Champs heading back to nationals

Bisons sweep Thunderbirds, advance to Canada West and U SPORTS final

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The Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team’s aspirations of repeating as conference and national champions are alive and well.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2019 (1377 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team’s aspirations of repeating as conference and national champions are alive and well.

The Bisons advanced to the Canada West final and clinched a spot at nationals on Saturday night at the Max Bell Centre with a 2-1 victory over the UBC Thunderbirds. With the win, the Bisons swept the No. 10-ranked Thunderbirds in their best-of-three conference semifinals series.

The Herd took Game 1 Friday night by a score of 4-3, thanks to second-year defenceman Lauren Warkentin scoring the game winner with 40 seconds left in the contest. Saturday was the sixth game between the Bisons and Thunderbirds this season, with each matchup being decided by one goal.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bisons goaltender Lauren Taraschuk is swarmed by her teammates after Manitoba beat the UBC Thunderbirds 2-1 to sweep the best-of-three series on Saturday.

“We weren’t willing to take no for an answer,” Bisons head coach Sean Fisher said on the difference in the series.

“It was a group that wanted to get back (to the Canada West finals) and were pretty motivated to do so. They were willing to go through a war like they did today. That’s a big, strong, tough, physical team. They’re highly skilled, they can make people miss, they can score goals — it was a war. We said it all year, there’s four really good teams in our conference that could probably do some damage at (nationals) coming up in three weeks, but that team unfortunately isn’t going to be there and they’re as good as anybody in the country.”

The Bisons got on the scoreboard early in Game 2, as fifth-year forward Karissa Kirkup beat UBC goaltender Tory Micklash, an East St. Paul native, on a breakaway less than three minutes into the game.

The Thunderbirds roared back in the second period to tie the game, with Ireland Perrott making it 1-1 only 1:42 into the frame.

But 30 seconds later, Kirkup scored again, tipping in a Lauryn Keen shot on the power play.

Bisons goalie Lauren Taraschuk, a second-year player from Winnipeg, took care of business from there, as she made 15 saves for the win.

“She was awesome, that’s why we recruited her,” Fisher said of his young goaltender. “She’s a monster in there. She’s tough for teams to figure out and she doesn’t quit on pucks.

“What I love about her is she won (Friday) 4-3, did enough to get the job done, but she wasn’t very happy with her performance. She came out motivated to be even better today. Her compete level as a competitor is off the charts.”

The two-goal performance by Kirkup, a Virden native, was extra special, as she missed the team’s run to the conference and national championships last season due to a broken hand.

“I’m just excited. Our team is so much fun on and off the ice,” an emotional Kirkup said after the game. “I can’t really put it into words. I’m just really proud to be a member of this team and to get the opportunity to keep playing.”

Saturday was the final home game for the Herd, as they will head out on the road for the Canada West finals to take on the No. 1-ranked team in the nation — the Alberta Pandas.

The Pandas swept the Saskatchewan Huskies in their best-of-three semifinals series.

The Bisons went 0-4 against Alberta this season, with the Pandas outscoring them 7-2 in their four meetings.

“They’re a good team. They’ve only given up 25 goals this year in now 30 games,” Fisher said.

“You do the math there, it’s a pretty good goals-against average. We’ll have to find ways to score. That will be key for us.”

Despite not losing a game to the Bisons this year, Alberta will be out for revenge. The Herd defeated the Pandas 2-1 in last year’s best-of-three conference semifinal to punch their ticket to the Canada West final and a berth in the national championship — with Manitoba going on to win both.

Alberta dropped Game 3 of the semifinal in heartbreaking fashion, as the Bisons prevailed 1-0 in a memorable quadruple-overtime affair.

“It will be another series and a half there,” Kirkup said. “Alberta is very speedy. They’re a little smaller than UBC, but they’re very fast and good with the puck. We’re very excited to move forward and play them again. It will be a good series.”

The Bisons will look to win their fourth Canada West championship banner in their 22-year history.

The conference finals are a best-of-three series and will be played at the University of Alberta’s Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton from March 1-3.

The Bisons and Pandas will also represent the Canada West at the U SPORTS Women’s Hockey Championship on March 14-17 at the University of Prince Edward Island.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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