Cancel all your plans for the weekend... unless, of course they involve the Jan. 24 Dinos/Pandas hockey tilt.
Saturday's game will be the 9-1 women hockey squad's toughest test they'll face all year and one of the most intriguing matchups fans will see at the University of Calgary for a long time. This home and home series with the similarly 9-1 University of Alberta Pandas should determine, once and for all, who really is the best team from the West . Since these teams have known for months they'll be meeting in the post-season, it should also provide a preview for how the Dinos will fare against their northern rivals come playoff time.
The Dinos and Pandas are closely matched teams. The teams split their previous series, both teams winning at home. The Dinos squeaked out a victory at the Oval, while the Pandas won convincingly in Edmonton. Part of the blame for the U of A victory can be blamed on a short Dino bench and resulting fatigue. However, the return of forwards Kelly Bechard and Dana Antal from the national team will add depth and talent up front while a long season has the Dinos at the peak of their conditioning. While both teams feature strong goaltending, Calgary's tandem of Robyn Rittmaster and Lorenda Beuker is the stronger duo; both goalies will have to be at the top of their game as the Pandas are an offensive machine, ranked first in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union in scoring and possessing the league's leading scorer in Danielle Bourgeois. The Dinos' offense is more balanced than that of the Pandas, and the Dinos are physically stronger and play a better team game, especially in the defensive zone. The Pandas are a speedy team but can be counted on to turn over the puck and give up odd-man rushes. In order to win, Calgary needs to continue to play a physical defensive game and restore their offence, which has sputtered lately, to early season productivity.
After toying with the likes of the University of Lethbridge and the University of British Columbia over the past few weeks, these two teams should be itching for some real competition. Show up at 6:30 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 24. at the Olympic Oval and watch what should be one of the best hockey games on campus all year.