Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
EDMONTON – Alex Poznikoff's goal just 97 seconds into the first period stood up as the game-winner Friday afternoon at Clare Drake Arena, as the Alberta Pandas earned a 2-0 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies in Game 1 of the Canada West women's hockey semifinals.
Fresh off a first round bye, it didn't take long for Alberta to claim the early lead, as Poznikoff found the back of the net in familiar fashion, with linemates Autumn MacDougall and Kennedy Ganser drawing the assists.
Alberta's top line combined for 99 points over 28 regular season games, and was the most prolific offensive unit in the country, as the Pandas topped the CW standings.
"As soon as you're down you're more likely to grip your stick a little bit more, but when you're on the other side of that goal you can relax a bit more and play your game," Alberta head coach Howie Draper said of getting the early lead.
"They're clutch players and they've generated most of our offence. I don't know how they do it, because you'd think teams would have them figured out, but they always seem to do the job and we're very fortunate to have them and hugely fortunate tonight."
The Huskies, who needed three games last week to down the Mount Royal Cougars in the conference quarters, had their share of chances in the first period, but couldn't beat Alberta netminder Kirsten Chamerblin.
Saskatchewan's best chances during the opening frame came on an extended power play, after Alberta's Alex Gowie was handed a four-minute penalty for checking to the head just past the midway point of the first.
Chamberlin, however, was equal to the task on everything Saskatchewan fired her way, as she earned her first career CW playoff shutout.
"The thing about our team and our defensive system is that if there's a breakdown it tends to be a real big one and a good chance. Fortunately, our goaltending has been such that we're able to take more chances, and pressure the puck a bit more," said Draper.
"She made some huge saves. She's had a lot of shutouts, and won a lot of games for us," Draper said of the third-year goalie, who stopped 17 shots.
"I don't think she get the recognition she deserves, but she kept us in it when we needed her to."
At the other end of the rink, Saskatchewan's Jessica Vance gave her team a chance to win, stopping 25 of the 27 shots she faced, including 23 straight between Alberta goals.
But Amy Boucher's power play marker with 4:45 left in the third provided the insurance Alberta needed, as the Pandas earned the Game 1 victory.
Saskatchewan and Alberta return to action Saturday afternoon, as the Huskies look to extend the best-of-three series.
Saturday's game is slated for 2 p.m. MST and can be seen live on Canada West TV. A third and deciding game, if necessary, will be played Sunday at 1 p.m. MST.