Jeff Sargeant/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The Alberta Pandas scored twice on the power play while shutting down the UBC Thunderbirds on offence earning a 2-0 win in Game 1 of the Canada West Final Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Amelia Boughn was tremendous in net for the T-Birds making 23 saves but UBC's skaters faced a glutton of blocked shots and bad bounces, unable to beat Lindsey Post, who made 20 saves for her second career playoff shutout.
The win marks the 14th in a row for the Pandas dating back to early January, now just one win away from a 13th conference banner while the T-Birds need a win in Game 2 Saturday to continue their title defence.
"(The Pandas) play a real defensive system," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "They just shut it all down and blocked a lot of shots. For us we just need to go back at it and look at our offensive plan and find some better chances and get into the house and get more looks."
The Pandas held the edge in play from the opening face off generating two first period power plays but were unable to beat Boughn who kept UBC in it early with some spectacular saves including a deflection in tight midway through the opening frame, earning high praise from her head coach after the game.
"(Boughn) led by example with her effort and her heart and we all need to play as hard and as bad as she wants it," said Thomas.
"We have to play more desperate and play with more fight."
Alberta poured on the offence in the second putting up 14 of their 25 shots in the period beating Boughn on their 20th attempt at the 15:18 mark on the power play. Boughn stopped an Abby Benning shot but Amy Boucher found the rebound and punched it in for her second of the playoffs for what stood up as the game winner.
The game opened up in the second period with some sustained back-and-forth action but UBC still found it difficult to develop many solid scoring chances. The Pandas closed up shooting lanes and put bodies in front of a multitude of shots all night long.
Haneet Parhar nearly tied the game late in the second coming in on a 2-on-1 with Kathleen Cahoon but fired her one-timer over the top of the net.
The Pandas doubled their lead 11:53 into the third as Hannah Olenyk scored her first of the playoffs on the power play. It was remarkably similar to their earlier marker as Olynyk picked up a rebound in tight. Kennedy Ganser and Boucher picked up the assists.
UBC called a timeout with more than three minutes remaining placing Boughn on the bench for the extra attacker but once again the Pandas got in front of pucks and refused to allow the T-Birds to maintain control in their zone.
The 'Birds finished the game with just one power play opportunity while the Pandas scored twice on four chances.
"We have to make some adjustments and our special teams have to be better," added Thomas who was also frustrated at receiving just one chance on the player advantage in the series opener.
Alberta is now on the cusp of adding yet another Canada West banner to their credit which would be their second in three years while the Thunderbirds need a Game 2 win to keep their hopes of a third title in five years alive.
Puck drop for Game 2 is 7 p.m. PT Saturday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. If necessary, Game 3 will go at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday.
IMAGE CREDIT: Ben Nelms/UBC Thunderbirds