Bison women earn split

Coming into the weekend, facing the final stretch before the playoffs, the Bison women’s hockey team — currently standing third in Canada West and ranked fifth nationwide — was hoping to gain some valuable ground in the standings, hosting the Regina Cougars in afternoon contests on Saturday and Sunday. The host team managed to come away with two points, winning the second of the two games.

Saturday afternoon’s play saw the first period go by with neither team managing a goal, but in the second, the Cougars’ Rianne Wight came in on a breakaway, slipping an unassisted goal in past goaltender Tara Laquette 35 seconds into the period. A few penalties were exchanged, but there was still no more scoring until the third, when the Bison Amy Lee tied the game up on a power play goal at 5:09. Bison Becca King was assessed an interference minor 19 seconds later and the Cougars captain Rae-Lynn Somogyi capitalized on the opportunity, putting the visitors ahead. At 10:40, it appeared the Bisons had tied the game up again, but the referee waived off the goal, allowing the 2-1 score to stand in favour of the Cougars.

“I’m really proud of our team,” stated Cougars’ goaltender Lisa Urban post-game. “We played one of the best games of our season so far!”

Said Bison Lee, “In the first two periods, we were kind of energy-less; the play was a little sloppy in that it lacked structure. But in the third period, I thought we picked it up a bit and played with a little more heart, but it was a little too late.”

“I think we’re going to come out strong again like we did [this afternoon],” Urban predicted.

One fact that almost went by unnoticed was the fact the Bisons held the visitors to only two shots on net in the final 20 minutes.

“We played with more energy [in the third] and we kind of rallied in the dressing room, getting ourselves hyped up for the third period,” stated Lee. “I think there’s some positives going into the next game — if we put the first two periods [from Saturday] out of our minds and focus on the positive things in the third.”

Indeed, a Bison team with a much higher energy level laced up Sunday afternoon. Early in the game, the Bisons made their presence felt; 1:28 into the first, Kacey Funk broke into the zone with captain Amy Coates and took a feed on the rush, potting the even-strength marker for the home team. Later in the same frame, Maggie Litchfield-Medd found the twine through a scramble of bodies and put the home team up by a pair.

There was no scoring in the second, but in the third Lee floated a very neat close-range flip-shot from her knees over the top of Cougar goaltender Urban on the power play at 11:28, rounding out the scoring for the Bisons. It was Lee’s second goal on the weekend.

Earning the well-deserved shutout was rookie goaltender Leiette Klassen, who kept all 22 shots the Cougars doled on her out of the net. This was her fourth shutout of the season.

Said Klassen about the effort, “I think we came out a lot harder. Yesterday wasn’t our greatest, so we knew we had to bring it today.”

When asked if she was expecting the shutout, Klassen replied, “No, not at all. After yesterday’s game I was expecting [the Cougars] to come out pretty hard.”

When asked if the energy from this weekend would carry over into next weekend’s action, Klassen said, “Oh for sure, we’re really excited, and we’ll definitely bring it.”

This coming weekend the Bisons face off against the University of Calgary Dino’s in back-to-back conference games. Before the game on Friday, Feb. 4, the two teams will square off in a shootout to decide the results of a suspended game on Nov. 12. With only four points separating the third place Bisons from the first place Alberta Pandas, next weekend’s action will surely have an impact on the playoff standings. The start times for both games are slated for 7 p.m. at Max Bell Arena.