The stretch run is here and the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team is trying to keep pace.
The Bisons hosted the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for an all-important two-game set over the weekend.
With UBC on an eight-game losing streak heading into the weekend, the U of M had a chance to gain some ground in the standings, but with a weekend split sits 10 points away from a playoff spot.
The first of two games between the U of M and UBC went in favour of the Bisons.
A hard-working and determined U of M team brought the Thunderbirds to overtime before Jordyn Zacharias potted the winner to give the herd a 1-0 victory.
The Thunderbirds dominated the possession game in the first, peppering second-year netminder Erin Fargey with 12 shots. While her team only recorded two shots in the frame, the Alberta product stood tall and the score was knotted at 0-0 to end the first.
Fargey continued to hold down the fort in the second, putting aside all 12 shots she faced in the period. The U of M meanwhile continued to struggle getting shots through, with Thunderbirds goalie Tory Micklash tested just four times in the period.
Both goaltenders continued their strong play in the third and turned away all the rubber they faced, sending the game to overtime scoreless, where the Bisons finally got one through.
Overtime gave both sides more room to move, and just over four minutes into the extra frame, Zacharias provided the dagger.
The fifth-year forward picked up the puck from the side of the net, stepped out in front and roofed it short side on Micklash. The twine bent, the goal light flashed and the game was over.
Despite getting outshot 35-14, the Bisons came away with the 1-0 victory.
With one win in hand, the Bisons looked to go two-for-two against UBC. The Thunderbirds had other plans and took the game 4-3, despite a well-played game from the Bisons.
UBC did not take the loss from the night before lightly and got on the board early. Ireland Perrott wired one home on U of M goaltender Fargey just over two minutes into Saturday’s contest.
From there the thunder signalled a storm as UBC filled the Bisons net.
Jaedon Cooke found the back of the net under a minute after Perrott, and Mathea Fischer made it 3-0 Thunderbirds midway through the opening frame.
The Thunderbirds added one more before the end of the first and led 4-0. This spelled the end of Fargey’s afternoon, with Amanda Schubert stepping into the Bisons crease to open the second.
Midway through the second period, the Bisons were given a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage and made no mistake. Rookie forward Sarah Dennehy snapped home her first career U Sports goal.
“It was super exciting to get my first goal,” Dennehy said. “Definitely a weight off my back.”
Then it was the U of M’s turn to pour on the pressure.
Still on the advantage, Kate Gregoire picked up the loose puck from the side of the net, curled out top and fired a laser beam top corner. UBC netminder Danielle Wierenga had no chance, and suddenly it was a two-goal game.
Down 4-2 in the third and with the net empty, the Bisons pushed to tie things up.
With the extra skater on the ice, a shot went in on Wierenga and the Bisons collapsed on the blue paint. Gregoire picked up the puck in front and jammed it in for her second of the night to make it 4-3.
The hard-fought comeback from the U of M was not meant to be, as UBC shut the door to claim the 4-3 win and split the weekend series.
Despite the loss, Dennehy is excited about what the future holds for this young Bisons squad.
“Game two really showed our character as a team, which I believe will just become stronger as all of us gain more experience in future years,” she said.
“We never gave up in game two which I think is huge, especially for a young team.”
With six games left on the schedule and a maximum of 18 points up for grabs, the herd is in tight to make a playoff push.
Currently nine points behind the Mount Royal University Cougars for the final playoff spot, the U of M must face three of the top four teams to close the year.
Next up for the Bisons is a trip to face the University of Regina Cougars Jan. 24 and 25. Game one is 7 p.m. CST and game two is 3 p.m. CST.