VANCOUVER, BC. – Who said Canada West women’s hockey would be predictable?
The Mount Royal Cougars fought out a 1-0 win on the road against the UBC Thunderbirds, and now stand a single game away from claiming their first Canada West title after Friday night’s victory.
It didn’t seem that way from the outset. Though the defending champions stumbled in their series against the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Thunderbirds were determined to make a statement in the opening period. They dominated the flow of the first period, outshooting the Cougars 11-2 in the frame. Only through the efforts of 3rd year goalie Kaitlyn Ross did the game stay scoreless.
The second period was much of the same, with UBC wanted desperately to open up the scoring in the game. They got two brilliant cracks at that, with Rylind MacKinnon grazing the outside of the post late in the second, while Grace Elliott’s tip couldn’t sneak on through Ross.
With the initative still ready for the taking, the Cougars seized the first goal of the game. Breanne Trotter would find the back of the net on MRU’s fourth powerplay of the night, sneaking the puck past an otherwise perfect Elise Hugens. All of a sudden, the champions found themselves on the back foot.
While the Cougars didn’t cave in, the Thunderbirds certainly turned their game up a notch, a flurry of chances going the other way as UBC searched for the equalizer. However, Ross stood tall, unsolvable by the Birds all the way until the final horn.
This result marks Ross’ second shutout of the playoffs, behind an MRU team that looks to be peaking at the right time. The number 3 ranked team isn’t far behind the UBC squad that ran away with the regular season crown, and with just another win, the Cougars could stun the heavily favoured T-Birds. And, for a program that’s been always good but never a title-winner, a CanWest crown here could go a long way to realizing that potential they’ve always shown.
As for the Thunderbirds, it’s not quite back to the drawing board, but a bit of soul searching as to what went wrong. There’s no faulting the effort, nor the chances generated. But, the execution was missing, the quality to finish of those chances. Teams haven’t been able to make them pay for being indulgent at times, but against a staunch MRU squad, they can’t afford to be wasteful for two games in a row. UBC had already stumbled in their opening round matchup against the Huskies, dropping game two in 2-0 fashion. They’ll be hungry for revenge tomorrow to even up the series and get another crack at defending their championship.
UBC and MRU get right back into action tomorrow at 7 PM PST at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. The T-Birds will be looking for a bounce-back effort to stay alive, while the Cougars will look to clinch a title that has been years in the making. It’ll be an exciting one, to say the least.