen backhanded the puck from the top of the point and Petra Nieminen redirected her shot past Nadezhda Morozova while on the power-play for the 1-0 just 2:21 into the game!
The 19 year-old Petra Niemenen has been outstanding for the Finns all tournament long, and she gave her side the early lead with that deflection. As a selfish aside, how good would Niemenen look in Manitoba Bisons colours? I'm not sure what her intentions are next season or in the future, but Niemenen as a Bison sounds like a great idea. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Finland leads 1-0.

Ten seconds into the second period, Finland made it 2-0 when Michelle Karvinen looked like she was going to circle the net, but fed a pass to Susanna Tapani in the slot who dented twine behind Morozova!
Karvinen, who had an outstanding NCAA career with The School Who Cut Her Program, has always performed well on the big stage. Tapani's goal, however, set a new Olympic women's hockey record as her goal at the ten-second mark is now the fastest goal to be scored after the start of a period! The old record was 19 seconds, and it was set on February 17, 2010 by Slovakia's Janka Culikova in the third period of a 5-2 loss to Switzerland. Congratulations, Susanna on adding your name to a little Olympic lore!

Russia would reply two-and-a-half minutes later when Olga Sosina made it a 2-1 game as she found room past Noora Raty, but a couple of successful penalty kills following the Russian goal seem to re-energize the Finns. At 12:18 of the second period, they would restore that two-goal lead as Venla Hovi and Linda Valimaki got in on the action!
Hovi spotted a streaking Valimaki down the left wing and her with a beautiful pass in stride, and Valimaki drove the net on the backhand and beat Morozova to make it 3-1 for the Finns! Honestly, that's the play-making ability of Venla Hovi we've come to know and love in Manitoba, and her and Valimaki made that play look seamless!

Lyudmila Belyakova would cut the lead to 3-2 on a power-play at the 6:03 mark, and it was some nervous times for both teams as the game progressed. Isa Rahunen was called for an illegal hit with five minutes to play, and it appeared that this would be the break that Russia needed to even this game. However, Anna Shohkina committed a high-sticking infraction just 18 seconds later, and that killed the advantage for Russia. As time ticked away, the clock became Russia's enemy, and it was one they could not defeat!
Congratulations to Team Finland on returning to the podium with an inspired, determined win today! Four years of hard work following a disappointing fifth-place finish in Sochi has paid off with the bronze medal today. While they may not have beaten Canada or the US to get into that gold medal game, there is nothing to regret for these women who laid their hearts on the line, sacrificed for four long years, and came together like true champions. That's what the Olympic spirit is about, and I cannot be happier for Venla Hovi and her teammates!

Venla finished the tournament with a goal and two assists in six games, but she certainly did us proud here in Manitoba. The University of Manitoba Bisons forward still has another major tournament to look forward to as her teammates in Winnipeg are playing in the Canada West semi-final this weekend against Alberta with a berth to the Canada West championship game against either UBC or Sasakatchewan on the line as well as a U SPORTS National Championship invitation on the line! We hope to see Venla back soon after her success in Pyeongchang to not only help the Bisons win, but to celebrate her achievement at the Olympics!

Congratulations, Team Finland, on your bronze medal and your outstanding tournament!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Just Gonna Leave This Here

This spreadsheet-like image was posted to Twitter by Dimitri Filipovic yesterday, and I found myself studying it pretty hard. As you can probably deduce, I added the overall NHL rankings as of last night to the chart to make it a little easier to see, but aside from a few outliers, the percentage of time leading a game almost correlates directly to placement overall in the league's standings. To be fair to all teams, there isn't a margin of error that I can deduce between the percentage of time leading, percentage of time trailing, and the overall placement in the standings, but it seems pretty clear that top fifteen teams in terms of percentage of time leading are also the top fifteen teams in the NHL standings. The exceptions are Colorado (10th in time leading vs 18th overall), so they're actually worse as a higher-ranked team with the lead while Philadelphia (16th in time leading vs 11th overall) and Los Angeles (21st with the lead vs 14th overall) seem to play better when trailing.

In any case, it's something you can look over and see if you can find some numbers that jump out at you. For you analytical types, it would be interesting to see these numbers versus time of possession numbers or PDO numbers to see how much those two scenarios have on time leading versus time trailing. As we've always been told, if you have the puck more, the other team doesn't with possession, and teams that get on hot streaks will certainly see their PDO go up, but does that have a significant swing on the time leading versus the time trailing?

