The Golden Bears and Pandas are in action against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies this coming weekend. As the end of the Canada West regular season approaches, every point becomes important for byes to the playoffs semi-finals, home ice advantage, or just momentum.
This weekend will be the Golden Bears last series of home games before the Canada West playoffs. They return to Clare Drake Arena to host the 500th game between the Golden Bears and the Huskies. This series will have a major impact on determining who will finish first in the Canada West standings. The Golden Bears currently have a four-point lead on the second place Huskies. A series sweep would guarantee the Golden Bears a first-place finish.
The Golden Bears and Huskies split their series in two rather lopsided games. The Huskies handed the Golden Bears their first loss of the season on November 18th. With all the significance attached to this series (and this rivalry), it seems probable both teams will want to make a statement with this series.
The Golden Bears swept the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns aside commandingly in their last series. The Golden Bears recorded an 8-1 victory and a 9-2 victory on the road in Lethbridge. The Huskies, however, lost 5-1 and 3-1 to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Undoubtedly, the Huskies worst series of the season and the only time they’ve been swept this season.
The Golden Bears offense exploded against the Pronghorns. Fifth year forward, Jamie Crooks had five points on the weekend. While first year forward, Steven Owre scored four goals in the two games he played. The Golden Bears had several other players with multipoint nights. These included Ben Carroll, Luke Philp, Tyson Baillie, and Stephane Legault. Though the series against the Huskies will be more closely matched, it will be an exciting series to watch.
The Golden Bears will have to rely on the speed, skill, and stellar goal tending which earned them a 6-1 victory over the Huskies in their first meeting.
The Pandas will travel to Saskatoon to play the Huskies in Rutherford Arena. The Pandas bring an impressive seven game winning streak and six game shutout streak to the confrontation. The Pandas offense didn’t explode against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns like it did against the Regina Cougars, but the three goals Alex Ponzikoff scored over the two games played where more than enough to propel the Pandas past the UBC Thunderbirds in the ranking. That is not to say the Huskies didn’t have an excellent weekend; they did. They swept the UBC Thunderbirds
The Pandas offense has been driven by Autumn MacDougall and Alex Ponzikoff in the last series, but the Pandas principle of scoring by committee is very much alive and well with Deanna Morin and Amy Boucher netting hat tricks in recent series.
The key to the Pandas having a successful series against the Huskies will be much the same as it was against the Pronghorns: get a lot of pucks on net. Huskies goaltender Jessica Vance is having a fantastic season with an 11-3 record, 7 shutouts, and a 273 minute and 41 second shutout streak. With the Pandas goalie tandem also having an impressive shutout streak, this series may turn into a goaltending and defensive battle.
Whether a low scoring or high scoring affair, if the Pandas can pick up six points in this series, they can maintain their tenuous hold on the second playoff bye to the semi-finals which has to be their goal at this point.
The final series of the Canada West Conference regular season will feature the Pandas playing the UBC Thunderbirds at Clare Drake on February 9th and 10th. After the 10th, conference playoffs will begin.