The University of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team eliminated the University of Alberta Pandas in a riveting three-game semifinal series at Father David Bauer Arena, advancing to their second-straight Canada West final. In the CW final, the Dinos will face off against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in a best-of-three series.
The entire series against the Pandas was extraordinarily close with all three games decided by two goals or fewer, including a triple-overtime thriller in game one with nearly 34 minutes of overtime play.
Game one’s marathon was perhaps the most exciting Dinos hockey game of the entire season. After regulation solved nothing, the Dinos and Pandas needed a third overtime before Dinos captain Tanya Morgan buried the 40th Dino shot of the game low blocker-side nearly four minutes into the frame. The Dinos’s fatigue was evident the following night as they followed their exhilarating marathon win with a disappointing 5–3 loss in game two, a game that saw Morgan score twice in a losing effort.
On Sunday, the Dinos, who were led by forward Elana Lovell’s two goals, soundly ended U of A’s season with a 3–1 victory in game three outshooting the Pandas 34–17.
“We knew we had to come out with a better effort than we did last night,” said head coach Danielle Goyette following the game three victory. “We had to battle every shift, and we knew they would not give up. We had to make sure we followed the plan shift by shift.”
Next week the Dinos open the CW finals at home against the UBC Thunderbirds. Regardless of the outcome in next week’s series, both the Dinos and Thunderbirds have secured a spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship during March 8–10 in Toronto. However, the Dinos have no intention of taking their foot off the gas pedal going into next week’s series.
“We really don’t want to go to nationals without winning the finals,” said Morgan.“It’s going to be a big step and we just have to keep going every game.”
The CIS championships are a six-team tournament consisting of the four conference champions, a host team and the runner-up from an alternating conference each year. This year it was pre-determined that the runner-up from the CW would qualify for the tournament, making the semis against the Pandas especially critical to repeating as national champions.
“It’s only the second time for this team to go to nationals — it’s very special,” said Goyette. “When you have five or six players that won’t be coming back next year, this weekend was really important to them.”
Although it wasn’t apparent on the scoreboard, the Dinos outplayed the Pandas throughout the series outshooting the Pandas 97–63 over the three games.
“It came down to hard work —we just battled every shift. Every team we’re going to play is going to be good so we just have to go out and play every shift hard,” Morgan added.
Penalty trouble was the big story of the weekend. Plagued throughout the series, the U of C took a total of 23 penalties in the three games against the U of A, giving up four power-play goals.
In order to be successful against UBC and in Toronto, the team needs to focus on discipline and avoid playing at a disadvantage as much as possible. They’ll also need to continue their strong play on the power play as the Dinos netted five of their nine series goals with an extra player.
After surviving adversity in the first round, the Dinos will look to build off of a solid game three moving into a tough series versus UBC.