If you feel like it, have at it. I give you these numbers that Dimitri published as a starting point!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Ten In 2022

Might Germany and Austria fill out the field at the 2022 Beijing Olympics? It was announced and made official today that the Olympic field for the women's ice hockey tournament in 2022 would follow the same path as the 2019 Women's World Championship going forward with ten teams rather than the eight seen at this year's Olympiad. Having more teams appear at the most prestigious tournament in the women's game is both good for the sport and for those teams who are striving to meet the level of play shown by the current eight Olympic teams. There are usually committees and consultations and meetings and reviews that last for years before a decision like this is made, so seeing the IOC and IIHF come to their senses without years of deliberation to feature a larger women's tournament shows real progress on their parts.

Perhaps nowhere has greater progress been seen, though, than in women's hockey when it comes to gaps closing between countries. IIHF council chairwoman Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer told The Associated Press' Teresa M. Walker and Stephen Whyno  that "the quality of women's hockey around the world is good enough for this step. She pointed to Japan beating Sweden 2-1 in overtime Sunday in the classification round and no team scoring more than eight goals in a game as signs of progress.

"'In Sochi, the first result was 9-0, and we now have here 8-0 both for the Korean team, so we can say that women's hockey developed a lot in the last eight and four years compared to Vancouver and Sochi,' Kolbenheyer said."

That true statement means that the women playing at the Olympic level are not only getting better at a rapid pace, but that the idea of a "Big Four" has now been reduced to a "Big Three" with Sweden falling off the pace, leaving just Canada, the US, and Finland as teams that regularly medal. Individually, we're seeing outstanding performances from players on Switzerland, Russia, Japan, and even Korea who was thought to be a write-off at this tournament, and that has to bode well for the development of other players within those countries who strive to be more than the fifth-place team.

Korea, who sits 17th in the IIHF World Rankings, is officially nine spots lower than Japan, yet there should be real optimism for this Korean team as they move forward. With the expansion to ten teams, Korea could find themselves as a mainstay on the Olympic stage if they continue to improve over the next four years. The seventh-ranked Germans will certainly want to grab one of those ten spots after missing out this year, and there should be a good battle between them, the Czech Republic, Austria, France, and Denmark over the next four years to see who can claim those two new spots. With China entering the running as the 19th-ranked team this year, they'll have some work to do if they hope to find success as the host team, but the expansion of the Canadian Professional Female League into that country is providing hope that they can accelerate that development.

The one thing that should be noted is that all of these countries aren't guaranteed anything when it comes to Olympic spots. Everyone will need to play for the next four years and jockey their positions with wins and losses at major IIHF tournaments to see who qualifies and who doesn't. If there are upsets, perhaps we could see a Great Britain or an Italy or a Mexico making their first appearances in women's ice hockey. By expanding the field and allowing more teams in, the chances of seeing an upstart team make the Olympics is now greater, and that provides better growth for the game as more people from that country and around the world tune in to watch these athletes who did the unthinkable.

With IIHF President Rene Fasel confirming the change on Monday after the Beijing Olympics organizers had requested the change, the IOC is also showing more commitment to inviting more female athletes than ever before. That, too, is something that should be celebrated as the Olympics really seem to be striving for equity between the men and women competing at their Games. We've heard the talk of the IOC trying to be more equitable in these when it came to female representation in all sports, but adding two more teams to arguably one of their marquee events shows some dedication to that decree. Yes, you can point to the fact that the Beijing Olympics organizers had made the request, but the IOC's quick approval on that request makes it seem like their trying to put their money where their mouths are.

Looking at this announcement and knowing the above, one has to be excited to see more elite female athletes on the world stage. Yes, it benefits the athletes who play and those of us who appreciate women's hockey immensely, but the end result is that more women will be invited to the 2022 Olympics than ever before. The growth and benefits to women's hockey should be felt throughout the women's hockey world as teams now are competing for an increased number of Olympic berths, and that may keep some of these amazing players in the game longer. More women, women playing longer into their careers, and more teams competing at the highest level? That sounds like a win-win-win to me.

Well done, IOC and IIHF. This is the best news out of this Olympiad yet.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Rundown - Week 16

Playoffs spots were locked in and loaded this week as Manitoba and Saskatchewan awaited the winners of the series featuring UBC hosting Mount Royal and Alberta hosting Regina. For these four teams, it comes down to simple math: six wins against three teams over the next three weeks to claim the Canada West championship banner. The first test for each of these four teams would be this weekend, and two losses would send two of the four teams home for a summer of wondering "what if". Let's see who advanced and who gets the summer to reflect in this week's edition of The Rundown!

