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Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Rundown - Week 20

The Rundown is down to two teams as the Canada West women's hockey championship is decided this weekend. The Alberta Pandas, the second-place team this season, head west to Vancouver for a best-of-three series against the first-place UBC Thunderbirds with a CWUAA Championship banner on the line. Both teams feature scoring, defence, goaltending, speed, and skill so this series is all about which team puts on more of a show. With both these teams heading to Napanee for the USports National Championship, they'll try to prevent injuries, but I suspect we'll see both teams lay it on the line for pride and bragging rights in this week's edition of The Rundown!

ALBERTA at UBC: If there was ever a matchup where the underdog could actually be the favored team, it might be this one. Alberta came into the series against UBC on a 13-game winning streak while UBC hung on for dear life against a plucky Saskatchewan team in the semifinal. Would we see the Pandas continue their winning ways?

In a word, yes. The Pandas used the same tenacious play where they blocked a ton of shots and disrupted passes with sticks in lanes to upend the T-Birds in Game One. A scoreless first period saw Alberta lead the way in shots by a 6-5 margin, but it could have been easily in favor of UBC is it wasn't for Alberta's play in their own zone. The second period saw an onslaught of shots directed at Amelia Boughn in the UBC net, and it would be a power-play marker that put the Pandas out front as Abby Benning's shot was stopped, but Amy Boucher was in the right place to pot the rebound past Boughn at 15:13 to give the Pandas the 1-0 lead.

The third period saw UBC play with a little desperation, but the Pandas continued to sacrifice bodies to block shots and making life difficult for UBC. It would become even more difficult at 11:53 when Hannah Olenyk grabbed a rebound in tight to the crease and found enough room past Boughn to make it a 2-0 game for Alberta. From there, it was simply a matter of time as the Pandas did everything necessary to help goaltender Lindsey Post as the Pandas grabbed the lead in the series on the strength of a 2-0 shutout for Post. Post stopped 20 shots in blanking the Thunderbirds while Boughn stopped 23 shots in a losing effort.

ALBERTA at UBC: With Alberta switching to have last change on Saturday, UBC's backs were against the wall despite them playing on home ice. It was do-or-die for the T-Birds, and they got a big effort out of a few players. Alberta opened the game by controlling possession and getting some chances, but Amelia Boughn was stellar once again on this night as she shut the door in the first period. Her work seemed to rally the T-birds as they slowly began to impose their will on the Pandas, and it would pay off late. Kathleen Cahoon showed all sorts of jump and hustle to get to a loose puck in the Alberta zone, and her quick wrist shot beat Post cleanly at 18:34 to give UBC their first lead of the series. That lead would double less than a minute later when Haneet Parhar whacked a bouncing puck out of the air and into the net past Post at 19:25, and the T-Birds would go into the intermission up a pair!

The Thunderbirds continued their assault on the Pandas in the second period, and it was Lindsey Post's time to shine as she stood tall in denying the T-Birds on all attempts. Alberta used a power-play to cut the deficit to one when Taylor Kezama's shot found its way through Boughn at 13:45 to make it a 2-1 UBC game. At the end of 40 minutes, UBC led Alberta by one shot and one goal with one period to play.

The third period saw UBC continue to press as they never took their foot off the gas pedal in this game. Melissa Goodwin would restore the two-goal lead with 5:55 to play when she one-timed a feed from Jenna Carptener-Boesch past Post to make it 3-1, and that goal iced the game as Alberta mustered very little in the final five minutes. UBC takes Game Two and pushes the series to the limit with the 3-1 win. Amelia Boughn stopped 25 shots in the win while Post dropped her first game in a long, long time while making 18 stops. I want to point out that the Pandas' 14-game winning streak coincidentally started with a victory over the Thunderbirds on January 7 which snapped UBC's 15-game winning streak - a fact not lost on a desperate UBC team on this night!

ALBERTA at UBC: With each team scoring three goals in this series - the Pandas' goals were all scored power-play - one team would have to break the stalemate in this even series! It would be the same two goalies who got these two teams to this point as Lindsey Post suited up for Alberta while Amelia Boughn took the blue paint in the UBC net. These two would be the story if not for one blemish on the scoresheet because they were spectacular in their positions.

UBC came out flying and looked like they did the night before as they carried the attack all night long. They outshot the Pandas 8-3 in the opening frame, but both Post and Boughn would have none of the shots get by them as the two teams went to the first intermission still knotted up in a scoreless draw.

The second period started like the first period, but we'd see some dented twine at 7:26. Logan Boyd led a two-on-one into the Alberta zone, and she feathered a gorgeous pass across to Cassandra Vilgrain who simply needed to put a stick on it for an easy deflection goal. Pass, stick, goal as Lindsey Post couldn't stop Vilgrain's redirection and the UBC Thunderbirds had the 1-0 lead! Alberta doubled-down on their efforts, but they still couldn't solve Boughn as the horn sounded with the T-Birds leading by the thinnest of margins through 40 minutes of play.

Despite an early four-minute power-play where Alberta had a number of glorious opportunities, Boughn stood tall again for the Thunderbirds as she denied the Pandas an equalizer. The Thunderbirds were relentless in their pursuit of the puck as Alberta's opportunities were thwarted prior to getting shots on net. Post would be called to the bench with 1:32 remaining, but that incredible effort by the T-Birds continued as Boughn did not see a shot for the remainder of the game. When all was said and done, the Thunderbirds had won Game Three by a 2-0 score, won the series by a 2-1 margin, and won the Canada West Women's Hockey Championship for a second-straight year! Boughn stopped all 16 shots she faced for the shutout victory while Post made 16 stops for the silver medal.

Your 2016-17 CWUAA Women's Hockey Champions are the UBC Thunderbirds!

That will do it for The Rundown this year. Yes, I realize that the USports National Women's Hockey Championship is coming up next week, but that event will get its own entries. I want to thank everyone who has read these updates all season long. We'll be back next season with more action and more fun as I work through another Canada West Women's Hockey Season in 2017-18! Best of luck to both the Alberta Pandas and the UBC Thunderbirds as they look to bring the USports National Championship back to the west!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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