Falling out of contention

The Manitoba Bisons Women’s hockey team were defeated by the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in two pivotal match-ups on Jan. 27 and 28. On Friday, the Bison were shut out by the Pronghorns’ goaltender 1-0 — ending the Bison’s five-game winning streak.

Fortunately for fans, there were goals aplenty in the next game. Unfortunately for Manitoba, the final score read 8-5 for the visitors.

The puck dropped at 7 p.m. It quickly became clear the Bisons would not to be shutout for a second time. Their persistence paid off just over six minutes in, when Addie Miles scored the game’s first. When the cheers subsided, the Bison were noticeably more aggressive and pouring shots on the Pronghorns net.

However, with about five minutes left in the first period, Pronghorn Jenna-Marie Durnan jumped on a rebound and flicked the puck into the Bison net — the goal seemed to shake the confidence of goaltender Leiette Klassen. Lethbridge went on to score twice more before the first period ended.

Heading into the second, Bison head coach Jon Rempel replaced Klassen with Tara Lacquette but the change did not stem the Pronghorn offence.

It was interesting watching the Pronghorns score, cheer and, just a few minutes later, score again. The second period was horrible for the Bisons. Lethbridge scored a few minutes into the period, then scored again, over and over — five goals in total. Bison Meagan Vestby managed to score from a long slap shot from almost the halfway point, giving the Bison’s some relief before the period ended.

It is easy to blame one player or another, but a few issues with the Bison game became apparent in the second period.

Firstly, the Pronghorn offence was sharp. Though they had fewer shots on the net than the Bisons, their success rate was high. As a team, the Pronghorns were able to get close to the net, pass the puck and take advantage of opportunities given to them. While the Bisons were more aggressive, they didn’t have the same finesse.

Meanwhile, the Bison defence often went straight to the puck and crowded the goal area — when the Pronghorns got the puck out of their own zone, there was always a player ready and waiting to score. The Pronghorns were able to outflank and outmanoeuvre the Bisons and neither Lacquette nor Klassen could stop them.

Lethbridge scored in a flurry of hockey sticks with less than half a period remaining to push the Pronghorn lead to 8-2, the third period seemed like it might repeat the script of the second.

To the Bisons credit they did not give up, even managing an attempt at a comeback late in the third — making the final period great hockey to watch.

The Bison managed to hold off Lethbridge’s offence and may have made the Lethbridge coaching staff sweat. Lethbridge dominated for most of the game but got tired, made mistakes and the Bison struck back.

With three minutes to go, the Bisons rallied together and pushed in an admirable attempt to even the score. Meagan Vestby scored her second of the game, regaining team confidence. The Bisons pressed their advantage with aggressive speed.

The Bisons scored two more goals in the last 120 seconds, coming three goals short in the end.

The defending Canada West champion Bisons are now five points back from Lethbridge for the final playoff position in the conference. Four games remain on their schedule.