(6)MOUNT ROYAL at (3)UBC - Game One: Friday saw third-seeded Thunderbirds host the sixth-seeded Cougars in what appeared to be a bit of a mismatch on paper as UBC won all four games played this season, but Mount Royal could point to the fact that three of the four games were only one-goal victories with one of those games being a shootout win. With 28 points separating the two teams in the standings - the same amount amassed by Mount Royal all season - would this series be as tight as the regular season results indicated?

This game started slow for some reason as neither side put up much of a fight in their respective offensive ends. It seemed to take forever for either team to mount some offensive pressure, so perhaps both teams were subscribing to the theory that defence wins championships. In any case, things began to pick up around the midway point of the period, aand it would be the home side who capitalized. UBC's Cassandra Vilgrain walked out of the corned and spotted Brielle Bellerive in front, and Bellerive redirected the Vilgrain pass past Zoe DeBeauville.
Bellerive's goal at 12:24 put the UBC Thunderbirds up 1-0. In what was a very quiet period for both netminders, the horn would sound with UBC holding onto their lead and a 4-3 edge in shots after 20 minutes of play.

UBC showed a little more life in the second period as they began to find seams in the Mount Royal defence, but DeBeauville would surrender nothing. Bellerive, however, was whistled for a cross-check at 14:13, and the Cougars would go to work. Or, more specifically, Reanna Arnold. Nicolette Seper hit Arnold with a pass, and she cut towards the net where her initial shot was denied by UBC's Tory Micklash. However, Arnold followed up on the rebound as she cut across the crease, and she tapped home the uncovered puck past Micklash for the power-play goal at 15:31 to pull Mount Royal even at 1-1! After 40 minutes of play, these teams were deadlocked once more despite UBC holding a 13-8 advantage in shots.

I wanted to report that there was a flurry of goals in the third period, and it looked as though UBC found a lead when they beat DeBeauville at with eight minutes to play, but it was determined that DeBeauville had been interfered with as there was a Thunderbird in the crease. With that goal waved off and no flurry of goals materializing, we'd play through to the final horn with nothing resolved and it was off to overtime!

The first overtime period saw UBC carry the play, but neither side found the back of the net as both defences kept high-quality scoring chances to a minimum. Both DeBeauville and Micklash looked sharp through their eightieth minute in their respective nets, so it was off to a second overtime period to find a winner.

The second overtime period saw better chances with Mount Royal carrying more of the play, but Micklash continued to add bricks to her wall as she didn't allow anything by. There was a Rachel Piitz opportunity that looked like it might end the game, but the veteran Cougar ripped a shot wide with Micklash somewhat out of position. With nothing happening through five periods, we'd move to a sixth period! Would we see another Manitoba-Saskatchewan game where it took eight periods to find a winner?

The two teams skated out for the third overtime period with noticeably less vigor than they did when their legs were still fresh, but the women still battled hard. Both goaltenders withstood the chances thrown at them by their opposition, and the respective defensive units did all they could to recover. However, it would be a loose puck that was the catalyst to the finality of this game.

Tiffany Chiu claimed the aforementioned loose puck in behind DeBeauville's net and threw a backhanded pass into the slot that found Kathleen Cahoon for the one-timer, but she rang it off the post. The rebound, however, ricocheted right back to the big forward, and she made no mistake on the second chance as she found the back of the net at 15:55 of overtime on UBC's sixth shot of the extra frame for the 2-1 triple-overtime victory! Micklash was great in her 115:55 of work in stopping 24 of 25 shots while Zoe DeBeauville did all she could in stopping 33 shots in the loss.

UBC now leads the series 1-0 in the best-of-three contest.

As a note, this game moved into third-place on the longest contest list for Canada West. The only games that saw more overtime than Friday's final was the five-overtime game between Manitoba and Saskatchewan on February 21, 2016 that featured 79:02 of extra time and was ended on a Venla Hovi goal to give Manitoba the win, and the game between Regina and Saskatchewan on March 1, 2014 that saw 62:30 of extra time needed before Alexis Larson scored for Regina to end that game.

(6)MOUNT ROYAL at (3)UBC - Game Two: After playing nearly two full games on Friday night, would either team make it to the rink for the 3pm PT start on Saturday? The Cougars were up early to get a jump on stretching and hydration as per their Twitter feed, and I assume that the T-Birds were executing similar plans of their own. When the puck was dropped, everyone seemed ready to go for Game Two.

