(ISN) – The road to the CIS women’s hockey championship begins this weekend, as the Canada West playoffs get underway.
The No.5 University of Alberta Pandas will open the post-season at home in a best-of-three semi-final series against the No.8 Saskatchewan Huskies.
Games one and two will be Friday and Saturday at 2:00 pm, while game three, if necessary, will be on Sunday at 2:00 pm. All games will be played at historic Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, and available to watch online at www.canadawest.tv.
The two teams met four times in the 2011-12 regular season, as well as once in the pre-season, and while all five games were decided by just one goal, including three contests in overtime or a shootout, Saskatchewan won four of the games against the Pandas this season.
In conference play, the Huskies recorded a pair of 2-1 extra-time wins over Alberta in Saskatoon in late October, as well as a 1-0 regulation win in Edmonton. The Pandas’ lone win was a 3-2 OT decision on January 14 at Clare Drake Arena.
Fans should expect another round of close scores this weekend as well.
Alberta has allowed the second fewest goals against (42) this year, and have the Canada West’s leading goaltender in fifth-year Kaitlyn Chapman. The Education student, who hails from Chauvin, AB, put together a 10-5 regular season record this year, as well as four shutouts, a miniscule 1.02 goals against average, and a glitzy.942 save percentage. However, it was Michala Jeffries who earned the only win Alberta has over Saskatchewan this season. In fact, Jeffries and Chapman each played two regular season games against the Huskies this season.
Saskatchewan brings the second-most productive offence in Canada West to Edmonton this weekend, as well as the conference’s top scorer. Saskatchewan skaters pumped 82 pucks past opposition goalies this year, 15 more goals than any other team, except for Calgary who scored 96. Fifth-year forward Julie Paetsch, originally from Lanigan, SK, did most of the damage, scoring a team-best 14 goals and conference-best 20 assists. Her 34 points in 24 games was tops in Canada West. Teammates Danny Stone and Breanne George each notched 13 goals this season as well, while Cara Wooster had 27 points.
Saskatchewan also has a pair of goalies to turn to this weekend. Fifth-year Mackenzie Rizos and fourth-year Vanessa Frederick each played two games against Alberta, with Rizos going 1-1 and Frederick earning a pair of wins. In just eight games this year, Frederick put together a 5-3 season with a 1.85 GAA and a .929 save percentage. Rizos was 11-5 on the year, but earned 2.31 and .913, respectively. Each goalie also recorded two shutouts.
The Pandas’ offence will be led by fourth-year forward Sarah Hilworth. The Vancouver-born sniper led the Pandas in both goals (11) and assists (18), and finished third in the conference scoring race. Veteran defenceman Nicole Pratt banked 15 points, including seven goals this season, while forwards Karla Bourke and Monika Moskalski had 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Alberta owns a 38-6 all-time conference record against Saskatchewan, but the Huskies have won three of those six games in Edmonton.
The two teams have only met once in the playoffs, last season, and the Pandas made quick work of the Huskies, sweeping them in two straight games with wins of 3-0 and 1-0. Interestingly enough, Alberta’s other goaltender Kanesa Shwetz started both games of the playoffs last season against Saskatchewan; Bourke, Hilworth, and Pratt all had points in that series.
The winner of this semi-final series will take on the winner of the Dinos-Pronghorns series which is being played in Calgary. Should the Dinos win, the Canada West championship series will be hosted in Calgary as well.