It was a long, tumultuous season for the University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team, but the ride is going to only get more interesting. After dropping two heartbreakers to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans last weekend, the Dinos knew that it was of the utmost importance that they come back strong versus the first-place Mount Royal College Cougars to regain momentum heading into the playoffs. The Dinos delivered with a bang, stunning the Cougars with two hard-fought victories, 2-0 and 2-1. With the wins, the 12-6-4 Dinos earned themselves a third-place finish in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference and home ice advantage for the opening round of the playoffs next weekend.
The Dinos' elite defence and goaltending proved to be the deciding factor on Fri. night as the Cougars were unable to generate anything for the score sheet on home ice. MRC, needing a win to hold off SAIT for the top spot in the league, came back stronger on Sat. as they opened the scoring in the game and commanded a 1-0 lead going into the third period. However, the Dinos would not be denied as they stormed back to tie the game and eventually win in the shootout, capping off the series upset and ending the regular season on a very positive note.
"As excited as we are to finish the regular season, we're still looking towards the playoffs," said forward Beth Nerland following Saturday's triumph. "We're going to celebrate the win tonight but we're going to stay focused and not let it go to our heads going into next weekend."
From the drop of the puck on Sat., it was evident that the game was going to be a showcase of defensive abilities as the Cougars and Dinos, ranked first and second, respectively, for fewest goals against in the league, had no room for error or acceptance for failure. Both teams came out aggressively but were unable to solve each other's sound positioning and stickwork.
It wasn't until midway through the second that the game saw its first tally. Following a sloppy power play, the Dinos were caught disorganized and paid the price when Cougars winger Sash Hochlander chipped the puck along the boards past Dinos defender Cait O'Hara and went in alone on the right side of goalie Katie Urness. Hochlander fired a slow wrist shot that Urness got only a small piece of as the puck trickled past her and into the net, putting MRC ahead 1-0 6:19 into the second.
MRC's defence is as tough as any for women's hockey at the undergraduate level, especially protecting a lead late in the game, but the Dinos were not to be denied, storming back to tie the game early in the third. Nerland, taking a feed from Ali Webb, caught the Cougars on a line change and went in one-on-one with the lone defender. Scoring Christmas came incredibly early for Nerland as the defender tripped over her own feet skating backwards, leaving the veteran Dino alone with Cougar goalie Brittany Dick with plenty of time and room. Nerland made the most of her ideal chance, beating Dick stick-side to tie the game up at 1-1.
The rest of the third and overtime saw no scoring, setting the stage for yet another Dinos shootout. Webb, the leading scorer and most efficient shootout sniper for the lady hockeysaurs, got her team rolling in the first round as she perfectly timed and aimed a quick wrister. The Cougars scored on their first shot as well but forward Lianne Legere kept the Dinos ahead in round two, deking Dick out of her drawers and sliding the puck into an open net. Urness then made a scintillating blocker save on her end, leaving rookie Alana McEvoy with the chance to clinch the win against MRC's number-one netminder Amanda Squire, who was sent off the bench to replace Dick after the first two rounds. The switch made no difference as McEvoy had a severe case of dangleitis, dangling Squire into submission to make the Dinos a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout and give them the win.
"I was really nervous at first, but I calmed myself down and realized I had a lot of options as to where I was going to put the puck," said McEvoy of the game. "I knew the move well but also made due with what the goalie gave me."
With the regular season behind them, the Dinos can now set their sights towards the first round of the playoffs and their opponents, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks, a team that the Dinos went a perfect 4-0 against during the regular season. The Ooks, who finished their 3-17-2 season by being outscored 9-0 in their last weekend series, were the bottom-feeders of the ACAC all season, finishing dead last, but the Dinos are still adamant that they bring only their best hockey come next weekend.
"We can't take NAIT lightly," warned McEvoy. "But if we keep playing like we are, I'm sure we can beat them and eventually make it to the finals."