Well, it should be stated that the T-Birds looked ready to go because they found the lead just 5:35 into this game when Hannah Clayton-Carroll picked up a puck chopped off of Mathea Fischer's stick, and she wired a shot past Zoe DeBeauville for the early 1-0 lead.
Victoria Byer took a roughing penalty just over a minute later, and the UBC power-play decided to extend the lead. After moving the puck around the top of the umbrella, Brielle Bellerive's perfect tip in front on Madison Patrick's shot found room between the wickets on DeBeauville, and the power-play goal at 6:53 put UBC up 2-0!
These two quick goals seemed to light a fire under the Cougars. Two-and-a-half minutes later, Tatum Amy took a pass from Erin McLean, went to the backhand, and flipped the puck past Amelia Boughn at 9:21 to make it a 2-1 game! The Cougars continued to press through the remaining half of the first period, but Boughn would not be beaten before the horn sounded. Despite leading 7-6 in shots, the Cougars trailed 2-1 to the Thunderbirds after one period of play.

The second period seemed a lot like the first two overtime periods where the two teams had chances, but both goalies wouldn't be beat and the defences continually found ways to clear dangerous second chances. With Mount Royal playing for their playoff lives at this point, it would come down to one more period of play unless the Cougars could find a way to tie this game up.

Mount Royal pushed the play in the third period with the looming blade of the guillotine hanging over them, but vhances were few and far between. UBC had better chances, but DeBeauville stood tall. That proved important because Nicolette Seper found Anna Purschke with a pass, and Purschke found the back of the net past Boughn at 15:58 to tie this game up at 2-2! The final four minutes were exciting, but they resulted in no goals being scored so we went to overtime for the second-straight game!

The good news? This game only needed sixteen minutes of extra time. The bad news? It didn't go well for the Cougars.
Celine Tardif's shot from the half-boards at 15:57 found its way past DeBeauville and into the back of the net for the 3-2 UBC overtime victory as they sweep the Mount Royal Cougars out of the playoffs! Amelia Boughn stopped 15 shots in the overtime win while DeBeauville made 23 stops in this loss.

UBC wins the series 2-0 and advances to play the Saskatchewan Huskies. The reigning two-time Canada West champions and the reigning U SPORTS bronze medalists will go on the road for the next series.

(5)REGINA at (4)ALBERTA - Game One: The season series between these two teams was definitely in the Pandas' favor. Alberta went 3-0-0-1 against Regina with 13 goals-for in the four games played, but Regina lost in overtime and won in the shootout on Clare Drake Arena ice in October, so the Cougars have had success in Edmonton. Could they find a way to upset the Pandas?

In a rather surprising start, it was Regina that dominated the play in the early going as they seemed to catch the Pandas off-guard. Luckily, Kirsten Chamberlin was ready to play as she thwarted a couple of two-on-ones, shut down some chances in close, and generally stonewalled the Cougars. And as it happens in hockey, big saves at one end usually lead to goals at the other.

Amy Boucher does a good job un evading some defenders before springing Hannah Olenyk on a partial breakaway, and Olenyk finds room between Jane Kish's pads for the 1-0 lead at the 18:00 mark!
They may have been outplayed for most of the period, but the Pandas went into the intermission with the 1-0 lead!

Whatever fire Regina started this game with was extinguished in the second period. The transformation was very noticeable as the Pandas carried the play for the majority of the period in all zones. Turnovers also plagued the Cougars as the Pandas' forecheck was relentless. Those efforts paid off for the home squad as Alex Poznikoff's shot from the high slot area somehow got past Kish at 17:16, and the Pandas had a 2-0 lead after two periods.

The third period started the same way the second ended as it seemed the Cougars were sleepwalking through the opening minutes. However, someone set the alarm clock off on the bench as they began to play with more immediacy as the period progressed. As the minutes ticked by, the clock became the Cougars' main opposition, but it looked like they may have solved that opponent. Lilla Carpenter-Boesch's shot was stopped by Chamberlin, but Jaycee Magwood tapped home the rebound in the crease at 18:41, and the Cougars cut the deficit in half with 1:19 to play!

Kish started on the bench with the face-off at center ice, and the six attacking Cougars went to work. They moved the puck well and chances were had, but Kirsten Chamberlin made stop after stop in the closing seconds to ensure that Alberta secured the 2-1 victory! Chamberlin made 14 saves in the win while Kish stopped 19 shots in the loss.

Alberta leads 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

(5)REGINA at (4)ALBERTA - Game Two: With their backs against the wall, the Cougars needed a win on Saturday to extend this series to a third game. The Pandas, knowing they have to travel next weekend, were looking to wrap this series up as fast as possible. What would happen on Saturday? Let's find out.

Just as they did one night earlier, the Cougars came out guns a-blazing as they looked to get the jump on the Pandas. However, that aggressiveness led to a Chelsea Hallson interference penalty midway through the period, and out came the Pandas power-play unit. After the Coygars failed to clear the zone, Amy Boucher picked up the puck and fired a shot on net from a sharp angle that found space between Morgan Baker and the post at 11:01 for the 1-0 Alberta lead!
That goal seemed to deflate the Cougars' attack as the Pandas began to stake control of the period from that point as they controlled the play through to the horn. After one period, Alberta held the one-goal lead.

