Nicole Betker

CALGARY – Erika Mitschke scored two goals and added an assist while Hayley Wickenheiser scored one of each as the No. 3 University of Calgary Dinos inched closer to clinching first place with a 5-3 win over the No. 8 Saskatchewan Huskies Friday night at Canada Olympic Park.

Calgary (17-4-0) can clinch top spot in Canada West with a repeat performance in Saturday night’s rematch, while the Huskies (14-5-2) sit four points back of Calgary and one in arrears of Alberta with three games left on the season.

The Dinos’ eighth straight win came after an impressive first period saw them shoot out to a 3-1 lead before undisciplined penalties gave the Huskies their share of chances – and they pulled within one midway through the third period. It was never quite comfortable for Calgary until Mitchke scored her second with just over five minutes left to make it 5-3.

“We started on the right track, but I was pretty disappointed in the second period because we let them back in the game,” said Calgary head coach Danielle Goyette. “We responded in the third period, but again discipline cost us a couple of goals tonight. We need to improve that tomorrow, because we need to stay five-on-five.

“Credit to Saskatchewan – they don’t give up no matter what the score, and we need to just keep playing until we hear the final buzzer.”

The Huskies opened the scoring when Julie Paetsch notched her 13th of the season on a two-man advantage with Melissa Zubick and Iya Gavrilova in the penalty box for Calgary. Less than three minutes later, Jenna Smith tied it up for the Dinos on the power play of their own.

Mitchke’s first of the night came just 73 seconds later as the Dinos continued to buzz around the Saskatchewan crease, peppering Vanessa Frederick with 14 shots in the opening frame. Zubick added her fifth of the season at the 15:47 mark to make it 3-1 Calgary.

With the teams skating four-on-four in the middle period, Wickenheiser stole the puck in the neutral zone and moved in all alone on Frederick. Making no mistake, she scored her 14th of the season to move her back into a tie for the scoring lead in the conference with Paetsch, who had briefly taken the lead with her first-period goal. It made the score 4-1 Calgary, though eventually it would end up as the game-winner.

Danny Stone got the Huskies back within one at the 9:00 mark of the second with another power play tally, and Cara Wooster cut the lead to just one with just over 11 minutes to play in the third. But again Wickenheiser was the catalyst for the Calgary offence, emerging from the penalty box to lead a two-on-one up-ice for the Dinos. Wickenheiser sent a nice feed across to Mitschke, who scored her eighth of the season as an insurance marker at 14:57.

Saskatchewan went 2-for-10 on the power play, while the Dinos were successful on one of their eight opportunities as a parade to the penalty box resulted in 20 minor penalties on the night. Frederick made 25 saves in the loss for the Huskies, while Amanda Tapp earned her 13th win of the season between the pipes for the Dinos, stopping 17 of the 20 shots fired her way.

The series shifts one rink over to the Joan Snyder Arena Saturday night, and the Dinos get a chance to finish first in the conference for the first time in program history – something Goyette says is certainly not lost on her team.

“We know how important this weekend is for us,” she said. “We know first place is available, and we want to be at home in the playoffs – we saw last year how difficult it is to win on the road in the playoffs. Tomorrow we need to go for the second win.”

Face-off goes at 7:30 p.m. MT.