Vikes eliminate Cougars in penalty kicks

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Puck Louwes watches a scoring chance sail above the net in the first half

Kara Skirzyk picked one heck of a time to snipe her first goal as a member of the University of Victoria Vikes.

The Vikes advanced to the Canada West quarterfinals after they defeated the University of Regina Cougars 5-4 in a penalty shootout on Friday afternoon at Clarke Stadium.

“I think, really, you have to give a hand to both teams. Those were tough conditions and it got steadily worse. Through the overtime, the wind came up and the snow. The players were wet because it rained and were getting cold. I think it’s credit to both teams. Both teams wanted to win the game. We persevered and so did they.”

After 120 minutes of scoreless action during the Canada West play-in game, both sides prepared for the shootout.

The Cougars kicked first and sent their keeper, Kylie Bolton, up first.

She scored on the Vikes keeper Puck Louwes.

“I didn’t know any of their shooters, so I relied on my instincts and hoped that one save was all we needed,” said Louwes.

Rachel Baird answered with a goal for the Vikes.

Taylor Bubnick shot second for the Cougars and scored.

Fifth-year forward Kiara Kilbey stepped up and tied it 2-2.

The only save of the shootout came in the start of the third round, when Louwes dove and blocked a strike from Olivia Gables.

The Vikes took the lead on the next shooter when Kara Skirzyk ripped one to the bottom left corner.

“Once I saw Puck make the save I knew we had a pretty good chance,” said Skirzyk. “That ended up being my first goal as a Vike, so it was a pretty cool feeling.”

Kirsten Finley and Lauren Petras supplied goals for the Cougars and were matched stride for stride by Kyra Teetzen and Brea Christie.

The weather played a huge factor in keeping teams off the scoreboard.

“It hurt,” said Skirzyk. “When it started raining and snowing in the second half, it was a little painful, but we just stayed strong and battled.”

Edmonton was given a weather warning this morning and expected winds between 90- and 100-km/hr.

Running and kicking into the wind in the first half, the Vikes got in good position deep in the Cougars territory in the first half but kept getting ahead of themselves and got called offside several times.

“I noticed the wind was doing funny things with the ball in the warmup,” said Louwes. “It was hard for us to get the ball up the field in the first half, but it was just as hard for us to keep the ball on the field in the second half because the wind kept blowing it off the field.”

The Vikes best chance came late in the first half when Nikki Virk dished a pass up to Mackenzie Ringrose. Ringrose ran deep into Cougar territory and tried to curl it around Bolton, but hit the outside of the net in the 40th minute.

With the wind at their back in the second half, the Vikes generated more offence.

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Teetzen was awarded three corner kicks. The closest the Vikes came was off a header attempt from Baird, but Bolton swatted it out of danger.

In the 89th minute, Avneet Rai took a free kick from 35 yards out and clanked it off the crossbar.

The wind was just as significant for the Cougars in the second half, who’s only scoring opportunity come in the fourth minute of stoppage time, when a corner from Bubnick found the head of one of her teammates, but Vikes keeper Louwes swallowed up the attempt.

Rai took another free kick in overtime from 32 yards out, but was punched out by Bolton.

Unable to produce a winner in the first half of overtime, the two sides switched sides for the second half of overtime, but neither team produced a threatening scoring chance.

For many of the Vikes, it was redemption after being upset by the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in last year’s playoff game.

They will now advance to the quarterfinals to take on the host Grant MacEwan University Griffins on Sunday. Kickoff at Clarke Stadium is set for 2 p.m. (Mountain Time).