The Wickenheiser Show

The Manitoba Bison women’s hockey team hosted a special guest this weekend, as Hayley Wickenheiser and her Calgary Dinos teammates visited Max Bell Centre in a pair of back-to-back games.

Wickenheiser has been a dominant force on the international hockey scene for Team Canada, and her game has translated well to the university level. The third-year kinesiology major had accumulated 81 points in 35 career games going into this weekend’s action and it was going to take a monumental effort by the Bisons squad if they were to succeed in keeping her off the score-sheet.

On Friday, the Bisons grabbed the lead in the first period via a Rachèle Bosc goal and it seemed the squad would be a good test for Hayley and company. However, three quick goals in the last five minutes of the opening period saw that dream vanish very quickly. Stephanie Ramsay opened the scoring for the Dinos with 5:12 to play, with Elana Lovell giving them the lead 41 seconds later. Wickenheiser would make her impact felt with 1:06 left as she undressed a Manitoba defender and wristed one passed Leiette Klassen, giving the Dinos a 3-1 lead after one period of play. At some point, Wickenheiser’s goal was wrongly awarded to Ramsay.

The Dinos continued to build on their lead in the second period, as Ramsay added a power play goal via a slap shot from the point, and Wickenheiser notched her second of the game when she took on two defenders and managed to get a shot by Klassen making the score 5-1 after two periods.

The third period saw Dée-Ana Marion replace Klassen in the Bisons’ net. The scoring would be stymied, but not the penalty parade, as this game would finish with 14 minor penalties being called, which heavily influenced the flow and really took away from what could have been a very entertaining hockey game.

Saturday night saw a different referee and a very different style of officiating, as physicality was a big part of the game and bodychecks repeatedly went uncalled.

Marion got the start in goal for the Bisons on the night after turning aside all 10 shots she faced in the third period the night before. The Bisons once again opened strong, but it was scoreless after one.

The second period was very much dominated by the Dinos but solid defensive play, including blocks by Kyleigh Palmer and a flopping save by Marion kept this game at 0-0, until Wickenheiser opened the scoring with 4:11 left.

The third period saw further pressure by the Dinos pay off with Ramsay slapping a point shot through the five-hole to make it 2-0 with 12:48 left. Jenna Smith would manage to bang one in from behind the net on the power play to make it 3-0 for Calgary. Meagan Vestby got Manitoba on the board with her fourth of the year, but a late empty-net goal by Iya Gavrilova would end this game with a 4-1 score.

The Bisons were out-shot 60-37 in the two games as they faced a very strong Calgary team who now sit at 7-0-1 on the season, good for first place in Canada West. The Bisons are now 2-5-1 and sit two points behind Mount Royal for the sixth and final playoff spot. The Bisons next play at the University of Lethbridge next Friday and Saturday.

In a post-game interview on Saturday, Bison coach Jon Rempel gave his take on what happened in the losses.

“Friday night we did not compete hard enough, and let them run the show. (Saturday) we competed harder, our special teams cleaned things up, particularly on the penalty kill, but we didn’t generate enough offensively.”

Rempel was then asked to comment on the officiating in the games, particularly on Friday night’s 14-penalty game.

“I thought the reffing was very inconsistent this weekend,” Rempel stated. “Instead of letting us play and letting the teams decide it, I was disappointed that the refs had to get involved, because a lot of stuff was called (Friday) that didn’t need to be”.

Wickenheiser was also reached for comment after Saturday’s game. When asked to comment on playing the Bisons this weekend she said, “I thought they pushed hard, and they certainly play a tough game, but I think we had just a little more skill.”

Wickenheiser went on to say that as she is graduating with a kinesiology degree this year, this may very well be her last year in a Dinos uniform despite two years of eligibility remaining, although she left the door open for a potential return after the Sochi Olympics in 2014.