Alberta used that momentum from the first period to double their lead early in the second period. Off a face-off win by Regina, Hannah Olenyk poked the puck off a Regina defender's stick into the slot, and Deanna Morin got a couple of whacks at it before it ended up behind Baker at 2:37 for the 2-0 lead!
Alberta's dominance continued throughout the period, but they wouldn't be able to solve Baker outside of their one goal on eleven shots. That being said, the Pandas did hold a 2-0 lead going into the third period just as they did one night before, so could they hold on again?

Sensing elimination, the Cougars turned their game up several notches in the third period to try and eliminate the deficit on the scoreboard. Chance after chance early on was turned aside by Kirsten Chamberlin, but the Cougars would finally break through midway through the period. Sam Geekie's long point shot found its way through traffic in front of Chamberlin and eluded the netminder to find the back of the net at 12:15, and the Pandas' lead was cut to 2-1.

The Cougars continued to press the Pandas throughout the final eight minutes of this game, but Chamberlin and the Pandas weathered every storm the Cougars brought. With the Cougars unable to solve Chamberlin a second time, time ran out on their playoffs as the Pandas wrapped up another 2-1 victory on home ice. Chamberlin stopped 23 shots she saw for the win while Morgan Baker took the loss in a 16-save effort.

Alberta wins the series 2-0 and advances to play the Manitoba Bisons. The reigning U SPORTS gold medalists will go on the road for the next series.

The Final Word

Because we don't need the standings, we'll skip right to The Final Word where the top-four teams in Canada West will battle for supremacy. Nine points separated first-place Manitoba from fourth-place Alberta in the standings, so I expect both series to be tight-checking and low-scoring.

The underrated and vastly overlooked Saskatchewan Huskies, who posted a four-and-oh record against UBC this season, will host the U SPORTS' fifth-ranked UBC Thunderbirds, and this series features Canada West's best defensive team and least penalized team - Saskatchewan - against the conference's third-best defensive team and second-most penalized team - UBC. In contrast, UBC had the third-best power-play and fifth-best penalty kill this season while Saskatchewan's power-play was dead-last and their penalty kill was second-best. In other words, if UBC continues their parade to the sin bin, it may not help Saskatchewan since they scored just seven times in 99 opportunities this season.

Where this series may be won and lost is in the blue paint. If Jessica Vance is as dominant as she was in the regular season, the Thunderbirds will need Micklash and Boughn to match her. Her rate of one shutout every two games has to worry the T-Birds a little in a three-game series, and her sub-1.00 means there won't be a lot of goals celebrated unless UBC can unlock the secret to Vance's success.

In the other series, long-time foes Alberta and Manitoba will meet in Winnipeg for another chapter to their recent playoff history. Alberta ousted Manitoba last season in the semi-final in two straight games while Manitoba eliminated Alberta in 2016 in three games in the semi-final. The rubber match, if you will, happens on Manitoba ice for the first time in these last three years, and it features the top-ranked U SPORTS team in Manitoba against the second-ranked U SPORTS team in Alberta. We may be talking about this clash of the titans for some time.

Manitoba was 2-1-1 against Alberta this season, but history has cleared favored the Alberta squad in the matchups. That being said, Alberta was the best offensive team and had the second-best goal differential while Manitoba was the second-best offensive team and had the best goal differential. Both teams can score and both teams can defend, so there aren't a lot of difference between the two teams. Manitoba had the top power-play; Alberta was second-best. Manitoba had the third-worst penalty kill; Alberta had the worst.

The difference in this series might be how the teams play in one-goal games. Yes, Alberta has won two games already, but they looked like the more passive team doing so. During the season, Manitoba was 14-2-1-0 in one-goal games while Alberta was 9-2-2-2. If this series comes down to goaltending, Manitoba's Rachel Dyck and Alberta's Dayna Owen - the two veteran keepers - have virtually identical stats. If Chamberlin continues to start under Howie Draper, Jon Rempel's rookie in Lauren Taraschuk had better stats across the board in all major categories. There's no Lindsey Post this season, so this series could be won and lost in the blue paint based on the personnel decisions Howie Draper and Jon Rempel use.

There will be some amazing hockey played at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon and Wayne Fleming Arena in Manitoba this weekend, and it would be a shame for you to miss it. Get down to one of those two rinks if you can and cheer on the teams as they battle for a right to represent one of the two Canada West berths in the U SPORTS National Championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!